Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
A few hundred years ago, many legitimate critiques could be made of religion. It was often punitive, restrictive, bloodthirsty, hypocritical, and two-faced. Heretics were tortured or burned at the stake, convicted in show trials that would be the envy of Stalin. Some of the more metaphorical and symbolic beliefs of Christianity were criticized roundly for not making logical sense, or discounted for seeming irrational.
Even in a more religious age, burning bushes could not be found, nor could one find undeniable evidence of the miracles Jesus performed during his ministry. Those who believed were said to be adherents to a kind of superstition, nothing more, nothing less. I hear the same things myself today from time to time. The fallacy in these arguments is that no one has bothered to look into my heart before forming their conclusions. God is exceptionally real to me. The means by which I view the Divine might be difficult and complicated, if it is not impossible to view through rational eyes. To me, God is not rational and cannot be proven or disproven by human perception.
In my estimation, here is where the change begun. With the arrival of the 20th Century, then with four years of bloody, pointless war, the Lost Generation blossomed. Following World War I, the first substantial seeds of Atheism and doubt were sown and spread. A war that killed millions of people and turned the world entirely upside down challenged the traditional beliefs of many. The generation of the 1920's adopted wholesale hedonism, in part due the horrors that had transpired beforehand.
I see nothing wrong with anyone's belief or lack or belief, but Atheism does create many problems. It is a relatively cut-and-dried intellectual construct on its face. But paired with non-belief in God is often a militant brand of complete distaste and anger. This radical skepticism arrives without any understanding of why and how religion might be more what it is versus what it is not. Atheism may think that it is the only religious option out there, but it fails to look beyond its lofty ideals to extend tolerance and acceptance to those who do not think as it does. It does not try to see everyone as a child of God and shows little incentive to care for the poor. If Atheists participate in charity work, I apologize, but I don't see it through my own life experience.
Many who identify as atheists have often never been exposed to Christian teaching. If they have, they’ve taken company among faiths that did not encourage them to think for themselves. They've been indoctrinated with a few untruths that have no basis in Scripture. If they took the opportunity to learn a few religious teachings here and there, and what they really mean, I think their anger would soften. Getting to that stage is the most difficult part altogether. Those who have to build up their spiritual and altruistic muscles find it a difficult exercise.
I blame the people who teach the evils of faith without giving a fair shake to the other side. Every Christian denomination cherry picks different parts of the book to emphasize its perspective. It should be said that no faith group believes the whole book, regardless of what some conservatives may think. This will be the case forever. I’ve been criticized when those hostile of my religion use truncated and misinterpreted Scriptural passage that seem foolish in when taken in context. I am not looking to be right; I am merely seeking reconciliation with the ultimate goal, one where we all might find understanding.
I am asking to be given the benefit of the doubt. Late last week, I got into the middle of a pointless fight over religion with several non-believers. If I had it to go over again, I would not have done it. All it did was make me upset. The reason I even put the time in to an expansive argument is that I really worry that religion and faith, and all the worthwhile lessons to be learned, will be discarded. Every generation needs to know the Golden Rule. We ought to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. That is not what I experienced.
My hope is that those who are entirely opposed to organized religion will see things differently in time. I myself went through a period where I rejected Christianity in my adolescence. I returned to the faith, having taken the time to appreciate where I started out. I would not become a believer if I hadn't wandered in the wilderness. It might take a while longer for others. Paul persecuted Christians for a good long while, but then had a direct experience with God, where he was struck blind for days. He received a direct communication with Jesus, who asked why Paul was persecuting his people.
Paul’s example shows that everyone’s religious beliefs can change with my time. It’s not my place to say how and why that change will occur, or even if it will. I don’t think that everyone should believe exactly as I do, either. But I do ask that we have enough things in common that we can come together in a spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood. Everyone progresses at his or her own rate. I only want activists to recognize that patience is a virtue and that a frustrating pace only keeps us upset.
Some think that being unflinchingly tough is the best way to resolve a crisis. There have been times in my life where I’ve felt that I needed to lash out to make my point. But in the end, I’ve recognized that this approach has severe weaknesses. Taking the high ground really is the best way, even if it requires a person to swallow his or her pride.