Tuesday, June 01, 2010

When did "Asshole" Become a Christian Denomination?

A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious. On the other hand, they do less easily move against him, believing that he has the gods on his side.

When I was a boy I was privileged to have a great deal of exposure to a variety of denominational views of Christianity. Well, at the time it seemed more like an imposition. At times, I'm frankly surprised I'm not an atheist. 

But then, Christianity is a simple thing, and it's core tenants so utterly inarguable and self evident, it hardly requires a religious infrastructure. Go read the Beatitudes. And then keep on reading the rest of the Sermon. If you think those exhortations require the threat of hell-fire or agreement on the absolute nature of God and the Afterlife to be believed or followed - I think you have a problem. But many do. Factions and wars have been fought over what was meant, when the thrust of it all is clear enough. "Be excellent unto one another."

I'm perfectly able to believe in the God I know, while being entirely sceptical of the existence of the god anyone else claims to worship. I tend to think that worship gets in the way of any sort of personal relationship, and personally find being placed on a pedestal distinctly un-comfy. I imagine hanging on a cross in someone's mind would impress me rather less, and I would like to do unto my God as I would have Them do unto me. 

Therefore, I am devout disbeliever in religion and a sceptic regarding doctrine; militant in refusing to give undue weight to the Authority of Scripture, if for no other reason than that critical thinkers are better and safer company than people like this. 

"Never let your morality get in the way of doing the right thing."

The more violent the language and sanctions directed toward social and religious dissent, the more reason I have to distain their advice. I've no reason (other than fear of death or torture) to presume they are right and in many cases, if they were actually correct about the god they supposedly exemplify, a sane and sensible reaction would be to seek out the disloyal opposition. (And at one point, that WAS Christianity...)

We have been given some particularly noteworthy examples of attempts at enforcing religion in a way that would most likely make Baby Jesus cry. It's so hard to choose, but here's one, the asinine idea that being prevented from oppressing and verbally assaulting other people is a restriction on the practice of your faith. 

No doubt many devout head-hunters could make exactly the same argument. As, indeed, could the Aztecs - why, if they did not grant the flowery death to captives, the world would end! 

Or how about the church excommunicating a nun, for following the ethical guidelines of her Catholic hospital in granting an therapeutic (eg, life-saving) abortion? What's the message here? She, the mother, doesn't have a right to life? That if she were a faithful Catholic, she would choose to lay down her life on the off chance her child COULD live through the organ failure and death of her mother (and would become catholic in order to cope with that level of guilt?) 

No, wait - we are speaking of a woman being punished for NOT withholding a life-saving procedure from another woman. Being excommunicated for such a cause says more of those making the judgement than the one being judged. Shake the dust from your feet, sister!

I have no problem with you sacrificing your comfort or convenience for your faith. I can even respect the choice to sacrifice your OWN life. Requiring the slightest sacrifice from others, particularly on the part of others your religion vilifies as "unworthy" - well, that's not faith. It's an organized excuse for odious behaviour you would indulge in any case. It doesn't make you a person of faith exercises it in a protected way - it makes you an asshole. And you should lose your job.

Well, anyone who can say that out loud fails to understand society, justice, the social forces that made people settle North America; it further reveals that they cannot possibly comprehend Communism, National Socialism (or fascism in general) and are no doubt rather confused about Christianity. 

Perhaps it's rude to observe that one would have to be paid very well indeed to be willing to say something that obviously foolish in public - but while rude, it's certainly true to observe that Glenn Beck is very well paid indeed.

Being an Asshole is not a religion, nor a faith, nor a doctrine. It's a lifestyle choice, a popular choice of those who are obsessed with the use and supposed misuse of the arses of others. One might say it's a tenant of Christian Fundamentalism. I would say that is a pun so vile that those who don't understand it deserve to have it explained to them. 

But more properly, a tenant from the Sermon on the Mount comes to mind: "Judge not, lest ye be judged also." 

Speak your mind and folks will know what's in it. Demand a standard of behaviour from others at your own risk, for folks will hold you to it. It's such a blinding statement of the obvious that I suppose it can't be said often enough. It's so obvious that entire careers in theology have been devoted to making it seem as if Jesus didn't actually MEAN that.

I was aware by the age of 14 that a choice to belong to any particular Christian religion was to be an heretic by the lights of most others, and certain of none in which the actual teachings of Christ were served unsalted. Meanwhile, the disconnect between what was preached in public and practised in semi-private was so conspicuous, I thought it best to follow Christ's own example, which seems to have been better for me than taking the sort of council that seems to lead one to the very peak of religious accomplishment.

Philosophy and ethics are best discussed in company where the answers are not predigested, much less dictated by those who's moral authority to be considered an authority is at best ambiguous. Those who insist that no dissent can be tolerated probably have greater reason to be personally concerned than might be immediately apparent. 

More to the point, a tavern is a center of community, where beer, pizza and comfortable seating come together. So "Above the Wineshop" it was, and in the company of Whores and Cynics by preference. 

Those whom "good people" are certain are "irredeemable sinners" are generally better at practising tolerance, compassion and charity than the folks you will find in church. This is something of a commonplace observation - indeed, a prudent scepticism regarding the practical virtue of religion pre-dates Christianity by a long chalk, and one of the most noted critics of organized religion - well, that would be Rebbe Jesusa Bar Joseph of Nazareth.

So, it seems to me obvious - if a little oppositional - to follow Christ's example in preferring the Tavern to the Temple.

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