Thursday, June 1

Are we anti- the Religious Right or just co-dependent?


There are a couple of hot button culture war issues in my inbox today. People for the American Way are calling for action to stop the Federal Marriage Amendment, and DefCon (The Campaign to Defend the Constitution) is calling for action on Stem Cell Research. Both of these campaigns are attacking the religious right. Good for them.

The religious right has been a bee in our bonnets since before the Reagan Administration. Actually, a lot of wackos came from the anti-Communist mumbo jumbo of the fifties. McCarthyism could count on a lot of "Christians" for support against "Godless communism."

So often I talk or email with fellow lefties who have just had it with the religious right to the point that they can't stand Christianity or even religion in general. It's as if there is such a slippery slope in their minds between any admission of faith and total fundamentalism that it's just not worth it to go down that path. No religion is better than any religion, because in the end we all become Pat Robertson or Al Qaeda.

I'm actually quite forgiving of those lefties who think they hate Christianity. Funny thing is when you engage these lefties in conversation, a great many of them think Jesus was a cool guy, and some actually revere him. Even those who reject Christianity outright are not nearly so angry as they let on.

It's that the religious right has so often set the discourse that "God/Jesus equals us" that some of us lefties tend to believe that. Rejecting hate speech, intolerance, and fundamentalism becomes rejecting all religion.

Out here at the summer digs, I have a book of 12-step meditations for co-dependency called "A Life of My Own." It's kind of a joke because at the summer locale Mr. Blue Gal has rented an office downtown so he can work away from the three children. "A Life of My Own" sits on the back of the toilet in the "children's bathroom," which is the one I use, too. Yes, Mr. Blue Gal gets his own bathroom. Oops, there is a rule on this blog. When it comes to Mr. Blue Gal, don't get me started. You got me started. Don't get me started.

Back to the religious right and my co-dependency book (D.G.M.S.) I was perusing this book in the bathtub last night and had a lightbulb moment that some of us lefties are actually in a co-dependent relationship with the religious right. Whoa.

Some of the affirmations in this book seem tailor-made for us leftie blogospherians, when it comes to "hating the enemy":

I will not let someone else's behavior take charge of my life today. (July 15)

Do we really gain anything when we sit in judgment of someone else? Perhaps for a moment we feel superior, but...we are coming to understand that part of our problem is that need to feel superior. (July 16)

It's only human to think we're always right and to assume others need enlightenment. (May 19)

Of course, these quotes apply as much to Pat Robertson as to us libs. Among those of us who care to have a say about public policy, humility is not our strong suit. Ask Bill O'Reilly. But while you're at it, ask Al Gore and Jimmy Carter, too. God blessed the latter two with the ability to learn humility. Looks like the Lord's still working on the Right, and they're gonna take a little longer. 29 percent, wingnuts. 29 percent.

I am not suggesting for an instant that we lie down on issues of gay rights, stem-cell research, reproductive autonomy, or that we accept any pseudo-Christian fascism like intelligent design. But see, I love Jesus, and I'm on the politically correct side of all these issues. We're not all Pat Robertson, and I refuse to allow Pat Robertson to define what Christianity is, for me, or for my readership.

If you are "anti" religion, who has defined "religion" for you? Is it your own definition, or are you letting the enemy tell you how to think? Just asking.


  1. I'm anti-religion, but not anti-God or anti-Christ. My disillusionment began while I worked for a Christian non-profit organization under the leadership of a couple "Christian" older men who took advantage of my trust in them (so did a couple of youth leaders in my trusting teens, actually).

    My disillusionment continued when my Christian friends couldn't stomach my divorce, but my non-church affiliated friends could.

    So I guess that the religious right has only enhanced my disillusionment with organized religion. It began with predatory males.

  2. Ariadne I am so sorry that happened to you, and amazed that you have been able to separate the people who did this from God and Christ. And it always amazes me when so-called Christians can't find love in their hearts when someone else's marriage fails. Alabama is full of born again divorced people, who married too young because the church told them sex outside of marriage was wrong. Many of them have sex outside of marriage after they're married, and a lot of them have extramarital sex with someone from church. It's just crazy. Thanks for sharing your story here. I'm honored.

