Roaring Congregations

This week I had to do something very difficult.  There was one of those occasions which should – by right, by tradition, by all that is proper – be observed publically and in which someone should be honored for choices made and promises kept.

Not being able to go to Portugal for it, I was contacted by my parents and asked to write something in honor of the day.

And then I discovered that – let alone the difficulties of writing in a language whose syntax and spelling become more faltering with each passing day – there is something that embarrasses and paralyzes me more profoundly than writing sex.  You see, the person being honored was responsible in large measure for my religious formation and as such I owed him recognition for what has gone right in that.  Given my natural bend and my dislike of authority, a lot more has gone right than anyone could expect.

Pick your jaw off the floor, please.  It never ceases to amaze me when I get emails that start with “given that you’re pagan” or even better “since you’re an atheist.”

Once for all and for all time, let’s establish I’m not only religious, I’m what my friends often reproach as a “pious bore.”  In private.  In situations to which it applies.  And frankly I think my friends are drinking their own ink.  To be a pious bore I’d need to have a way better prayer life and to be a generally better person.  I’m a struggling human being – struggling with eternity.

Stay.  Put down your pens and take a deep breath.  I don’t hold my tongue on religious matters because it’s scary, or because I’m afraid, but because a) It’s intensely private.  My strongest religious convictions, even those that are ultimately “conventional” for my faith were arrived at through struggle and fall and near-miracle.  Things that if I talked about would get me committed.  Yes, even worse than my talk about writing.  Besides the circumstances are, nearly all of them, extremely private and involving other lives than mine.  And besides, my writing is not religious, and as such it is no business of my public persona or of this blog.  b) You don’t convince anyone by screaming Bible verses.  Sorry, you don’t.  To do so is to play into the hands of the cultural Marxists who want nothing better than for religious people to be believed incapable of thought.  c) I know history.  I know history to a depth and breadth most Americans don’t.  I don’t/can’t buy the excuses for a lot of medieval excesses that it is just, somehow, the Catholic church that went bad.  Or that Catholicism is uniquely bad.  I have to look at what happens when one forgets to give Cesar that which is Cesar’s and a religion becomes a ruling system.  (Which is not the same as religious people being heard and weighed in the political system, note, but taking religious principles wholesale and making them law.)

I don’t particularly hide it, either, except by not naming my religion here.  I certainly don’t hide it in my books, and more than one of my fans have pinpointed not only my religion, but the particular flavor of it and the fact that it is woven in my mind to such an extent it comes out in my decidedly non-religious books in symbolism, in character behavior and in resonance.

The thing is, when discussing laws and social issues, I don’t think religion has a right to dictate laws “because we say so” anymore than any of the secular religions currently doing it does.  No, we shouldn’t accept extreme environmentalism wholesale, but the only reason it got in as far as it did was because it came in under the cloak of rationality.  Now that it’s reduced to shouting what amounts to religious principles “Bow down to the Earth, it is your mother” “Humans evil” it is losing cred, and will be swept out of the public life.

You’re going to tell me the founders were religious men.  I believe you.  However, note they exerted the same general caution I do.  The principles they argued they argued from other reasons than G-d and certainly for other reasons than a specific G-d.  (Endowed by their creator is not the same as endowed by G-d the Father.  It covered a multitude of beliefs.  And while that lent force to their pronouncement, note too that there were other, rational, good reasons for those principles)  Note, too, that they enshrined freedom of religion in public life.

This is not the same as freedom FROM religion.  I get as incensed as anyone else when creches are swept from public parks, when crosses are struck from city seals, and when kids are told they’re not allowed to pray or read the Bible in school.  People should be allowed to visibly practice their religion.  They should be allowed to practice it in civic ways too.  If it comes to a showdown between the Catholic church and the state over contraception and abortion, I will startle all sides of the debate by landing in jail.

But at the same time I don’t think you can just continuously shout things like “Marriage is between one man and one woman” and carry the day.  This is true, for those who believe in it.   Religious marriage is just so.  But a lot of marriages aren’t religious.  To reduce marriage to only its religious dimension is to make it something it is not right now.  No?  What principle animates the marriage of atheists?  Are they forbidden to marry?  How about Hollywood marriages?  How about the cults and – legally and historically – religions currently int his country that permit polygamy?  You know they exist, right?  Because periodically they come up in the news on social security fraud.

Would you like to live in a society where another religion’s beliefs are enshrined in law?  Where you have to keep a strict separation between dairy and meat, for instance, because it’s ancient religious law and there must have been a reason?  And besides, other people believe it’s essential for the proper ordering of human life on Earth?

No, of course you don’t.  For one if we applied everyone’s essential religious laws, it would be a complete salad, let alone the interpretations of them.

And don’t come back and tell me it’s a Judeo-Christian society. Yes, and?  Let alone the first of that pair (do you wish to separate meat and dairy?) The interpretations of the New Testament by the various Christian denominations and applying them to daily life could lead to wars.  It HAS led to wars.

The business of religion is souls.  This doesn’t mean staying out of the world and of politics.  You must vote as informed by your religion, and if you can find a convincing way to argue for your religious beliefs as law, one that is not just screaming a verse at someone, you should do so, of course.  And you should – of COURSE – by example and word lead others to the faith.  If you believe your faith is the way – or helps on the way – to eternity, then it’s your duty. (Me, I believe the doors of hell are locked from the inside.)

