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While riding on the bus here in DC recently, I've noticed another in a series of ad campaigns by atheist, agnostic, and non-theist groups.  The Freedom From Religion Foundation has been particularly persistent and prominent.  Their basic advertising technique displays a quotation advancing an anti-religious view from a series of important Americans throughout time.  They seek to best advance a basic message that religion and government have no part.  While I agree that a strict separation or wall between the two is necessary, I would not agree to remove moral teachings with a religious focus altogether from the process.  Real religion and spirituality, not its watered-down, adulterated, self-serving imitation is never plentiful.  

As we know, President Obama made his name on the national scene with an optimistic notion that there was much more that drew Americans together than separated them. This was called bipartisanship and nervously entertained for a time, before being soundly ridiculed for being pie-in-the-sky and unrealistic.  Its core message, however, stretches back centuries.

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.  Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free.  But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.  For the body does not consist of one member but of many.  If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.  And if the ear says, "I am not part of the body because I am not an eye," would that make it any less a part of the body?  If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

But now God has arranged the parts, every one of them, in the body according to his plan.  If all were a single member, where would the body be?  The eye can never say to the hand, "I don't need you."  The head can't say to the feet, "I don't need you."  In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary.

The solution has been with us for a long time.  The issue here is a simple, equally ancient problem involving an unequal distribution of power, resources, and money.  Hierarchies are a prime breeding ground for this setup.  From that aspect, I understand, at least in part, why Atheism, Agnosticism, Nontheism, or Anti-Religious stances are popular and attractive to some.  Having been justifiably wronged, some leave faith behind and make it a mission of sorts to prevent others from being wounded in the same way.  Our methods, bias, and personal experiences may differ, but each of us is trying to reach Heaven, be it literally or figuratively.  I believe in God, in no small part, because I want to bring to everyone the Peaceable Kingdom, where it is written that the lamb will lie down with the wolf.  

But even among the religious, there is no one understanding of what this Kingdom should look like, or even when it will come to pass.  Those who think otherwise are fooling themselves.  Among individual believers this constant, often unstated tension and sometimes open dissent is prevalent and common.  I will tactfully suggest that sometimes Non-Theist groups make blanket assumptions about all believers without examining the plentiful quantity of nuances and even sometimes bold faced contradictions within organized religion.  Fundamentalism's own ad campaign should not be believed.  They do not own faith exclusively, nor do they have any and all of the answers.  I am sure that if I examined Non-Theist groups, there would probably be the same splits, schisms, and factions present there, also.    

That which was expressed by Paul of Tarsus in the passage above requires much from each of us.  It was a demanding commandment in the First Century A.D. and it challenges us now.  If I am to apply the passage to more than just my faith community, I could never say to an Atheist, "I don't need you."  If all of us were a single member, where would the body be?  This goes for worship and for governance.  When the body we refer to is a deliberative one known as Congress, this seems to be a pretty common offense.  Still, if we are indeed the very same Americans in both the red states and the blue states, we are still citizens with civic responsibilities towards cooperation and community.  Even if one of us proclaimed to be not part of the American body for whatever reason, would that make him or her any less of one?  

What if I slightly modified a famous parable of Jesus?

"A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who both stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. By chance a Baptist minister was going down that way. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Catholic priest also, when he came to the place, and saw him, passed by on the other side.

But then a despised Muslim, as he traveled, came where he was. When he saw him, he was moved with compassion, came to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He set him on his own animal, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, and gave them to the host, and said to him, 'Take care of him. Whatever you spend beyond that, I will repay you when I return.' Now which of these three do you think seemed to be a neighbor to him who fell among the robbers?"

He said, "He who showed mercy on him."

Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

What if the one who showed him mercy was a Tea Party protester?  Or an Evangelical Christian?  Or held a strong pro-life stance?  Or was an anti-feminist?  

The original hero of this Parable was, of course, the Samaritan.  

Samaritans were hated by Jesus' target audience, the Jews, to such a degree that the Lawyer's phrase "He who had mercy on him" may indicate a reluctance to name the Samaritan.  The Samaritans in turn hated the Jews.  Tensions were particularly high in the early decades of the first century because Samaritans had desecrated the Jewish Temple at Passover with human bones.  

