R. Rex Parris, the Lancaster, California mayor who last year proclaimed his city to be a “Christian community,” is perhaps the practitioner of the kind of obnoxious and authoritarian Christianity that Anne Rice has decided that she simply can no longer abide. Famous for her vampire novels, Rice converted to Christianity ten years ago, but now says she’s done being a Christian:
For those who care, and I understand if you don’t. Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.
And at her Facebook account, she elaborated further, sounding akin to those conservatives like Andrew Sullivan who see the Republican Party and movement conservatism as unjust and irrational:
As I said below, I quit being a Christian. I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.
Still, she’s not done with Jesus (who could ever be, religious or not?), for she also said this:
“My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn’t understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me,” Rice wrote. “But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been or might become.”
So Anne Rice is a Dostoevskian follower of Jesus. I can respect that. We all have to pass by the body of Jesus, if only metaphorically, in deciding what role (if any) religious faith will play in our lives. But over the faith community, I choose the doubting community. As has, apparently, and in modified form, Anne Rice. Yet another person has given up pretending against the obvious: the emperor has no clothes.
Just another, “I don’t want to hold myself to the morality expressed in the Bible, but I DO want that whole eternal caretaker, forgiveness and afterlife thing!” Christian. Really Santi, how do you admire this kind of Jesus inspired Deist? They seem like the worst form of hypocrite to me. They found all their morals and values on faith and irrational beliefs and then condemn others who share that same faith for not having the TRUE vision of Christ’s love. It’s Jesus Marx to the rescue again…
That’s an interesting phrase.
I don’t admire Christian altruism. I think that a good deal of altruism is misguided—especially of the radical brand that Jesus advocated in the Sermon on the Mount. What I respect is the choice that one makes at the great impasse of our existence: whether to regard the universe as, ultimately, a contingent chaos or a cosmos with some point. I understand why a person, by faith, would choose, against appearances, for the idea that the universe is a “cosmos.” It’s an optimistic choice (as opposed to a pessimistic one). Being confused about the matter, I continue to stand at the impasse. It is human to despair and hope; to experience life as either a nihilism or with a higher meaning.
I’m not taking issue because I disagree (people are free to hold whatever opinions they want.) I’m just frustrated when people don’t understand where their views come from.
I wear, bring up Thomas Aquinas or the non-fiction work of C. S. Lewis and most of these Christians just stare at you blankly. But the deistic Jesus lovers will give you the same blank stare if you start making references to scripture!
I can just imagine Jesus looking down at humanity going, “Woah woah, come on guys. You need to have some standards. I mean that whole debate about needing just faith or faith and good deeds to obtain eternal life may have been a bit miss-guided. I mean I was pretty clear on that when I talked about the tree that doesn’t bare fruit. And I understood the whole Martin Luther thing. Some of those Popes were corrupt for sure. But now you’re just following Gaia Theory, Marxism and New Age BS and claiming that it’s my teachings! What the hell? Read a Bible for my sake. Or if you can’t be bothered at least skim the Gospels.”
So here we are with Anne Rice, who might write her next book about the Pope secretly being a vampire who then has gay sex, but is then stopped by Jesus who comes to save everyone but doesn’t stop him because he’s gay or a vampire, because those things are totally cool, but because he’s the Pope and therefore must be evil because that’s the dumb ass hit she writes. And now she’s telling off Christians because they’re so out of touch with he buddy Christ that she knows oh so well *wink wink*.
End rant, now for real point…
There are many GOOD reason to reject Christianity. I am forever frustrated at the number of people who reject it not for its logical faults or its bad premises, or even for its implications, but who only half-assedly reject it because it offends their FEELINGS. ANd oh boo-hoo thats not what Christianity really should be. So instead that gladly impose some double think on themselves and whitewash everything they don’t like and then wonder why sometimes their kids:
A) Reject the faith entirely or
B) become much more fundamentalist than they are.
It’s simple really, because they’re trying to duct tape premises, conclusions, attitudes and stories that don’t actually match up or work together. And what’s worse is then they go on to judge other people for:
A) Not having any faith and being pessimistic atheists or
B) Reading that Bible and then actually taking it seriously.
Seriously, fuck Anne Rice and everything she stands for. Okay, so maybe I wasn’t really done with my rant.
Here, this illustrates what I mean perfectly.
Seriously, WTF?! This is the new self-hating Christianity. It’s like white guilt and then some. And yeah I disagree with a lot of the fundamentalists on a lot of things, but this “new Jesus” that calls his followers to hate themselves not for what they’ve done, and not simply for what their ancestors have done (via original sin for the Catholics and Eastern Orthodox) but for what every other person has done in the name of your God, is the most sickening perversion of belief imaginable.