But a lot of the “arguing from religion” I see is sort of like the left outsourcing charity by getting the state to redistribute money for them, so they can feel virtuous.  Instead of taking the long, hard road of talking to the disbelievers or – much, much harder – of showing by your life the advantages of religion, people want to legislate moral matters, so that everyone has to behave as if they were religious.

It won’t work.  What you’re actually doing is playing into the hands of those who would rule you by dividing you (and making you look ridiculous.)  Supposing one could unite every Christian sect in America (something that would take the advent of Heinlein’s first prophet – and that’s a horrifying prospect) and take over secular power… what then?

First of all, what do you do with the people you can’t convert?  Will you, like the Marxists, make plans to eliminate them?  (If you say something about omelets and eggs, or the end justifying the means, we can’t be friends anymore.)

Second, let’s suppose you establish your society.  Let’s imagine that every one of the organizing principles of your religion is just, fair and well thought out (and there’s no Liberation Theology or laws against usury to spoil the soup.)  It will still end in tears.  It will end in tears because once ANY set of beliefs has temporal power, it attracts the wrong sort of people: people who are in it for the money and the power and not to serve the greater principle.  Studying the middle ages will help in this, and any smugness about how that’s just the Catholic church is unjustified.  It happens EVERY TIME a set of principles acquires power.  Unless the principles are self limiting.  Religion isn’t.  By it’s very nature it’s all encompassing.  By its very nature it allows the power-greedy to tell everyone what to do, everywhere.  That’s a terrifying thing for a government.

So while I think we should let belief inform our public actions, I don’t think we have the right to dictate our belief to others, or to argue PURELY from faith.  The conversion of souls is not done in public and with fanfare but often in tears and so privately that only the person and G-d know about it (no matter how many people contributed to it through the years.)

And if you’re wailing that it’s a difficult line to walk, yes it is, but not mine.  The instruction is to be in the world but not of the world.  And I didn’t come up with it.

I admire the cunning of the social Marxists who, having turned envy into a Cardinal virtue have now managed to convince the religious that religious wars are their religious duty: instead of quiet proselytizing and even quieter living of holy lives.  But again I remind you they got there by pretending – at least – to be rational and to reason with others.

I say, use their weapon against them.

Meanwhile on my quandary – I wrote the tribute I owed the gentleman who helped form my religious conscience.  It took me an entire day, and I cringe to think of its being read in public.

I expect this will be misunderstood and I will be screamed at.  At least try to do it without JUST quoting bible verses at me.  It gets very tiring.  I don’t expect to get any traction either.  People are now convinced screaming is a virtue and yelling their belief is proof of their worthiness.

This was almost as hard to write as that tribute, because again, it details intimate choices and carefully-thought-out beliefs which shouldn’t be anyone’s business and shouldn’t need to be talked about.  But I’m getting very tired of the various sects of believers and the various groups of would-be free men shouting over each other, while those who divided them rule, gloating, over them.

This is the only time I intend to talk of this.  If it affects one decibel of the yelling, my discomfort will be worth it.

169 responses to “Roaring Congregations

  1. Well done. Anything that touches one deeply is hard to articulate because it is so very, very personal. It *feels* like standing naked in the middle of a group of people who are *not* strangers – that you know you’ll have to interact with for years, maybe even on a daily basis. It’s the stuff that nightmares are built on. I applaud your courage. Again, well done!

  2. “a) It’s intensely private”

    That says it all, right there. People asking me about my religion are as rude as people who ask me about my sex life. MYOB.

    I happen to be an atheist, and arrived there in almost precisely the same way as Sarah arrived at her faith: “through struggle and fall and near-miracle“, but in my case, the opposite occurred. Just note, therefore, that what happened to Sarah and what happened to me can happen to anyone — faith can go either way.

    And that’s all I’m going to say on that topic.

    Homosexual marriage, however, is a different matter altogether. I happen to oppose it, not on religious grounds (obviously) but on conservative principles. I don’t think that we should redefine and undermine one of society’s most durable, stabilizing and beneficial institutions for the financial benefit of a deviant 2% of society. That’s a socially-conservative position, not a religious one.

    And that’s all I’m going to say on that topic.

    Wherever that charlatan Kinsey is right now, I hope the temperature is set to “Broil”. (Yeah, that’s a religious reference. I’m aware of the irony.)

    • Which btw proves you can be friendly while disagreeing. In fact since my friends comprise atheists and evangelicals, (as well as Mormons, Budhists, Pagans and Wiccans) gay people, straight people, bisexuals and people who rightly believe their sexuality is no one’s business I’d be in deep trouble if I couldn’t be friends with people who weren’t JUST like me in all respects. Actually given how complex many of my beliefs are, if I had even one friend who was exactly like me, it would be a miracle, and the sign that G-d really is an author… a bad one. I have one friend who comes close in fundamentals but not in particulars

      • When contemplating the nature of God, particularly in my 20′s, I kept coming up against three things; His will is inscrutable, free will is His gift to us, and He has a plan for everything. Now…human logic puts those last two at complete odds which, combined with my blossoming love with sci-fi, led me to an understanding of a non-human higher intelligence that was somehow very comforting. It’s simply this…the mind of God is such that it can account for not only human free will AND have a plan for everyone. Combining the two, at least for me, constitutes a high intelligence that we could never possible understand.

        That understanding, combined with a completely arbitrary, gut-felt sense that God will never, ever, put more on your plate than you can handle, despite what you might think, gave me a lot of peace in those tumultuous years. I intend on imparting that understanding to my kids. My oldest daughter is just about mature enough to think about it. I would like her to have that peace, or at least know that it exists, even if she doesn’t particularly care about it from the depths of childhood.

