06 March 2011


In a provocative essay, Phil Zuckerman explains the results of a recent poll which found that White Evangelical Christians are the group least likely to support politicians or policies that reflect the actual teachings of Jesus ....

"Jesus unambiguously preached mercy and forgiveness. These are supposed to be cardinal virtues in the Christian faith. And yet Evangelicals are the most supportive of the death penalty, draconian sentencing, punative punishment over rehabilitation, and the governmental use of torture.

"Jesus exhorted humans to be loving, peaceful, and non-violent. And yet Evangelicals are the group of Americans most supportive of of easy-access weaponry, little-to-no regulation of handgun ownership and semi-automatic gun ownership, not to mention the violent military invasion of various countries around the world.

"Jesus was very clear that the pursuit of wealth was inimical to the Kingdom of God, that the rich are to be condemned, and that to be a follower of Him means to give one's money to the poor. And yet Evangelicals are the most supportive of corporate greed and capitalistic excess, and they are the most opposed to institutional help to the nation's poor -- especially poor children. They hate anything that smacks of "socialism", even though it is essentially what their Savior preached. They despise food stamp programs, subsidies for schools, hospitals, job training -- anything that might dare to help out those in need. Even though helping out those in need was precisely what Jesus urged humans to do.

"In short, Evangelicals are that segment of American society which is the most pro-militaristic, pro-gun, and pro-corporate, while simultaneously claiming to be most ardent lovers of the Prince of Peace.

" .... a quick clarification. Evangelicals don't exactly hate Jesus. They do love him dearly, but not because of what he tried to teach to humanity. Rather, Evangelicals love Jesus for what he does for them. Through his magical grace, and by shedding his precious blood, Jesus saves Evangelicals from everlasting torture in hell, and guarantees them a premium, luxury villa in heaven. For this, and this only, they love him. They can't stop thanking him. And yet, as for Jesus himself -- his core values of peace, his core teachings of social justice, his core commandments of good will -- most Evangelicals seem to have nothing but disdain.

" .... there may very well simply be an underlying, all-too-human social-psychological process at root, one that probably plays itself out among all religious individuals: they see in their religion what they want to see, and deny or despise the rest. People look at the content of their religious tradition -- its teachings, its creeds, its prophets' proclamations -- and they basically pick and choose what suits their own secular outlook.

"Of course, conservative Americans have every right to support corporate greed, militarism, gun possession, and the death penalty, and to oppose welfare, food stamps, health care for those in need, etc. -- it is just strange and contradictory when they claim these positions as somehow 'Christian'. They aren't."

And there you have in microcosm the fundamental disconnect between people and religion. They believe what they want to believe, and take that mind-numbing leap of faith with no regard for wisdom, consistency, rationality or the actual content of their religion's teachings. Mark Twain in Letters from the Earth put it succinctly with regard to the Bible -- "It is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it, and some clever fables, and some blood-drenched history, and some good morals, and a wealth of obscenity, and upwards of a thousand lies."

Not to mention the morbid, macabre symbol of Christianity -- a man being tortured to death upon a cross -- or the cannibalistic injunction "This bread is my body, this wine is my blood, take, eat, and drink in remembrance of me." I'll take the refreshing intellectual honesty and integrity of atheism any day, though pantheism is an interesting alternative.

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