Saturday, November 20, 2004

Whither Rational Discourse? 

I’ve been holding back on this post, because I’m not sure it should be me making the case. As you will see, I have no answers. But it’s been a topic in comments, and we were talking over coffee this morning and it came up again when the waitress wrote “Jesus Loves You!! (smiley face) on our check. So…

See, the thing is, there are religions that aggressively proselytize and those that don’t. Evangelical Christianity is one that does; so does much of fundie Islam; history is rife with “convert or die” stories that we conveniently forget or throw into the dustbin of history. I could go on, but corrente readers already know this. The view that these religions put out is an absolute “us or them” message. Come around, join us, or die now, or die later and rot in hell, it’s all the same to them. Other sects, while not as aggressive, use the same tactics.

You all know this; you’ve all been approached by these folks with their “message.” Not so much Islam here in America, of course. But you’ve all been accosted by others. You can be sure that this is happening all over the world, as each fundie group tries to win the most converts. It’s a growth industry game, with the end being dominance of the belief market.

Other religions don’t proselytize but do say that “you ain’t one of us,” thus effectively cutting off dialog. Like the old bumper sticker: God said it; I believe it; that settles it.

Well, yeah. That settles it. Rational dialog has just been cut off a-borning.

And that’s the problem. Tolerance of this is tolerance of irrational thought. Tolerance of this is tolerance of intolerance. Tolerance of this approach—this world view—is tolerance of an absolute irrational end game.

Here in my neck of the woods, evangelical Christianity is making a shambles of Native culture—families are torn in two when someone converts, communities are divided. I’ll leave that discussion to someone on the inside. The same happens in all families and communities.

So, what’s to be done?

That’s where this story breaks down. We are stuck in this “us or them” cycle that is directly tied to these opposing world views, one that sees progress toward a sustainable and just future as the work of rational discussion and action, and one that sees progress as aiming toward a religious goal that will usher in a one god utopia.

There are, of course, those trapped in between. A painful place to be. Where we have neighbors and family who are not rational and we look at them like “are you nuts?” and they look at us like “do you want to go to hell?”

One story? The governor of New Mexico—seemingly a rational person—came out and renamed a highway there from the 666 to the 491, in order to “exorcise” it. Since then, 20 people have died on that highway because it’s a two lane, non-express piece of shit that carries major traffic through the largest Native nation in America. Please tell me how that’s rational?

What’s to be done? Are we to stare at each other in sad disbelief until one side or the other is victorious? Or are we a nation built on Enlightenment ideals? Readers? Help me out. I’ve been alive for awhile and am still at a loss. Bear in mind that armed revolution hasn't historically worked too well and I don't endorse it. FTF is a good slogan, but what's to be done?

Oh, and I wrote “Oh, yeah? Well, why doesn’t Jesus ever call, then?” on the check before I paid it. Childish, I know.

And if I don’t respond in comments it’s because the power went out again. Maybe if I pray hard enough it’ll come back on.

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