Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Family Affairs With Religious Undercurrents

It is said that you should never discuss religion or politics, so today, we will discuss religion. I'll try to be politically correct about it, though it's not in my nature.

I have, in my extended family, one member who is a fundamentalist baptist. His views on religion are very different from mine. This is an understatement. If you care to know, I am an agnostic. I've left the door just slightly ajar, because I'm intelligent enough to know that I don't know everything.

I'd be the first to admit that there could be a god, though I doubt it. There's not a bone in my body that believes that there is. If nothing else, I would question the attributes that humankind has bestowed upon that god. Or gods. Merciful? Smiteful?

Others say that there is a god. Or gods. The jury is out on this one, and will be out for the foreseeable future, I suspect. It won't be resolved in my blog, any more than the existence of the tooth fairy, unicorns, sasquatch, non-stick frying pan coatings that lasts, or the integrity of Brian Mulroney will be.

Ian, you came dangerously close to discussing politics by attempting to diss the honorable Mr. B.M.

No, that wasn't politics, that was personal. I'm still having trouble dealing with the envelope full of cash that B.M. didn't declare as income for five years or so.

So, let's hear more about the verboten topic of religion. Put some meat on the bones of this story, Ian.

Okay. About ten years ago, at Christmas, this certain family member tried to put the fear of god into my son (also known as 'saving him'). Rather than put Jesus into his life, the effect was more of scaring the bejeezus out of him. He didn't actually scare my son, but he did put a dark cloud over the Christmas holidays. Fundamentalists are sometimes so passionate that they forget to respect the beliefs, and privacy, of others.

I was quite furious at the time, though I said nothing. I respect the right of others to practice their religion, though I'd prefer if they kept it to themselves. If nothing else, they shouldn't plant insidious ideas into the heads of children who are not old enough to properly deal with the rather large concepts. Julian, at the time, dealt with it rather well, better than me, I'd say.

When my son was little he went to church with his mother. As far as I was concerned, he could choose whether he wanted a life with or without religion. It was his choice to make, and I didn't meddle. I knew where I stood personally, and I got there on my own. I thank my parents for their gift to me of self-determination. I wanted Julian to have the same opportunity.

Our fundamentalist family member laid low for a long time, though the baptist fires began burning brightly last week. Here's a transcript of the discussion that erupted on Facebook. As these posts were made on Facebook, in the public domain, I'm quite happy to share them with you....

Family Member:
Hey, I know what the right girl goes crazy for, check this out and you'll know too! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDR3xCaXiXc&feature=relatedThere's also one on how to identify the right girl by the same fellow (who just happens to also be a former football player) (who's dad played NFL I think): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6uNj7lauhA Wish someone gave me these to listen to when I was 18.
November 24 at 9:42pm

Julian Varty :
Hi Family Member. Interesting guy. He makes some good points about how manhood has become more so based on materialism rather than on moral character. I don't believe that this is true across the board, in fact I bet the majority of women do want a man of high character, but the fact that wealth, status, or physical prowess can be the major deciding factor is pretty disturbing. He's also bang-on about the importance of family and having a strong partnership. Family, especially close family (i.e. parents, partner, children), is the rock that steadies us.

While I very strongly disagree with a lot of what Dr. Baucham has to say, he provides a different perspective that strengthens my belief that men (and women) should ultimately be judged by their moral character and commitment rather than material worth. I guess where Dr. Baucham and I see differently is what morality is. He clearly sees a literal interpretation of the Bible as being the best and only way to living a moral life. I have some major issues with this idea; always have and always will.
November 24 at 11:33pm

Family Member: Glad you got a chance to check it out, no doubt there are lots of demands for your time in your assignments. Interesting that you used the term "rock" to describe the steadiness of the family as "Rock" is actually one of the names given to Jesus in the scriptures. Certainly the family is high on importance, being the first institution laid out by ... See Morethe Creator even before the Church or government, etc., however, Jesus said, "He that loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." If Jesus is not number one in your life Julian, you will perish when you are called to stand before God.

