Sunday, June 21, 2009

Against my conscience

I had a moral dilemma last week of a kind that's probably fairly unique to me. I had a fella from Young Life, a Christian-youth organization, send me a message on Facebook. Apparently, he knew of me from some former students of mine, and he wanted to talk to me a bit about my school. The guy seemed nice enough, and I'm fairly certain that it wasn't some sort of insidious plot to sell Amway to me. However, I had a bit of a problem with this.

Allow me to tell another story to give a bit of perspective on how I feel. I recently had a conversation with a former student. She was telling me about how she was involved in a church group (it may very well have been Young Life - perhaps if she's reading this, as I know that she has in the past, she'll comment). I teased her a little bit, as when she was a freshman she had written some things that were rather critical of theism. When I was done giving her a hard time though, I told her that it was a good thing for her to expose herself to that sort of a thing, as she told me that she's pretty up in the air regarding her spiritual beliefs. I wasn't just saying that to cover my ass - I really believe it. I went to some religious services of friends of mine when I was a teenager, and it certainly didn't hurt me. Personally, I think that it's a bad thing to close yourself off from the world - especially at that age.

With that said, my problem with meeting up with this guy is that while I don't necessarily want to work AGAINST Young Life, or most any other faith group, (I think I would work against a Taliban group) I don't exactly want to help it either. First of all, it would seem somewhat hypocritical of me, being such an outspoken atheist and all. Secondly, I really don't want to encourage the spread of Christianity - or any religion, for that matter.

I emailed my friends about it and mainly got advice that confirmed my initial reactions to the offer. One friend though, who just happens to be a Christian, said that he wouldn't see anything wrong with helping a group so long as they don't bring any "harm". I can see his point, as we're not exactly talking about Al Quaeda, Operation Rescue, or even the Scientologists here.

But here's the thing - I do think that Christianity brings harm. Oh, sure, it can be a force for good, but keep in mind that even the Nation of Islam works to get drug abusers clean and sober. Personally, I don't think that it's worth the price. I genuinely believe that this world would be in a better place if we moved away from magical-based thinking (a term that I'm sure most Christians would reject - but that's just what it is. What else would you call rising from the dead but a form of magic?) Yeah, sure, most of the time it's harmless, but people make decisions that affect the real world (on important issues like the death penalty, abortion, stem cell research, science education, etcetera) based on something that an unknowable magical creature supposedly wants.

I also think that the basic Christian teaching, the idea that somebody else can die for YOUR sins, isn't really a good thing. It removes personal responsibility from the equation. I also think that the idea that we're being punished for something that somebody else did a long time ago is another morally reprehensible idea. And I've written again and again, any god that watches a child getting raped her whole life, and does nothing to stop it, is callous and evil. (That just being one example - and I know the counterargument to that, and it doesn't wash. The "free will" thing doesn't apply, as she had no free will.)

I realize that there are some people out there who will twist this around and think that I should lighten up. I realize that there are billions of decent people of faith out there in this world. I also don't want people to think that I want to see people forced to drop their beliefs. Forcing people to think a certain way is counterproductive. In all honesty, I wish that people could just come to dropping their supernatural beliefs on their own.

And the bottom line is that I'd hate to think that I was responsible for somebody coming to religious belief - even in an indirect sort of a way.


CraigB said...

Hi Lance.

This is the first time I have visited your blog since last year. I've been thinking about you and decided to see if you were still "on the air."

You have made a few points on this post that I think are worth discussing (re. "basic Christian teaching"), however you seem to have dismissed in advance any dissenting opinions.

Your words, "...I know the counterargument to that, and it doesn't wash", and "I realize that there are some people out there who will twist this around..." seem to indicate that you aren't open to receiving other points of view. Maybe you've "heard it all before" and don't want to bother going through it again. If that is the case, I can respect that.

Anyway, I enjoyed reading some of your posts again.


Craig Boyd
(a.k.a. Stranger in a Strange Land)

Lance Christian Johnson said...

Hey Craig,

I see what you mean. I guess the thing is that with that particular issue, I keep hearing the SAME EXACT THING over and over and over again...

Maybe there is a better counterargument for that point, and if so, I'd like to hear it. Still, I've pretty much given up on hearing something new.

I'd be more than happy to be proven wrong though.