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religion is about weird stuff

Religion is about weird stuff.
Or so it seems.
And so the media would have us understand.

It is about an American nutter predicting the end of the world.
It is about other nutters giving this man their money, quitting their jobs, having no backup plan…
It is not about a man caring for his neighbour after devastation, or a woman bringing up her child without much support, or a teenager making it in spite of his dysfunctional family.
Or so it seems.

It is about weeping madonnas, levitation, visions, exorcism,
about wearing a bit of cloth to avoid hell,
about saying a particular text to avoid hell.
It is not about caring for a sick partner, or being disciplined about the inner journey, or putting extra energy into work, or organising a fair to raise funds for needy people, or managing in spite of depression, or standing up against injustice at personal cost.
Or so it seems.

Religion is about oppression of women, abuse of children, exclusion of gays,
about affirming every tenet on the approved lengthy list of beliefs.
It is about wars, disagreement, put-downs, arguments, judgmentalism, and condemnation.
It is about fundamentalism, extremism, literalism, anti-intellectualism, absolute certainty, and fanaticism.
It is not about growth, or change, or doubt, or flourishing, or support, or community, or fun, or joy, or being fully human.
It is not about wonderful music, magnificent art, great sex, profound thinking, deep caring, hilarious stories, or memorable parties.
Or so it seems.

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5 thoughts on “religion is about weird stuff”

  1. A big part of the problem seems to be a lack of knowledge (that was mentioned in the Pew Research Center’s religious knowledge survey mentioned in your “Catholics and Communion” post. (I’d also love to see Stephen Prothero’s 2007 book about Religious Literacy the preface to the survey results mentions). It would be interesting to see another survey, e.g. in New Zealand. It would need some new questions (and less US-specific). Do others find that most people seem to only know: Adam and Eve got thrown out of the Garden of Eden for nicking an apple, that Noah (or was that Moses?) stayed on his boat for 40 days (and nights) while it rained, and Jesus (or was it Santa??) was born on the 25th of December in the year zero, with 3 wise men at the door and a bunch of shepherds (one with a drum)?

    It also seems to me (and I think I saw some research supporting this) that the people that are “ripe” for extreme, nutty and dangerous religious groups (and not just pretending to be “Christian”) are those with much less knowledge of scripture than their parents (yet with a feeling their generation has the responsibility to set things right and be more religious).

    An atheist friend of mine is pretty keen on the idea of philosophy and basic knowledge of religions being taught at schools. In fact, several people have said similar things. I can think of some problems to overcome in making that happen, but modern society is making a mistake hushing-up all talk of God… leaving it to a dubious collection of interests to fill the vacuum. The latest end-times prediction failure news is likely to bring out the typical responses from everyone but genuine Christians, and so reinforce what is becoming the very entrenched stereotypes of Christians. It is not true any more that we can reason “it isn’t worth saying what we think on the matter because it is so obvious and well-known”.

    1. In the case of NZ, Mark, I think you are right. I think we are unusual in banning all religious education from state primary schools. At secondary, we have NCEA standards which can be used to assess religious, philosophy, and ethics education. I do not think many state schools are using them.

  2. Unfortunately, what you’re terming “religion” is actually religious extremism–and, like you, I’m appalled by it.
    However, I’m not willing to lump -all- of religion into the same basket because of the extremism to which it is too often taken. There is a fundamental difference (pun intended) between religion as a disciplined practice of one’s deeply-held faith, and the game-playing with which manipulative people like “an American nutter,” Osama Bin-laden, Jim Jones or countless others have used to gain control over the ill-informed and weak-minded people who follow them.
    Please, be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Thoughtless pontification is no better than mindless religion.

  3. Hmm..I’ve lived many of the “nots” you have listed there..
    *whew* That makes me feel better! Apparently I made my young-adult decision to follow Christ during the time when Harold Camping says no one really got saved. Worried me for a minute. 😉

    In all seriousness: Having explored different religions & attended both great churches & not-so-great churches, I’ve come to the conclusion: “Religion” is as varying as the human beings who comprise it. The best thing we can hope to do is live mindfully, try to be one good example – of the family of God, and the church we choose to worship in.

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