God They say that I have, in the modern terminology, a “case of the ass” when it comes to fundamentalists. That’s only partly true, though I admit, it probably ends up about the same place.

You see, I’m pretty much in the “live and let live” category, but the good folks who profess to believe in their decades old-idea that the bible should be selectively read quite literally, have a pesky habit of carrying their self-serving interpretation to the ballot box with them. This is where we part company, and I get out my pitch fork to do battle.

I personally don’t give the good side of a rat’s butt what you think about nearly anything actually. You may (and must if you are a true fundie) believe in a flat earth and I don’t care. Just don’t presume to make public policy decisions based upon your warped thinking and we’ll be fine.

But of course, you do, so we’re not, and it all gets ugly.

Most people agree with me.

You persist.

Why?

Because you claim that we will be lost if Christian morals aren’t a part of the mix in determining our national public policies. In that, as in most other things, you are wrong.

We don’t derive our moral positions only from some religion. That is a fallacy. Moral rectitude comes from lots of sources, and experience and historical recall are two great beginnings to a moral code independent of deity. It is convenient to deny this, but hardly honest.

Let me give an example.

Look at the Hebrew testament. What sticks out?

God, as portrayed seems a might vengeful  deity doesn’t he?

This God is upheld by the religious right evangelicals. God is vengeful right? After all, at the very start of the commandments, God appears to make it quite clear:

There shall be no other gods before me. 

Much of the “history” of Israel constitutes the wars and invasions necessary to make this clear. Israel claims the land of those who worship other gods. Israel ends this by sometimes destroying all the people associated with the cult of “other” gods.

The rightie-tighties view all this quite literally. God punishes and favors those who fight other gods and who cleave to Him alone. God is warrior. God is vengeance.

We understand this sort of god quite well don’t we? We are a warrior people, and a fair reading of human history suggests we have been warring almost from the start. We are like God.

It’s almost as if we forgot what came next in those commandments:

You shall not make a likeness or image of any sort to represent God. 

Does that possibly suggest to you that our human traits don’t really apply to God?

Where does that leave us?

With a better interpretation than a literal one.

Experts might suggest to you that the anonymous men and women (?) who wrote various pieces of the Hebrew testament might have something quite different in mind when they wrote than pure naked truth.

In fact, these may well have been teaching documents when “written”, designed for various purposes other than to provide a “manual written at God’s guidance” about what Christians must do. They may well have been nothing more than tools of persuasion for a “country” in formulation.

How best to justify our rather violent takeover of a region long inhabited by others? Blame it on the God you follow whom you would argue has proven himself more powerful than any other. Forget that your writing set out to deliberately establish that, using the jealous god theme as your basic defense to being called “invaders”.

Coalesce one’s followers around the theme of “being chosen” and “special” and only responding to a God who had proven to be powerful enough to destroy whole armies at will to those who were faithful.

Tell a common story to a people straggling along the roads and byways of roads that led from Babylon, the place of exile, to the “homeland” never seen for generations. This is how you build a “people” from refuges who have for generation lived with other gods and other cultural rights and wrongs.

A vengeful God becomes the one to point to. We didn’t kill all your village elders, God did. You see how easy that works?

You see how much sense it makes?

The bible becomes the reflection of how a society came to be, the methods used to coalesce its numbers and the code of conduct determined to work best in order to keep that common cause always foremost. It blames the nasty behaviors on God, and allows the rank and file peasant to “get along” with the indigenous population. This vengeful God thing becomes the perfect cover for violent overreach.

Those of us who see that, see everything else quite differently as a result. If we feel squeemish initially at other people’s choices in spouse we don’t look to give sanctuary to our lack of compassion in a few remarks made by a writer who had a far different agenda and describes practices unknown in our modern world. We deal with our own failings that lead to this feeling and correct it.

The truth is, we on the left side of religion understand one thing as paramount. God to us is love, and if love is served, nothing else much matters. If the relationships humans define as sacred to them are based on loving feelings, it is sanctioned by the God we believe in. All decisions, feelings, notions, actions, contemplations, are judged simply by this: does it favor love or cut against it?

This is a morality that while based on belief, serves as well without the god attached. It cuts in both directions. We can take as given that cross-culturally, all humans arrive at much the same place albeit through a myriad of paths. We all fairly collectively agree that ending a human life deliberately is not acceptable except in specific instances usually well-defined. Cultures world-wide develop some concept of the “golden rule”. A moral code which in general is much the same comes to be, over time, everywhere.

What does this mean?

To the atheist it means that we are evolutionarily programmed to arrive at a code of conduct independent of any god because it is evolutionarily useful in maintaining the species. Admonitions against killing make sense because they provide for the continuation of the species. It has zero to do with any god.

Believers of course see the whole thing differently. To the degree that all religions share major tenets of good behavior suggests that God places in each of us some germ that leads us to a moral code that is responsive to God’s offer of unconditional love.

One sees our shared ethics as proving there is no god and the other comes to the exact opposite conclusion.

Fundamentalists fall out of the mainstream for they don’t share either opinion. For them Christianity serves as a tool in their arsenal of self-esteem. God chose them. God sets out a strict list of rules to be followed to remain one of us, thus not them.  We are saved, they are not. There is always a scapegoat in the bible; someone to blame. I am always to proclaim my unworthiness, but no matter what I do in actuality, I am saved, and that’s all that matters. My bad acts are forgiven. They are still to blame.

It is not enough for a fundamentalist to live his or her life according to their interpretation. They insist that I must as well. But since I know them to be utterly wrong in their simple and self-serving interpretation, I can’t be happy about that. They don’t want to live peacefully, they want to force everyone to live as they dictate. And that we cannot allow.

That I will not allow. I will fight to the last to deny you that.

And somehow, I gotta believe, and I really do, that love is a much stronger emotion than hate. It will win simply because in the end it makes the most sense. And hate-based judgments will wither and die.

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