Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Long Awaited Death


At long, long last, in a development that may require decades to complete, although as Policon points out, sometimes progress can occur in breathtaking spurts, we see the beginning of the inevitable demise of religion as closed minded, self-righteous dogma that glorifies one’s own views and condemns all those that differ. That I will live long enough to see the day when it dissipates into history (like the belief that the earth is flat) remains unknown, but I have confidence that by the end of the century humanity en masse will grasp that the divine does not limit its expression to a single religious institution or even what is known as religion. The rising omnivores increasingly embrace this view. The political implications are profound and the death sentence has already been written and published. For many, it remains to be read or acknowledged. The "Jesus Freak" vote has all but been cancelled, and the likes of Dobson and his ilk have been relegated to noisy mouthpieces no longer a factor in elections.

Far from declaring the "God is Dead" depravity of the 70s, a moral bankruptcy well captured in Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm, which gave rise to the Moral Majority backlash of the 80s, I declare the impending end of intolerant religion in large numbers. We already see it occurring in churches throughout the country if not the world. What is the message of the enormously popular Joel Osteen ministries? Why is he so popular? Look at the rise of the evangelical churches that emphasize love, worship, service, and tolerance? They don’t scream hell fire and damnation. Those that hate and condemn are dying on the vine and quickly. Christianity in America is (imagine) starting to become more like the message Christ taught. Expressions like "Let he who is perfect cast the first stone" come to mind.

MSNBC has a story based on a Pew Research US Religious Landscape Survey also cited in this Newsweek article showing that religious congregations are dramatically shifting from fixed, dogmatic orientations to more fluid and flexible sets of convictions that embrace a higher and inspirational power but reject micromanagement commands and rules not consistent with the common sense of the Golden Rule.

America’s demographics support the findings of the study as older dogmatic dogs die off to be replaced by hyper-connected omnivores whose eyes glaze over with a certain "What the ?" when told that one sexual preference is "good" while another is "evil" with nothing to support the assertion but "the Bible says" to which to the omnivore asks, "So?"

Explanations that a supreme being authored the text fall as flat as a steamrolled paper bag, and the political implications run deep and powerful as a growing population considers global warming, hunger, health insurance, poverty, energy, terrorism, education, job security, and other matters that effect their lives and the lives of their peers as the factors on which to judge a candidate. Candidates running on a "pro-life" platform better be prepared to address issues facing the lives of those already born. Republican candidates that run to the right on gay marriage and sexual preference might squeak through a victory in a primary this year, but it will be for the last time, and with the exception of a decreasing number of isolated districts in fewer areas, in November they will be soundly, resolutely, and convincingly crucified so badly no candidate in any party will ever again run on such stupidity.

6 Comments:

Blogger The Navigator said...

At first I considered it interesting that the Jehovah's Witnesses are over twice as self-righteous as the Mormons, but upon reflection, that does make sense as LDS is more institutionalized than the JH. I can see more open minded Mormons choosing to remain within the flock while actually legitimizing other religious convictions. That the same two groups also consider God the most "personal" makes sense. The more one considers the divine an impersonal and transcendent "force" the less likely one is to claim a monopoly on how it is to be considered and worshipped.

What I do consider fascinating is that among the Abrahamics, which I would expect to significantly trail the Dharmics in the de-personalization of the infinite, the Jews exhibit numbers in the Dharmic range, exceeding the Hindus and lagging only the Buddhists.

Jews exceed Hindus in extracting anthropomorphism from God? I wonder how such figures would change if the sample were global and not restricted to the US.

While I might not choose wording quite as strong as your story, I see the same trends. Regarding both abortion and sexual preference, the shift towards tolerance is clear, with Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses remaining the outliers, and they represent a small (2.4%) part of the population (LDS-1.7%, JH-0.7%) of no meaning in an election outside of Utah.

Summing up, I agree with you that the "Moral Majority" social conservative group is political history. Jerry Falwell is dead. Haggard is a gay drug addict. Robertson is a joke.

