Sunday, July 31, 2011

Atheism, Inclusiveness, and Reason

Or, "Why Inclusiveness is Excluding Everyone But Me"

I like stumbleupon. I like it a lot. Especially when it gives me something like this: http://www.laughinginpurgatory​.com/2011/06/we-need-atheist-m​issionaries.html

The title was thought provoking and humorous. The title of the blog "Laughing in Purgatory" made me chuckle considering I'm Catholic and believe in Purgatory. Realizing it's an atheist blog made me laugh even more, and this is all before I started reading the article. Seriously, this many layers of cleverness before you ever read what this blogger has to say? Awesome. And then I read it.

First of all, I want to point out the fact that this is a serious polemic. Polemical writing is, by definition, not the most reasonable. Here are highlights (you really can't take words like these out of context, so don't yell at me for not providing any. It's a short blog and I gave you the link if you care so much):

Christocrats (what does this even mean?)
Theocratic safe havens
Christo-fascists (really?)

Well, maybe you can take "barbarian" out of context, so here's the passage from which it hails:

"And they need to go and deconvert the barbarians and turn them into atheists or at least less toxic theists."

I agree with the sentiment that this blogger presents. Kansas and other states that require the teaching of Creation Science/Intelligent Design alongside Evolution are hideously misguided. Even though Catholicism teaches that you can believe in Evolution without contradicting your faith so long as you believe also in the "Unmoved Mover" of God, we are very careful to explicitly maintain that Evolution as a scientific theory exists in the realm of science and God's pushing it into action exists in the realm of faith. We do not conflate the two like the state of Kansas.

However, in keeping with the spirit of intellectual and well-reasoned debate, I would like to invite the author of "Laughing in Purgatory" to define his perfect world. While he does not explicitly say he wants an "inclusive" world, he does say that he wishes a "one-two punch of inclusiveness and scientific reasoning would shed light on all the theist strongholds in the US, and people would wake up".

The fact that he wishes this "wake up" would equate with everyone in America turning into an atheist overnight begs the question--is that a punch of inclusiveness? Or is it the same exclusion that people like Dawkins hawk as inclusiveness?

The basic, underlying philosophy of inclusion is one of accepting and tolerating other people and their opinions. These opinions include matters of faith and non-faith, political affiliation, skin color, sexuality, and preference for juice and bagels. The underlying philosophy of exclusion is not accepting and tolerating a certain group of people. When someone is promoting a view point that advocates the conversion of a group of people to their way of thinking, this is not inclusion. It is blatant exclusion because it refuses to accept that said group of people can be accepted or tolerated.

The fact that he refers to "theists" means that he is not excluding just Christians (no matter how ridiculously they treat their faith), but anybody who believes there is a god. Notice I used a lowercase "g". He is not excluding Christians. He is excluding Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Zoroastrians, Wiccans, anyone who holds to any set of Aboriginal or Indigenous or Folk beliefs, and anyone anywhere who so much as holds a faith in any kind of higher power above man as the microcosm. The fact that he conflates Christianity and theism throughout his post shows 1) that he cannot see past the arch-nemesis of Christianity and 2) that he is grossly ignorant of what these terms mean and how to apply them properly.

So, in closing, I am once again disappointed in people's approach to reasoned debate on inclusion, tolerance, and reason. I've given up on Christianity in general. There are many of us who are devoted Christians who have the ability to reason and debate without turning into a polemical screaming match, but Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and others rule the airwaves and more and more people buy into their filth every day. Unfortunately, the same is true for atheists. Dawkins screams the loudest, so they think that's what atheism represents.

I'm sorry to inform you all, but the same dogmatic approach to faith that you hate in Christianity is usurping the famous reasonable, intelligent inclusion of atheism. It's just a different ethos and set of morals.

And for the record, Purgatory is a place of purification. It prepares you for entry to the light of God. If you are wallowing in self-pity about these "theistic" strongholds, you're hardly being purified and you've misappropriated a religious concept about which you know nothing. Given the rest of the entry, that's hardly a surprise.

