A question is posed to me in a comment:
I’m curious if you see any distinction between fundy and non-fundy
Christians? Or does having an imaginary friend make all Christians morons or
I personally see fundamentalism as the problem, not Christianity in
particular, because fundamentalism is the philosophy that makes issues more
important than people. The issues just change from group to group.
Well, certainly there are distinctions to be made and I would hasten to guess that — though I’ve never really thought about it — more problems in life and society are the consequences of failing to draw appropriate distinctions rather than of making unnecessary ones.
But the major reason I wanted to deal with this comment in a new entry was because of two words near the beginning of the second paragraph: "the problem." The first point I would like to make is that one ought never propose the existence of "a problem" without first — no, not "offering a solution" — asking: problem to whom?
Ironically, in another comment to the very same post, someone brings up the Amish. Well, of all religious groups I can possibly think of, I have the least "problem" (which is almost none at all) with the Amish. Quite simply: they keep their delusions to themselves. Now, Billy made a point in another comment:
Consider that without the state, Christianity could be just as nutty as it wanted to be, and it wouldn’t matter to you and me.
Upon reflection, and I’m just as guilty of using it as anyone, this is a wrong formulation. The reason the nuttiness of the Amish matters not to me, Billy, or most of you is not because the power of the state to impose Amish beliefs upon us does not exist — it most certainly does. The reason the Amish don’t matter is because the Amish mind their own business.
Apparently, their religion includes elements that discourage or forbid them from interfering in the affairs of "outsiders," which in addition to spurning certain technological, labor-saving, and leisurely advances, also keeps them out of politics — as practitioners, lobbyists, or participants (voters). So, it seems to me that for a religion to truly be a non-problem for those who don’t practice it is independent of the state. Whether the state existed or not, you’d never, ever have to concern yourself with the Amish as they are currently constituted.
But as to other religions, the fundamentalist variants in particular, they have always, to some degree or another, been inexorably tied to the state, if not products of it, or carefully sowed and nurtured by it (or the other way around). They are a part of it, if not it. Christianity is, at the very least, a very influential aspect of American, and to some extent, word politics, just as Islam is a controlling aspect of Middle Eastern politics. In the Middle East, Islam is the state and the state is Islam. In Israel, Judaism is the state and the state is Judaism. In the West, Christianity is behind the curtain. In Western Europe, one might could make the argument that Dorothy and Company have already reached the Emerald City and pulled back the curtain. Consequently, Western Europe, like Japan, is a near true democratic secular state. In America, Dorothy is still fighting off the Wicked Witch.
But that’s just my perspective. My point is that there are lots of distinctions to make, but the principal one, in my view, is whether the religion itself calls for political action or is interpreted by its high priests to call for political action. This is what makes religion dangerous, as such beliefs become "culturized," by which I mean: ingrained in people from a young age. People don’t question their fundamental "right" to dictate (by force) their subjective morality (that which does not involve violence against others) to large swaths of people because they have been taught to do that by their parents, their churches, their schools, and even their political masters.
And all this is why I fight religion with every tooth and nail that I fight the state. The distinction to be making is not between religion and the state. The distinction to be making is: what kind of religion is it? What are its precepts? What does it require or encourage of its adherents? And I would add that this is the safe distinction to make, too. We don’t worry about the Amish because what keeps them in check is baked right into the cake. In other words, the strong influence of religious belief is actually why we can be pretty sure we’ll not soon have to worry about the Amish. Unfortunately, that’s a double-edge sword, because it means that we have to worry a lot about Christianity.
Look: I know people, lots of them, who would not bat an eye if any woman who has ever had an abortion, or doctor who performed one, or nurse who assisted, or parent who condoned, was tried for murder, convicted, and executed. I have family members who believe this unabashedly. If fundamental Christians exercised something near the control that Islam exercises in the Middle East, this is exactly the kind of reign of terror you would begin to witness. I won’t get into it, but I have lots of reasons to think that the Christian propensity to reign terror is actually far greater than that of Islam. I also believe that propensity is at the root of why the Christian West became the greatest and most effective mass killing machine in history.
This, above, is all distinguishable from my root problem with all religion of any kind: simply that it’s an attempt to evade reality and that’s never good for anyone, for any reason. But it’s not like that problem is limited to religion, and as a general principle, I fight with it myself every day of my life. But that’s just it, too, another distinction: fighting to rid one’s self of delusions is a far different thing than embracing them.
At its fundamental core, religion is an exercise in the embrace of delusion over reality. It is the placing of comfort ahead of fact. It does not take a lot of mental gymnastics to imagine where such a formula for living life could potentially lead, if unchecked.