A companion to yesterday’s post about politics. Because I’m sure people are as interested in my religious takes as they are in my political takes. (What is the reason religion and politics are never discussed around the dinner table? Because both are based on convictions without evidence. Whereas, I really do try to discuss these matters in the context of actual evidence about human psychology and the real world.)
An easy one:
Joe.My.God, 18 Nov 2023: “Left Behind” Author: “The Rapture Could Be Today”
Don’t bother to read it. My perennial answer to all such prophecies:
The Jack Smith Rule. Predict the opposite, and you will win. Christians have been predicting the Second Coming, the return of Jesus, for 2000 years, and it still hasn’t happened, and yet they still keep predicting it. Similar predictions about the Rapture. You have to smile patronizingly and pat them on the head.
OnlySky, Adam Lee, 16 Nov 2023: Netanyahu speaks the language of genocide
In the endless cycle of religious violence, ancient extremism begets modern extremism, as Israel’s Prime Minister cites the genocidal verses of the Bible to sanctify his war today.
I’m just going to quote.
The world’s sacred scriptures are endless sources of extremism.
All of humanity’s major religions are based on books that were written in less enlightened times. They all have verses that endorse violence, prejudice, slavery, and other profound evils. And because these books are treated as divinely inspired, they’re immutable. They can’t be edited to remove the unsavory parts.
In times of trouble, when believers turn to their scripture for guidance, the evil passages will always be there, waiting to be rediscovered. Like water drawn from a poisoned well, they’ll keep wreaking harm indefinitely.
As Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip continues, there’s an awful reminder of that.
And he quotes the passages of the Bible that Netanyahu was alluding to.
OnlySky, Adam Lee, 6 Nov 2023: The allure of tribalism in dangerous times
Moral codes based on tribalism—defining the in-group and the out-group, whether by culture, religion or race—offer no solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict or any of the other wars wracking our world. The only path to peace is a morality based on empathy and universal humanity, yet it seems further from our grasp than ever.
We are one species on a small planet in a seemingly infinite cosmos.
What we need is a moral code built on recognition of our common humanity. We need an ethics that treats all people as fundamentally alike, and all deserving of equal rights, whatever their culture and whichever side of the border they happen to be standing on.
Most moral codes don’t do this. For the most part, the moral codes that guide us today come from times when the family or the village or the tribe was the only unit of society. They’re small and parochial, looking no further than the next hilltop. In those times, the outside world was a strange and frightening place. Banding together promised safety, and to be outside the group spelled doom.
This kind of thinking is the animating idea behind nationalism, religious orthodoxy, and cultural tribalism. These concepts of morality are different on the surface, but underneath, they’re fundamentally alike. They’re all about the in-group versus the out-group. The only thing that varies is the criteria for who’s in and who’s out.
Two more links, to pieces I haven’t yet read:
NYT, Ayana Mathis, 19 Nov 2023 (to be printed in next Sunday’s Book Review): Why Do Evil and Suffering Exist? Religion Has One Answer, Literature Another., subtitled “In the third installment of an essay series on literature and faith, Ayana Mathis explores how writers have grappled with one of theology’s oldest conundrums.”
I will be reading this one closely. [Update a week later: the piece examines four particular works closely, but makes no general conclusions about differing answers.]