        • Once I commenced thinking of a Deity who exists outside of our Space/Time Continuum reconciliation of Free Will and a Divine Plan became rather easy. And when I considered that math permits a dimension consisting of a single point tangential to ALL other points in all other dimensions, staying up at night pondering the imponderable became impossible.

          Insisting that we can only accept a Deity comprehendible by our (extremely) limited intelligence strikes me as idolatry. There may or may not be a God, but I know better than trying to create one in my image.

          • Dan believes the same — he’s a mathematician. And the theory makes sense.

            I don’t believe in a G-d that would condemn my friends out of hand. We’ll say that and leave it at that. As for my own path to heaven? Eh. I try. (Everyone tells me I’m really really trying.)

            • It is an article of Christian faith that there is only way to the Throne. When He says “take the stairs, the elevator don’t reach the top” I hardly think it fair to accuse Him of condemning those who climb into the elevator.

              But the question is backwards. What I (or you) believe is irrelevant. What (for lack of a better term and without prejudicing alternate pronouns) He believes is what counts. And we will none of us know the answer to that until we know. But remember that we are warned that much of what is done in His name (a statement which applies to all religions, including Science) is done by His will.

              • Would it make sense if I said I believe in only one path for me, but not for others? Who knows?

                • I doubt it matters what you and I think about paths. I think what matters is what He whose paths we seek to tread thinks. On that, sources differ.

                  • BTW, C S Lewis posited an answer in The Last Battle, one which Lewis thought competent. Lewis’ opinion doesn’t matter, as it is not Divinely Revealed(TM) and I have trouble believing in a Deity who will feel bound by the opinions of His followers.

                    • So far so good for the lander. They are getting telemetry data and everyone in the control room started clapping and yelling. I don’t understand what the fuss is all about. It’s not like it’s rocket science.

                    • Indeed. We are limited by our own minds and their sizes. Which is a good thing. The only paradise I can imagine, where every tear will be dried sounds a dead bore. I’m sure He’s better than that.

                    • The only paradise I can imagine, where every tear will be dried sounds a dead bore.

                      Have you ever read Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven? If you’re at all interested in the subject, I highly recommend it. Alcorn looks at everything the Bible says about Heaven / paradise / the afterlife (pick whatever name you want for “the thing that happens after death”) and finds that most people’s ideas of what Heaven is like are, well, completely foreign to what the Bible actually teaches. I can’t summarize an entire book in a single comment with any faithfulness, but I’ll try. The short (VERY short) version is: picture the thing that brings you the most joy — writing, creating music, painting, doing highly complex math, whatever it is. Now imagine having all the time in the world, literally, to do it in. The “clouds and harps” idea of Heaven (which would be utterly boring, and thus would be closer to Hell for someone like me) is, thankfully, about as far from what the Bible actually says Heaven will be like as it’s possible to get.

                      I could go on and on, but it would be better to just say “Alcorn gets it right; go read his book.” So I will. :-)

                    • I’m looking forward to all the books my favorite authors have written — in the HIGHLY unlikely event I make it anywhere like that. (I’m trying, okay? I’m VERY trying.)

                    • Yes! Whoever actually thought sitting on a cloud playing a harp all day, forever, would be paradise; is demented.

                      Then again maybe God can work a deal with Satan, that person can have their paradise sitting on a cloud playing a harp, and Satan can put a million people in their own personal hell; sitting under the cloud getting rained on and having to listen to the harp music (you know someone who thinks playing a harp forever is paradise isn’t going to play GOOD music) forever. ;)

                    • NOW I’m thinking of Farside “Welcome to hell, here’s your accordion.”

                    • NOW you’re just being silly. No Accordion??! That would mean no Celtic Klezmer, no Norteno, no Zydeco and no music from Alan Bern of the Klezmer band Brave Old World, Boozoo Chavis – Zydeco musician, Clifton Chenier – Zydeco musician, Phil Cunningham – Scottish folk accordionist, Finbarr Dwyer – Irish traditional musician, Keith Emerson, John Evan of Jethro Tull, James Fearnley of The Pogues, Kevin Hearn – Zydeco musician of Barenaked Ladies, Matt Hensley of Flogging Molly, David Hidalgo of Los Lobos, Bruce Hornsby, Garth Hudson of The Band, Flaco Jimenez, Beau Jocques – Zydeco musician, John Kirkpatrick, John Linnell of They Might Be Giants, Nils Lofgren, Sharon Shannon, Richard Wright of Pink Floyd …

                      No Harp, No Accordion!!??? Next you’ll be saying no bagpipes!

                    • I dunno – I kinda like me some o’ that blues harp. I mean, yore talkin’ players like Blind Mississippi Morris, Captain Beefheart, Norton Buffalo, Paul Butterfield, Thom Doucette, Johnny Dyer, Slim Harpo, Bill “Watermelon Slim” Homans, Huey Lewis, John Mayall (Bluesbreakers), Delbert McClinton, Snooky Pryor, Big Mama Thornton, Junior Wells, Mark Wenner (The Nighthawks), Howlin’ Wolf …

                    • Late to the party. The person who thought that sitting on a cloud and playing harp all day may well have done heavy labor all their lives and dreamed of being allowed to make music. James Branch Cabell, in one of his books, called it the heaven of our grandmothers. (For those who don’t know Cabell, check him out. He is considered to be a influence on both Terry Prachett and Robert A. Heinlein.)

