If you haven't read Mr. Nowicki's column yet, here it
"The aborting of Christmas"
To the editor ...
Well, I dunno.
There's a lot of sentiment there that I agree with, but in the main? The keepers of Christianity have been busy behind the lines hiding or minimizing every major transgression committed by their associates. I'm talking about what some of those keepers and associates did to children of various ages.
And then, I recall that while I was placed in various "settings" by my parents, my guardians tended to force me to worship in their way.
None of that worshiping was of my own volition; rather it was forced. I had absolutely no say in the matter. There was no love, no tenderness, no compassion, no reason to think that what was being foisted upon me was anything but yet another case of "brainwashing."
If you ask me, what's wrong with Western religion is probably what's wrong with a lot of other religions: The use of force, threats, and sometimes outright violence in order to obtain "believers."
About the only thing I ever really learned from my Catholic education was that if you ain't strong enough to stand up for yourself, then just shut up and keep your head down, and avoid the gaze of others.
If I had to pick just one reason for the failure of Christianity in the West, it would be just this: Duplicity.
December 23, 2004
Ronn Neff comments
Mr. Neff is senior editor of The Last Ditch.
The most important thing to ask about any religion is: Is what it says about the world true or false?
If what it says about the world is true, then it commands your intellectual loyalty. If it is false, then intellectual integrity condemns loyalty.
Mr. E.T.'s dissatisfaction, as expressed in this letter at least, takes no account of the truth or falsehood of Christianity whatever. He is merely dissatisfied with the hierarchy of the Church (or the churches, if you prefer) and the use of coercion by Christians. I submit that both of those considerations are a pretty poor basis for disbelief. (To be fair, Mr. E.T. does not claim to be an unbeliever, but I think one could be forgiven for inferring that he is.)
I have no idea whether there was any evidence offered to Mr. E.T. when he was being instructed in whatever faith his parents or guardians belonged to. But I think he goes too far in calling it coercion. Does he have similar beliefs about the multiplication table?
I was taught it by rote, and many in my class were punished (mildly, to be sure) when they failed to learn it. There was no compassion in the teaching of it; there was no tenderness. It was quite clear that we were expected to learn it (and other subjects) without being invited to exercise much intellectual independence.
And the fault here, I think, does not lie in my having attended a government school. Parents are responsible for instructing their children in all matters of life, and at first the higher critical faculties of the child are not engaged. All that comes later, as a young person emerges from childhood and approaches adulthood.
Mr. E.T. complains that his "guardians tended to force [him] to worship in their way," with the emphasis on the word "their." I would ask, "Whose way did he expect them to expose him to?"
I was raised in the Protestant tradition; today I am a Catholic. That is not because my grandparents took me to a variety of churches or instructed me in Shintoism. They attended church services at the same church for more than 40 years.
For that matter, I was never taught to speak a foreign language as a toddler. I was given only one language, and I do not regard anyone as narrow-minded for its having been the parochial language they themselves spoke.
When we are children, our parents give us the tools we use later in the service of intellectual independence. Some of them do a good job; some not so good. Perhaps Mr. E.T. would say that his own intellectual independence was never developed or encouraged. But he clearly was able to exercise something if he is so alienated from what he calls the "brainwashing" of his childhood.
We sometimes forget that we are to a large degree responsible for the development of our own character, intellectual independence included.
So when I read a letter such as Mr. E.T.'s, my reaction is to dismiss it and say, "Quit carping about the nuns or the Sunday School teachers of your childhood. You're an adult now. Study the faith as an adult. Discover whether what it has to say is true or false. Don't rely on what your parents taught you, and don't rely on what you think you learned from smug skeptics when you were a teenager or what you heard in college-dorm bull sessions. Settle down, give it some honest thought, and be prepared to give the undertaking some empirical investigation."
It's an important subject; treat it as such.
January 3, 2004
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