Religious as hell…

Shane Claiborne – Letter to Non-Believers by Shane Claibourne – Esquire.

I’m not a religious person, at all.  In fact, I’m pretty close to absolutely certain that there is no invisible man in the sky, no afterlife and, in fact, no point to existence at all.  Lots of people find this point of view depressing.  I find it liberating.  I am the world’s happiest nihilist.

Unlike most atheists and agnostics though, I like religion.  I like the ritual of it and I like how it provides many people with a sense of comfort in this confusing, painful thing we call life.  It’s just that religion and belief does not work for me.

I admire someone like Shane Claiborne, the author of the above-linked article, who has actually paid attention to the true content of his religion – a Christian who actually practices Christianity.  Christ was a good guy.  To a non-believer like me who takes his words and teachings as enlightened philosophy, Jesus is a powerful figure.  In the historical context of his era the things he said were incredibly radical – which is why his own people had him killed.

The comedian, Lewis Black, used to do a bit where he talked about how confusing it is to him, a Jew, to hear people proclaim themselves Christian and simultaneously seem to ignore all of the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Instead they focus their attention on the Torah.  For those of you who haven’t spent much (or any) time reading the Bible, the first five books of the Old Testament are the Torah, or the Jewish Bible.  This is where one finds the dour, hateful shit that Christian fundamentalists regularly spew in order to put down others and scare the heck out of little kids.  As Lewis says, nearly every Sunday he turns on his TV and sees some Christian minister spouting off on some topic, quoting the Old Testament.

Black’s humor comes from his very correct assertion that when Christians typically quote from the Old Testament their interpretations on the meaning of the text are usually pretty wide of the mark.  And from his little jibe at Christianity in general for having it’s own book, the New Testament, because the old one wasn’t good enough for them.  But let’s let Lew speak for himself:

 

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I don’t just have difficulty with self-righteous Christians.  I’m equally annoyed by pushy Muslims and cranky Hindus.  I’m not overly fond of the flavor of Judaism that has created an apartheid state in Israel as well.  Heck, I’ve got issues with Tibetan Buddhists who bemoan their inability to return Tibet to the feudal system they were running before the Chinese invaded.

People who use their religion as an excuse to oppress others, or to justify injustice, invasions, war and genocide all equally piss me off.  So, it’s refreshing, and brings a big, broad smile to my face to read a piece like Shane’s (linked above) that talks about faith and belief in a ways that make it a true force for good in the world.

The Bible that I read says that God did not send Jesus to condemn the world but to save it… it was because “God so loved the world.” That is the God I know, and I long for others to know. I did not choose to devote my life to Jesus because I was scared to death of hell or because I wanted crowns in heaven… but because he is good. For those of you who are on a sincere spiritual journey, I hope that you do not reject Christ because of Christians. We have always been a messed-up bunch, and somehow God has survived the embarrassing things we do in His name. At the core of our “Gospel” is the message that Jesus came “not [for] the healthy… but the sick.” And if you choose Jesus, may it not be simply because of a fear of hell or hope for mansions in heaven.

Read more: Shane Claiborne – Letter to Non-Believers by Shane Claibourne – Esquire http://www.esquire.com/features/best-and-brightest-2009/shane-claiborne-1209#ixzz2Ox4ZAuOh

 

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