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View Diary: Liberal Protestantism has won? (166 comments)

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  •  I'd like to add something... (4+ / 0-)

    to your take on the interaction between the atheist/agnostic viewpoint and that of liberal Christianity. It goes back to something the diarist said at the very top of the diary.

    Mainline liberal Protestant Christianity is viewed with contempt by secular liberals as magical-thinking dupes who are irrelevant and ineffective and that explains our anemic numbers because smart people have finally caught on.
    As a life-long atheist who did not have a religious phase (my parents did that before me and saved me the trouble) but was exposed to a liberal denomination (United Methodist; again, my parents did this because they wanted me to understand the culture in which I would need to live) I have never held liberal Christians in contempt. That is an emotional category most atheists (even the New Atheists, of whom I am certainly one) save for fundamentalist Christians and their denial of demonstrable reality. We tend to view liberal Christians in much the way you do a beloved uncle who has a few odd ideas; you don't think badly of him, even though you'd like to talk him out of believing in his hobbyhorse.

    We know that liberal Christianity is not generally the cause of the harm that religion often does in the world. Indeed, it is often a force against that kind of harm because they do not share the ideas that move fundamentalists of all religions to act in harmful ways. When it comes to social action and positive change, we often join with liberal Christians to push forward those changes. While we do argue against any religion as promoting magical thinking, we also recognize that liberal sects have at least tried to confined this to the realm of religious thought rather than apply it to the world in general. It's still not a good thing, but it's only mildly dangerous as a mental habit when so confined.

    But we should also be careful in giving liberal Christianity too much credit. The modern secular world we now have is a product of many forces, only some of which can be attributed to Protestantism. Many other roots, from radical Catholic thinkers of the late Renaissance, through the rationalists of the Enlightenment and on to the revolutions of modern science and philosophy, have made as much or more of an impact on the formation of this secular world.

    What we really hope for, as atheists, is the success of one of the core attitudes of liberal Christianity: recognition of the personal nature of religion. This is usually expressed by the term 'tolerance' but that is a pale word for the concept. It is the idea that the secular world is the common ground of all and not a place for any religious concept to be imposed. Religion belongs to the person of faith as an internal matter, to be pursued for themselves as they see fit, in conjunction with those of like mind if they wish. If this were the nature of all religions, we wouldn't need activist atheism. For this reason alone, we all certainly hope that the liberal sects win out over their fundamentalist brethren.

    Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. Sun Tzu The Art of War

    by Stwriley on Tue Aug 20, 2013 at 06:38:06 AM PDT

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    •  Thoughtful and helpful. Thank you. (3+ / 0-)
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      Stwriley, pvasileff, Alice in Florida

      However, I would submit that one of the greatest differences between mainline liberal Protestants and "Evangelical" (Trademark) denominations is the view of individualism vs. communal/corporate-ism.  The importance of the individual is highly valued by both.  But the right-wingers are solely invested in the individual at the expense of the corporate.  Just listen to their music and you will here almost exclusive use of first person pronouns and mainline music uses almost exclusively third person pronouns.
      Also, mainliners tend to temper the individualist pursuit of promoting the self above all else.  That really irks most people because they do not want their opinions and comfort levels challenged but rather reinforced.  The Gospel stands opposed to rampant individualism.  Contrary to what some in this discussion have claimed, mainline liberal Protestants do not, in fact, claim that whatever is good is whatever you like (aka. relativism).  We also have the tendency to point the finger at ourselves when talking about sin rather than pointing it at others in dramatic counterpoint to right-wingers.

      Arguing with idiots is like playing chess with a pigeon. As good as I am, the bird is going to shit on the board and strut around like it won anyway. –jbou (2013)

      by Simul Iustus et Peccator on Tue Aug 20, 2013 at 07:59:23 AM PDT

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      •  "hear" not "here" Pardon the error. (1+ / 0-)
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        Arguing with idiots is like playing chess with a pigeon. As good as I am, the bird is going to shit on the board and strut around like it won anyway. –jbou (2013)

        by Simul Iustus et Peccator on Tue Aug 20, 2013 at 08:00:26 AM PDT

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      •  Of course there's a difference between (0+ / 0-)

        liberal Protestants and fundamentalists Protestants. The question is who reflects the texts more truly, and I say it's the fundies.   And as long as the liberals carry around the same set of texts as the fundamentals of their faith, they are tied at the hip  to the fundies.

        Another reason that liberal Protestants are different from fundies is that they buy into modern secular reasoning and fundies don't.   In my view the sooner liberal Protestants can drop the bible as something to be revered or respected in any way, the sooner I will view them less as hypocritical.

    •  this is a key component of mainline protestantism (3+ / 0-)
      What we really hope for, as atheists, is the success of one of the core attitudes of liberal Christianity: recognition of the personal nature of religion.
      i can only speak for the UCC, however. i believe that it is all about a personal relationship with Christ. my relationship may be different than the person sitting in the pew next to me on sunday but that isn't called out as a bad or negative thing. instead it is encouraged and applauded. we're all at different  places on a path.
    •  You have expressed my viewpoint better than I did. (2+ / 0-)

      I don't view believers with contempt, barring a few who merely seek to enrich themselves at the expense of others.  A trait not limited to the religious by any means.  My first concern is that governance in this country be secular.  Secondly, I would hope that non-theism be accorded the same respect as the various favors of theism.  

      Yes, it is the fundamentalist religions that do the most damage in the public sphere. Coexistence with liberal religions is not difficult by and large, and I certainly hope there is a resurgence of the focus on religion as an internal motivation rather than one to be imposed on others. Thank you for your thoughtful reply.

      "The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe it." Neil deGrasse Tyson

      by pvasileff on Tue Aug 20, 2013 at 11:25:42 AM PDT

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