  3. I happen to be Protestant, not Catholic although I have friends that are Catholic and have went to Catholic services with them. Personally I have no problem with birth control, although I can understand the logic of their arguements against it due to the way most birth control works, the arguements against condoms leave me scratching my head however. Still, it is their religous beliefs, and the government forcing them to go against them is not just wrong, but it is tyranny. They can depend on me to stand with them on this issue, for that matter I would stand with Muslims or Satanists on this issue.
    What part of ‘Freedom of Religion’ allows the government to tell churches (or other religious institutions) they have to PAY for something that is strictly against their beliefs?

    • I’ve gone to Russian Orthodox services — Once, with a friend — and the one thing that struck me was that I didn’t know that Russian could sound musical. (Shrug.)

  4. You don’t convince anyone by screaming Bible verses. So. So. So. True. (Generally the opposite, and it can take other, more sincere and self-confident, people quite a long time to un-do the damage of the screamers.)

    Being a true non-Christian myself (but not anti-spirit), raised in my beliefs, I’m pleased when Christian trappings are removed from government. Christianity, despite the efforts of those sincere, spiritual, and confident people alluded to above, is still something that excludes me — and the trappings of my religion aren’t ever going to be given equal time beside creches and crosses, so the only way to include me is to go for more universal symbols. Being subjected to overt symbols of Christianity in non-religious areas of life tends to make me feel screamed at — or fingernails-on-chalkboarded at. Seriously. Makes me uncomfortable, like my “I keep my religion private unless you ask me in private” policy is, instead, hiding and skulking around because I’d be unwelcome if People Knew.

    (Mind, I don’t care what kids read or do on their off-time in school, so long as they don’t hassle my equally non-Christian kid about it. (She, with no encouragement from me, is mightily offended about the “under God” part of the Constitution.) Huzzah for e-readers! No one knows if you’re reading Twilight or Genesis!)

    • ppaulshoward

      Beth, the “Under God” is in the Pledge of Allegiance not the Constitution.

      Of course, some atheists are made “uncomfortable” by Presidents adding “so help me God” to the Oath of Office.

      Some Christian children got in trouble for bringing Bibles into schools.

      One Christian got in trouble by saying that marriage is between man and woman so local officials were saying his company shouldn’t be allowed to do business in their cities.

      Right now in Europe, there are people wanting to ban Infant male circumcision and one atheist said he didn’t care if Jews left Europe because of the ban.

      So the question is “who has more rights, atheists or religious people?”.

      • You are right. I meant Allegiance and the gremlins snuck in and rearranged the keys under my fingers to make me sound Totally Stoopid. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. >_>

        • You know, I did that in a NOVEL. Then I immediately sent a note to the editor going “Of course I know the declaration of independence ISN’T the constitution, DUH.”

      • As for the rights…

        Why should Christians have the right to put their religion in my life when I’m not doing the same back? Serious question! I’m not campaigning to have my symbols replacing Christian symbols, nor am I campaigning for, say, the Virgin Mary statue on the huge treestump in someone’s lawn to be removed. Their lawn and their belief. Also, their treestump (that was one big tree, I’d imagine! …one big statue, too), and their statue, and their yard.

        But government is supposed to be a compromise of everyone’s beliefs, yes? Why should the trappings send the message, “These people are accepted, and those people aren’t”?

        Private property vs. public property.

        • (Also, I don’t particularly care about Christmas vs. anything else, personally; the more holidays, the merrier! It’s the crosses that make me twitchy. Perhaps I’m secretly a vampire. An ovolacto vegetarian vampire with a fondness for garlic-butter spaghetti.)

          • what the heck would a vegetarian vampire… oh, G-d, Beth, you’re Bunnicula. (Hides the carrots.)

            For the record I’d be perfectly fine with a solstice celebration in the public park, too, or a giant menorah in the trees. Like you, I take the view that the more the merrier. As for the cross in the California seal, it’s an historical allusion.

            • Oooo! A real (not so) live bunny trail! Regarding Bunnicula: I have collected a list of vegetables that come in a white or nearly white form. This includes squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplants AND carrots. (You can also produce white asparagus, celery and Belgium endive by blanching them as they grow.) At one point, when The Daughter was young, I seriously considered growing them and keeping a bowl of them on the table. ;-)

          • Wayne Blackburn

            So, does that mean you’re related to Vic, the misfit vampire from the Myth series, who likes garlic and hates blood?

          • “An ovolacto vegetarian [....]”

            Ah — you are one of The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelets? >;)

        • ppaulshoward

          Beth, where does “putting their religion in your life” end and “you forcing them to hide their religion” begin?

          I mentioned school children getting into trouble from bring their bibles (for their own study use) onto school grounds. One teacher got in trouble for reading his bible when another teacher might have been reading a secular magazine.

          One restuarant offer a discount for people who brought in a recent church bulletin and an atheist started a law-suit against them.

          Office workers in public buildings have been told that they can’t have religious items in their work cubes (not seen by the public).

          I mentioned the atheists who hate the “so help me God” added by some Presidents to their Oath of Office. Those individuals have even tried law-suits to prevent it.

          The problem for me is that the non-establishment clause in the Consitution was intended to protect religion and religious people from the Federal Government but now it is being used by non-religious people as a club against religious people.

          Right now, it seems that atheists file law-suits whenever they feel “offended” but religious people get offended and nobody care or tells them “it’s their right to offend you”.

