Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Getting Religion

     The consistently excellent Dystopic’s most recent screed contains a bit I simply must excerpt:

     [W]hile the Bill of Rights continues to exist, free speech is fast becoming a de jure right, not a de facto one. The same is true for religion. Christians have felt for a long time that something was off in America, that the perception of them had shifted. Oh, it’s nothing official. You won’t find a law that discriminates against you. There are no official papers to declare a de jure persecution of you.

     But, again, the signalling of the Pavlov’s Progressives is against you. Try the experiment yourself. Post something openly and strongly Christian in any place where Progressives congregate in numbers. Choose something innocent like Christ preaching to love thy neighbor or something.

     Invariably, someone will come out to ring the bell against you. You’re a homophobe, they will say, because you are Christian. Or maybe you hate brown people, or women, or abortion. Whatever. The message will be negative. Now, perform the same experiment, but post something from the Quran and observe the difference. There will be positive messages in solidarity with you, or perhaps they will ask how you survive in a white-christian-male world full of bigots. Whatever.

     It’s remarkable how uniform the conduct Dystopic describes above has become. I’ve received some of it, though less than others who refuse to hit back. (I always hit back; I consider it a moral imperative.) And sad to say, some of it has been from persons whose politics marches with mine.

     More than anything else, it illustrates how hard it is for some folks to “get” religion.

     A religion must have two components:

  • A mythos: The supernatural “backstory” the believer accepts as the higher aspect of existence.
  • An ethos: The ethos’s implications for behavior: what the believer must and must not do.

     Each of these aspects of a religion can be found, separately, in other creeds. For example, the Army has a definite ethos, but there’s no mythos behind it, merely the certainty that your platoon sergeant will kick your ass into next week if you should “sin.” Conversely, addicts of Buffy the Vampire Slayer adhere to a mythos about vampirism, demons, and the soul, but without an associated ethos to govern their behavior.

     (Apropos of nothing much, the metacosmology behind the “big bang” could be said to constitute a mythos, since by postulate it preceded all that exists in Nature and cannot be probed by natural means. But as a former student of cosmology, I would never stoop to such a slander of my fellow cosmologists.)

     There’s a critical premise behind all of this, one that far too many persons have overlooked. More, it stands behind my contention that Islam is not a religion:

The acceptance of a religious creed
is an individual commitment.

     The believer must accept the mythos of his own free will. He must conform his behavior to the ethos similarly, though the possibility of punishment in the afterlife might factor into it. Any creed that relies upon temporal force to gain “converts” fails this requirement.

     From here, we turn to politics.

     These days, a left-liberal activist is more likely to be an atheist than a theist. He’s highly unlikely to adhere to any Christian denomination. Indeed, as Dystopic has said, he tends to treat Christians – sincere ones, at least – as if they were sinners against the dictates of his pseudo-religion. That’s understandable, as the left-liberal activist is nearly always a politics addict.

     A political stance isn’t a religion, regardless of its tenets. Politics is specifically about the acquisition and use of power over others: coercive power. But coercion is the exact antithesis of religious affiliation. The “believer” coerced into a political position doesn’t really believe; he’s there to avert the temporal consequences of not being there.

     There is a continuum between outright coercion – the threat of punishment for non-compliance – and the kind of social and economic pressure the Left tries to exert upon those it targets. By the strictest standard, the sort of campaign homosexual activists waged against Brendan Eich was not coercive; they merely mobilized a significant number of angry voices against him, with the implied threat of a boycott against Mozilla Corp. should he remain as its CEO. But consider this statement from Tony Bradley at Forbes:

     I think the backlash against Eich and boycott of Mozilla were misguided and completely unwarranted. There is a case to be made for calling it intolerance when a coordinated campaign is mounted against an entire company because a group of people disagrees with the personal beliefs of one employee.

     Turn that scenario around for a second. What if a conservative organization mounted a campaign to boycott an entire company because the CEO is gay? I’m fairly sure most of those who took up torches and pitch forks against Mozilla would find such behavior inexcusable, bordering on criminal.