It teaches you to hate yourself for the very faith that claims to offer you salvation. It instills in you a group identity and then calls you to judge ON LY those within your group. It is setting every member of the “New Christianity”, that has almost no relation to the thing it claims to be, as a willing sacrifice not even for the good of their own, but for the good of those who hate them, because they SHOULD hate them.
Christianity is a complex set of views. I don’t agree with it, and I don’t like most of it, but this idea of remaking it and centering it entirely around Jesus is… absolutely insane. Because Jesus was insane. And these kids, they’re like cattle to the slaughter. I grew up in a home that prepped me to take the weight of the world on my shoulders and ask for nothing but disgust in return. We were taught to put strangers above ourselves and told that that was love. And no, people aren’t rejecting this new brand of Christianity for the pure monstrosity it is. They’re rejecting the old brand because it’s too exclusionary and not selfless enough. What a waste.
What would Jesus do? He’d have himself killed and forgive those who tortured him while calling his followers to go and do the same. Following Jesus = self-hatred.
You make good points, but two qualifiers. First, it is good to reality check your rationality with your feelings. Sometimes feelings can be important alerts that you’re not paying attention to something important. Kant once rejected a theodicy argument that included the death of child with this retort: “My heart rejects it!” I think that is the right response in that context.
Likewise, anyone who rejects the doctrine of hell with a similar retort is heartening to me.
Second, I share your concern that people treat their beliefs as if they are at HomeTown Buffet (a little of this, a little of that) without underlying coherence. But sometimes coherence also leads to reductio ad absurdums—and I think it’s good that people sometimes stop their religious rationality short (even if they don’t become nonbelievers). In an imperfect world with imperfect people, it’s better than nothing.
An example: the Bhagavad Gita is grotesquely militaristic if read literally, but Gandhi (to his credit) read the text as a metaphor for an inner conflict. Thank goodness that he did. And I don’t think that he harmed fellow Hindus by encouraging them to read their religious texts in nonfundamentalist ways. Contemporary fundamentalist Hinduism is every bit as crass and dangerous as Islamic and Christian fundamentalism, and it is a phenomenon that cannot be traced to liberals like Gandhi, but to the boat of religion hitting head-on the high waves of capitalist modernism. With or without Gandhi and other liberal interpreters of religious texts, fundamentalists would multiply in a world of rapid change. They represent to a lot of people a source of stability and authority in a scary world.
That was a great video you directed me to. I’ll make it a fresh post. Thanks for that.
Santi : I’m going to jump in here in support of Andrew – by agreeing with you that you are confused.
You have said, in the relevant post, that you think of yourself as belonging to a “doubting community”, and listed numbers of illustrious members of that community. However most (all?) were pre-1859 members, faced with the evidence all around them of “intelligent design”. (I’m not up on where Dostoevsky stood, but do know that he had one of his characters remark that “man invented god so that he wouldn’t have to commit suicide”, which I like). You give Anne Rice credit for joining the doubting community “in modified form” notwithstanding that on the evidence of her own words she remains a “believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God”. I think a little more rigor is called for in your defining of the qualifications for membership of the doubting community.
Your point is a fair one, but I think that we all have to come to the impasse of decision: will we see the universe as ultimately pointless; a bit of order in the midst of a much larger and older chaos/randomness? Or will we see the universe as a cosmos with some sort of telos behind it?
Rice has chosen, but she has her eyes open. Atheists choose otherwise, but their eyes are open as well. I think, as an agnostic, I’m keeping my eyes open. I respect the person who is self-conscious of their choices, not glib about their consequences, and who keeps their eyes and mind engaged about claims. In this regard, I think that it is coherent to be a theist and a skeptic. Ultimately, we are caught in the system that we are trying to understand, and as such we either have to leap to an optimistic or pessimistic conclusion, or just remain, well, agnostic.
As such, a religious skeptic is what I believe fairly characterizes Dostoevsky. He knew exactly what he was willing to swallow, and why he was swallowing it. But maybe you’re not interested in being generous with the thoughtful theist: that a person can’t choose to have faith in some ultimate purpose and still be a doubter. Perhaps you reason that a doubter can only arrive at the pessimistic conclusion. But if you’ve arrived at the pessimistic conclusion, then (by such a definition), you’re not a doubter either, are you? In other words, you’ve reached a definite conclusion. This is why I think that agnosticism is a more coherent position than either atheism or theism, but I’m trying to be generous with thoughtful people who nevertheless weigh in heavily on one side or the other.