          Sorry Beth, you’re a nice lady but too many atheists are assholes who appear to want “Freedom From Religion” where religious people must hide their religion from them.

          • I’m probably more touchy about ‘Freedom From Religion’ than most, because I automatically connect it with Marxism. Probably because growing up I heard the stories many times about and from one of my best friends grandparents. They were kids in one of the Soviet Bloc countries after Communist Russia took control, abolishing religious worship. One Sunday much of the village went to a church service by a traveling preacher (traveling incognito obviously), half a dozen of the kids, including my friends grandparents, had skipped out on church and where off playing in the woods. They came back to find the Russian soldiers had been there, they rounded up everyone in the village (even those that hadn’t gone to the service) put them in the building where the service was being held (a barn if I remember correctly) barred the door from the outside, and burned it down, while waiting outside to prevent anyones escape. The half dozen kids playing in the woods were the only survivors, they spent most of a year being smuggled crosscountry through an ‘Underground’, finally ending up in East Germany, and going over the Wall. To eventually catch a boat to Canada.

            As Sarah stated, Theocracies are never good, whether they be Christian, Muslim, or Atheist. (and yes Atheist is a religion, it is a belief based on faith.) Why a belief that there is no god requires prosylitizing I don’t understand, (it’s not like they are trying to save me from hell) but then I barely understand my own beliefs, much less anyone else’s.

  5. I was raised in a household that quoted scripture. My father’s favorite was “spare the rod, spoil the child.” Old Testament, of course. It has ruined me for anyone that uses Bible verses to argue any position except in church. I have heard so many verses twisted from their original purpose. (If I want to see if the interpretation is right, I read the entire chapter.) Also, I have been non-Christian at least half of my life. I still believe in a divine being–I have had too many miracles in my life not to believe. And yes, I have gone to Christian churches except my hubby and I are too odd.

    We don’t accept — we have our own ideas on how things should be done. So we are not atheist, but do not accept all the Christian teachings of today. Quite a dilemma. Plus as you can probably tell from my writings, and what I have said here, I do have other beliefs that would probably put me in the divided from others column.

    I don’t like it when others push their beliefs. Okay–I have reason to not like it. For instance, I was a missionary for my childhood church in South Africa in the early 1980s. It was there that I started to question the beliefs in comparison to what was really going on around me. So I left it.

    It is a personal subject. My family send the missionaries to my house often until I told them I would quit speaking to them if they did it again. I am now the eccentric aunt. (or great-aunt to some). I have a real problem with authority– in my childhood religion we were taught that only the men received revelation from God. That the women were subject to the men. This belief has never set well with me. To have that kind of religious bias in government would turn me into a radical. ;-)

    But, I love the trappings of Christmas and am offended when someone wants us to say “happy holidays or x-mas.” It just doesn’t seem right.

    Can you tell that Perception is one of my problems (meyer-briggs)? I can see all sides and none. I have seen what Marxists have done to my America. How when a white person tries to help a brown person with an alcoholic problem that the white person is called a racist and a smug supremist. Yes – that has happened to me… and I have Amerindian and Hispanic nieces and nephews.

    Why does race mean anything here? Why does religion? Why does certain Christian religions tell their members not to associate outside their churches? Or any church for that matter? There is something wrong there.

    Anyway– sorry for the rant. It touched a sore subject for me.

    • And don’t get me started on government regulations – ugh.

    • Just to be clear – when I said here… I meant the US.

    • I have family that is of your childhood religion, and the authority wielded by members of the church over other members is one of my biggest problems with it. From seeing how members in local governments react and how it affects their governmental decisions has caused it to be my biggest concern with Romney as President. (although admittedly I have seen no evidence that he has allowed his religious beliefs to affect his decisions)

      • Bearcat – oh yes, my family were from the old stock – and we had the Journal of Discourses, which is not used in the church now. It made for a stricter religious experience. Plus while I was growing up, Utah was almost a theocracy. I have the same doubts about Mitt… But I am not happy about the current group.

        • Cyn,
          The theocracy… I respond very badly to this. While crossing Salt Lake City airport, I always get an urge to smoke, stop at one of the bars to slam back a whiskey sour, AND drink three espressos. Normally my poor husband has to talk me down.
          Second — while I understand the fear of theocracy, I don’t think this particular candidate is that guy. He might be, but he’s given no signs of it.

          • LOL – Imagining living in that type of atmosphere for almost twenty years. ;-)… I get the urge to smoke when I go visit the parents, and I DON’t smoke. ;-)

            • Nevada has been a better place for me… except we have this Senator who points fingers at other people and then has made millions from his job (or from the bennies). Not sure which.

            • I CAN’T smoke. Gave it up after one year — at 18 — because bad lungs and smoking don’t mix.

              • My hubby gave up smoking around the time I became ill. I can’t be around much smoke either because of the disease. Can’t drink. But I still have my coffee.

                • I found this cool mug I’d lost nine years ago when we moved. (Actually we’re sort of re-packing and sorting things to donate, that’s how I found it) and it has little dragon feet. JUST the feet. :) It completely reflects how I feel in the morning. Bought it at a con, natch.

              • My lungs are generally fine. I started having recurrent sinus infections. I cannot smoke or be around heavy smoke and breath.

              • I don’t smoke, but my wife does. She smoked when I met her, and although I do encourage her to quit, I know our life is too hectic at the moment for that to happen. I also don’t drink alcoholic beverages (duh! – I’m a diabetic, and NOT suicidal), so I’m considered quite a bore. I still enjoy as much of life as it’s possible and not kill myself (or get killed!). Besides, what was “fun” at 20 is pretty dull stuff these days, and the new temptations don’t.