  3. I'm actually quite forgiving of those lefties who think they hate Christianity. Funny thing is when you engage these lefties in conversation, a great many of them think Jesus was a cool guy, and some actually revere him. Even those who reject Christianity outright are not nearly so angry as they let on.

    I'm not religious, just too, ah, fundamentally faithless, really. I think Christ was quite admirable, really, which is why I hate most organized Christianity, because it tends to be decidedly un-Christlike.

    Basically, the way it looks to me is that the right-wing Christians don't really comprehend anything other than the Old Testament and Revelations, which are all about vengeance and retribution and Angry God.

    Of course, the core of Christianity should be the part of the Bible with Christ in it, which basically boils down to "Be excellent to each other." But that message is not compatible with their self-righteous worldview, so they retreat into the hateful, vindictive world of the Old Testament, where God gets off on torturing the faithful to settle a bet, or convincing them to kill their precious only child ("Psych! Just kidding!"), or inflicting plagues on the Egyptians. The Old Testament God isn't just an angry God, he is, to be honest, a complete asshole. And so are his nominally Christian followers.

    I know, I'm way out of line and have no idea what I'm talking about, but suffice it to say that I think the religious right have managed to completely and utterly miss the point of the Bible, especially the part that's supposed to *define* them. If Jesus came back today they would scorn him as a dirty permissive moral-relativist hippie.

  4. I agree with the bulk of Eli's statement with regard to organized Christianity. There are however many groups which espouse love,tolerance and understanding of your fellow man. Those groups,such as United Church of Christ,are appalled at the religious rights rantings. They are quick to say "they" don't represent us. Any religion that bases its beliefs on love,tolerance and understanding are pretty decent. It's the god-fearing as opposed to god-loving christians that give religion a bad name.I quizzed my pastor extensively about how the church felt about many things: abortion,smoking medicinal cannabis,gays and a myriad of other ideals. I was more interested in his reactions to my questions than what he said. He never blinked an eye and said generally that the first rule is to care and be compassionate. I was and still am a member of that church. I attend it when I go to San Diego for business or pleasure. Religions that preach intolerance such as the religious right will always alienate the majority of the christian population. Sadly, they are very good at manipulation within their membership and within our political system.

    The mainstream,tolerant christian's are not used to being activists,afterall..they are a tolerant bunch.They turn the other cheek. They are becoming vocal this election year and thats a good thing. They don't like having to do that but I think they are just as tired of the current state of affairs as the rest of us.

  5. "co-dependent relationship" - as in we share the same air, the same resources, the same planet, or sometimes even the same home and bed, but have quite different & distinct views or tastes and preferences, on life, politics, policy. Is Chavez dependent on US dollars, maybe, for now, but Chavez can sell oil to China. Whereas the US is having to open relations with Lybia (dependancy).

    Religion & churches, like any other club or clique, tend to depend entirely on who dominates them, ergo not all Muslims are anti-US or anti-Russia, and not all Christians are anti-left. But that 'some' christians are not Christian is as old as Christianity

  6. I was raised fairly middle-of-the-road Methodist, which means that you don't really confront anything particularly serious or dogmatic like say, hell or Satan or that kooky book of Revelations.

    I mean, I knew that there was this Christ guy who died for our sins and we ought to live like him and we ought to live a decent life, but none of it was forced down my throat. My only gripe was that it seemed kind of lukewarm and vague.

    Then my parents decided to drag us along to a "non-denominational" (read: Baptist) church. It was the typical neo-fundamentalist church with all the stereotypical cliches--a rock band up there performing music, performance art, Elmer Gantry style minister.

    Essentially, it was all flash but whoooo boy, was it ever dogmatic. And the irony (among many) was that the adult membership was comprised mostly of ex-hippies who decided to rush back into the fold and into the hands of an angry god because they couldn't control their own lives, much less their children.

    I never really took to it so I ran screaming madly away and converted to UUism when I was 17.

