My atheistic agnosticism, as well as my current spiritual orientation, are hard won. When my agnostic father died when I was thirteen, I lived for the next six years with my Roman/Irish Catholic grandparents in Dorchester (Boston). I graduated from Boston College High School and went to Holy Cross College until I dropped out in my junior year, crazy and drug-addicted, to live in communes on Beacon Hill and in New Hampshire.
When I got sober a small few years later, I embraced the twelve steps with a vengence. I still do, although I've had to do some soul-searching to reconcile my beliefs with the use of "God" in the program.
For the most part, I staunchly defend the right of every human to practice their beliefs. I say "for the most part" because I can't tolerate intolerance or violence in the name of God. I have little patience for either ignorance or stupidity.
Let me say without reservation that the vast majority of "Christian" extremists are not christians. Period. They are Paulists.
Have you noticed that when these zealots quote the bible (my use of the lower case is intentional), they most often use the old testament? And when they do quote the new one, they studiously avoid quoting the words of Jesus.
At a demonstration some years ago, I stood toe to toe with one of these folks as he screamed apocryphal scripture interspersed with spitting gutter vulgarity. I began in a low voice to recite "The Sermon on the Mount". He paused in his screaming, listened for a second, and lunged at me. Surprisingly enough, a cop gave him a shot in the back of the knees with a riot stick and threw him into the busted bus. I said a prayer for the lad. I really did. I was going to thank the cop, but he was in the process of "disciplining" a couple of folks on my side of the line. Oh, well . . . at least he had a sense of fairness.
I highly recommend "Crackpot Christianity and America's Current Moral Degeneration" by Walter Uhler at OpEd News. Here are some excerpts, with my comments thrown in for their entertainment value. (I'm fighting my way through a depressive episode and I don't apologize):
These Crackpot Christians are largely responsible for placing one of their own, George W. Bush, in the White House. Their astounding ignorance, unquestioning faith, war hawkishness, and fascination with the End of Time subsequently rendered them gullible to the Bush administration's lies and exaggerations about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (especially the apocalyptic "mushroom clouds") and ties to al Qaeda. Thus, they cannot escape responsibility for supporting an illegal, immoral invasion of Iraq . . .Well, although I agree in principle, there also seem to be a whole lotta folks who nominally oppose this shit who haven't done anything except blame Bush. These folks really make me sick.
"'Dominion theologians,' as they are called, lay great emphasis in Genesis 1:26-27, where God tells Adam to assume dominion over the animate and inanimate world." Moreover, "dominionism...has been hugely influential in the broader evangelical movement," [ibid] thanks to the influence of the Crackpot Christian par excellence, Pat Robertson.The way I understand "dominion" is that god entrusted the care and safeguarding of this planet and all his creations to humans. Bad choice, god. You shoulda known better. We fucked it up. Use better judgement next time, or your omnipotence is revoked for eternity.
Thus, both the threat posed by Crackpot Christianity and the source of its moral degeneracy spring from attempts to impose on others the ridiculous belief that the Bible is literally true and inerrant. Fifty-five percent of Americans believe the Bible to be literally true. And when you ask Evangelical Protestants whether the Bible is literally true, an astounding 83 percent say, "Yes." . . .
Now, there are at least two problems associated with Crackpot Christianity's End of Time's biblical literalism. First, these crackpots make this claim virtually every time violence flares up in the Middle East. As Mark A, Noll writes in his exceptionally wise book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, within weeks of the outbreak of the Gulf War of 1991, "evangelical publishers provided a spate of books featuring efforts to read this latest Middle East crisis as a direct fulfillment of the biblical prophecy beholding the end of the world." [p. 13] Moreover, as historian Paul Boyer has concluded (in his study of prophecy belief in modern American culture, When Time Shall Be No More):"popular interest in Bible prophecy burgeoned under the impetus of the atomic bomb, the founding of Israel in 1948, and other factors." [p. 10]My conclusion? Eliminate humans and let the whales run the place. It's probably not far off. You ever listen closely to whale song? They're either laughing their flukes off or praying that we're soon gone. Gotta go. Think I'll go swimming.
The second problem with the End of Time's fixation by Crackpot Christians also was highlighted by Professor Noll. End of Time's believers "all shared a disconcerting conviction that the best way to provide moral judgment about what was happening in the Middle East was not to study carefully what was going on in the Middle East. Rather, they featured a kind of Bible study that drew attention away from careful analysis of the complexities of Middle Eastern culture or the tangled twentieth-century history of the region toward speculation about some of the most esoteric and widely debated passages of the Bible." [pp. 13-14]
Thus, just from these few examples, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that America's Crackpot Christians are no less delusional than the Islamic jihadists who expect virgins in paradise as the reward for their martyrdom. (One scholar of ancient Semitic languages believes that the Koran's "virgin" is a mistranslation of the term "hur," which should be translated to read "white raisin," a prized delicacy in the ancient Near East. See Alexander Stille, "Scholars Are Quietly Offering New theories of the Koran," The New York Times, March 2, 2002)
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