"The problem with atheists isn't that they believe in nothing, it's that they'll believe anything." --G. K. Chesterton

Friday, July 29, 2011

Non-Denominational Christianity and Why I Like it

So, there is many a person out there that is well aware of my deep adoration for Catholicism. I have an intellectual and spiritual reason for holding fast to the Church's claim to the fullness of truth. But no matter how many times I attend mass at the same church, I am endlessly and always awe-struck by the inherent beauty of it all. It is not the songs, it is not the ceremony, it is not the homily that strikes such a chord with me. Deep underneath the ritualistic trappings of the mass is an holistic approach to faith and spirituality. Not only is the physical Church united with the spiritual body of Christ, but we are every day (yes, every day, not just every Sunday!) continuing, reaffirming, and reenacting Christ's passion. His sacrifice was once, sufficient, and eternal, but we daily renew it and celebrate what He did. Make no mistake, though, outside the Catholic Church there is another physical body that inspires awe.

This is a body that goes under the general nom de guerre of "non-denominational Christianity." Mind you, non-denominational Christians tend to just label themselves "Christians" (my own linguistic and cultural argument against such a practice should be reserved for another time), and most non-denominational congregations could be lumped into their own respective pseudo-denominations. But inherent in all of them is something else entirely. Forget dogma and doctrine, forget trappings and ritual, forget sola scriptura versus Sacred Tradition and consubstantiation versus transubstantiation versus denial of the Real Presence. Forget all that. Where Catholicism has beauty and majesty that soars above and beyond what any rational thinker of the twenty-first century would call necessary, I have yet to find a non-denominational Christian that lacks in innocent love for what they hold to be universal truth.

Two of my best friends in the world are non-denominational Christians. We actually developed our friendship to a large degree through long hours of intense theological debate over coffee. Seriously. Weirdest start to a friendship ever. Though I disagree (a LOT) with what they hold to be true, and have had occasion where my disagreement has almost spilled over into insult, I have found in them the same innocence that I have found in every non-denominational Christian I've met. No matter how hokey their pithy sayings are, ("What has Jesus done for you today?") or how annoying their soft Christian rock sounds to me, or how pushy they some times appear to be, there is an innocent and longing desire within them to know that you have accepted at least a kernel of universal truth. And this really is, deep down, not an arrogant "soul quota" they are trying to fill. They genuinely care about your salvation (my comments on this, also, should wait for another time). As annoying as it is, it's quite touching.

I guess, despite Catholicism's rigid stance against "once-saved, always-saved", there is a tendency within the laity's thought in Catholicism to think "I was baptized and confirmed. And I will confess on my death bed. All's well," so we don't ever think about our friends' and family's salvation. We harden ourselves to the task of evangelizing, not just to non-believers, but to each other. When was the last time I was pulled by the ear to confession because my mother/aunt/sister/grandmother caught me lying? When was the last time a friend held a rosary close to his/her heart after I told them a problem and told me they would pray the Efficacious Novena of the Immaculate Heart of Mary with me? When was the last time I did these things for someone else?

At the end of the day, though they are "saved", my non-denominational friends have more at stake because they let themselves care so deeply. And I, with full knowledge that, though baptized, I can still choose to go to hell, arrogantly assume that I can waltz right into heaven because I have the BRPG--Big Red Phone to God (confessional, bitches!). It's completely backwards from an intellectual standpoint. And it makes me envious of my non-denominational friends.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if Catholicism was reinvigorated with that same innocent wonder we had so many centuries ago when the miracle of the transubstantiation was performed, and we truly went out of our way to purge ourselves of sin to make ourselves worthy enough to accept Christ's sacrifice? This kind of wonder, this kind of care, though it may seem arrogant, is perhaps one of the most humble mindsets possible. And though Catholicism chases its adherents with the Big Stick of Catholic Guilt, do we let ourselves be cowed by it? Or do we shrug off the beating we have received for so long?

I think I'm tired of shrugging off the beatings. I think I've been tired of it for a long time. I don't really know how I want to conclude this blog entry. But our non-denominational Christian brethren, our seventy-six-times-removed-cousins-in-Christ, have given me something to be envious of. And if the Catholic Church is smart, the Vatican would encourage such envy, and then watch the blossoms of faith spread like wildfire.