A little background may help.
I didn’t grow up in a very religious home. I clearly remember being told to respect religion and religious people and we celebrated Christmas and Easter, but there was no prayer and we almost never attended Church.
Yet, I’ve never thought of myself as an atheist. In fact, although I have what you could call a scientific mind, I have always felt that there must be something more beyond science and beyond what our minds can comprehend. I guess you could say that I’ve always been open to the idea of a “spiritual dimension” of the World.
Fast forward to when I met my wife. One of the many things I admire about her is her Christian faith. It’s simple and straightforward, yet so strong. I noticed how her faith helped her cope with life and I figured I should open myself up to it. Since then, I’ve been attending Church semi-regularly and making some progress in approaching the Christian faith.
But lately I’ve run into some serious obstacles. The radicalized and vulgarized Christianity that fills up the public space here in the United States really nauseates me and turns me away from Faith. Instead of opening up my heart to faith, I now have days I feel like I’m about to turn into a full-blown atheist. I simply can’t stomach how the Christian faith has been turned into a tool for promoting a radical and hateful political agenda. I realize that if you look over a longer historical perspective, this is hardly unique, but the fact is that these radicalized forces are about to reverse many of the social advances we’ve made over the centuries.
But then again, on some of my better days, I realize that the way the extremists act really have very little to do with the teachings of Jesus.
Does Jesus want us to hate gays? No he doesn’t. He clearly tells us not to judge others (Matt 7:1). Instead we are supposed to turn inwards and examine our own souls before judging others (Matt 7:3-5). Whatever beef God may have with gays or anyone else, we better leave it to God to deal with it.
Does Jesus want us to bomb Iran? Probably not. In fact, Jesus seems to be completely opposed to taking up physical arms against his oppressors. Instead, he preached turning the other cheek and refraining from even resting attacks from an evil person (Matt 5:39). Again, Jesus appears to be telling us to turn our focus inwards and escape evil by opening our hearts the the grace of God. Jesus wants the fight to take place on a spiritual plane, not in the skies over Iran.
You can even make a pretty strong case that Jesus is a proponent of a separation between the Church and the state. In the famous passage in Matt 22:21 Jesus discusses taxation tells us to “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s”. It’s often assumed that this simply means that religious matters and politics don’t mix. At least it is very clear that he is completely uninterested in politics and has no intention to intervene in the tax policies of the Roman Empire.
So maybe I don’t have to turn atheist. Maybe it’s enough to acknowledge that the loudest voices of Christianity today have either completely misunderstood the teachings of Jesus or that they are hypocrites using a twisted version of the religion to push their agendas.
What amazes me the most is that they get away with it. I understand that it could be done in medieval times when reading the scriptures for yourself was a privilege of a small elite. But today, when everyone can pick up a Bible and read for themselves or just google it (like I usually do), I really don’t understand how people fall for it.
So I will do my best to filter out the Limbaughs, Santorums and Coulters of the World and not let them feed my inner atheist. My inner atheist has gotten pretty fat over the last few months.