     The Left is famous for this sort of “it’s okay when we do it” hypocrisy. Nor would its activists dissent from the statement that in encouraging the boycott of Mozilla they were trying to punish it for employing Brendan Eich. He who dissents from the Left’s decrees must be punished by temporal authority.

     The Left sees no difference between their “gospel” and that of Christianity.

     Let there be no mistake about it: I am a Catholic Christian:

  • I accept the assertions of the Nicene Creed.
  • I accept the Gospels as accurate accounts of Christ’s time in flesh.
  • I accept Christ’s two Great Commandments and the Ten that derive from them.
  • I hold that certain behaviors that are tolerated by the law are sinful despite their legality.
  • I cleave to all the above as elements of my own convictions and my own personal conscience.

     But all of that is my choice. I don’t claim the authority, as the Left seeks to do, to punish others for disagreeing with me in thought, word, or deed. If they are to be punished, it will be the decision of a Higher Authority than any here on Earth.

     Some objectors would question a couple of “gray regions” commonly linked to religious belief. Abortion and euthanasia are examples. I do hold that those things should be criminalized, at least in egregious cases (e.g., “partial-birth” abortions). But those are political positions. I don’t claim that I, or any arbitrary gaggle of Christians, should have the authority to mete out punishment for those things. If legal processes should someday return abortion and euthanasia to felony status, it will be the political authorities that will do so, and a politically constituted apparatus of courts, juries, and prisons that will decree and inflict punishment.

     Therein lies the difference between religion and all other kinds of belief. Inasmuch as the left-liberal cannot abide dissent, his inability to abide Christianity, whose Founder Himself forbade temporal punishment for sin:

     But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came to the temple courts again. All the people came to him, and he sat down and began to teach them. The experts in the law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught committing adultery. They made her stand in front of them and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of adultery. In the law Moses commanded us to stone to death such women. What then do you say?” (Now they were asking this in an attempt to trap him, so that they could bring charges against him.) Jesus bent down and wrote on the ground with his finger. When they persisted in asking him, he stood up straight and replied, “Whoever among you is guiltless may be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then he bent over again and wrote on the ground.
     Now when they heard this, they began to drift away one at a time, starting with the older ones, until Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She replied, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you either. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” [The Gospel According To John, 8:1-11] becomes plain why they don’t “get” the Christian religion but have no problem whatsoever with Islam.

     Food for thought.


RichJ said...


Very good piece today.

I think what most don't understand about Christ's congregation is that everyone of them, even the most holy, are sinners. See Ecclesiastes 7:20 for a concise statement.

As your quote of John 8 suggests, we are all like that adulterer in some fashion, with by far the most common failing our inability to recognize our own short comings... to think we have the answers not only to our problems, but the problems of others. As I see it, the difference between the Christian and others is that the Christian has deeply studied their failings and seek as best they are able to do as Jesus suggested to the woman, "Go, and from now on do not sin any more."

A humble heart condition is a pre-requisite. Reminding ourselves of this failing is a must. Take a look at 1 Corinthians 1:27 ff.

Thanks again for your post.

Anonymous said...

I too am Catholic, but a rabbi friend of mine clarified one thing from that story about the prostitute. He explained that when Jesus said "Ye who is without sin may cast the first stone." what that really means is "Let any of you who has not utilized her services, be the first to strike her."
He then followed that up with, "Think about it, if we are not at all allowed to cast any judgment, how then do we have any laws? How can you, or I sit on a jury? Civilization would break down."
I agree though, the state is their religion and they will suffer no heretics.

Francis W. Porretto said...

Anon, your rabbi friend did not "clarify" anything. He deliberately distorted the words of the Gospel, substituting an interpretation he preferred but which is not consistent with what the Redeemer said. I'd guess he's uninterested in reinforcing Christian teaching, being a rabbi and all. Consider this: The Gospel said the woman was "caught in the act of adultery," not that she was a prostitute. Where did your rabbi friend get the "prostitute" bit?

Christ more than once emphasized that sin is not the same as crime. It's not a matter of "not at all allowed to cast any judgment;" it's the all-important distinction between that which is subject to Man's justice and that which belongs to God and no one else. The Jews of classical Judea didn't draw such distinctions; Christ did -- and Christians must.