A little piece in the “Faith and Reason” section of USA Today tries to report on attempts to reconcile various religions from a political perspective. One report indicates that of the 4 major Christian groups (comprising 75% of the country) – White Evangelicals, African-American Protestants, Mainline and Catholics – the majority in each group have a conciliatory approach to gay and lesbian issues.
The report found that majorities of four major religious groups favor laws protecting gay and lesbian people from job discrimination, and favor allowing gay and lesbian people to serve openly in the military. Majorities of mainline Protestants and Catholics support some form of legal relationship recognition (either same-sex marriage or civil unions), as do white evangelicals under the age of 35.
Aside from all those old white evangelical bastards with their well thumbed Bibles and their bookmarks in Leviticus, it seems like most humans try to poke through the stifling nature of religious teaching for some fresh air of …humanity. (And why should we be concerned about the old evangelicals anyway? Nature will take its course with them in the long run.) It must be difficult reconciling your beliefs, as set forth in your 3000 year old book, with your flesh and blood gay friends, relatives and acquaintances. That’s the true hallmark of morality – empathy, and when empathy with real people smacks you in the face, those dusty old beliefs must be hard to hang onto. Only 35 and older white Bible thumpers are able to resist, which probably explains their attraction to evangelicalism in the first place. It’s an attractive haven for those with innate bigotry.
But I digress.
This is not what struck me about this piece. It was a comment I read below the fold. The commenter said:
All religions pray to the same God.
To me, that’s the same thing as saying:
There is no god.
If all religions – Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Shinto, Pagan, ancient and modern, small cult and large mainline – all pray to the same god, what does that say about god? How badly did he fuck up in getting his message to his people, you know, the ones who all pray to him, about who he was and what he expects from us? How did we get such a variety of books, scriptures, treatises, apologetics, interpretations and forms of god spread throughout the world, all contradicting each other not just in minor ways, but in the big picture, if we’ve all been praying to the same god?
Implicit in this sentiment is the idea that all we need to do if put our little heads together, come to some agreement that we all believe in the same god, even though we have different names for him and different understandings about him, and all will be right with the world. Easy, eh?
Not so fast. Our old Theologian-in-Chief, George Bush, tried this back in 2007. The Old White Bastards were up in arms:
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, was quoted in the Baptist Press as saying the president “is simply mistaken.”
According to a Washington Post account, Land said in an interview: “We should always remember that he is commander in chief, not theologian in chief. The Bible is clear on this: The one and true god is Jehovah, and his only begotten son is Jesus Christ.“
The Rapture Ready crowd agreed:
You probably think you already know how I’m going to answer the question in the title of this article. But instead of answering that question with “no,” I thought of another way to arrive at the same point by saying, “Yes, all religions do pray to the same God.” This a true statement because there is no other God to hear our prayers, save the God of the Bible.
Then there is this.
So, if the smartest people in the various religions cannot agree on god, what does that say about him? All of the religions ascribe super-human powers to him, even though they don’t all agree on what they are and when and whether he actually uses them. But to listen to them, he at times is capable of doing anything by just thinking about it. His magical powers are limitless, and he has the ability to know everything and be everywhere at all times. So why can’t he show himself in some obvious way that makes his existence irrefutable, so that we can all simply agree that we are praying to the same god? And if he doesn’t, and in the meantime allows his adherents of different religions to fight and kill each other for the sole reason that they believe a different story about him than their counterparts do, I think it’s safe to say he doesn’t exist. One of the other attributes that most of these religions will ascribe to him is that he is the epitome of goodness. Would a perfectly good god allow us to fight over him?
That commenter needs to edit his comment to say:
We all pray to the same non-existent god.