rockinlibrarian: (eggman)
It's not like I haven't written before about false dichotomies, more than once, but there are times I just get reminded that, too often, false dichotomies exist because the middle ground just doesn't speak up. Easter is one of those times. It's the same people doing it as usual, to be honest-- on one side are those who wield the name of Jesus like a sledgehammer into everything they say, as if every #Jesus hashtag is another entry in the Free-Ticket-to-Heaven giveaway and they are a WAYYYY bigger Heaven fan than all the other contestants so they're NOT GOING TO LOSE; on the other side are the ironically-holier-than-thou atheists who make jokes about belief in general as if only truly STUPID people would ever, say, ACTUALLY CELEBRATE Easter, who honestly aren't trying to offend anyone because they BELIEVE that all the sensible people they're talking to must agree with them about religion. I mean, that's just the random sample of the Internet I saw that gets me THINKING on the topic-- the issues and extremes aren't necessarily embodied by these PARTICULAR people, especially on Easter, and I don't want anyone to think that everyone who posted "Hallelujah!" or a slightly irreverent joke yesterday is necessarily one of these extremes, because, you know, it's Easter and you do those things. But I started thinking about it either way, and sitting in church I knew it was time for me to speak up on the religion topic, at least, again.

For some people, faith, or at least religion, IS an either/or thing. But that doesn't mean everyone's either and or is the SAME. And every time someone equates religion with Creationism I especially cringe. Gosh, I'm truly sorry if you think faith and science can't dwell in peace in one person's personal worldview, because they're both a part of MY worldview, and I can't imagine feeling forced to choose between them. Really, Creationists, when you see the wonders of the universe that science has uncovered, is it really necessary to reject those miracles because they don't fit the very narrow definition of "miracle" humans settled on centuries ago? Really, atheists, when someone believes in a Higher Power, is it really a mark of a Freethinker to assume this means they're superstitious, backwards, and anti-science? The biggest fallacy in this forced dichotomy is the idea that there's only one kind of Faith-- or one kind of religion-- or something. When people make it all Secularism vs. Fundamentalist Christianity, I wonder, what about the Hindus and Buddhists? Jews and Muslims? Pagans and Pantheists of various persuasions? What about the wide varieties of personal belief within single denominations? If someone says "I'm an atheist because I don't believe the world was created by an old man in the sky," I'm like, "Hi, I don't believe the world was created by an old man in the sky, either. I'm a Catholic Christian."

So let me tell you about me and faith. I've already told you I'm a Bad Catholic. But I AM Catholic. I AM Christian. And I DO BELIEVE. But for me it's not about believing anything to the letter, word for word. It's not a prescription, it's a relationship. It's a LIVING Faith. It's being open to revelation, to self-discovery and other-discovery, to understanding and to accepting-without-understanding.

I do believe in questioning ideas and dogmas and just-what-everyone's-always-thoughts. Questioning is how you incorporate what you learn, understand it, make it your own. I do believe in learning about many different ways of thinking and believing. Sometimes another person's faith will help you understand your own faith better. But this is what I MEAN by a Living Faith. It's fluid. You allow it to grow, to change you, to speak to you where you are in your life and personal development. It's not a stagnant set of rules or strict literal adherence to certain stories. There are rules, and there are stories, but they are guides, not Faith itself.

I mean, if religion was all Thou Shalt Nots, it wouldn't do me any good. I'm GREAT at Not Doing. It's easy for me to avoid violence and theft and betrayal and cruelty. Threatening me with hellfire if I step a toe out of line will not make ME a better person, though it might be just what some people need. But I'm the sort of person much more prone to Sins of Omission-- a person whose primary Deadly Sin is Sloth-- so I need to be inspired toward DOING GOOD rather than simply Not-Doing Bad. So I use my Faith to help ME, PERSONALLY, grow in the ways I, PERSONALLY, need to.

So my point is, there are many ways to do religion, and what is right for one person may not be right for someone else (and I'm aware that that statement itself may be WRONG to some people, but that's THEIR Right Way, and them telling me so won't change what I know in MY heart). I think we need to be more open about our own ways, to show that there isn't just one extreme or the other, to help those who haven't found THEIR way to see that it's not a hopeless decision, and to help those who DO tend toward an extreme to understand others' ways of believing.

So this is what I was thinking about this Easter.

Okay, admittedly I was also thinking a great deal about chocolate. And the birthdays of my children and sister which all happened this week so as to make a rather gift-filled day with cake and stuff yesterday too. Also, my sister gave me bongos for MY birthday, since she hadn't seen me closer to my birthday to do it then. I love my bongos. But my kids keep wandering off with them and using them in inappropriate ways (I mean inappropriate for BONGOS, not inappropriate for children and elderly family members!), and my husband complains if I play them around him. So now I need my own personal bongo-playing room. But anyway.

