A Religious Liberal Blog

This site hopefully can provide some vehicle by which I can comment, complain, and once in a while praise the state of religion in this country and around the world from a liberal protestant perspective.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Know Your Neighbor

This is from Friendly Atheist's post on the myths of many Christians, he found from another site. A few things strike me as wrong about point seven and her further elaborations:

Atheists are arguing with straw men: they criticize the ugliest, stupidest, most simplistic, most outdated versions of religion and ignore the thoughtful, complex forms of serious modern theology.

But, Most atheists don’t give a rat’s ass about religion as it’s practiced by a handful of theologians. We care about religion as it’s widely practiced in the real world. And that includes many versions of religion that are outdated, simplistic, stupid and ugly and richly deserving of criticism.

Every generalization of what the masses believe ignores liberal religious communities. Just putting aside the question of "sophisticated theologians", many churches celebrated Darwin Sunday. Yet those churches never get mentioned when critiquing Christianity.

If you are just criticizing the religious right, it's one thing. But not very often is the criticism so limited. It's often against Christianity or even more absurdly "religion". One's experience with Christianity in one context becomes the norm of religion in general.

So I wouldn't ask folks to not critique. But to know what one is critiquing. You don't have to be an expert on sophisticated theology, a brief visit to a synagogue, for instance, could do a lot to not have Judaism roped into whatever case one has against the religious right.

Christian Century bloggers, like John Shuck, a Presbyterian pastor whose work in progressive religion and politics is done in the church suggests that a perusal of a few blogs should make religious generalizations less sustainable.

Greta suggests that many of us progressive religious types have not read in depth the sophisticated theology of other religions and we feel free to reject other religions. So are we expecting something different from atheism than we're likely to have done ourselves?

I don't think so. I have read theologians from other religions but my participation in Christianity is an affirmation of my religion, not a rejection of another one. Nor is my critique of some atheists over whether they accept a given religion or not.

It's that they are not given a fair reading to their neighbor. In that, I don't think atheists need convert. But I do think all of us, Christian and atheist, if there is common ground to be had should find it and folks across the spectrum should develop a sympathetic read of each other.

The point of Greta's post is how often Christians, can fail to know and therefore speak truthfully about their atheist neighbors. "Myth 7" likewise is saying we all need to know something more about our neighbors if we're going to speak truth and relate to each other better.


At 12:37 PM , Anonymous Tim said...

It's often against Christianity or even more absurdly "religion".

I should like to point out that this is not to say that religion is somehow incapable of being a subject for discussion. A couple of years ago, I would have found it a little beyond my experience being as I practice one and am vaguely aware of others but had not spent any time thinking about the common aether.

However, a couple of years on and I do find myself wondering whether there is something intrinsic behind the processes of forming and revering Scripture and/or inability to distinguish myth from purpose, about which one may well make reasonable statement.

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