I think you are wrong.
I expect you think I am wrong too. And guess what? That is perfectly okay.
Really. I am not offended by the idea that you think I am wrong. I’m not offended by the idea that thinking I am wrong means that you think you are right. I’m not offended by the idea that you have a radically different world view than mine.
Don’t get all exited by my lack of offense though…I am offended by some things.
I’m offended when you use your beliefs to dictate the legality of others actions. I’m offended when you misrepresent other beliefs out of ignorance or asshattery (or both). I’m offended when you make criticisms of other beliefs while refusing to put yours to the same scrutiny.
I think you are wrong.
Because if I didn’t, I’d be in your church praying to your god.
~as said by me, in conversation with two very nice young Mormon boys that came a-knocking on my door (we always invite them in for cookies, lemonade and good-natured discussion and debate) about a year or so ago
Maybe I should start at the beginning.
A week or so ago, Star Foster posted a rejection of Jesus on her blog (I might often disagree with her, but there’s also interesting stuff there), as did another blogger that I follow, and in response, a third blogger I follow responded with some humor (and perhaps a wee bit of snark). All of this was in response to a rather presumptuous and fairly obnoxious ill-informed post by a Catholic blogger over at Patheos, which garnered quite a reaction (I think this one was the best).
Normally I would simply have left my commentary on the matter in the comments of their respective blogs if I felt so inclined, but a few days ago one of my favorite bloggers left me a comment that made me think of that long-ago conversation. It also made me think about handling the most fundamental disagreement that comes from two opposing world views; when two people think they are right, they automatically think the other person is wrong. Since being “wrong” is usually seen as a bad thing, we are pretty much conditioned to have a negative reaction to being told (explicitly or implicitly) that we are wrong.
For all that I write about having manners when discussing religion, I don’t think that having manners means leaving disagreement behind. In all actuality, I think that part of having manners is being respectfully honest. The honest truth about religion is that the only thing that determines “right” is belief. It goes without saying that I believe I’m right (or at least more right than the next guy), or else I’d have different beliefs. It also goes without saying that people with diametrically different and even opposed beliefs believe that they are right as well. So, we can’t all be right (unless there are multiple dimensions of reality or some other wacky string theory idea); nor can we independently and objectively verify who might possibly be right (there’s no way to dip out the measuring spoon for god).
Unlike Star and John, I’ve never felt the need to “divorce” Jesus or reject Christianity. I’ve said it before–I was raised in a liberal Christian tradition, leaving Christianity was based in a disagreement with the basic claim of Christian theology, the need for salvation. Because I’ve never believed in a need for salvation, a literal belief in Jesus has never been a necessity for me, and because I was raised in an environment free from the mental, emotional, spiritual and even physical abuse that sometime accompanies stricter Christianities, I’ve been free to look at the story of Jesus in a different and ultimately liberating way…as just a myth.
I’ll admit, there is small part of me that loves calling it “just a myth” in the same tone as those who call evolution “just a theory”. Of course, that same (bitchy) part of me also enjoys agreeing that evolution is indeed “a theory”…and pointing out that even more, it is a scientific theory, and there is no “just” about it . But really, “just a myth” is only an insult if you don’t understand what a myth actually is, or the importance of myth.
Myths are traditional stories that explain a culture’s historical beliefs on the origins of the world and mankind, the relationship of mankind with the gods, the place of gods and man in the world, the values of the culture and the desired behaviors of members of that cultre (usually by demonstrating what happens when one doesn’t fulfill them). More importantly, myth is the collective search of humanity for truth, meaning and significance in the experience of life, so that it resonates beyond the merely physical (and short) time that we are alive into something more. While myths can be rooted in factual events or completely made up (but often believed to be true), they embody a truth that deeper and more meaningful that a literal truth could be, because it is not merely a literal truth (and even when one knows they are not). Myths are the collective ideas that define us–our values and what we value (which are not always the same thing), and how we view and interact with the universe and with each other.
Religions don’t need their stories to be literally true, it is people that need to believe their mythology as literal truth. Perhaps because we have been programmed to think that we have to be “right”, and if we are “right”, then everyone else must be “wrong”. Or maybe its because we have been conditioned to think that only the literal truth matters. But a story doesn’t need to be literally true to be important and it doesn’t need need historical accuracy for it to have meaning. I don’t need my religious beliefs to be “right” to be true, and I don’t need them to be literally true to be right for me. Nor do I need to formally reject the ideas that I think are wrong for me…its enough for me that I just don’t believe in them or follow them. The mythology of the Bible and the Abrahamic faiths is just as legitimate (and no more) as the mythology of the Celts, the Greeks, the Norse, the Egyptians, etc. They are all just as legitimate, and still, just a myth.