Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Theistic Worldview

The other thing that really irks me about theism, particularly Christianity and Islam, is that it creates a completely insular worldview. Sure, other groups and beliefs can affect one's worldview, nationalism, for instance, but theism colors theists' perceptions in every area of life, not just one. When viewed through the lens of religion, nonbelievers and their views become utterly alien, "other," and, in extremis, less than human.

For example: When bad things happen to Christian fundamentalists, they interpret it as God punishing them for failing to live up to his commands. As in evangelicals blaming 9/11 on America's secularism and tolerance of homosexuality. As such, these Christians use bad events as an opportunity to delve further into their religion and return to more basic, literal interpretations of the Bible and Jesus' teachings.

When bad things happen to those of other religions, like Muslims, these same Christian fundamentalists interpret it as a sign that God is punishing them for heresy in the practice of their satanic religion (yes, most fundamentalists believe that Mormons, Muslims, Jehovah's Witnesses, and even Catholics are being tricked by Satan and really follow him).

But fundamentalist Muslims interpret the same events in exactly the same way the Christians would if they had happened to the Christians: As Allah's punishment for failing to be good Muslims and failing to practice Islam properly. And, so, just as the Christians would, they become more dedicated to their faith and try to go back and practice it as close to the text as possible. And this sometimes drives both Christians and Muslims to become terrorists. (For instance, evangelicals who bomb abortion clinics and kill abortion doctors).

But American Christians are dumbfounded by this! They just can't understand how the Muslims don't see this as proof that Jesus is the way, not Mohammed, and start labeling Muslims as "crazy" and "incomprehensible." Christian fundamentalists really can't understand the reaction of Muslims to such events.

But, of course, standing outside, we can see that, though the particulars of Islam and Christianity differ, both religions are more alike than not, and further, Muslim fundamentalists and Christian fundamentalists tend to take the exact same course of action as each other in similar circumstances. But they both are so mired in the worldview of their own religion that somehow they fail to see that they are not alien to each other, but actually almost exactly the same. They can't even make the leap to think, "If a foreign power of another religion deposed my government, I would see it as an effort from Satan to destroy my faith and also a curse from God for my failure to be a good Christian, so I would cling even closer to my faith rather than give it up. Therefore, that is exactly what Muslims will do!" That is actually beyond the vision of evangelicals because of how distorted their worldview is by their religion.

Though the episode was meant to demonstrate the idiocy of racism, this effect is very much like the episode of original "Star Trek" called "Let This Be Your Last Battlefield." It's the one where two aliens are fighting because one is white on the left and black on the right whereas the other is white on the right and black on the left. The humans don't even notice it. From the outside, the two aliens are the same. But the aliens are so caught in their worldview they can't see that their similarities far outweigh their differences. That's one of the inevitable consequences of believing, without evidence, that you have the Truth, capital "T." Once you have the Truth, you lose the ability to understand why others don't see the Truth and lose any empathy for them. They become alien, "other," incomprehensible, no matter how similar to you they are. That's why I think religions are dangerous.

Another demonstration of how evangelicals and other Christians cannot see anything outside their worldview is the argument, "You'd better believe that Jesus died for your sins or you'll go to Hell!" Evangelicals feel that they have to "witness" this way to nonbelievers to, according to the evangelicals, "save the nonbelievers from Hell." But they fail to see that they are really trying to save nonbelievers from their own God!

Which is ludicrous. Imagine this scenario. A guy comes up to you and says, "Have you accepted John into your life?"

You: "No."

The guy says, "Well, John got beaten up so you wouldn't have to. So you had better accept John as your savior."

You: "Huh? Why?"

The Guy: "Because he got beaten up for you."

You: "What? Him getting beaten up has nothing to do with me."

The Guy: "No, you see, you're carrying a stain from something your ancestors did. So, this gang was going to beat you up for it, but John took the beating instead. Praise John!"

You: "Why am I responsible for what my ancestors did?"

The Guy: "John says you are. But you better accept John as your savior. Otherwise, John is going to come and kill you."

You: "Wait a minute! Why does John want to kill me?"

The Guy: "He doesn't. John loves you."

You: "If he loves me, why would he kill me?"

The Guy: "You have free will. You have to be free to choose to accept John or not."

You: "But if I don't, John will kill me?"

The Guy: "You will be choosing to be killed. John saved you from the gang. It wouldn't mean anything if you could just choose not to accept it."

You: "I never asked him to save me from the gang. And even if John did take a beating for me, it seems out of proportion that if I fail to acknowledge that John saved me from a beating, he will KILL me."

The Guy: "John won't be killing you. You will die because you rejected John. John saved you."

You: "It sounds like John is the one I need to be saved from."

The Guy: "John loves you. John is good."

You: "How, exactly, is John good? He's claiming that some unsubstantiated crime of my ancestors had to be paid for by him letting a gang beat him up, which I never asked him to do, and now, if I don't acknowledge that he saved me, which I have no reason to believe he did, John is going to kill me. How is that good?"

The Guy: "Because John is good. Good is John. Therefore, John must be good."

You: "That doesn't make any sense."

The Guy: "Well, John works in mysterious ways."

You: "Excuse me, I need to go buy a gun."

It's obvious, when you put it in logical terms, that it is God who the evangelicals are trying to protect you from! They try really hard to foist the blame on humans (through free will), on Satan, and other convolutions, but ultimately, Jesus is telling you that if you don't accept him as your uninvited savior from sins you inherited from your ancestors, he's going to punish you eternally. They say, "Jesus loves you," but that is really an empty, cognitively empty concept, because I know of no definition of love that allows for someone to compel you to love him or her in return by threat of eternal punishment.

It is only from within the Christian worldview that these things can possibly make any sense. Once you believe something this screwy, it isn't that hard to get you to believe that it's okay to "Kill them all. God will know his own." Or that it's okay to fly planes into buildings. Or kill abortion doctors. And it's hard, once you have twisted your perceptions around such contradictory concepts to see straight anymore and recognize the commonalities in other people rather than differences. If you think that it is your responsibility to save nonbelievers from eternal torment, it is easy to be blinded by any temporal concerns.


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