                • Scotch, schotch, I tell you!

                  Seriously it is what a diabetic I knew always drank, because it doesn’t have sugar like whiskey or beer.

                  • YES! I’m on low carb. Single malt is heaven.

                    • Alcohol breaks down into sugar and a bunch of other weird chemicals, whether it’s in beer, whiskey, wine, or bread. Unfortunately, I have a really bad reaction to two of those chemicals. They make my joints swell up like over-inflated balloon tires. A couple of other things cause the same problem, including white rice and parsnips. Luckily, I haven’t passed this genetic quirk down to my children. About two slices of bread, or one bagel, is all I can tolerate in a day.

                    • I wouldn’t be brokenhearted over the parsley but I like white rice. As a teenager (before I was old enough to drive legally) I worked on a truck farm down the road, picking vegetables, you haven’t encountered mindnumbing work until you have spent 10 hours on your knees, picking parsley and rubberbanding it into bundles of 50 sprigs per bundle.

                    • …you haven’t encountered mindnumbing work until you have spent 10 hours on your knees, picking parsley and rubberbanding it into bundles of 50 sprigs per bundle

                      And if you had spent your entire life pulling and bundling parsley a cloud and harp might look mighty inviting.

                    • Sorry, I read parsley instead of parsnip /facepalm/

              • Oh piffle – sure you can smoke. All it requires is an appropriate shack or smoker, suitable cuts of meat and an source of combustible material, such as hickory, apple, cherry or mesquite. You can find extensive information on methods and tools at this site: http://www.smoking-meat.com/

                Smoking – It’s fun, economical and nutritious!

          • Two birds, one stone: Irish Coffee?

  6. Laura Runkle

    Personal, check. Private, check. And not subject to debate, check, for debating doesn’t truly change my faith – or lack. This is not dissing the ancient art of faith apologetics. It is recognizing that apologetics and debate alone don’t make those personal, private changes in a lasting manner.
    And here’s where it comes down to not putting faith in government. For government isn’t something that should work by faith, but by doubt, debate, and checks and balances.
    And when faith becomes the government, it means that faith must suddenly start working like a government (doubt, debate, checks and balances on the soul), or that the government of humanity should start working by faith (prayer, not truly subject to debate, only works when each person gives it not only their mind, but also their heart and soul). Both are horrid, and not only end badly, but have a bad beginning, and a nasty awful middle.

  7. I’ve always found criticism amusing on things like this. Because I don’t run around quoting the Bible or being in strict adherence to dogma, I’ve been accused of being an atheist(or perhaps agnostic). Others see me mention one thing about God, and suddenly I’m a Bible thumping evangelist looking to create a theocratic state.

    Funny thing is that few people outside of my wife actually know what I am because as Sarah said, it’s private. I don’t need someone else’s validation to know what I believe.

    • Funny thing is that few people outside of my wife actually know what I am because as Sarah said, it’s private.

      Intimate relationships, even with one’s Creator, are supposed to be private. JHC said so Himself.

    • You know, that top paragraph could be me too? AND THEN both sides call me an hypocrite (and I never crited any horses!) This is the only time I will mention faith.

  8. Pious Bore – /ˈpīəs/ /bôr/ noun – A device used to retrieve pious samples from different epochs in the religious history of sapient species.

    • Wayne Blackburn

      And, while the device has been around for a long time, the science of analyzing the returned data is still in its infancy, and information gained therefrom should be considered to be only marginally reliable. However, it appears to be pointing to a time of Global Religious Warming, as indicated by the rising incidences of high emotional temperatures and instances of fervent religious confrontation, even with groups self-identified as non-religious. This, however, can be seen as a camouflage tactic, to allow these groups to avoid conflict with antibodies in the religiosphere, so that they can attack the other religious groups concurrently with said antibodies.

      As the global religious temperature rises, we can expect to see more extreme religious weather, with storms, flooding, and and severe societal damage. Please remain in your homes as much as is necessary, and partake of whichever temperature-lowering practices and elixirs that your religion allows, in an attempt to combat this imminent threat. That is all.

      (What? You hit me with what? No, no, that wasn’t me, that was a simulacrum. I ran away before you read the first sentence) :-)

    • THAT fits. I spend an awful lot of time reading about religions and history. Um. Wonder if that’s what the guys meant?

  9. I am an unabashed Christian. I don’t try to hide it, I try to live it. I know I fail, but I keep trying. I am what I am because of a personal relationship with God, through His Son, Jesus. I KNOW that God has personally intervened in my life, not once but many times. I wouldn’t be here if He hadn’t. Religion plays a very moderate part in all my books, but not in a preachy kind of way.

    That doesn’t mean that I should tell anyone else how to live THEIR lives. That’s up to them – we are free to choose what path we take. One of the things we were constantly taught when we were therapeutic foster-parents was that there should be consequences for our foster-children’s behavior – punishments when they was due, but also rewards. The same is true of life – every act has a consequence. What most people don’t understand is that most consequences are neutral. There are good and bad consequences, but the vast majority don’t really impact our lives in any meaningful way, unless they pile up on one side or another.

    I was raised a Southern Baptist. I’ve been exposed to just about every religious denomination there is. My best friend is a Mormon. The person I consider a close second is Jewish. A few of my friends are agnostics, and one is probably an athiest. One of my children claims to be a “pagan”. My cousins next door as a child were semi-practicing Catholics. I have two uncles who are ministers – one a Baptist minister, the other a Methodist minister. Personally, I’m totally non-denominational. My relationship with God is personal and private, not guided by the actions or decisions of other men.

