Friday, August 19, 2016

Religion and Politics, two things you should never discuss. Part 1

I enjoy conversation, I savor great conversation but all conversation is worthwhile. Debate is great, there is nothing that gets the blood pumping quite like a lively debate. Debate has the added benefit of solidifying your own thoughts and beliefs and has the potential to change them. How can you truly believe something if you don't understand it?

There are a few things, though, that I usually don't talk about outside of my very small circle of friends and the top two are religion and politics. I have noticed over the years that nothing quite so blinds people to facts or closes minds like the discussion of religion or politics. This is really a shame because of all the subjects one can discuss, debate, or simply argue over, religion and politics benefit the most from it.

I understand why people react this way. Your religion is a deeply held belief, often one that goes to the core of who a person is. Political beliefs are nearly as deeply held in those that are religious and even more so in those that are not. Facing someone who has a just as deeply held conflicting belief can be quite a disconcerting experience. Don't get me wrong, there are a great number of people who will vigorously discuss their religion (and others) with you. Secure in their beliefs and willing to openly debate every point with you. I applaud these people, I search out these people. My own religious beliefs are very muddled and discussion and debating them helps me to clarify them to myself.

This post (the first in a continuing series on these two touchy subjects) is not going to be a lesson in religion or philosophy. Nor will it be an essay on the differences between Democratic or Republican politics. No, it's written to help solidify my own thoughts and in the process maybe help someone else going through the same internal struggle, which no one should do alone if they can help it. Maybe this post can stir a lively debate make someone else think seriously about their own beliefs. No matter what else I am writing this because I am still struggling with my religion, my philosophy, and more. I know of no better way to organize, to codify, my thoughts than to write them down. So, without any further preamble, here they are.

I was raised a Baptist. For 20 years I attended the same church, with the same people, and for most of that time the same pastor. After marrying my wife, we started attending an Episcopal church. Some years later, through a friend, we started attending and became members of a Presbyterian church. Eventually, though we stopped attending altogether using the excuse of not having the time which while true, was only an excuse. During our attendance of these churches, as different as they were the core beliefs were alike. The rituals differed, often considerably, but the basic teachings were very similar.

I hold no illusion that the Bible is an accurate written history of the world. It is what it needs to be; a handbook to living a Christian life. Written in such a way to make it accessible to everyone and leaving out everything you don't need to know. Telling parables rather than recording history. I am no biblical scholar but that's my take on it. When viewed as such it is easy to reconcile 65 million-year-old dinosaurs and a few thousand-year-old world.

The more time I spent outside of organized religion the more I began to really think about what I had been taught and whether or not I could continue to believe it. This led to some interesting internal conversations but unfortunately all too few external conversations. I eventually decided that blind faith was not for me, so naturally, I did what any other scientifically minded person would do... research.

I think I have covered a lot of ground in this post, and while I am far from finished, I have to stop somewhere. This seems as good a place as any.

To be Continued...

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