18 August 2012

Hostile, poisonous -- and full of rancor

I hate to pick on Red Letter Christians a second time in the same week, but this post and the comments thread it engendered are just too revealing to pass up.

The post itself recounts an incident in which a preacher in Knoxville told a 7-year-old boy that he and other kids who don't believe in God will go to Hell.  The boy ended up having nightmares as a result, which suggests that what the preacher actually said to him was rather more vivid than just the bald statement described.  This led a local atheist to tell the post author "My conclusion is that the church is a hostile and poisonous entity in the community", prompting the author to lament, "Yikes. 'Hostile and poisonous entity.' Are we Christians really like that?"  (Er, yes, you are, if you're going to terrorize kids.  Is this really so hard to grasp?)  The author used this as a lead-in to raise the question of whether salvation is achieved by faith (that is, correct belief) or by good works.

The ensuing battle in the comments thread, however, was the most vituperative I've seen on RLC in all the time I've been reading it.  Evidently the question of who gets into Heaven, and of who is entitled to pontificate about who gets into Heaven, is even more fundamental than the question of whether God hates fags or not.  Commenters rapidly began accusing each other of bigotry and intolerance, then of arrogance, (theological) ignorance, heresy, apostasy, being controlled by "demonic forces", and trolling.  A sample:

.....the time I’ve spent interacting with you on this page has certainly given me insight into how the mind of a right-wing fundamentalist nut case actually works. Your natural habitat seems to be the dankest and darkest and most damning corner of self righteous, arrogant, bigoted, Bible-thumping religious ideology which you sadly mistake for Christianity.  “I will continue to pray for your salvation” you say. I told you I’m a baptized Christian. How dare you come across so arrogant — you twisted little self-righteous, impudent twit.....

As Hitchens once said, don't you love to see how the Christians love one another?  Eventually (the thread is up to 46 comments at the moment) one commenter implicitly accused another of being in league with Satan.  I don't know whether things can go any further downhill from there, but I do intend to watch and find out (if you're in the right frame of mind, this stuff can be pretty entertaining).

The battle does, however, bring a more serious point to mind.  All these people claim to believe in the same religion, but disagree vehemently about very fundamental aspects of what that religion teaches.  Each faction accuses the other(s) of holding to an obviously-false form of Christianity, or even of not being Christian at all.  You can tell they're never going to work it out.  For that matter, Christianity has existed for almost 2,000 years, and in all that time there has been fighting among Christians (ranging from debates to full-scale wars) over what exactly they were supposed to believe.  If they themselves have never all been able to agree on even the basics of what the religion's teachings are, how can they expect anyone else to take such an incoherent belief system seriously?  How can they themselves take it seriously?

This problem is not limited to Christianity, of course.  Much of the Muslim world is poisoned with discrimination and violence between rival sects of Islam.

It's bad enough when your whole world-view is based on claiming absolute certainty about things no human being could possibly know, but when even other people who take the same "holy" book as a starting point can't agree on what they should be so certain about, doesn't sanity demand a healthy dose of doubt about the whole thing?


Blogger Tommykey said...

One of my favorites is when I used to hear some Protestants declare that the only valid Bible was the King James version. I thought, "You mean to tell me that Christianity was without a valid Bible for the first 1,500 years of its existence? If it's the One True Religion, then how come it took them so long to get their holy book right?"

18 August, 2012 06:45  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

"...doesn't sanity demand a healthy dose of doubt about the whole thing?"

In my case, it wasn't just a healthy does of doubt about the whole thing, it was a complete rejection of the "whole thing."

Imagine telling a 5-year old that the only reason she's alive is because God wants her to die and live with him. And yet that is the first thing the nuns taught me in Sunday school--not about the wonders of life on earth, having parents who love you, growing up to be a doctor or a teacher or anything you set yourself on a path to be. No. None of that was ever spoken about in Sunday school.

The second thing I was taught in answer to "Why did God make me?" was:

To know love and serve Him in this world.

Talk about a slave master!

And I won't even get into the truckload of guilt the nuns dumped on us. My favorite, as I looked back on that crap as an adult:

"Don't look at yourself in the mirror while getting undressed. That may be an occasion of sin."

Yikes! As a 12-year old girl, my mind NEVER went there UNTIL the nuns suggested it!

I left that all behind and never looked back.

But more important, I didn't pass the virus onto my children.

18 August, 2012 07:07  
Blogger Ahab said...

Tommykey -- :: snickers ::

Shaw -- I received similarly toxic messages during my Catholic youth. I'm so relieved that I abandoned Catholicism.

Infidel -- I can't begin to imagine the dissonance going on in the minds of such argumentative Christians.

18 August, 2012 08:01  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

TK: It does seem peculiar that God would leave such an important matter unattended to for all that time. For those sects which consider the Catholic Church (which was Western Christianity until the Reformation) to be Satanic, the situation is even odder -- God left Satan in charge of Christianity for the first 15 centuries?

SK: You were obviously very sensible about all this from a young age. From the people who post at RLC, a "dose of doubt" is the best one can hope for, at least at first.

I was slightly naughty and posted a comment there suggesting this, even though RLC isn't really meant for non-Christians.

As for what those nuns were thinking when you were 12, maybe they knew what the priests were getting up to with 12-year-olds. More likely, people who repress their own sexuality start seeing it everywhere, whether it's there or not.

Ahab: I still hope some of them will eventually see that dissonance for what it is.

18 August, 2012 17:48  

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