Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Some Thoughts On Faith

My father was raised Catholic. Catholicism is why his mother had five children (my favorite story of my paternal grandparents' marriage: when she went into labor for the fourth time in order to deliver my father - having given birth to three girls previously - and they were wheeling her into the delivery room, my grandfather took her hand and said, "If you have another girl, I'm going to divorce you." Seriously).

My mother went to a Catholic school, briefly, though I'm under the impression, for some reason, that most of her family was Protestant. Or, perhaps, Presbyterian. Says a lot about my knowledge of the Christian denominations that I honestly can't remember.

On those weekends when my parents worked or just needed some time to themselves, my grandmother would get us up early on Sunday mornings and meticulously dress my sister and I in proper good-girl attire (I remember being, what, 3 or 4, and standing on top of the toilet lid while my grandmother prepared to dress me. I was holding a towel around myself, and when she brought the clothes up, I let the towel drop, in anticipation of being dressed. She cried out, scandalously, "Modesty! Modesty!" I thought she was very funny. Ah, Catholicism). I remember the church because there were good feelings associated with it. She'd bring coloring books and crayons for us to amuse ourselves with while whoever it was preaching was preaching, and afterwards, my grandmother would talk to lots of people and enjoy herself. It was a social club, so far as I could see, and people seemed very nice to each other.

As far as God goes, I believed in "God" just like I believed in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. And I don't say that to be condescending. I actually believed - with all my heart - in the existence of Santa Claus until I was, like, twelve years old - longer than I kept up a belief in God. The existence of Santa Claus, to my mind, was much "realer" than that of God. Santa was everywhere. He was at the mall. They made tons of movies about him. I left cookies and milk for him that were eaten the next day. He left presents. I was convinced that I heard him and his reindeer on the roof on many occasions.

But God? Well, I read my grandmother's copy of The Children's Bible from cover to cover. They had some seriously great stories in there. Really awesome. All that war and violence. I loved them. But then God would speak out of the air or decide a battle or something and I was like, "That doesn't happen to me." And then people would do things that God said, and I was like, "Wow, that would sure make life easier."

But God never told me what to do. Jesus wasn't really much in the discussion, so much as I remembered (most of the Bible stories I read were Old Testament). It was all about God, and God was kind of a mean guy, and he told people to do some really weird, contradictory things in order to prove their loyalty to him, like kill their own kids and have sex with their fathers, and after a while, I started to think he was kind of an asshole.

I remember having a conversation in, like the third grade with my buddy Matt. Matt's dad was a scientist. He did work with cross-breeding stawberry plants, which took him to places like Peru (he came to school and gave a slide show presentation of his time in Peru, the people, the poverty, the landscape. It made a deep impression. When he showed the slide of him and his guy buddies in some offroad Peruvian location, leaping up in the air behind their Toyota truck [riffing on a popular Toyota truck ad at the time] and said, "This is our version of a Toyota truck commericial," I was like, "I want to have a life like *that*."), and he was also deeply, deeply committed to Christianity. Matt's family were what I would term "real" Christians. They were nice to everybody. They practiced what they preached.

But one day Matt and I talked about the existence of God, which I was actually pretty dubious about by that point. I hadn't seen any God-like manifestations. I hadn't been struck down when I was bad. I thought it was more likely Santa would put coal in my stocking if I was bad than God strike me down. Seriously.

And he said, "I asked my dad last night, if God made the world, and Adam and Eve, and all of the animals, then why do we have dinosaur fossils that are older than people?"

"Yea," I said, "that seems kind of weird."

"Well," he said, "my dad said that God did that to sort of test the world before he made people. You know, to make sure everything worked. But the dinosaurs weren't really what he wanted, so he started over."

"Isn't that like saying that God made a mistake?" I said. "If God knew everything, why would he have to run an experiment?"

"Maybe God was a scientist," Matt said (or something to that effect).

What I love about these memories of my conversations with Matt are watching us (and especially him), trying to come to grips with the contradictions between acknowledged, provable "truth" about the way the world works, and how the world is supposed to work and be according to a set of beliefs. It's something I've watched many of my passionately faithful friends do for years.