  7. i have no regard for organized religion. i think that there are better ways to attain spirituality that belief or faith in a mythical 'person' who supposedly performed miracles, died a horrible death, and then came back to life magically. i don't think christians realize how ridiculous it sounds. belief in god-ok i'll say that it is a bit more tangible- but belief in that incredible myth- it sounds like the ancient romans and egyptians worshipping the multiple gods. anyhoo- that's not my beef anyway- belive what you want but don't try to convert me. don't proselytyze and try to spread the 'good news.' it's irritating and not everyone wants to hear it. i guess i am tired of pushy, missionary-type christians telling me i will go to hell if i don't believe in this farce- and then trying to change the laws and structure of my government and constitution to fit in with their 'divine plan.' so- believe what you want- just keep it to yourself- for god's sake.

  8. But Eli, you are saying EXACTLY what I was trying to say about the anti-Christian left. Right on!

    All of you are. Us lefties are angry because fundamentalist Christianity goes against our moral compass. That's because we have one, and we listen to it. Too much of America just changes the channel. I'd rather have readers who think about these things, even if they challenge everything I believe in.

    I suspect Pat Robertson thinks I'm a shitty Christian. That doesn't keep me up at night, tho.

    Love on all of you. I've got the best commenters in the blogosphere. xoxoxo

  9. i'm eclectic but i get po'd at anyone like robertson that tries to hijack a faith, or to point fingers at those that don't believe exactly as he thinks they should. i think, he is an embarassment to most human beings, let alone mainstream christians.
    every belief system has people in it that makes the others roll their eyes and wish that person would just shut up and go away.
    money and the promise of votes is how robertson got where he is.
    me, i'm supporting spongebob!

  10. As I pointed out in this post, (sorry about the shameless pimping), the first syllable of 'Christian' is 'Christ.' Therefore, it seems obvious that the sanest course of action for anyone who wants to be a Christian is to simply zero in on what Christ said and then try to follow his advice. As far as I know, Jesus didn't say anything about abortion or gay marriage, but he had a lot to say about helping the poor and forgiving our enemies. But the obvious point is that we can do that without religion; we can "be excellent to each other" for purely logical reasons that have nothing to do with that divine surveillance camera watching to see if we're naughty or nice. From Socrates forward, and probably before that, religion has been a huge drag on human progress. Every step along the path to improve the human condition has been vigorously and often violently opposed by the dominant religion of the time. So it seems to me that by tossing out religion, we toss out superstition and bigotry; we can help the poor and make excellent art and conduct barn raisings without believing that the first woman was created magically from the first man's rib or any other obviously untrue hogwash.

  11. I'm actually quite forgiving of those lefties who think they hate Christianity. Funny thing is when you engage these lefties in conversation, a great many of them think Jesus was a cool guy, and some actually revere him. Even those who reject Christianity outright are not nearly so angry as they let on.

    Well, I'm not even sure he existed, considering all the evidence suggesting that the historical record was at the very least altered so that the early Christians could expand their membership (an empire-wide census in December???)

    But even if I accept for the moment that he existed and he really made the statements attributed to him, I'd still have to separate the pacifism and acceptance of others from the claims of divinity. I can't accept the word of anyone who claims that their word is the Word. What's that line about his way being the only way to get into heaven? No thank you.

    If you are "anti" religion, who has defined "religion" for you? Is it your own definition, or are you letting the enemy tell you how to think? Just asking.

    It's my own, based on what I've seen (and that includes those who aren't fundamentalist), and what I have to conclude is the reason religions were created. I think belief came about out of a natural fear of the unknown. That's perfectly understandable. However, I think religion was created to take advantage of that fear in order to control the actions of people. Every religion I'm aware of at the very least tells you how to act, and it's always based not on what's right (that is, what's the best for the most people, what doesn't take advantage of others' weaknesses, what causes the least pain and leads to the most benefit here in the world), but on the old pie in the sky reward (and in some cases, the possibility of punishment).

    I think that teaching people to be "good" because they're going to get a prize after they die is like telling a child they can have a cookie if they say that they love you.

  12. First, I want to repeat what BG said in her reply to ariadne, with whom I can empathize, so I emailed her telling her so.
    Secondly, just to be honest, I don’t consider myself a “leftist” by any means, but I agree with most of what I read here.
    Finally, BG said, “humility is not our strong suit. Ask Bill O'Reilly. But while you're at it, ask Al Gore and Jimmy Carter, too. God blessed the latter two with the ability to learn humility.”. An enquiring mind, if I even have a mind, wonders just what it may have been that BG thinks it was that brought those last two gentlemen to that point. Was it perhaps rejection at the polls, or what? And does BG really believe that O’Reilly even knows the meaning of humility?