Rice, ironically, is a vampire novelist, and vampires, like agnostics, don’t quite fit in with cut and dried categories. Rice, like her vampires, has now returned to her borders and outskirts. That, in my view, is the right place (intellectually) to be. It means you’re thinking.
It seems to me that a follower of Christ who is fed up with the religious of our day is no different than Jesus who was fed up with the religious of His day. Nothing drives people away from Jesus better than imperfect Christians.
It is not an easy thing to define in words what makes a person a good Christian, but you know one when you see one. And they are getting harder and harder to see in this country. I was only able to step from skepticism to faith after realizing I had no idea what a “real” Christian looked like, and praying to an unseen God to show me. He answered that prayer and my life has never been the same.
What role does doubt play in your life now?
A professing Christian is concerned about knowing and following the will of God. That isn’t always an easy thing to figure out. There is a lot of self-doubt about hearing God’s voice clearly. It is also difficult to know “What would Jesus Do?” in every circumstance. How would Jesus handle a gay co-worker?
I don’t doubt God’s existence. I don’t doubt that the Bible is the revealed word of God. I don’t doubt that God’s ways make more sense than my ways. I don’t sit up at night anymore wondering what it’s all about, or what’s my purpose in life , or is there any meaning to it all.
For what it’s worth, I’ve heard that there are quite a few folks out there who don’t call themselves Christians but rather “Christ-followers” or something like that. I’ve heard that it’s actually a bit of a headache for some sociologists and demographers–a lot of people who say they’re “no religion” in polls tell pollsters they’re “Christ-followers” rather than some specific denomination of Christianity upon closer inspection. Obviously, I’m not sure if all of them can be called members of the ‘Doestoyevskian doubting community” or whatnot, but at least Anne doesn’t seem to be alone.
That said, in reference to what Mr. Clunn mentioned,
They found all their morals and values on faith and irrational beliefs and then condemn others who share that same faith for not having the TRUE vision of Christ’s love.
This is pretty much what everybody does, religious or not. Objectivists supposedly ground their hatred of socialism, welfare, government interference in the market, or whatever on “logic” and “rationality,” then when socialists and progressives tell them “science” and “rationality” tell us the whole world ought to look like Scandanavia (social programs and all), the disciples of Ayn Rand promptly inform the lefties that they’re not “truly rational” (or are just Christians in disguise). Given how most people insist that they’re the only ones who are “truly patriotic/rational/compassionate/whatever,” I can’t condemn the vampire lady for insisting she’s the only one who’s truly “Christian,” or more specifically, “Jesus-y.” IMO I think Santi’s position on the matter is more tenable than you give it credit for.
But see, when an Objectivist and Marxist disagree, at least they both know where their views come from. There is a segment of the religious right who are patsies to Objectivism and have no idea that they are. Ditto for the religious left and Marxism (And also some for Gaia Theory too.)
I completely disagree with the religious fundamentalists, but their view (the Bible must be taken at face value, and we know Christianity is true because the Bible is true) is at least logically consistent, if entirely wrong. The ‘Christians’ or “Jesus followers” who are unknowing shills for world views they don’t understand are frustrating as hell, because they make arguments that we’ve all heard before, but instead of trying to back them with evidence or logic, they claim that theirs is the MORAL stance backed by their FEELINGS, as if that were a good argument.
It’s important to be a reasonable person, and to back claims with arguments (and not just feelings), but the issue of downplaying feelings is where Ayn Rand got in trouble (in my view). Once you absent feelings from the equation of your exercise of rationality, you end up with cultic behavior because there is no longer a vulnerable brake on one’s logic; no reality testing. You end up in reductio ad absurdums; a loss of common sense and proportion. People need to engage themselves WHOLE in the exercise of reason, for the truth is the whole.
I thought the proper check on reductio ad absurdums was observation, not emotion. As evidence for this, I ask you to think of your initial emotional responses to lack of belief due to your being were raised in religious home. Your emotions are an indication of your default position, not the truth. And it is real life observation that is the most valid check on what is true or not.
Also Objectivism doesn’t throw out emotion, it just properly identifies it as a heuristic, albeit an often useful heuristic, but a heuristic none the less.
Maybe. But people who suffer from autism or brain damage to the emotion centers of the brain often lack the ability to reason properly, so that would suggest (at least to me) that there is more to the reason-emotion axis than just laying down the principle that emotion is (ultimately) in second-place to reason, and should follow reason.