ALSO SPEAKING ABOUT MUSIC AND MY SISTER DID I TELL YOU PAUL MCCARTNEY'S COMING BACK TO PITTSBURGH THIS SUMMER AND I FINALLY, FINALLY, SCORED TICKETS?!?!? FOR MY SISTER AND I? I have now replaced "See Paul McCartney Live In Concert" on my Bucket List with "Hug Martin Freeman." Because that's how likely "See Paul McCartney Live In Concert" was looking there for a long time. BUT NOW IT'S JUST SHORT OF CHECKED OFF. Still have to wait for July to be sure. I mean, we tried to go see Ringo in concert once and he got laryngitis and cancelled. BUT I HAVE TICKETS AND THAT'S AS CLOSE AS I'VE EVER GOTTEN.

Date: 2014-04-22 11:59 am (UTC)From: [identity profile]
I just finished reading this really wonderful book by John Walton, called The Lost World of Genesis One, and one of the (many) things he points out is that understanding embryonic development does not make a Christian believe any less that God knits human beings together in the womb. The science does not affect our metaphysical belief. Why then, he says, is it so impossible for so many to reconcile a personal Creator God with biological evolution? Of course, I can't do justice to his reasoning and his arguments here, in a short blog comment, when he spent an entire book working it out, but I really appreciated his point of view, that one does not have to be either/or. It is not evolution that is anathema to a believer, but rather it is the dysteleological, metaphysical viewpoint behind evolution that insists there is no meaning or purpose to it. The actual scientific facts, if one reads Genesis 1 properly, are not opposed to theology, or teleology, at all.

Which is all way more technical than the point of this post, which is a plea for kindness and understanding and GRACE, but I find it fascinating, and I always love finding biblical scholars who say hey, you can hold to the bible as true and still not be a narrow-minded, ignorant, hate-filled jerk. IT IS POSSIBLE.

And I already said this on Twitter, but I am SO thrilled for you to get to see Paul McCartney this summer. Fingers crossed for NO LARYNGITIS.

Date: 2014-04-22 05:11 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile]
Madeleine L'Engle said something in one of her nonfiction books, I forget which, but the gist was "When we look back at Genesis with what science knows now, it's not remarkable how much Genesis got wrong, but how much it got RIGHT" which really does require a flexible way of reading. One of my favorite things I noticed is in regards to the bit about, in regards to her disobedience, woman would now suffer painful childbirth, which seems like such a random weird detail that gets latched onto by misogynists like "SEE IT'S ALL THE WOMAN'S FAULT," BUT, then I read in Lamaze class that, the actual scientific reason humans have a disproportionately painful childbirth compared to other animals is a) we have huge brains so have bigger heads, and b) we came down out of the trees and started walking upright, changing the way the pelvis lines up and stuff-- both of these things happened about the same time evolutionarily-speaking, when humans became, well, HUMAN-- and dangit, that's the Fall, isn't it? When we rejected God's control and decided we were smart enough to do it on our own? And humans wandered away from the Garden of Perfect Ecological Balance and became migrants, struggling to find food or survive on herding and/or agriculture? I mean, DUDES. That's real human prehistory, just metaphorically embodied in a few specific mythical characters. ...I've said I've always hated the way the word "myth" is used synonymously with "falsehood," and this is a perfect example of why. Because of that connotation people are much more comfortable talking about the stories of dead religions as "myths," but Genesis is a creation myth too-- it's a story used to convey DEEPER TRUTHS. My actual church-sanctioned CCD textbook in about 6th grade outright defined Genesis as a "creation myth," and I loved that-- it was eye-opening-- because obviously my CCD textbook was NOT suggesting we reject Genesis as a falsehood! Maybe that's when my fascination with Mythology-as-Truth started...

Date: 2014-04-22 03:33 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] kim aippersbach (from
Let's try this again without being anonymous!

Have you seen Ursula K. LeGuin's take on the matter?

Date: 2014-04-22 05:17 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile]
I had not seen that, thanks, though apparently my browser recognized it when I pasted it in. I'm glad when someone like that speaks up on a subject!

Let's make t-shirts!

Date: 2014-04-22 03:49 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] amelia r (from
You write "But I AM Catholic. I AM Christian. And I DO BELIEVE. But for me it's not about believing anything to the letter, word for word. It's not a prescription, it's a relationship. It's a LIVING Faith. It's being open to revelation, to self-discovery and other-discovery, to understanding and to accepting-without-understanding."

YES, YES, YES! It's so great to see other people who feel this way. It's one of the main reasons that I ended my last relationship. He didn't have religion or faith in his life and to him it was black and white. I couldn't call myself a Catholic because I didn't follow the teachings to the T and he didn't understand about being a bad Catholic.

Re: Let's make t-shirts!

Date: 2014-04-22 05:28 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile]
It's sad how many people can't seem to get it. The argument of "I don't see how anyone can align themselves with [whatever the group is, in our case the Catholic Church, but it happens a lot with Mormons, too, and to a more racist extent Muslims] when there are people in positions of leadership who do and/or say THIS horrible thing..." drives me crazy. It's not like I'm going to deny being Pennsylvanian because we have the highest rate of arson deaths ( or because we gave Congress Rick Santorum. Why should I give up the Eucharist because of unfortunate political supportage or the gross mishandling of child abuse cases? Why would I deny Christ because humans in my denomination have messed up?


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