One of my Mormon buddies recently met and befriended the first openly gay guy she'd ever encountered (in fact, she'd "met" many more gay men and likely a few lesbians and many, many bisexual women in the high school theater, but this was the first time somebody actually "admitted" and discussed their attractions with her). He was Mormon as well, and hearing her speak about him fascinated me. She had this sort of pained note in her voice, this truly confounded expression on her face.

"I just don't understand," she said. "He knows what he does is wrong. He knows it goes against God, it's wrong. But he's still that way. I just... I don't understand."

And my heart bled for her, and bled for him, and what I wanted to say to her was, "If he could change, don't you think he would? He knows that being loved and accepted means being attracted to women and not attracted to men. He knows that's the only way to be, to be loved. If he could change, he would. There's a generation of women and men growing up hating themselves. A generation of people who'd rather commit the `sin' of suicide than find an ounce of happiness is the arms of somebody they love and desire. Don't you think that's fucked up? Do you think that's what Jesus [I wasn't even going to ask about Smith] really wanted? Us hating ourselves and each other?"

Instead, to quell what would become a huge, awful debate, I said, "Well, your ideas and mine are very different about this issue."

How I came to have an issue with organized faith, and Christianity in particular, was being threatened and pressed to conversion by those I grew up with. The aforementioned Mormon and I have since come to terms: we respect each other's beliefs (well, I respect hers. I think she still secretly prays for me). But I grew up around a lot of self-righteous warring Christian-based groups of people. There was a huge group of Apostolic Lutherans, who all actually talked and looked alike because many of them married third and fourth cousins, and they shared about ten or twelve last names among them, and in their case, it was such an "in" crowd (literally) that they didn't really try to convert you so much as they just sort of looked down on you. They had a very comfortable path all set up for themselves. The boys apprenticed to those building companies (dry wall, carpentry - there was an emphasis on going into professions in which you used your hands, in which you built things. Desk jobs were frowned on) run by other men in the religion, and the women all got married between 16 and 20 (20 was considered old-maidish). They were pretty clear they were all going to heaven, and you weren't. Even if you "converted," you'd never actually be "one of them." You could pretend, but I didn't buy it.

I had another good friend who was a Jehovah's Witness, who didn't stand up to salute the flag or celebrate any holidays. She was pretty ambivalent about her religion, so she didn't try and press it on any of us one way or another. She got a lot of crap about it, so she didn't say much.

Then there was S., who, when my sister told her I'd shacked up with a boyfriend, apparently got a pale, wide-eyed, "She's going to hell," look on her face.

"But, what do you think happens when you die?" she once asked me.

"You just die," I said. "Like anything else. I've seen lots of dead things. I think we die just like them."

"You don't believe in a soul?"

"I don't know."

"Doesn't that make you sad?"

"Not really. It just means I have to live really well, cause this is probably all I'm going to get."

She gave me a very nice poem at one point about a soul cut free from the body who roamed the earth without taste, touch, or smell. It was a beautiful, haunting little poem, and I actually stuck it to my notebook. She was startled, as she'd given me the poem as a sort of joke. In fact, I quite liked it.

So I grew up being told that because I wasn't a Mormon, a Christian-whatever-denomination-she-was like S, a Jehovah's Witness, and because I didn't want to marry my third cousin, I was going to hell. After being told by so many different people about how I was going to hell for not being in their camp, I sort of gave up my comfy "agnostic" answer and decided I didn't believe in god, I believed in people. And I believed we were the only ones who could change things, look after each other, and make the world better.

I did pray a lot to God when I was younger, sort of like writing letters to Santa (again, I apologize if this analogy pisses people off, but honestly, these two were always very close in my mind). But unlike Santa, God never manifested himself, never gave me anything I wanted, never seemed to make things any easier. I had to stop waiting around for God to do things. When I hear people saying they talk to God, they ask God what to do, what I see them doing is what I do with myself: I talk to myself. I figure out what I want. What my body's telling me. What feels right.

