The idea of ever calling myself a certain “religion” type always gave me fear. I too easily pictured “cults”. I pictured these organized “cults” and then I remembered all of the negative history in the world that occurs under God’s “will”. I’ve been trying to understand lately what it really is all about though, these pro- and anti-religious peoples vetting against one another. I’m trying to see for myself what they’re about rather than spitting out words other people feed to me.
I got two books from the library: Knowing Scripture by R. C. Sproul, a tiny book that discusses what Scripture is really for, how to interpret it, and how people are spoiling it – and also The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. I thought, “Sproul will be so dry… but Dawkins should be pretty interesting, I think.” That’s because his book was long and confident-looking.
Well, I have completed both books and I was completely wrong.
Reviews on GoodReads have, for the most part, coincided with my sentiments quite exactly. Whilst Dawkins seems to give a much more modern and forceful view on religion, he does it in such a righteous, arrogant baby fit that I came to hate it more and more and more with each chapter. It was also mind-numbing repetitious, dispelling numerous tests and experiments (which were highly interesting, but I don’t think possible to put scientific control on). One such experiment supposedly proved that praying for an individual didn’t help them get better but, if anything, made them worse. Well, okay, because they’re at a hospital so obviously ill, you ask them to be in an experiment, and it is likely that the more people who pray for them the sicker they are – and they know it. Regardless, it was the style that got me the most.
Another thing that deeply disturbed me was the way Dawkins seemed to make so many radical claims, all the while demonstrating his lack of understanding religion. I used to be like that. When I tried opening my mind, I became less so. After finishing some of my latest readings, however, I have gained an entirely new perspective for devout Christians and why they preach the things they preach and act the ways they do. Dawkins clearly either hasn’t reached this point of understanding, or he denies it or just completely shuts it out. On any conflicting issue, you have to meet in the middle before you can make a solid assessment. I hate how he comes in from the flank and doesn’t take a moment to understand the people he is bashing, especially after I just finished the other book.
The other book, Knowing Scripture, helped me understand the “literary” and “literal” tidbits of the Bible. I believe Sproul is the kind of man who would acknowledge that certain words have been mistranslated. I really like his approach to how to read Scripture and the way he emphasizes the lessons taken from them as being the most important – which I agree. Too much of the Bible is outdated, especially in the Old Testament. Furthermore, I really enjoyed his section about people “tailoring” religion. He calls them “sensual” Christians. You can’t pick and choose the rules you think apply. You have to pick a method of interpreting God’s word, and then you have to constantly apply that method regardless of the outcome. You can’t by wishy-washy – and I’ve always felt that way about religion. He calls these kinds of people “sensual” because he sees them as looking for that instant satisfaction of this generation. He argues that this is the kind of difference that exists between love and lust – one desirable, one like a plague.
Comparing these two books just made me realize how many people might feel the same way about something, but they shut each other down if they don’t get to the same conclusions by walking the same paths. In the end, what does it matter how you get there? If you arrive at the same place, how you get there is just what personally defines you and makes you as unique as the mind you used to think yourself there. I like to think that I have managed to open my mind pretty wide to be accepting and to form my own, non-intrusive opinions. Sure, they might come off as forceful here time to time, but I’m never actually that way in conversation.
Then again, maybe my views are the reason why I’ve identified as UU the past couple of years.