    I do get frustrated with the stupidity of people, mainly on the political left, that think that religion should be practiced only on Sunday, and only in a church building. That is totally against MY interpretation of the commandments of Jesus to “teach all nations”, and to “live for Christ”. I can’t say “I don’t care what you believe”, because I DO care, for all my friends. I want them to have the joy I have. But I’m not going to turn against them because they don’t, and I’m not going to try to coerce them to believe what I do. I’m much sneakier than that – I pray that every person has the opportunity to have a personal encounter with God that shapes their lives, just as I have had.

    My two cents’ worth, and enough for now.

    • That will teach me to speed-read. I got “were-Catholics” in there at some point and the mental pratfall was spectacular. No offense intended and hopefully not taken. Except for were-Catholics who really should know better.

      • Werecatholics are truly terrifying. They only going through their painful metamorphasis a couple of times a year, usually at Easter and Christmas. You can always tell who the werecatholics are because they’re all watching the little old woman up front for cues on when to stand, when to kneel, and when to sit.

        I don’t think silver bullets kill them, but I’m pretty sure asking them to tithe will do it.

      • Under certain moons one of my own nearest and dearest is a were-Jew.

  10. I guess I’m what the pre-Diaspora Jews would call a G-d Fearer, one of the gentiles who hung out near the temple or synagogue and listened in, but didn’t want to give up shellfish or certain pink-bits. But if so, that is my business and no one else’s.

    In general, you would think that having the sterling example of actual existing theocracies in the world to look at, everyone would drop the idea of wanting one, be it a religious theocracy or an anti-religious theology. (Yes, I’m looking at the anti-theists, not the every day atheists.)

  11. I’ve never quite gotten this “religion is personal and private business.” If you want to know what I believe, there’s a London Baptist Confession you can read, or we can order our favorite beverages and have a friendly chat. There are Bible verses about being ready to give an answer and not denying Christ before men.

    This isn’t shouting or getting angry with those who disagree. I think anyone who gets upset when someone disagrees isn’t quite confident in his faith. S/he should go back and work out again what s/he believes and why. I find I learn about what I believe through chatting with non-Christians because they can show me what things look like from the outside.

    I happen to belong to the Christian denomination who INVENTED separation of church & state. It was Thomas Jefferson’s assurances to guys like me (that the feds would keep their hands off) that coined the term “wall of separation.” Thus I’m all in with what Sarah is saying.

    Let it never be said that Sarah is less than 100% American. C. S. Lewis demonstrated that sometimes the best Christians are former Agnostics. So too, the best Americans are immigrants.

    • I logged in to post exactly this, but Steve beat me to it. I can’t agree that religion should be private and not talked about — the last orders Jesus gave His disciples after His resurrection were “Go into all the world and make disciples, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.” But “making discples” does NOT mean “making (forcing) people to be disciples”, it means “training people to be disciples”. Persuading and teaching people, not “screaming Bible verses” at them (well-said, Sarah!). There are those who forget this… and they’re usually not very good at persuading people to become Christians. Funny how that works.

      In other words, the options aren’t limited to the binary set “keeping one’s religion private” and “bashing people over the head with Scripture”. There’s a middle ground that can (and should) be sought between the two.

      • I didn’t say I will not talk about it. Clearly I do. To people whom I think need to hear it. (i.e. pious bore) BUT my professional blog is not the place to do it, because the books I write are not religious, except when they partake of my beliefs.

        • I appreciate it too… Sarah… thanks though for lancing my wounds. ;-)… After so many years, they are still deep. Plus faith is faith…

          • Honestly, mostly I like people.

          • I like certain people… ;-) I tolerate many people. I save the other stuff for people who hurt me and mine.

            • Huhn. I admit I don’t much like people, at all. But there are those I find tolerable and a less than compleat waste of time. Because I recognize that for every person I consider a jerk there exits one person (at minimum) who considers me a jerk, I try to bear in mind that in all likelihood we are both right.

              My Faith does not require others share it, just as I believe the sum of the squares of the sides of a right triangle equals the square of the hypotenuse.

              I also believe that I am the center of rotation of the Universe, although I admit the math is much easier if you use a different point. But as it is merely a matter of calculating the rotation of the Universe relative to ANY single point, any single point will suffice — including the one I sit at.

        • There are religion blogs and there are writing blogs. They should be kept (largely) separate, because someone who shows up expecting “Adverbs Are Not Your Friends” will not be interested in “How To Go To Hell.”

          You maintain a semi-permeable barrier between the two and I think it completely appropriate.

  12. Re: personal and private — It’s the fine line between loving your family, and its Head, in ways that are hard to share with outsiders, versus the need to invite other people to join the family. Or between having a love affair and marriage that is personal and private, and being obliged to defend the honor of your Beloved.

    I used to stay a lot more quiet about stuff, but I found that I tended to explode very publicly that way. Getting a bit ranty on my blog helps me not get explody in regular life.

    I will note (from personal experience) that certain kinds of annoying zeal often show up in young people who are having a hard time with either their faith or with personal issues. It’s sort of a “Holding on with your fingernails” zeal. Don’t think too unkindly of such people; they often become more loving and personable when they’ve gotten their balance. The real problems come with people who can’t reconcile it. (This would be your suicide bombers, who fit the classic pattern of trying to resolve loneliness with more commitment to religion, but unfortunately find religion with people who demand active bloody jihad, instead of more innocuous or friendly activities that show commitment.)

