We live in a country that has a very unique history of religious perspective. America began with a fundamentally religious background, the first English settlers founded the colonies in order to gain independence from European theocracy. This beginning has had many repercussions for our country, especially in forming opinions concerning religious rights. In particular, it has lead to a great deal of unearned respect and reverence for religious beliefs. Today we live in a country where people unfairly hide behind our country’s foundations of religious tolerance to promote ideas that do not make sense. We have to stop allowing this type of unwarranted religious respect to deter justifiable criticisms of religion.
Pointing out the contradictions and inadequacies of theology typically causes one of two reactions, anger or an appeal to ignorance. Being raised in a religious household, I understand the reticence that people have to asking questions about the specifics of personal religion. Any time a question comes up that is really important, the same answers are given time and time again on the basis of dogma. The most common response to a criticism of faith or doctrine is one of feigned disrespect. If you take the time to point out that a person’s religion is perhaps incompatible with reality or logic, they will immediately withdraw with well-rehearsed horror at your audacity and say, “who are you to question my faith?”
I can assure you after a great deal of experience in these discussions that the anger is very rarely sincere, if ever. It is all too common for zealots and mildly religious people alike to dismiss any type of objective criticism by turning arguments into emotional issues. Someone may commonly go out of their way to show you a new tattoo of a rosary or crucifix, but if you were to bring up the fact that body art is forbidden by the Bible they will most likely recoil in dread. “That is so disrespectful, why would you say that?” I don’t know, why would you not read the book that clearly means so much to you? In our culture it has become taboo to criticize the ridiculousness of religious beliefs, while there is also an infuriating double standard. The majority of people act based upon the incorrect assumption that religion can be used as an interchangeable justification for anything, which cannot be challenged. This deference to social politeness has become a real problem, and it is one of the main defenses that is used to unfairly support theology.
Another reply that is commonly parroted in response to the inconsistencies in modern Christianity is related to the mysteries of God. I can vividly recall asking questions about scriptural irregularities in my youth, only to be met with an argumentative cure-all. The response was always the same, “We do not understand the ways of God, it is not our place.” Not only does this obviously not respond to criticism, but it also serves as powerful deterrent from any future questions that might cause problems. We can look at the place of Christianity in today’s professional sports as a way of explaining this issue. If you were to prompt a professional football player with the inconsistencies between their ideology and the world, I can promise you that one of these two responses would follow. You would either hear them say that it is unkind to ask such questions about someone’s religious choice, or they would opine to you the mystery of their God. “Well I don’t know why God didn’t stop that woman from getting raped, but I sure as hell know I couldn’t have got that first down without him.” This response is, of course, built into Christian scripture itself, and is contradictory to an objective understanding of the world. I find it profoundly odd that people who are scientifically minded find no qualm with the unthinking mindset that is undeniably promoted by the Bible . Repeatedly the scriptures tell us that the world is a mysterious place, and that no matter what happens God always has a plan. This biblical message dissuades curiosity and understanding of the world, the two things that we need most for coming times.