Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Bad evangelism sucks, even if you're an atheist
good example of bad religion that it is deserves critique, especially since they brought it up.
This tract, found on a site called "The Oatmeal," is attractive, funny, edgy, in many way true and does exactly what it says it hates.
I get what the authors are saying, bad religion sucks. It is destructive and abusive.
But on the whole this strikes me at the atheist-existentialist version of a Chick Tract. It is attractive, amusing, and hard to put down. They are both theological and philosophical car-wrecks...you ought not to watch but you can't help it. The Oatmeal piece puts down all religion by taking a few truths about how religion is abused, draws broad generalized conclusions about all religion based on the obvious bad examples, and then tells the reader that they are a supremely unreasonable idiot if they continue to follow any religious or spiritual path.
All in all, this thing does for atheism exactly what they say is bad about religion. But instead of yelling for not following a crappy mis-interpretation of holy writ, it yells at you and calls you a jerk for actually believing something other than, well, nothing. And if you must believe in nothing, believe it with all your heart, without question and be disdainful of those who don't believe as you do.
In other words, this is the same sucky, dumbass evangelism that is mainly about making the believer feel good in the guise of wanting to "save" them (in this case, the author wants to "save" me from sucky religion...which apparently is any religion especially if it looks the least bit traditional).
Like many atheists (and religionists for that matter) they confuse the content of religion with the process of faith.
And the authors can pretend that the religion they present has no content, but it does. He or she is very clear in his/her belief that the only true faith is that all people are dying meat-sacks in a cosmic sh*t-hole." This is what we call a creed. In my mind this is not a very inviting one, but, it is a statement of faith as much as any. It is a faith that is packaged, sold and marketed (dare I say "evangelized" or "prosyltized" as any in any church).
We may have gothic buidlings and the Bible, yesterdays technology, but y'all use the technology at your disposal for the exact same purpose. Admit it: you want to save me from the sin of my faithfulness.
The author(s?) and I can agree one thing. Whatever you believe should make you and the world you live in better, not worse. If you don't want to suck at your religion (even if your religion is no-religion) it needs to be intentional, provide a healthy balance of inner and outer focus. It needs to help you transcend not reinforce your prejudices.
Healthy faith--whatever the content--is a process and requires both nurturing. It requires a balance of solitude and community.
Healthy faith challenges you to go deeper, expand--not contract--your world. Faith that is healthy gives a sense of meaning and purpose while also motivating you to leave the world a better place than how you found it. Healthy faith causes you to take responsibility for yourself and your world.
A healthy faith is dynamic and leans, by it's very nature, towards truth-telling. It will discomfort the comfortabable and reach out to the oppressed.
Also, good religion--even if your religion is atheism--should cause to one respect people who differ from us without calling them names or belittling either their journey and their choices. This clever tract succeeds by doing the very thing it decries but very attractively.