I was watching an interview with Joseph Campbell about myths and religions, and he said that, what, somewhere, when he asked someone to explain to him why they bowed to one another when they should reserve such reverence for God (a Buddhist monk, maybe?), the person replied that they were, in fact, bowing to the god inside of that person. Bowing one's head was acknowledging that each person held a piece of God inside of them. It was a reminder that each person should be respected, should be acknowledged.

And that idea worked for me. Instead of running after a God who would put me in Heaven or Hell - who would bring me presents or coal - on the basis of some performance, and being driven by that Fear of God, instead what I should do is just be a good person. Is just be respectful to people. Be good. Be better. Help people.

Because if God is love, God is great, God is power, God is peace, God is destruction, God is good, God is bad, God is right, God is wrong... well, you can find all of those things in people, and in yourself.

What made me increasingly angry with organized religion, with many of the more militant sects of Christianity, was when I actually read the Bible. Not just the Old Testament, but the New Testament. And I realized that all of this "you're going to hell" hate-speech from all of these self-identified "Christians" was a load of crap. What would Jesus do? Probably not tell me I was a hideous whore condemned to the fires of hell. He'd probably be nice to everybody and tell them to love each other. You know, like he does in the Bible. I had a women's history teacher who said that Jesus was the first feminist to get his ideas set down in print where we could see them. And she would say that several times, "Jesus was the first feminist."

And if you look at Jesus as a historical figure, if you look at most of the stuff he's quoted as saying, it's really great stuff. It's "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." And that's to a group of guys who are about to stone a woman to death for adultery.

If Christians are really looking to follow the "teachings" of Christ, they'd be the ones putting out the Spongebog "tolerance" video. They'd be the ones arguing for gay rights. They'd be the first ones on your doorstep saying, "We don't believe women are property, and they have a divine, god-given right to control their own fertility."

And yes, I do know a lot of people of the Christian faith who do believe in love, and tolerance, and bringing people together. I think that if everybody was really acting as the "Jesus" in today's society, things would be a lot better off. We'd hate each other less. We'd work together more. There wouldn't be blue and red states. Just people. Just people who want to love each other, respect themselves, help each other.

Because that's what I saw in the New Testament. No, I don't believe there's an all-powerful creator out there with a big Sauron Eye fixed on me every time I masturbate, but I believe that for those who do believe, they should practice what they're reading, and interpret it themseleves instead of flocking around personalities like sheep. If you believe in love and tolerance, if you have faith in people, then you don't preach hate. You don't tell over half the people in the country that they've been born to act as chattle for the other half.

I do have a faith of my own, and it's based not on one book, or one experience, but on a whole slew of experiences, of twenty-five years of watching people, of listening to stories, of learning to listen to myself, of trying desperately to understand others.

And I believe people can be gorgeous. I believe they can be loved, and that they show a great capacity for love that is often bruised and twisted by those seeking to play power and dominance games. They're twisted up by old, narrowly interpreted books and preachers on pulpits who tell them they and their bodies and desires are awful, grotesque, terrible things. I believe people can be good. I believe they want to be loved. I believe not only in tolerance, but acceptance, because I'm adult enough to see that everything that these religions seek to destroy, all these things they hate, are more or less aspects of myself and of the people that I love.

And I do not believe that teaching others to hate themselves, that pitting Christian denominations and Christians vs. non-Christians against each other is a valuable way to spend the very, very short time we each get on this planet.

"Divide and conquer" is the surest battle strategy ever devised. It's how the US was able to defeat the Native Americans, and why they consigned them to such disparate "homelands." South Africa did the same thing, and it took 60 years of hard fighting to bring people together - a process which remains ongoing.

If you want to give up power to other people, to a wacko-freakshow on the other side of the ocean, what you'll do to yourself and the people around you is go to war with them, with yourself. You'll portion people up into Christians and non-Christians, red states and blue states, pro-choice and anti-choice, pro-human rights and anti-human rights. We'll call it "faith." "Values." We'll forget all about love, about looking for pieces of God in others. We'll forget that church is fun and social and faith is a profoundly personal experience, not a public one. That individual "values" and "beliefs" are for individuals, and to force those beliefs on others does a deep disservice to you both, because you have shown them you have no respect for who they are, for their experiences, for their bodies, for their lives. And you've assumed a higher place, a place of dominance, ascendence, in relation to that person.