  13. You ask "If you are "anti" religion, who has defined "religion" for you? Is it your own definition, or are you letting the enemy tell you how to think? Just asking.

    Well, what is "religion"? It has to be defined before one ascribes to it or opposes it. Perhaps like "art" you know it when you see it or you know what you like and what you don;t like is neither art or religion. Both are universal yet specific. Both seem to satisfy a human need in the majority and both reflect imagination and wonder regarding the nature of existence and the human experience. Both can function as political entities in the human experience and affect lives both profoundly and subtly.
    Both, on a personal level are evanescent and intangible, not terribly practical yet apparently essential.
    But your question is about relgion specifically, so let me get back to that and without getting into an overwhleming discourse:

    Most, if not all, religions demand some penance or sacrifice to maintain or enhance a human's worldly existence. They also variously offer some kind of redemption for a varitey of proscribed "sins", contigent upon a "sincere" obesience to and recognition of a power over which the average human has no direct physical contact (but only through symbolgy, ritual, visions and the like)but in whom the human is obliged to afford benificient trust no matter what worldly misfortune might befall said human. Above all the religiois human abrogates all responsibility for the actions and consequences of said humans own life, for all lies in the hands and will and mysteruious plans of one god, or the interactions of several gods--each of which demands recognition above all else and rewards only that recognition with the promise of a better life or a contiued life. The God or gods also determine the worth of their supplicants, and if found lacking, condemn them to an existence far worse than they have already experienced.

    Relgion I suspect began as a search for the meaning and purpose of truly concious life. It very soon became a source of political and economic power. The majority of religions, despite their philosophical roots have as often as not ( and more often than not I'd argue) have suppressed the and contrlolled the advancement and distiribution of human knowledge and phiosophy to maintain an original advantage of social power. Furthermore religion has actively met phiosophical challenges not with it's own philosophy, nor with evidence ( of which it his none) but with threats and violence.
    IMHOP religion reflects the human imagination searching for meaning and purpose and order and utlimately resotions about excistence. But more often than not religion, conceived many millenia ago and as really practicised does not advance or enhance the human experience or condition or potential , but supresses and maintains it in a self-sulfilling state and ultimatley doomed ossification. All religions decalre these are how things are, this is how things will be forevermore--this is God's or the gods will, for they and not you, the puny human created by them , are the arbiters of all life an existence.

    I've tried to be succinct, but it's a big issue, and I alone have chosen to stop right here. For the moment.

    P.S. How about we all count the numbers of those who have apparently died at the hand of "God", those who have served "Him" and those who have been sacrified to other "gods", as far as we know according to the records written by mankind. JUst ofr starters?
    And PPS. If Jesus was "the SOn Of GOd", how come Jesus preached peace and reconciliation, whereas hois "dad" preached war, retribution, cheating and slavery?

    Open challenge: Actually study the Bible before you answer. I've actually bothered to study it and continue to do so. It is a significant work--and that's all it is.

  14. SHort answer follow-up to your original question:
    "Religion" first defines itself to me. Then I define myself to relgion. Then religion demands that I define myself according to religion.Then I demand religion define itself according to me. Apparently religion and myself are at an impasse. Except that religion cannot exist without adherents who profess faith. I refuse to adhere, I have no faith, yet I still exist. And I have free will to do good or evil not by some external edict or under threat, but according to my own will. And if I am wrong, what threat am I to God? For He allows, indeed insists that only a few shall accomplish heaven, whilst the rest shall be damned to a burining hell. Thus as an unbeliever shall I still fulfill God's plan as one of the damned who would test the faithful/ In so doing might not then I be considered worthy of God's Grace , even though I do his will inciously, beleiving my will to be mine and not in fact His? And being unconcious of his will, and acting from my own wicked heart, am I not then innocent and worthy of a place in heaven--"for I know not what I do"?

    This is the one subject that get's me really riled up.


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