infinata (infinata) wrote,
infinata
infinata

Regaining Faith in Evangelicals

I was very surprised to find myself reading an article about Evangelicals and nodding positively, finishing the text and thinking to myself, "Yeah, that's good news." In this week's Newsweek, which sports a rather foreboding cover of a cross wrapped in an American Flag and the headline "The Politics of Jesus" is an article titled "A New Social Gospel."

It talks about how more and more younger evangelicals are taking a bigger world view. They're aspiring to make differences along the lines that folks like Bono are doing (in fact, it states that today's evangelicals are "nearly unanimous" in citing U2's Bono as a model of Christian activism) rather than get mired in petty local "culture war" issues like gay marriage and school prayer. After distracted by the noise and rancor of the Religious Right political machine in the US, it's refreshing to be reminded about what real, tangible good can be done in the name of religion, particularly in the developing world.

Expending so much energy on gay marriage, school prayer, intelligent design and putting the Ten Commandments on buildings in the face of genocide and slave trading in third world countries is the moral equivalent of trying to enforce vegetarianism when most of the world doesn't have enough food to begin with. What the Religious Right is choosing as battleground issues in US elections are luxury issues, and college-aged evangelicals are beginning to understand that with a compassion that knows no national borders and shows a healthy skepticism towards wealthy authority figures who more often than not turn out to be hypocrites.

The reason I'm very surprised to have this reaction is, well, I'm an atheist. Okay, I suppose I'm an agnostic but I'll admit to having that final touch of irrationalism that pushes me over to the atheist side (And why not? Believers can't have the monopoly on unreason). I think that centuries-old belief in gods has done more harm than good throughout history, that morality comes out of naturally evolving social contracts, that the earth is several billion years old, that humanity evolved from primates, and the scientific method is strong precisely because conclusions are always being questioned, studied and revised.

But I'm also a realist. Humans are frightened, superstitious people who love to wrap themselves up in easy answers. Religion provides easy answers to the most difficult cosmic questions. That's one of the reasons I have the biggest problems with it. BUT it's not all bad. It has the benefit of inspiring hard, constructive work among believers who want to help others and alleviate suffering.

I've been a non-believer for as long as I can remember, never having once as a child entertained solid beliefs in god (or Santa and the tooth fairy for that matter). I've grown with my non-belief, going through the often-caricatured dramatic antagonist stage before finally settling down into a more pragmatic, if a bit weary, view. Judging strictly by merit, religion occupies in my mind a similar sphere as money does. Is it strictly essential? No, not in a perfect world, and not in a "stranded-on-a-desert-island" kind of way. Yeah, the world could be a much better place without it. But humanity being what it is does currently need it, and we just have to find a way to make it work for the betterment of the world.


ph
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