And instead of wanting to be good, to be decent, to love, we just want to be right. Everybody wants to be in the camp that gets to portion out who goes to hell, and who goes to heaven. Who gets gifts, who gets coal.

When I finally let go of my belief in Santa, I realized that all those letters I wrote were letters I wrote to my parents. All those loving gifts I got were given to me by real people, the people in my life who loved me. And when I let go of Santa, and reindeer, and endless bags of presents, what I saw were parents who made Christmas magical sometimes on a shoestring budget, with late-night treks to overcrowded toy stores armed with overspent credit cards, against all odds, through exhaustion, working weekends, endless Christmas-Eve closing shifts.

When I drew back the gauze of presents, of Christmas tree, of reindeer, what was left was my family, the people in my life, this expression of human love.

And that, to me, is more magical, more awe-inspiring, more incredible, than God or Santa could ever be.

15 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

Anonymous said...

"It was all about God, and God was kind of a mean guy, and he told people to do some really weird, contradictory things in order to prove their loyalty to him, like kill their own kids and have sex with their fathers, and after a while, I started to think he was kind of an asshole."

Wow. That's one of the best summaries of the Old Testament God I've ever seen....

"After being told by so many different people about how I was going to hell for not being in their camp, I sort of gave up my comfy "agnostic" answer and decided I didn't believe in god, I believed in people. And I believed we were the only ones who could change things, look after each other, and make the world better."

Indeed. I think there are way too many people who put their faith in God, but have no "works". And truly, faith without works is empty...

"Bowing one's head was acknowledging that each person held a piece of God inside of them. It was a reminder that each person should be respected, should be acknowledged."

Yes, "Namaste" - "I recognize the other (or God, if you like) within you..."

"If Christians are really looking to follow the "teachings" of Christ, they'd be the ones putting out the Spongebog "tolerance" video. They'd be the ones arguing for gay rights. They'd be the first ones on your doorstep saying, "We don't believe women are property, and they have a divine, god-given right to control their own fertility.""

And many of them are, and do those things. Read John Aravosis' http://www.americablog.org/ - he's a Christian gay rights activist. Or kirstin at http://homegrowndaisy.us/ who is Christian and writes eloquently about women's rights. It's just that the quiet Christians don't get the publicity of the noisy bigots.

Campbell talks in "The Power of Myth" about a wonderful ceremony one tribe performs where the children are shown plays performed by the Gods. At a certain age, the older children get a separate ceremony, where the masks come off at the end and they find the "gods" are just their parents and other tribe members. The next year, they start to join in the ceremony and play the Gods themselves. It's a wonderful coming of age ritual.

We no longer have any good coming of age rituals, any place in our society where people are recognized as adults and shown the truth. We expect people to remain perpetual children, not responsible, not beholden to anyone else, just looking out for their own selfish interests and expecting Santa or God or whoever to take care of everything. They buy their SUVs and bigger and fancier houses and more toys searching for happiness, while others go hungry and live on the streets and struggle to pay their bills while working three jobs. Where is our responsibility to the tribe, to the group as a whole? The belief in God isn't saving our society - it's tearing it apart. And for that, these "Christians" have much to answer for.

Posted by donna

Anonymous said...

Nice post. I'm amazed repeatedly that you have the time and dedication to write so much. I really appreciate it.

Once again, there's so much going on in one of your posts that it's hard to not try to comment on everything. But I guess I'd just like to point out two things, one dealing with the 'larger' scope and one dealing with the 'smaller'.

In the larger scope of things, the whole idea that we can all get along if we just keep to the basics of loving each other and the like is all well and good, and I tend to agree with you in that if I were any kind of Christian, I'd put my emphasis on Christ. But it's very hard when you think that you ARE right, and you think you are right because GOD SAYS SO, to keep the view that others' feelings and faiths and thoughts might be as correct, or at least as valuable, as yours.

