Jul. 3rd, 2011

zeborah: I believe in safe, sane, and consensual Christianity. (credo)
If religion vs atheism cage-matches are bad for your blood pressure, look away now.

--I hope this won't be a cage-match, actually, it's just one particular argh I need to get out of my system briefly and then I'll probably be good for another year or so. I used to read Greta Christina's blog, because she's clever and says smart things in defence of atheism, but I slowly realised she didn't just want to defend atheism, she really wanted to do away with religion. She honestly feels that religion is not just bad for her, but bad for everyone. Which is a fair belief to hold, and I can understand people holding it... Just, I believe it's really really false (since, for a start, I know that religion is good for me) so it's really disconcerting to see an otherwise intelligent person so inflexible on the subject.

Also I accidentally got into an argument with her (I was trying to constructively critique a particular argument she put forth, and things got sidetracked) and it just wasn't the same after that.

Anyway, so today I followed a reference to "how do you know that your cherries are the ones Jesus would approve of?" thinking it was something about homosexual virginity or... something, I don't know, but it sounded amusing until the bit.ly link resolved and I realised where I was and that I'd totally misconstrued it.

--Okay, two particular arghs. The first one is that one of the reasons religion is good for me is that it makes me happy. This and other things mean that if I were in a religious contingent in a gay pride parade and saw an atheism contingent next to us, I'd be smiling and going "Yay, more people for gay pride!" because that's kind of the point of the parade. Greta Christina's reaction to such smiles and happiness is... to want to argue with the religious people about their religion.

She doesn't do this, to be completely fair. And maybe it's unfair to hold her confession that this is her reaction against her, since it's on her own blog -- she's not actually going out and evangelising anyone. But still, knowing that this is her reaction makes me recoil even more from her brand of atheism. Which is why I ultimately stopped reading her blog, because I'd started reading it with the (unverbalised) aim of understanding/respecting atheism more, and instead she just put me off it more.

Anyway, so the second/real argh is that the "cherry" quote turned out to be:
How do you know that you're getting it right? What reason do you have to think that you, personally, know what Jesus really meant, and that all these other jackasses are getting it wrong? They cherry-pick scripture to support their position; you cherry-pick scripture to support yours -- how do you know that your cherries are the ones Jesus would approve of?[1]
And the thing is -- Well, of course I don't know that I'm totally right. It seems unlikely that I am, in fact. I never was when I was younger, after all, and I've never met anyone else who's totally right. But I believe I'm more right than I used to be because as I learn more about a) the world and b) the Bible, I can interpret the latter in ways that are more internally self-consistent and more consistent with the way the world works than my understanding of "those other jackasses"' interpretation. For example, we both believe that Jesus said stuff about loving everyone-I-mean-everyone-that-means-them-too; but "those other jackasses" think that means loving the sinner while stoning the sin which is inseparable from the sinner, and I think it means loving people enough to realise that their difference in taste is not necessarily a sin. And my interpretation is more self-consistent and more consistent with the things Jesus said and did than theirs.

And yes, this relies on my judgement. But so does all this religion and atheism stuff rely on people's judgement. You can't judge without judgement, that's what judgement is. Greta Christina judges that atheism is more self-consistent and consistent with empirical reality than religion is. She may well even be correct, I just don't think empirical reality is all it's cracked up to be. (See also: footnote [1])

Ultimately, it's each of us who chooses which beliefs and morality we subscribe to. I'm the one who approves my cherries (picked from the world and my religion, including the Bible). Greta Christina's the one who approves hers (picked from the world, excluding religion and the Bible). And then we go around judging other people's cherries, partly because humans are judgey, but partly it makes good sense as a reality check. And when you see someone whose cherries match your cherries (this metaphor is getting increasingly unwieldy) it's natural to be happy.

So when a Christian and an atheist meet at a gay pride parade, it seems reasonable for the Christian to assume that they both believe that homosexuality is cool and that the fundamentalist Christians who disagree are wrong to disagree. That doesn't mean that the Christian thinks the atheist should agree with the Christian about whichever liberal version of Christianity they subscribe to. It doesn't mean that they're asking for "the Atheist Seal of Approval". It just means that they recognise that, while disagreeing on some things which aren't that important right now, they can still agree on other things which are important right now, and this is awesome. Christians, other religions, and atheists (as well as piles of people who don't care about religion one way or another all that much) all united for LGBT rights. How is this not awesome cherry sauce?

I... find it very frustrating that Greta Christina so desperately wants everyone to be an atheist that she couldn't see the awesome in that part of the parade. And again, if believing as she does meant that I became unable to see the awesome, I really don't want any of it.

--
[1] Also
Oh, and while we're on the subject: What evidence do you have to believe that Jesus is the divine son of God in the first place? Are you aware of how laughably unreliable the New Testament is as a historical document? Are you familiar with the arguments that the historical Jesus probably didn't even exist, and that the case for him being the divine son of God is a total joke?
to which my answer is -- and was, when we got into that argument -- that yes, I do know that, and am quite happy to believe that Jesus son of Joseph was invented as a story to explain this awesome new philosophy some dudes were coming up with, but even if that's so, it's still a cool story and cool philosophy and I believe in both of them. Yes, even if I believe the story isn't true I can still believe in it. The argument kind of went off the rails at this point.

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