Emotions are forms of data; things in need of attention and observation; things informative. Objects beneath conscious awareness surface obscurely via emotions, alerting you to things that you might not be consciously reasoning about as clearly as you suppose.
Sounds like you’re channeling Plato there. I’ll see your “emotions as information” and raise you a “reality is independent of our perceptions of it.” I prefer Aristotle.
instead of trying to back them with evidence or logic, they claim that theirs is the MORAL stance backed by their FEELINGS, as if that were a good argument.
Some of these folks undoubtedly do, but to be fair to Ms. Rice, she might be closer to the ‘fundamentalist’ position than you give her credit for. Looking at her facebook, she’s brought up a few Biblical quotes to support her exit from Christianity–Christ’s quote about “not bringing peace to the earth,” his belief that folks should pray in private (that was one thing she never liked about her fellow Christians back then), and so on. Now, you may not consider the Bible to be good evidence and Biblical reasons to be good reasons, and that’s fair enough, but I do think Anne is basing her new moral/religious views on the evidence she’s found in the Bible and her reasoning of how to interpret that text. You say that most ‘deistic’ christians would give you blank looks if you quoted scripture to them, I don’t think Anne is one of them.
That’s fair. I may have judged her by her writing (Which I find to be throw away juvenile crap.) To assume that she’s not theologically competent because I see as lacking in her occupation (fiction writer) is an assumption that I probably shouldn’t have made.
Andrew: does not being able to explain a truth make something less true? I think explaining faith is like explaining color to a blind man. You have to experience it to get it. The blind man’s inability to grasp what color is does not make color untrue, but agreeably frustrating to the blind man.
Yes it does. Because if you can’t explain it then you can’t know that its true. Or as Stevie Wonder said, “When you believe in things, that you don’t understand, then you suffer…”
Also, I am one of those “used to believe” people, so I am well aware of what faith is and entails.
“Because if you can’t explain it then you can’t know that its true.”
There are a lot of things in the natural world that I cannot explain. What makes the sun shine, why is the sky blue? Science books can explain the answers, but I cannot really say I understand it all. But I know from my experience that the sun will shine tomorrow and I trust that it will.
In the same way, I trust in a God that I cannot see with my eyes or hear with my ears. Why? Because I have experienced His presence in my life enough that I can trust He is there, just like the sun.
But you are looking for explanation and fact. So let me ask you this… are you familiar with the Bible as a book? In ancient writings, we have more copies of it than we do of the writings of the ancient philosophers. It was written by many different authors over hundreds of years, yet it is a cohesive story of God’s plan for us. These are just some of the facts that point towards God.
As a person who used to believe, do you mind me asking why you do not believe anymore? My experience is that more people reject Christianity for its followers than for its message. That’s like saying math isn’t true because mathematicians are nerds.
I don’t know if anything is ever non-mediated. Emotions point to something. It’s worth asking what that might be.
And I would love to believe that reality is independent of perception and consciousness, but that’s an open question.
Santi : A very reasoned response. Hard to argue with a reasoned response that one disagrees with. (I suspect you know that!).
I concede that I have reasoned that “a doubter can only arrive at the pessimistic conclusion”. But, having applied reason to arrive at that definite conclusion, I don’t concede that agnosticism is a more coherent position. I will concede only that it is a more ‘comfortable’ (and, potentially, more nuanced) position, while, at the same time, (perhaps pedantically), denying that your use of “pessimistic” (a loaded term) is a fair description of my conclusion.
In your earlier response to Andrew you argue “….it is good to reality check your rationality with your feelings……”. You argued the case for this in more detail in your post back on July 8, “Why I’m an Agnostic, But Not an Atheist” (when you gave us atheists a very hard time!). I concede the point, if the object is to avoid becoming an atheist fundamentalist; but while doing so it is a good idea to keep ones b.s. detectors alert.
I concede also that, while I might try, it is not feasible to be consistently rational. I choose to believe in free will (the more comfortable position!).
Finally, I don’t generally have a major problem with an agnostic stance, but it is a broad church so must always then be explained. For example, the ‘I haven’t really thought about it and don’t have a view on god’ agnostic (my position for nearly 40 years!), the ‘I’m with Anne Rice on this’ agnostic or the ‘I’m with Santi’ agnostic. Also depends on the company one keeps. Tell a religious person that you’re an agnostic and the likely interpretation will be that ‘you have lost your faith (temporarily, they suspect) and that you’ll probably find it again with their help and if not, then in a foxhole or on your deathbed’.