Which brings me to the 'smaller' point. When you say: "The aforementioned Mormon and I have since come to terms: we respect each other's beliefs (well, I respect hers. I think she still secretly prays for me)" it reminds me of the pendulum-swinging stages I've gone through regarding religion in my life. I used to be a Loud Atheist, and now I'm a quieter one, but I'm thinking of getting Loud again, and here's why: Your friend who continues to be a Mormon contributes, in as much as she is a Mormon, to sexism and homophobia (at least) in a way that I don't think people should. How is it that I respect their beliefs, then? I mean, I can respect the fact that we are all human beings, and we're all trying to figure things out that are pretty tough to figure out; but how can I go further than that? There are certainly exceptions to the rule that one should respect other's beliefs (I don't respect belief systems with think slavery is a good thing,for instance), and if anybody came to me with such beliefs, I'd let them know, loudly.

Sorry to vent so much, obviously, I'm struggling with finding a balance here... 

Posted by jp jeffrey

Anonymous said...

I've been going through my own re-evaluation and redefinition of spiritual beliefs (after having "come out" as a life-long agnostic to my militantly atheist family), and all I can say right now is: "very well said." Excellent post, Kameron. 

Posted by Lenka

Anonymous said...

Great stuff. I think our spiritual paths have some similarities. I know I have ended up rather like you in theat department, at any rate.

I went to Catholic school, too. :-\ 

Posted by Beverly

Anonymous said...

Another excellent post, Kameron. I love the way you think so hard about your views, and the way you come to understand how and why you think the way you do. And, you give plenty of good advice to the rest of us.

Donna, your point about respecting beliefs you hate caught my eye. Respect is different from acceptance or agreement. Obviously, there are beliefs we cannot accept, but if we're going to get anywhere in actually changing people's beliefs, we have to respect that these differences of opinion are not randomly chosen. The people who believe their religion cannot accept homosexuality will never allow the rest of us to do so unless we begin by acknowledging their right to interpret the world they way they do. We cannot acknowledge their right to make homosexuality a cultural taboo. We will fight any attempt to increase homophobia through laws, and in fact we will fight to decrease its effects.

I don't understand religion, despite being raised in a Lutheran church and school environment. Once I learned more about the world, it was obvious that Christianity was just old myths carried into modernity. But, obviously, religion plays a big role in the lives of many, many people. If we want to communicate with these people - and if we want to enact social change, we must - we have to respect their rights to believe as they do. 

Posted by Steve Pick

Anonymous said...

You sound a lot like our pastor. She gives great sermons. :) 

Posted by Patrick

Anonymous said...

Perhaps I should consider another profession?

.... nah. ;) 

Posted by Kameron Hurley

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I'm sure every liberal non-church-goer gets tired of hearing this, but Kameron, if you ever decide that you'd like to be a part of a religious community (you mention the social value of religious groups) you should look into a Unitarian Universalist church (www.uua.org). You'd fit in perfectly and find a lot of fellow-travelers who know they don't know the answers to everything, but find value in the search for answers. And, of course, preach love as the fundamental bedrock of religion. And respect for women (we had 1500 UUs at the March for Women's Lives in April), acceptance of gays and lesbians (my two pastors are a partnered gay man and a single lesbian) and a commitment to social justice.

Anyway, I know that church isn't for everyone, but if you're ever thinking about it, I'd encourage you to check it out. 

Posted by Maya

Anonymous said...

Ah, A. Lutheran marriage patterns, reminding me of the value of surname isonomy for genetic study. But not that uncommon work patterns in small communities of devout and marginal religious sects.

Me, I always enjoyed those huge billboard signs you can see along the highways& byways of the south by the 7th Day Adventists: 'Sunday worship is the mark of the Devil!'. Reminds you where you are. But the entire experience you describe sounds, well very Midwestern to me. Lots of different brethren all coming together to confuse enough folks about most everything. At best, they *can* be mostly low key about it though. In the South, they're always ready to rumble seemingly.

But thanks for the post, it was amusing. BTW: Joe Campbell was seriously confused himself about many of the myths he was promoting, and infamously so. But it did make for more entertaining TV, and that's the important part. Really smart guy, but he happily tended to smear all too many distinctions between his stories. Some saw this as the work of a great synthesizer, others as facile blandisments leading directly to the next idiocy of Robert Bly & co. But that's another story.

