With the news that "Two-Ton Ego" Roy Moore is running for Alabama governor, and the often cited religiousness of Harriet Meirs being offered as prime, if not sole, evidence of her fitness to serve on the Supreme Court (one assumes she will be automatically placed in charge of the opening prayer) AND the recent announcement from the Catholic Church regarding the Bible - it ain't ALL "Gospel Truth" - religion's been a lot on my mind recently.
As stated before, I am an agnostic. This means I just plain don't know if there's a God, and if there is, whose God he is and what He/She is like. I am also very heavily skeptical of most organized religions out there. I consider most of them to be mainly in business for themselves, notwithstanding some of the great things they do, and absolutely abhor people using religion to justify various political ideas. You can imagine my absolute love of the times.
However, I am not absolutely against religion. I have several friends both on line and off line (I live in a red state that's very religious - at least people say they are...) who are religious, ranging from just attending church to fundamentalist. I know people who refuse to read certain books because they feel they are unholy in some form or fashion. I get along with all these people and would call several of them friends, and I feel at least 50% sure they would reciprocate. I have no problem with people wearing religious symbols and even argued for Moore's first Ten Commandments set as being harmless and overreacted to. (This was until Moore went from publican to Pharisee and decided to saddle up the Ten Commandments and hi-yo Sanctimonious, away, into the political arena. And scarily, given this poll, ol' Two-Ton may have a shot at the governorship.) I don't flinch when strips like B.C. give Christian messages, read the religion sections of the paper, feel many of the anti-religious moves in public schools are over the top (while drawing the line at teacher led prayer) and can feel religion and science can get along, when one isn't trying to annex the other's areas of study. Hello, IDiocy! There are several people who are religious I admire - for example, Billy Graham and Kurt Warner - mainly because they use religion as I feel it should be used - for the benefit of others. I mean, come on, do you EVER feel that Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Tony Perkins and Gary Bauer are in it mainly for other people, or for themselves? They use their religion as a Country Club card, to mark the hoi polloi and try to get others to be what THEY feel is right. So while I am cyncial of MUCH religion, I'm not knee jerk against it.
I feel that agnostics are the only group that can judge religion fairly. If you're a particular religion, you will at least have some issues with other religions, (Muslim/Jew, Christian/Muslim, etc.) and will also more than likely have issues with different groups within your religion (Muslim = Shiite/Sunni, Christian = Catholic/Baptist/whatever, etc.). You will have certain predispositions that will tilt you one way or the other. Agnostics, keeping an open mind and doubt about all religions, may be more free of that than the others. May be. I know some people would have issues with that - some of my friends and I have debated that I don't "get the religious viewpoint". So maybe I'm too neutral.
But nowadays, that's rare. People seem to follow some current icon and cleave to their views, without ever questioning if the human megaphone of choice is actually religious or simply parroting religious views for their own power and glory. If Jesus DID come back to Earth, many of these so-called preachers would have a lot of explaining to do. But people seem to accept people as religious because they say they are. To use an earlier example, have you EVER seen Billy Graham acting as politically motivated as Dobson/Perkins?
It's a depressing situation, because the loud ones are the ones in charge. You know the loud ones - the ones that see in black and white and they are always white and their opponents are black as sin - literally. (Not only in religion, of course.) The loud ones never accept anything that weakens their position - see IDiocy and the opposition against stem cell research. Any contrary points are argued away on faith - evolution CAN'T be right; it's not explicitly said in the Bible; stem cells CAN'T have any benefit that may justify them; because embryos are destroyed. How do you argue with faith? By definition, you can't - which is fine for religion, but in society and science, it's more than a little extreme. And the loud one won't accept any kind of counter arguments in anything, because God forbid they be wrong. See Terri Schaivo - how many pious proclaimers have stepped up and admitted the accusations of abuse against the husband were unfounded? You can count them on the fingers of one foot. And while many people are willing to listen to reason, or at least admit there IS some people out there who aren't cloven-hoofed and horned who may disagree, the loud ones are the ones with the clout.
You can see that both in the opposition and the proponents of Meirs. The proponents say, "Hey, she's a religious person, therefore she is fit for the Supreme Court." There are arguments and stories that "religious" is code for "will vote against Roe", but the main thrust is "She's a good judge because she's religious." Okay. So would YOU vote for your preacher/minister/priest just because of his job? How about an accountant? Or a plumber?
The opposition, which includes many religious people who apparently feel that "Cast not the first stone" doesn't apply to their hallowed selves, feel she isn't religious ENOUGH. These people appear to want someone who always votes for the religious side of arguments (but the right religious side - watch out if she found for a Muslim) and on her down time was protesting Roe continually, and perhaps doing exorcisms as well. There are other arguments against her, and good ones at that, but religion is a large part of the pro and con. Why? Because in today's world, religion isn't private for the loud ones - it's central.
That's kind of sad - first of all, religion should be private mostly. You can be motivated to act by religion, but it shouldn't be paraded about like a Macy Day's Parade balloon as your reason. You can wear your symbols and read your Bible, but thrusting in other people's faces to proclaim how holy and good you are is like somebody wearing a camo outfit and claiming they're a Navy SEAL.
Second of all, you can be a good person and be a lousy leader. No one seems to doubt that Bush is a nice guy, the kind of man who you wouldn't mind having as a neighbor. Again, would you vote for your neighbor for President based on the fact he was nice? And touching on an above point, today you can be religious and not be good. Sojourners makes this point a lot - the people saying they act in God's name apparently selectively select which part of the name they act in.
And third of all, religion is being used to separate US from THEM. And the loud ones have made more than one US. The ones who keep quiet but are good don't matter much to them - after all, the quiet ones don't sign petitions and protest in front of the cameras.
Thinking on it, I think there are three reasons I became agnostic. First was my experience in Catholic school, which was eye-opening to say the least. (NO abuse, I want to make clear.) Second was when I read the Bible all the way through, and was hard-pressed to make it match what many people felt it was. Third was seeing how the loud ones and organized religions acted in their own view of religion - see abuse in the Catholic Church. The first two things have kept me an agnostic. The loud ones and religions make me wonder sometimes if perhaps atheism is more correct.
For what it's worth...