In dead earnest and with clearest awareness that nothing is gained by mere provocation, I would like to ask the religious absolutists a few questions. Speaking as an outsider to any sect that holds its positions on social and personal issues to be above challenge, I hope it would be understandable that the lack of reasonable answers stands between me and acceptance of the legislative agenda of such sects. Billboards and AM talk radio and the gentle coaxing of Pat Robertson have not reached me: I need answers to my questions if my mind is to change.
If god made up the words, who makes up the meanings?
Many of those words are in a dialect of Hebrew not spoken for 2000 years and known to pose numerous ambiguities and uncertain meanngs for modern, archaeologically informed translators so how on earth does one use a mideval English translation as authoritative?
Fierce and sometimes bloody claim is made by a dozen or so different sects that god made up different words for their flavor of the religion meme. This tells me much about people but what does this tell about god?
For those of you who think god hears your wishes and wants to win my stuborn heart and is so handy with the strong and weak nuclear forces that he can manipulate decay rates for unstable isotopes just to make it seem to scientists that the earth is billions of years old, I'd like you to take a chunk of granite and pray for it to appear on my Geiger counter to age from 2 billion years old to say 6 billion. I understand that up to 6 days are required for this to take place. No hurry. If god wants me to know he is in charge and I want to be sure his self appointed interpreters are not in charge, why can't this demonstration be arranged?
Among these words god gave you, even I know you have choices. You may emphasize harsh punishments, destruction of sinful cities, unnaturally narrow restrictions defining what behavior is natural and acceptable. Or you may emphasize tolerance and forgiveness. For instance, the old testament, with slight variations, admonishes "do not oppress the stranger who lives among you. Remember you were once strangers in the land of Pharoh" in thirty six different verses. No dictate of the decalog gets this kind of scriptural emphasis. Why then do you not emphasize tolerance of others?
That should do for now. I actually hate writing this. Most of the people I work with and grew up with are nominally Christian. Most of the people I study with are nominally Jewish. Most of them voted, perhaps reluctantly, for Kerry. Many of them honor the obligations they take with their measure of faith by being hopeful, helpful and often charitable but not by being in my face about litmus test issues. They make good neighbors, they seem to be good citizens. I am not afraid of them nor they of me.
Those sects which mean what they preach about forgiveness may forgive my confusion and curiostity and attempt to answer. If that answer leads to some point where they must say "this is something you just have to accept and believe to go on", thats OK, it may not be an answer for me but I will have to trust my judgement...I don't have anyone elses to use.
Those sects that permit the thought "well, god told them X but he told us Y" please talk among yourselves and get back to me when you have sorted it out. I do listen but not for long if its making me crazy.
To those sects which require of their adherents the thought that all are damned and dispensable who question or deviate from the meanings and words picked and put forth as the only reality, please put the gun down, back slowly away from us into your church and no one will get hurt.
[NOTE: I can go googling around for fundie blogs where my commenting can be deleted. I don't expect, being only in the PBA, to get many fundamentalist readers. Any one have suggestions about places to ask my questions where constructive or at least informative engagment is possible? ]