01 November 2013

A rant-y post about a recent conversation about religion

I had a phone conversation with a close family member recently about the show Duck Dynasty. This family member had attended a morning worship service near his home, and Jep Robertson (a member of the family that is the focus of the show) was there answering questions by the pastor of the church.

One particular story this family member related to me was that, at one point, A&E wanted to cut the family prayer, which is seen at the end of each episode prior to Phil saying "in Jesus' name." Being evangelical Christians, the family was opposed to this. Phil's response was to pray aloud for the "Hollywood types" who wanted to do this editing. Apparently, the issue of cutting "in Jesus' name" was not brought up again.

The family member who told me this story was happy about it, having the belief that the reason the "Hollywood types" (which apparently are equated to godless heathens in this person's mind) wanted to cut Jesus out of the prayer when it aired was so they would not offend "one person." However, this family member claims it's ridiculous when "fifty-eight percent of people want it there."

After the conversation ended, I couldn't stop thinking about that statistic that was thrown out so casually. This person was using it as a debate point: 58% of Americans want to see Christianity in secular television shows.

The fact that this person made that statement doesn't surprise me. This particular family member is entrenched in a world view that begins and ends at the pulpit. This person doesn't express an opinion about anything until the church pastor preaches a sermon on it. This person doesn't think about anything beyond what the pastor says to think about, and from the perspective the pastor says to think about it.

One of the things the pastor has preached is that Christianity* is increasing in the United States, as well as in the world. As times are getting more difficult in society with increasing unemployment and financial uncertainty, more people are turning to the Christian god for answers, help, support. And since the pastor says it, it must be true. I mean, he's a pastor. What possible motive could he have for trying to keep people in the pews every week?

Here's the thing. Religion in general--and this brand of Christianity in particular--does a very good job of keeping people from thinking for themselves. When they face anything in life, they blindly trust that their higher power has everything under control. When they discuss politics or social issues or anything, really, they parrot back what has been taught to them on Sunday mornings.

They don't investigate further because they believe every word that comes from their pastor's mouth is the inerrant big-T-truth that is clearly what their higher power intended to be the indisputable opinion regarding that particular issue. They don't know if they have a real stance on anything because they take their pastor's stance as representative of their faith, and they can't go against their faith, after all.

My family member's comment that the majority of Americans want to see Christianity represented in secular programs is representative of that person's decision to ignore everything that is not permitted and/or demanded by the church, or label it as being from the devil.

And, because this is the way many religions work, people who think that way (or rather, don't think) raise their children to believe the same way. For generations, children grow up to believe that any doubt they have about god or what they're told in church is really Satan trying to bring them down. I was actually told this in a youth group meeting when I was in high school.

It wasn't until I was in a humanities class at a liberal arts college that I felt comfortable asking myself hard questions about what I believe and why. And it's taken almost ten years since then that I've been able to let go of beliefs I was mired in because of a misplaced obligation to my family.

I stayed mired in my faith because I'd been told from a very young age that belief in this supreme being was somehow better for me, that my life would fall into place as long as I believed the right way. And when I tried to question the validity of what I was being told (you know, thinking critically), I was told that my faith was being tested and I had to stand firm. Or, in a particularly helpful moment, that if I believe I'd be "safe." (Essentially, a family member told me it would be better to believe and be wrong than to not believe and be wrong.)

Looking back, it amazes me how much scare tactics are used in religion. If you don't do and say and believe the "right" things (which are determined by a fallible man's interpretation of a fallible and mistranslated book), you'll be punished not only in this life, but for all of eternity. Did you know my high school depression was the result of not having a "right relationship with God"? Because that's what my secular therapist told me.

One of the many problems with people who are entrenched in their faiths is that they allow themselves to lose perspective. They don't question things. In fact, they're told not to question things because it's all part of God's Plan. Who are they to question their god? And so, because of that, they take the church and the pastor at their words, firmly believing that Christianity is growing, that more and more people in our country want to go back to the values of the '50s, that the majority of people in the country don't want same-sex marriage (despite legislative evidence to the contrary).**

That's why I'm proud to be an atheist. I'm proud that I research issues before I take a stance on them. I look for more information rather than taking the first story at its word. I read and learn and think critically about the world around me. And I don't believe that a man with a theological degree or a book or an invisible entity (that doesn't communicate directly, by the way) has all the answers to anything. No one does.

End rant.

*By "Christianity," I mean conservative, Protestant, King James Bible, subservient and silent women Christianity. Because, to this pastor, anything and everything else is "false teaching."

**Almost there, Hawaii!

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