Posted by VJ

Anonymous said...

What's the secret to staying friends with devout Mormons? How can you reconcile, for instance, your pretty intense feminist views with people who follow a relgion that has as part of its cultural bedrock that women can't participate equally with men? 

Posted by jp jeffrey

Anonymous said...

JP: I can reconcile being friends with "a Mormon" because... well, she's not *only* a Mormon. She's also a person. She's my friend. I've known her since I was 14, and I see her as a person first, a Mormon second.

She uses her faith to try and understand the world, just as I use my own experiences and stories to try and understand the world. I don't agree with the conclusions she comes to, and she doesn't agree with mine, but I respect her continued efforts to understand people against all odds.

She does not subscribe to Mormonism because she hates black people or gay people or disrespects herself. In fact, she believes that her efforts to "convert" gay people are done in their best interests (you all really, really must see "Saved!"). She doesn't actively hate, or believe that her views are hateful. And she believes that the Mormon church is good for women, that it protects them from the worst of society's evils by teaching them to keep modestly covered and seek out an male appropriate partner who will provide for them.

However, my experiences with the world at large are far different from hers. She has been raised very closely within a particular faith, and has not gotten to the point where she can't reconcile her beliefs with her experiences. We see what we want to see.

In fact, as we get older, she and I have had less and less contact, mainly, I think, because of the "gay" issue. I've got far too many people in my life who I care far too much about to listen to even the occasional offhand remark about what depraved individuals they must be. I didn't mind knowing that she disagreed with my beliefs about pre-marital sex (it's good and fun. Find the right partner, be safe. Enjoy yourself), but when people start asking about "that gay friend" of mine, or "that lesbian" I get really pissed off.

Sexual attraction, like religion, does not make up the entire identity of a person. These things certainly shape their lives (being mostly hetero definately effects the way I see the world), but the fact that I want to fuck men does not encapsulate all that I am, and I find it increasingly offensive when somebody tries to slap a label on a friend of mine (or, me) and expects to get away with not acknowledging that there's more to them than the label, or the stereotype that may go with it.

So when I talk with my friend, though I use the "Mormon friend" shorthand here, I mainly think of her as she is: that strong, spirited, smart, bitchy, witty, ballroom-dancer, theater-teacher with a BA from BYU and a passionate desire to get married to a guy - just about any guy, at this point - and start up a God-blessed family.

Her faith effects her view of the world, but it doesn't make her... hateful. She's my friend. I grew up with her. And if I can understand her, and where she's coming from, I can make steps toward understanding others with similiar beliefs, and learning how to talk to them. 

Posted by Kameron Hurley

Anonymous said...


I didn't mean to essentialize your friend as only a Mormon, and I'm sorry for having come off that way. I have a lot of respect for your world view and the way you explain things--I wasn't trying to label your friend in a way that is unfair. I should have been more careful in my wording.

Of *course* she isn't only a Mormon--and it would have been much better if I had acknowledged that from the start. However, she can be all of the other things that you note, but she is still a Mormon, right? Just because she has other aspects to her personality doesn't allow one to ignore that aspect. One still has to weigh that aspect against all of the others--which it seems, in your discussion of the various parts of her beliefs, you are doing.

I guess part of what I'm trying to say has a lot more to do with me than it has to do with you, and I was just trying to get your take on it: There are people in my life that I like, but who are devoutly religious (or republican, or racist, or even all three!), and I struggle in my friendships with them. I was wondering if you struggle in a similar way, and how you deal with that. For me, I'm realizing that there are some 'deal breakers' along the lines that you seem to be leaning toward, reagarding your spending less time with her because of her comments about gay people (in the light of your friendships with some gay people).

You have given me an answer to all of that in your response, and I appreciate it.

