Sunday, April 15, 2012

Can Religion Be Saved?

Stolen Aart
Wouldn’t It Be Nice?

We have to help them, our Christian brothers and sisters, we really do. They are in a precarious position. Their world is crumbling around them. Heathens are loose upon the fields. The End of Days is surely near.

Or not.

It’s not just Christianity, of course, the Enlightenment takes its aim at everyone. Science has fierce partisans and factions, but it has no sects. (About cults, we’re not so sure.) But my personal world is curiously devoid of Muslims, Jains, or Hindus and is mainly peppered with a few Jews and a slew of New Agers. My knowledge of religion is fairly restricted to Christianity, American style, and people who believe in homeopathy and aroma therapy. Those are the people I’d most like to help, but everyone else could use it, as well.
That being said, I have absolutely no idea how to go about helping them. The Christians. As the first rule of psychology has it (or possibly it’s the twelfth), one has to recognize the need for help before one is able to accept it. My read is that Christians, because of their continuing numerical dominance, aren’t yet aware they’re losing the fight for the heart and soul of the future. They’re still in the stage of denial.

So, what to do?

How about if we begin by removing religion from the political arena? Wouldn’t that be nice? Could we have freedom, not just of religion, but from religion? Wouldn’t that be nice? Is there any way for Christians to understand that there are ten thousand religions in the world; and that, if we base our morality on “God says so,” we’ll never come to any agreements? Wouldn’t that be nice?

What would happen if one Sunday morning every pastor in the land went before her or his congregation and said, “We are not a Christian nation, we are a nation of all faiths or lack thereof; we must learn to be Christians in a pluralistic world”? What if all the pastors told the truth?

Wouldn’t that be nice?

Well, you can see where that would lead: fornication and drug use, gluttony and sloth. The Four Horsemen would terrorize the nation. Communism!

No, the Christian community is not about to talk compromise. They’re in it for the long haul. They started out in little cells in the catacombs and they’re willing to retreat there if they have to. They’ll reluctantly talk to the Jews, they wouldn’t think of talking to a Muslim, and they have no idea what language the rest of the world speaks. That their world continues to fade, that peace, rationalism, acceptance, and atheism continue to grow, has yet to sink in. That their fate was sealed by the inevitable evolution of consciousness, passes their consciousness by. Helping them over that hump is going to be a big hurdle. It’s like trying to talk to a Cajun gone mad with a shotgun in his hand. You best be careful. Real careful.

But we gotta do it; it’s our duty. It’s the rational thing to do. It’s no point getting mad at them, and ridicule doesn’t help, at all. We have to find a way to open the dialogue. They aren’t going to do it; they have no cause to. They still think they have a chance at winning. It’s our job to save them from as much damage as possible, to find a way to let them down easy.

How about “Take a Christian to Lunch Day”? You don’t even have to worry about mixing milk with meat with Christians, they can eat anything. And drink, too. Don’t forget Jesus and the wine trick. You just can’t smoke with them; that’s with the Saracens.

Maybe we should start with comparative religion classes in the public schools. Teach religion as part of folk arts where it truly belongs. Heck, that could start in kindergarten. By high school, kids could be studying the role of religions in society and history. They could study the varieties of myths that underlie religions. Once we had a public educated about religions, then, maybe, we could have a national dialogue about the rightful place of religion, folk beliefs, and traditional cultures in our society. We, certainly, don’t want to lose the rich heritage of how the peoples of the world solved the mysteries of leaving the dream time. These beliefs, these longings, go back to before people were people; it would be a shame to dismiss them simply because of their naiveté. Losing them, we would lose the beauty of their allegory; we would lose the nuance of their experience.

We must save these religions, now, before they’re swamped by the flutter of tomorrow. Before they’re lost in the flight of new wings. Like folk music or quilt patterns, the varieties of religious experience must be preserved lest we forget one day that people once talked in tongues. Or fed the hungry. Or wore white robes with pointed hoods. It’s now that we should start talking with the preachers and priests who remain about what and how best to preserve their memory on the landscape of the stars. We should start now, while they still feel their power. Soon, it will be too late. Soon, the sweat and fog of panic will cloud their minds. We should start assuring them now that we will always love them, they will always find a place in our hearts and our community. We will remember them. We will not forget.