anti-faith and the ride toward religious persecution


I am worried. I have been worried for many years about something that is often elusive and always confusing.


I am worried that the evolving world will no longer permit it.

First off defining faith is slippery because everyone has it but not everyone is willing to admit it. And everyone's looks different. You can have faith in god, faith in yourself, faith in your car, or faith in gravity. Some of these things don't require much (like gravity) but all come from a sense of conviction, of sureness, of knowing. Everyone on earth has an individual experience and a shared one and the combination of these experiences are the building blocks which create that sense of conviction. It is a feeling of confidence that you know something true.

So what if what you know is "true" comes in direct conflict with someone else's faith?

As the world continues to get more connected and communities that were once closed systems get cracked open these conflicts will increase exponentially. If you live in a closed system where the common experiences fortify a belief structure then you might find it easy to criticize another system and another faith. If that closed system keeps you protected from ever having to come face to face with another person's "faith" it might make you pretty confident in what you know and have known all along and will keep knowing. But most of the world doesn't deal in closed systems. Instead we have the intersection of various evolving ideas that merge together to create new-in-the-moment ideas.

All moves forward.

But I am afraid.

I am afraid that the things that often motivate a person (human nature) will not allow enough patience and tolerance required for everyone to have their flavor of faith. Because it requires everyone to play nice in an increasingly shrinking sand box. In an article in Wired Magazine, called Church of the Non-Believers , a group of scientists portray atheism as the only rational choice and the choice that, by eradicating religion, would bring about world peace. Although these "New Atheists" as they call themselves would never claim that their convictions might just fall under the umbrella of "faith", I can't help but see their conviction as just that, a belief. They are, however making it clear that inside their convictions there is no room for anyone to have an opposing "belief" and that is where the sand in that ever-shrinking sandbox really makes me itch.

A recent South Park episode displayed the end game of this concept in a hysterically brilliant way (as only South Park can). Cartman decided that he would freeze himself because he found it unbearable to wait three whole weeks for the release of an anticipated computer game (Wii). But his plan was foiled when Butters neglected to thaw him and he was instead thawed by people 500 years into the future. All religion in the future was banished and everyone were atheists. But the truly funny part (and this is where the guys that write the South Park scripts are so gifted) was that there was no peace. Instead there were warring factions of atheists. Denominations of atheists if you will.

That cracks me up. In fact, I laughed my head off. Because I think it is absolutely true. Faith is as unique as every person. Yes there are common groups of structured belief systems and rituals but each individual has a different lens in which she sees the world. And so even the loftiest notion of a "pure" faith (even atheism) will not stay put.

But what fascinates me is that the basic teaching (I mean really foundational stuff) found in most "religions", that humanity got from somewhere, actually addresses how to get along and play nice in the sand box.

We just aren't paying attention.

And so I try to abide by those teachings and listen and tolerate other kids in the sand box. By listening it is amazing how similar we all seem to be. Same desires, same needs, pretty much. And those basic teachings seem to show the way of unity and love. It is the deviation from mutual respect and that nasty inclination to push back at someone with a little different view that seems to cause trouble.

One fist-full of sand thrown and it is all over.

And as much as I try, I know I fail. It is hard not to look back to the closed system that once protected my fragile perspective and judge it harshly for doing so. I have wielded many fists of sand at my own faith "traditions". But if I am to help encourage tolerance (not relativism) then pointing out some of the inconsistencies of practice to those from that tradition in order to collectively seek perspective in order to "love thy neighbor" then it is the "how" that seems the most difficult. But when I am truly following those teachings (for me they are christ's recorded words) the "how, what," and even "who" all becomes pretty clear. Christ was radically inclusive. And if I choose to follow those teachings, then my particular lens will allow me to see everyone in the sandbox as a beloved creature of creation.

The hard part is that they might not see me with the same respect. It does not feel good to be judged by anyone. Being the judge of someone is a special kind of racism. If you look down on someone because they are different (in whatever way, faith or otherwise) you are judging them and putting yourself in a higher position. This is ungracious and uniquely ugly. And not one single person can claim to have all the answers so arrogance can actually make one appear stupid. Humility is beautiful.

So I worry about religious persecution on both ends. Being the perpetrator or the victim. Both leads to a kind of death, but I can only strive to control one. Being responsible for my own actions and then giving grace to others is what I hope to continually strive for as I act out the teachings that form my faith in my ever expanding sandbox.


Love your writings;)
These scientists are on a mission, unfortunately in a effort to abandon "religion" many might fall for their teachings. I just think it takes a lot more faith to eliminate a creator than it does to accept God, and I hope and pray that the instinct to believe in a creator overrides our urge to follow intellect.
--Does that sound bad??


Thanks for the comment, and no I don't think it sounds bad. I think your comment comes from a place that truly desires people to experience a connection with the creator. I agree with you in the thought that it actually may take more "faith" to eliminate a creator but honestly I don't think following intellect is all that risky. If we were to plumb the depths of knowledge wouldn't we still ultimately find god? I think the real danger is giving into a baser instict of intolerance of those that are/believe differently which is what Richard Dawkins seems to be doing. Ironically his passion puts him in the category of other religious zealots which, for me, makes me pay less attention to his arguments. For this reason I am not sure so many will "fall" for his teachings, but that my be idealistic on my part. I still believe that god is sovereign. My worry comes from a selfish place that desires to explore faith without being told that I can't, by atheists or (ironically) evangelicals alike.

Thanks B!

I picked up a book at Borders recently titled, "Letter to a Christian Nation" warning us as to how we are self-destructing.

One reviewer describes it as follows:
“Sam Harris fearlessly describes a moral and intellectual emergency precipitated by religious fantasies–misguided beliefs that create suffering, that rationalize violence, that have endangered our nation and our future. His argument for the morality, the honesty, and the humility of atheism is galvanizing. It is a relief that someone has spoken so frankly, with such passion yet such rationality. Now when the subject arises, as it inevitably does, I can simply say: Read Sam Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation.”

–Janna Levin, Columbia University, author of How the Universe Got Its Spots and A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines

As a Christian who shies away from being associated with the publicity that our better known Christians generate, I think it's not a bad idea to sit back occasionally to reexamine our motives and actions from another perspective.


I absolutely agree with you that we (all, everyone, not just christians) need to "sit back occasionally to reexamine our motives and actions from another perspective." I think that in doing this we have a better chance at remaining humble.

Let me know how you like the book. I was thinking about picking it up.

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This page contains a single entry by Blair published on November 2, 2006 3:57 PM.

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