Sunday, October 25, 2009

Religion and Judgment

Some of my Facebook friends are having a mini-discussion about beliefs and issues and what being judgmental means. Most of them are Christians. It almost seems to me that to be religious translates into being inherently judgmental. Religions usually come with a full set of rules and regulations and laws. If you have faith in your religion then you must also believe in these various tenets - so it is natural to make distinctions between the people who abide by what is "right" as your particular dogma defines it and those who don't. Even those especially kindly people who don't condemn their fellow man for straying have, at heart, the desire to bring them into the fold of salvation.

Then there are people like me. I don't believe anything. I don't disbelieve anything either. I'm an agnostic. I just say I don't know. Furthermore, I don't think anyone else knows either, not for sure, no matter how much they profess to have the true answers. Personally, I don't care what faith anyone else follows. More power to them if they find comfort in Christianity or Buddhism or Paganism. Life can be frightening without boundaries to guide us. Sure, we may slip outside them now and then but most religions offer the means to find forgiveness for our transgressions, whether through prayer or confession or apology.

I find that a lot of Christians are offended when I verbalize my lack of belief even if I'm only answering a question and not trying to pry anyone away from their religion, something I'd never do. Usually, their response lies in indignantly quoting the Bible in a "there, take that!" tone of voice, as if they have proven their point once and for all, discussion over. I usually just let it go because if I say what I think, which is that I respect the Bible, even though I don't necessarily accept it, they are aghast. Most often, the discussion ends with being told I'm going to hell (something else I don't believe in, so this pronouncement doesn't affect me much).

If there is a God, I'm not convinced that s/he feels about issues the way we think He does (I'll stick with He here since the most common belief is that God is a male, which considering that most religions were started by men is understandable, I guess). For instance, my own opinion is that God probably doesn't care one way or the other if people are gay since, after all, if he created everything, I assume that means he thought of up the concept of heterosexual and homosexual. Maybe gays are only here to test the rest of us for compassion and understanding.

But even if He does disapprove of same gender sex, it seems like that's their business to work out with Him and not ours. The 85-90 or so percent of us who are straight struggle enough to stay true to our own principles so maybe being faithful spouses and caring parents and generous neighbors and helpful co-workers is what we should concentrate on.

I could think of a hundred Bible quotes right off the top of my head that we ignore every day. "Give what you have to the poor and follow me", for instance, hardly translates into "thou shalt not pass health care." We are lots more focused on the verses that point out the other guys' sins than the ones that point out ours.

I always have to smile in amusement when someone who has just experienced a tragedy, expresses the belief that "I only got through it because of my faith". It is so typical of the sense of superiority that goes along with religious belief. What do they think happens to people who don't have faith? Do we just disintegrate into a puddle of goo? Nope, you know what? We grit our teeth and get on with life just like you do. Christians don't have exclusive ownership of the ability to exhibit grace under pressure.

We say that God created us in his image but, actually, we've created God in our own image. Our God tends to have the sames biases and prejudices as we have ourselves. Imagine that. If I believed in God, my God would be a liberal and an environmentalist. He'd be kindly father figure, tolerant of our frailties, rather than a harsh authoritarian. My God wouldn't be the type to kill anyone's firstborn or to send a plague of locusts to destroy our crops or drown all of us but one boatload.

The fact is that none of us know the absolute truth and we won't until we die....and maybe not even then. In the meantime, all we can do is the best we can.