As you note in your story, the sheep and their dollars are rallying around a different kind of shepherd, one that focuses on hope and worship, practices people can use in their daily lives. In the words of one omnivore, those "gay bashing abortion freaks need to chill."

6/24/2008 2:52 PM  
Anonymous Mariana said...

History repeats itself because we, the people never learn the lessons. In other words, I am not so optimistic in the long run.

6/24/2008 3:32 PM  
Blogger Framer said...

My favorite bit of uninentional humor in this post decrying religeous dogma is when you say that people can be more concerned about things like global warming.

I was listeng to James Hansen on NPR on monday as he wanted to bring criminal charges againd global warming skeptics.

http://www.scrippsnews.com/node/34233

This article is actually softer than what he said in the interview.

Seems like there is enough dogma for everyone.

Nobody expects the green inquisition, except, of course, when they have been warned.

6/25/2008 8:12 AM  
Blogger x4mr said...

Oh come on, Framer.

No disrespect intended, but you compare microns to light years. I know some of the hard core environmentalists can get pretty excited, and when they feel the future of our survival is at stake, I can at least understand their zeal.

Still, even their most extreme proposals pale in comparison to what has occurred on religious grounds. When you shift from theory to practical street smart reality of what occurs, the comparison disintegrates.

I'll admit you point to some real sentiments, but these people have a lot more than an old book and "faith" on which to base their fears for their children and humanity's future.

Is the reality of global warming as simple as Gore's film suggests? Perhaps, but quite possibly not. I am not a gambling man, but if I were, betting against global warming is a bad bet to lose even when the odds look good, and they don't.

6/25/2008 9:53 AM  
Blogger Framer said...

x4mr,

I used to think that way, but listening to Hansen this week shattered that worldview for me. That man is certifiable, and if given political heft he would be destructive to society.

Global warmers think the future of society is at stake as do religious folk, there is evidence to back either's claim. It just depends on where you put your faith.

The mistake that you make is that extreme environmentalism is incapable of the hegemony that has been associated with religion in the past. What possible evidence do you have to prove this? Which religion is asking the whole world to change to fit their worldview outside of Muslim extremism? Which are prepared to use the rule of law to enforce it?

Religious people will point to over 2000 years of Judeo-Christian influence on modern society, and despite whole bucketfuls of warts, society is the better for it. Extreme environmentalism has a much shorter and bumpier history to this point. The “prophecies” of extreme environmentalism probably have a worse track record than biblical prophecy. Tell me about global cooling, what about the irreparable hole in the ozone, where’s my hockey stick curve, where are the models that predicted the earth’s “fever” would break in 1998? Why has the earth been much warmer in the past when the effects from man were near negligible? What is the ideal temperature for the earth to be at?

I’m not saying that there aren’t possible reasonable answers for all of the above, but they don’t come in concrete as of yet. If you accept the “tipping point” dogma, you are doing so on faith after all is said and done.

This is your right, just be careful enforcing it on others, just as you ask from religion.

6/25/2008 12:50 PM  
Blogger x4mr said...

Were we to engage in a debate on this issue, I doubt either would end up raising his voice. I turn from my green counterparts in supporting nuclear production of electricity. Michael Bryan and I will just have to disagree on that one.

Although I have not examined the science, coal proponents promise they can produce not only electricity but also clean fuel. I remain skeptical about coal but am willing to listen.

Regarding green psychotics, there are kooks on every issue, but we will have to agree to disagree on the mix between things God and things Green. You correctly surmise my lack of concern regarding ultra-green hegemony. Sheer economics would cut its legs off if it ever got the baton (and you're right that I don't think they ever will).

Some time ago Giffords had a set of experts (many from the U of A) address the subject. I liked what I heard, which included debunking the excessive zeal towards ethanol.

I imagine the two of us could speak for hours (or dozens of pages) on energy or religion. I'll end this comment by noting that a discussion of energy that does not include all people (China, India, etc.) is folly, and here in the US, the Jesus Freaks are going to see their political relevance dwindle. As someone running for LD-26 office, that latter should figure prominently in your calculations.

Good luck, BTW.

6/25/2008 3:02 PM  

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