Monday, November 22, 2010

Can the Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point?

I struggle with my feelings about organized religion. A Reform Jew, I enjoyed my Temple experiences as a kid and teen. Then I stopped being observant (even for a Reform Jew) because I didn't like the menu choices for Passover. Which just goes to reinforce the degree to which my feelings about organized religion are not about organized religion but about me. Now I'm raising a son to be a Reform Jew, thanks to a very giving Catholic wife. And I don't feel like my Temple/Hebrew School/etc. experiences scarred me in any way, short of maybe making it impossible for my heart to ever side with my head and go full agnostic with a side of atheism. I can't point to anything I was ever taught at Temple that I really disagree with.

Like many of the people I despise (or whatever), my feelings about my own organized religion differ from my feelings about other organized religions. I know my fair share of friends and family who are deeply religious (well, the fair share for someone from the Northeast; probably a Bible Belter would have different ideas), and I worry sometimes that my concern for them is symptomatic of some kind of Squeaky Wheel syndrome. I have no issue with someone who takes great strength from their faith, especially in times of need. No, I have an issue with someone who won't shut up about God/Jesus. I don't think it's polite to subject others to constant outbursts about any passion to begin with, really; if someone doesn't respond enthusiastically to my "How 'bout those Patriots!" I'm not going to keep saying it. Worse, these people turn out to be human as the next guy, usually, and there's an especially rotten element, for me, to the person who talks about living up to Jesus's ideals but consistently has trouble walking the walk. These people, of course, deserve all the slack for their failings that I would hope to get for mine, but I find it hard to be that generous with someone who acts like they are asking themselves what Jesus would do at every turn and then sharing their answers with the rest of us.

As I mentioned, this is all likely unfair, at least a little. How many deeply religious people do I know who do not talk about it constantly? (And clearly, I am thinking of organized religion here at an interpersonal level; religious extremism is a much more serious charge for which organized religion has to answer, but not the one that interests me today.)

I also think organized religion gets used as a mental crutch. In the U.S., at least, there are far too many people who are against certain rights of the disenfranchised because their priest/minster/pope/whatever said to be, or because the rest of their congregation is. How many of these people, outside of the influence of their particular organized religion (but rather applying their own interpretations of Jesus's teachings), might have been more human in this way? But they never had a chance.

When I have arguments with the voices inside my head on this subject, they tend to ask me what business it is of mine, my last point notwithstanding. If I want some Southerners to stop worrying about a bunch of gays and pregnant women they don't know, and what those gays and women want to do, probably I should stop worrying about a bunch of Southerners I don't know and what they think, although that's a particularly tough Mobius strip from which to find the exit. This issue excepted, though, the voices ask, what is it to me if some minds seemingly got warped by some reverend?

And that's when some doofus GOP Representative steps in to crystalize the issue. Thanks, doofus!

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