    The other kind of annoyance is the folks who babble on about their Beloved, as people newly in love often do, and which asks the same forbearance from others.

  13. I call myself a “non-proselytizing atheist conservative” — I won’t tell you unless you ask; and when you do, I will say “I don’t know, and I don’t care”. :)

  14. I’m glad you brought up the issue of the Founders and religion, because that brings up an issue where the official “conservative” position is incorrect. So, of course, is the leftist view that the Founders were God-hating proto-Lenins, but they’re always wrong, so I won’t cover that here.

    The Founders were, as you state, not arguing from religion. This is what most conservatives miss. When they stated that it was self-evident all men are endowed with rights by their Creator, they were not–NOT–stating that belief in natural rights stems from religious belief.

    The key word is not “Creator,” but “self-evident.” They believed that the rights (or, to use a modern term, instincts) to life, liberty, and property or pursuit of happiness (whichever version you prefer) were something that could be observed in oneself and others, regardless of one’s religious beliefs. (Note that the Enlightenment was less the Age of Reason than it was the Age of Observation. The ancient Greeks tried pure reason and it never went anywhere).

    Now, granted, the observation of one’s personal natural rights does not naturally mean that one will respect others’ rights–but it is the desire to maintain our own rights that causes us to accept government rule, and the respect for others’ rights is part of the compromise. When we deny others the rights to life, liberty, and property/PoH, we also eliminate their reasons not to revolt. So, in the interest of preserving our own rights, it is best to respect those of others. See? There you have it: rights derived from reason, not religion.

    If you do believe in God–as the Founders did, though not always in the usual Christian way (nor always in a Deist way, contrary to the leftists’ claims)–then you do believe that rights come from Him. That does not mean, however, that disbelief in God precludes belief in natural rights; a believer in God also would believe that trees are created by God, but he would not believe that belief in God was necessary to believe in trees.

    This wildly incorrect belief that atheists or agnostics cannot accept natural rights is a classic example of a Baptist/bootlegger coalition. The AFA types want it out there that you CANNOT be a believer in the Constitution if you are not a Christian–and when you read the fine print, that only means “born-again” denominations. Conservatives concerned about leftist overreach will thus not challenge them on this, lest they be viewed as suspect. At the same time, leftists can paint any belief in natural rights as religious superstition. You want a gun to defend your family? What, did God tell you to get one, you crazy medieval freak?

    So to sum it up: your rights may very well come from God. However, they are not deduced from Scripture, and anyone who says they are is either deluded or lying.

    • ppaulshoward

      i always wonder how you can “deduce” that “all men are created equal”. Simple observation can tell us that we’re not equal. Some are stronger, some are smarter, etc.

      IMO that idea comes from the religious idea that “all are equal in the sight of God” which is deduced from Scripture.

      Now Ken, are you going to call me “deluded or a liar”?

      • IMO that idea comes from the religious idea that “all are equal in the sight of God” which is deduced from Scripture.

        …which was supposed to be the basis of everyone being equal under the law.

  15. Yup on this. Random thoughts below.

    I’m an agnostic who is very respectful of religion. I find, in general, that I like religious people far more than most atheists (at least, the atheists that make a point of telling you they’re atheists). Although there seems to be a minor movement of atheists in favor of religion, with people like S.E. Cupp. I definitely think people, and society in general, are much better off with religion, as long as it’s one that allows free-thinking. Western culture has benefited a lot from the fact that Christianity has very few absolute rules spelled out in the original documents, and those are pretty universally agreed on, so that additional rules added on can be argued over and removed as needed (with, admittedly, varying levels of violence and conflict involved, ranging from half the congregation starting a new church across town to flat-out war).

    I cannot picture as a pious bore. Unless your friends mean you, say, don’t drink or do other self-destructive things, in which case I’m a pious bore, too.

    And yes, my religious feelings, such as they are, are intensely private. I think they have to be. To speak too much cheapens them. If I were writing about them, I wouldn’t speak of them directly, any more than I could write about a musical experience directly; it wouldn’t work. I could write around it, and imply it, and maybe show the results. But yeah, bible-thumping is a huge turn-off for me.

    And yes, I’m outraged when crèches are removed, when the Ten Commandments can’t be displayed in law courts (they’re as much our cultural heritage as they are religious). And I want to shoot those atheist hate groups who insist on putting up, not general wishes of good will at the holidays, but signs that disparage and insult religion outright.

    As for kids in school, I have no problem with kids praying or reading Bibles, or even talking about them with their fellow kids (it’s educational). I do have a problem with the schools ordering everyone to pray (which was done in my elementary school), but a time of silence for students to reflect as they choose is fine.

  16. I am not omniscient. I am not omnipresent. I am not all omnipotent. I cannot tell you who would or how they would achieve paradise, if it should exist. I can only express my understanding as it stands, flawed and human. I think it has something to do with the heart attitude, but, hey I may be wrong. It just might be I stand condemned as a loose woman since, if any of you met me, you would know the color of my hair.

      • Yes, and moving horribly close to the edge: for as you judge, so shall ye be judged. (or: with the measure that you judge so you will be measured.) I find it was right nigh impossible to show mercy and grace until I had experienced it at some level. Mercy and grace didn’t mean no consequences — that would be unjust. — I am glad I’m not the deity, I’d make a lousy one. Frankly, I have enough to manage with myself.