Having said all of that, I have to respectfully disagree with some of what you have said. Certainly it is the case that "Sexual attraction, like religion, does not make up the entire identity of a person." No doubt about it. But one's religion, like one's sexual preferences, *can* make up a huge part of one's identity. Religion in particular, because it deals out Absolute Rights and Wrongs, must have a lot to do with one's identity. That one's religion doesn't make up one's whole identity doesn't mean that a person's religion, or even a person's object of sexual attraction choice (if it's a choice...) can't be fundamentally important, in some cases.

For instance, if somebody is attracted to, say, having sex with children, you probably wouldn't be friends with that person no matter how strong, smart, or witty she was. In that case, the 'sexual attraction' part of her personality is a deal breaker.

Now, of course I'm not saying that being religious is like being a pedophile; I'm pointing out that there are probably limits to the whole 'well, that's not her whole identity' way of thinking about people--certain facets of a person's identity might oughtweigh all others. I'm suggesting that for me, those limits might have something to do with a person's religion.

Why would I make religion a deal-breaker? The reason why I'm leaning that way lately is that I am lately once again seeing just how damaging religion can be (to women, to gay people, to lots of different groups). To women in particular, given that there are few religions of any influence (I know they exist, but they aren't particularly influential at the moment)which aren't sexist against women. I am suggesting that perhaps that fact might weigh more heavily on decisions about friendship than it seems to do for you. It's starting to for me.

One more thing I must disagree with you on. When you say that "She does not subscribe to Mormonism because she hates black people or gay people or disrespects herself. In fact, she believes that her efforts to "convert" gay people are done in their best interests," I think you're dodging at least one issue: Whether or not people ought to be part of a religion which is sexist, racist and homophobic or not. Whether or not she believes she is hateful doesn't fully dictate whether she *is* hateful or not. Her intentions count for something, but they don't count for everything. For example, anti-choice activists think that they are doing the right thing for women and for children, but they're not. That they think they are doing the right thing in no way excuses their beliefs--and would in no way encourage me to continue to be friends with one of them, if you see what I mean. I think sometimes people think that because a belief is a religious belief, that it gets some sort of automatic credit that other beliefs don't get.

The tone of your comment is sort of 'hey, I have my way and she has her way and we can come to common ground'--I'm asking if there are limits to that for you, and what are they...because I'm looking for help in defining my own limits, and discourse always helps in doing that.

I hope I've done better at explaining myself. I am intending to discuss, because I'm fascinated by this topic at the moment, having trouble with Uber-Republican family members. You are VERY good at discussing things. But I in no way want to offend you or your friend in the midst of the discussion. I'm sure I don't have to ask you to keep on me about that (and I'm sorry that I've made it so that you had to).  

Posted by jp jeffrey

Anonymous said...

JP - no need to apologize, I wasn't getting pissed, just trying to work through the issue for myself, as well.

I don't know that I have any better answer to what you're struggling with. It's something I concern myself with everyday. How do I support a world in which everyone has freedom to believe as they please, if those freedoms allow them to subjugate others?

It's not an easy debate.  

Posted by Kameron Hurley

Anonymous said...

JP - You have made a number of characterizations of others that are based on a system of thinking that might not even be aware to the perons to whom the characterizations apply. You point to religion as a deal breaker based on "just how damaging religion can be". I think there are many people who are not even aware of such issues (without affirming or denying your claim). Let me label it accidental ignorance. I am doing something that has some side effect of which I am not aware. The side effect is "bad". Does that make me bad? I think answering the question of badness would be easiser if 1) I were informed of the side-effect, 2) I agreed that side-effect was real and "bad" and 3) I continued anyway with the activity with that side effect. Without all that, issues are much more complicated. Billions of people are religious. That is simply to varied a group. Imagine you convince some of them that their view has some problem, would they give it all up? It might make more sense for them to spend some time thinking about their beliefs. In the end, the problem might not offset the benefit they get. You buy a coke after all. Does it have to be all or nothing? I have my demons, some of which, I predict I will never give up -- there would be an unacceptable loss in that "improvement". Hence, I have to keep the whole package, like a bill with no line-item veto. To turn it back on you, does ethics have the cost of excluding people? Does ethics mean isolating oneself to a group of like-mindedness?

(This is my first post, so I might have broken some form, and if so, my apology.) 

Posted by Kareem