But I guess maybe it comes down to, is the Bible true? It sounds like you've determined to always have issue with it. I'm curious, what evidence or proof have you come across that has so convinced you at 17years old that you "always have and always will" reject it or is it just that you don't like what it says?
November 27 at 12:26pm

Julian Varty:
Well, there is no doubt that I take issue with some of what the Bible says, especially the central tenant of Christianity that one can only be saved through belief that Jesus is the son of God who died on the cross for our sins. This, unless I'm misunderstanding, means that people who were raised in other faiths with no exposure or inadequate exposure to the gospel will be sent to Hell. So, as I write this, every dead Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Shinto, Buddhist, Agnostic, and Atheist is supposedly being punished by God for their lack of faith. Regardless of whether they were brave soldiers who sacrificed themselves in war, or humanitarians like Gandhi, they are all suffering in Hell away from the light of God for the simple reason that they did not recognize, for perfectly legitimate reasons, Jesus as the son of God.

I take issue with other elements of scripture: original sin, sexual conformity, gender inequality, and "an eye for an eye" are some good examples. But, the Biblical concept of salvation trumps them all in absurdity. No loving God would ever devise that kind of a cruel trap for rational people, ignorant people, or people of other faiths.

But, this means nothing if the Bible is true. We could be living under the tyrannical, evil God of the Bible. I haven't seen any evidence of this. One argument put forth by Christians is that the world is so complex that it could only have been made by an intelligent creator. The theory of evolution, supported by the vast majority of scientists, only explains how life got to be the way it is, not how it all started. This is a good argument vs. atheism, however if one says that everything must have a beginning, then God must also have had a beginning. So, by stating that God is the only way the universe could have been created, it fails to explain the origin of God. If we consider the beginning of the universe as a singularity, it can be viewed as either having a creator or not. Either option is possible.

This by no means disproved the existence of God, it only offers an alternative. There does not have to be a God to have the universe. Science cannot fully explain the origin of the universe, it likely won't ever be able to explain it, but what we do know about our planet and the universe is incompatible with a literal interpretation of the Bible. Sure, there are many Christian scientists, as there are scientists of other faiths, but most of them accept the theory of evolution and oppose the Young Earth ideology. I'm well aware that you have plenty of reading material put together by creation scientists with arguments against current mainstream science. But, there are always scientific contrarians. There are legitimate scientists who believe smoking is not bad for people, that climate change does not exist, that there is no evidence for evolution, and that the Earth is only 6000 years old and that humans coexisted with dinosaurs. This does not mean that these people are wrong, anything is possible, but there is a good reason why they are a very small minority.

When it comes to Christianity itself, I'm not an expert on the history. I'm confident that there must be accounts out there about Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection that support the Bible, and that there are accounts which do dispute this. If this is so, who are we to believe? In order to be a successful Christian apologetic (someone who can prove the Christian doctrine is true using reason rather than faith), you'd have to have an understanding of history and science that rationally contradicts everything scientists understand about the origins of life and the universe and know more about the history of Israel from 5000 BC to 0 AD than any other ancient scholar. I don't have time to do this is my lifetime, I have real problems to solve. So, I accept human reasoning about the origins of our world and use human reasoning to determine right and wrong.

And, if God really cared about me, really loved me, why would He not reveal himself to me and spare me from damnation? I could die at any time, so could many people I care about without God revealing Himself to us before we pass on. If I believed this, I simply couldn't function I would be so devastated. If I did indeed convert to Christianity, perhaps I would be spared from Hell, but my life would be a living Hell knowing that God would be torturing my fellow man while I accepted empty eternal reward in Heaven.
November 27 at 4:42pm

At the top of my blog, under the title The Leisurologist, it says 'musings, fluff, pixel dust'. I'm not sure where this post belongs. It's a little heavier than normal, but religion is a fascinating topic and worth discussing.

I'm not a fan of fundamentalism in any of its many permutations; Christian or otherwise. I see the current 'born again baptist' fad as anything but inclusive, even though the membership drive is in fifth gear. It reminds me of Costco, where you only get the benefits if you become a member. It seems to me that the born again movement is based on a wildly imaginative interpretation of the biblical line 'ye must be born again'. Any time that man or woman interprets something, anything, that's either written or spoken, it's fraught with peril.

If someone says to you "no, those jeans don't make you look fat," it either means that you are fat and the jeans don't make you look fat, or you're not fat and the jeans don't make you look fat. It could also mean that you are fat, and nothing could hide that fact, so a little white lie is being told for the sake of friendship. This phrase is typically uttered by friends, family and liars. A lot can be read into it.


  1. BRIlliant! I think Julian should start his own blog ASAP! leave the pixel dust and fluff to fathers that skateboard and the topics of religion, environment and politics to his eloquent and brilliant son! BRAVO!

  2. Just remember there are something like 10,000
    religious sects in the world and every one of them thinks that THEY have it right and all the other 9,999 are evil and will rot in hell.