Friday, November 20, 2009

Desperate Illegitimacy

I want to start out with a few disclaimers. First off, I was raised a moderate Catholic. I am not practicing anymore, but I would be lying if I said it had no effect on my views. Second, I am basing this post on impressions, bits and pieces here and there, not a total picture. With that out of the way, on with the show.

As I see it, Catholicism is a moderate branch of Christianity. On average and in leadership, I mean. Individuals vary of course. It has its stance on birth control and abortion (against them). In this regard it appears somewhat similar to many of the Protestant branches, especially the fundementalists. Catholics hold rallies and protests and try to change those around them.

However I see a major difference: They're not so angry and hateful. If you're read some of the writings from the Vatican, they're not about people burning in Hell for homosexuality. They instead say that people are happier when they live in accordance with [their interpretation of] God's will. They want to help. In contrast so many fundemendalists appear to have no interest in their fellow humans. They threaten lives and disrupt funerals and attack the men and women who defend their right to spew their shit.

I wonder if it has to do with legitimacy. The Catholic Church claims continuity with the Jewish and early Christian faiths. In this regard it is legitimate. If it has been corrupt at times, it has reformed itself and never broken away. It has never given up.

In contrast the fundementalists come from a tradition of breaking away at the slightest disagreement. There is no coming together to resolve disputes, there is no mediation, just leave the moment you disagree. Sure, early groups were excommunicated, but even after that they splintered. As a result, they may feel (as I think many should) that they lack authority. After all, who can respect a group which cannot resolve its differences without taking its ball and going somewhere else? In addition to that, they are not part of continuity. As much as they might wish to be part of tradition, they can only honestly claim to be new and struggling to get back to the source.

They cannot claim moral authority (for they have none) and they have no tradition of discussion or mediation. As a result, they have nothing to rely on but their own anger and hatred. New information is not something which they can handle, so they react as they always have: fighting it, ignoring it, breaking away. And so we have those who cannot even comprehend evolution and in their attempts to shut it out, they close out all of science as well. They leave themselves ignorant, shunning all knowledge which might further demonstrate the shoddiness of their beliefs.

In contrast the Catholic Church has a tradition of taking on conflicting information. It is not perfect. Not at all. Ask Galileo. Okay fine, that wouldn't help much, but you get my point. It can handle the idea of evolution. It can handle science. It can handle climate change. It can handle these because it is sure of its authority and legitimacy, so it has nothing to fear.

Throughout this I have likely made Catholicism sound better than it is. That was not intentional, but perhaps inevitable. I regard it as a powerful social force which should be listened to, even if not agreed with. I want to be sure that people understand that I do not mean to attack Protestantism. While its origins may make it seem illegitimate, the early breaks were for pure reasons: the Church was incredibly corrupt. Ideally they'd have worked more for reform, but perhaps at the time they did not see it as possible or it would have been too slow. We can still see how long it has taken for the Church to revoke many of its corrupt practices and acknowledge them.

My criticism is directed instead at Christian fundementalists. These are a sort who believe they are the only ones reading the Bible correctly. They see no room for interpretation or doubt, regarding those as sins to be punished. They see no room for knowledge because it reveals their flawed nature. In reality they are not much different than the Islamic fundementalists who murdered thousands of Americans and have committed uncountable acts of violence against everyone who might possibly disagree with them.

P.S. In retrospect I realized that this is from an American perspective of American religious groups. I know that Europe has a much different history with the various forms of Christianity. What little validity my argument may have is limited to the US.


G-Rebel said...

I've actually been thinking about this for the past 24 hours. Let me disclose, after many comments here, that I am what many call a Mormon. In truth, my church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The clarification is important as many believe we are not Christians.

I see Catholics the same way, moderate, for lack of a better term. Too often, however, I fear people mistake a person or people with a particular Church's doctrine or core beliefs. True, some churches actually preach hatred towards other Christian faiths, I know, I've seen it and been the recipient of such hate. Fundamentalist Christian groups, not only in America but in other countries, HATE Mormons.

How people act sometimes is deplorable, I blame the individual most of the time because people are in control of their own thoughts, words and actions. But true, one's Faith and its preachers have a huge influence on those thoughts and actions.

Many might consider my faith "fundamentalist" in that we believe in truth absolutely and have no gray areas in our doctrine. But at the same time we seek truth wherever it comes from. If truth is found in science, we embrace it. If truth is found in Scandanavia, we embrace it. We embrace all truth and cling to it.

As a Church we don't advocate hateful words or actions in any sense. We are strict in our beliefs but strongly believe in showing love, concern, courtesy and being accepting of people no matter the lifestyle; even if we completely disagree with that lifestyle and believe that by continuing to live that way you may not go to heaven...however, to clarify, we also understand that there are many life circumstances that we cannot judge, therefore we teach to be understanding and caring to all people.

I am sorry, I don't mean to sound preachy. I guess I just wanted to make things clear. My church as suffered persecutions since the mid 1800's. We were driven West by murderous mobs and corrupt Governers who ordered our extermination. There is an edge to us, but we try to maintain dignity.

Back to your point, I agree that the more fundamentalist factions of Christianity, the less forgiving, if you will, are only beginning to impose their will politically and socially...and it's not a good thing, in my opinion. My hope is we can strive to keep each other in check long enough to do more good in the lives of Americans. That's all, I got it all off my chest, I am finished.

Klepsacovic said...

My opinions of Mormons are mixed.

On one hand, my aunt apparently dislikes them. That puts them in the "might be good" basket since she's a bit um... nuts.

On the other hand, as far as I've seen, the Mormon church seems eager to manipulate society. I suppose that's not all that unusual, but their actions often look not all that different than those of fundamentalists, except the Mormons often seem to do it with more class and less yelling.

A few semesters back I had a roommate who was a Mormon. He was polite, organized but not obsessive, and seemed to be an all-around excellent human being. While he is a sample of only one person, he is definitive proof that Mormons are capable of being good people, so it is not wise to judge based purely on belief system.

G-Rebel said...

I know it's a late comment, but yes, I would agree that a Mormon can be a descent human. :)

A deep and powerful feeling permiates the heart of any that profess to be "active" in their religion. Even less active people have some conviction, even if it's based in tradition.

Mormons believe strongly in their message and wish to share it truly believing it will enrich the lives of everyone in the world. I certainly would not call it maipulation, unless you wish to discuss the Spanish Inquisition...that was maipulation.

Any religion believes stronly in their doctrine or they wouldn't belong to it. It is certainly better to seek understanding more than passing judgement.

I speak for myself when I say I respect just about every religion. I believe I have found the truth, and it's my conviction. I will never presume to force anyone to believe what I do, even though I hope they would. What you may see as maipulation I see as doing good. But then maybe we just need to understand each other more to appreciate the other's point of view.

Keep up the good writing, I do enjoy it.