Democratic values, properly implemented, require radical love and inclusiveness.  These values may not need to be introduced with a particular verse of Scripture, but their moral under-girding is a historically religious manifestation of morality and ethical conduct.  The Founding Fathers may not have been especially religious people in a strict sense, but they were nevertheless influenced by the religion of their upbringing and the primarily Christian faith of their ancestors.  I'm not advocating for prayer in school, but I think it would instructive to examine how we got to this place.  Without understanding our past, it is impossible to put the present in its proper context.  And this exists well beyond religion.  We cannot eviscerate our past for any reason, because, if we do, we lose the ability to correctly shape the future.  Mistakes will be made, but if we have some guide along the way, they will be less destructive and easier to fix with time.            

Yet again, regardless of our identities, we ask ourselves again whether we are advanced enough to save not just ourselves, but others as well.  Some may say that Obama's words are still little more than an overly optimistic, albeit ingratiating campaign slogan.  One can be sure that bipartisanship will not be a message advanced in the 2012 campaign.  I see this as discouraging, but I still continue my own work.  Have we yet pushed aside our human selfishness to see that none of us is beyond saving and all of us have worth?  If we have not, what must we do next?  Until then, we will persuasively, collectively, present our ideas to the world, finding those who are receptive to what we believe, and also finding those who resist us.  If we are to succeed as we hope, I suppose it depends on how we interpret the word "body".  Some parts of the body that may seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary.            

Originally posted to cabaretic on Wed Jun 01, 2011 at 07:04 AM PDT.

Also republished by Street Prophets and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (18+ / 0-)

    I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I lead you in, some one else would lead you out. - Eugene Debs.

    by cabaretic on Wed Jun 01, 2011 at 07:04:57 AM PDT

  •  Thank you. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    vgranucci, Tookish, marykk, Matt Z, Happy Days

    The vision of all parts of one single body.  All necessary to make the cause work.  

    That is a voice of reason.  

    Peace, Hope, Faith, Love

    by mapamp on Wed Jun 01, 2011 at 07:26:43 AM PDT

  •  The more faith the less reason (7+ / 0-)

    has been the human experience for many thousands of years. Faith tends to diminish reason and reason tends to diminish faith. Men of faith are seldom men of reason and men of reason are seldom men of faith.
    (Please forgive my generic use of the words man and men.)

    Reasonable enlightened cultures tend toward secularism skepticism, science and reason, while backward oppressive cultures tend toward faith, religion, tradition, and superstition.

    The trends are obvious and undeniable.

    Those who defend faith ultimately end up attacking the validity and utility of reason and those who defend reason ultimately end up attacking faith and religion.

    So it is up to the religious to demonstrate that their is religion is not an affront to reason. If they can not or will not then there is no reason to consider their religion as anything but an obstacle to the progressive agenda for this nation and our world.

    God is the problem, not the solution.

    by Sam Wise Gingy on Wed Jun 01, 2011 at 12:51:42 PM PDT

  •  If we believe in different strokes for (7+ / 0-)

    different folks, and we believe in the value of other humans, how can we call everyone who disagrees with us idiots? Or evil? Or dangerous?


    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

    by blue aardvark on Wed Jun 01, 2011 at 12:57:03 PM PDT

    •  Yes, but (6+ / 0-)

      there is an element of self-deception in religion, a willful denial of obvious facts.  For example, it's pretty obvious that what you think and how you feel is dependent on the chemical balance of your brain, and any religion that tells you that you'll be thinking, or feeling, or anything else after you are dead is trying to sell you a product that it cannot deliver.

      Maybe everyone is guilty of some self-deception, but in American politics, religious self-deception is sometimes treated as a virtue when it is clearly a vice.  

      •  Some might say the atheist (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        snackdoodle, vgranucci, mapamp

        willfully denies the obvious reality of God.


        In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

        by blue aardvark on Wed Jun 01, 2011 at 01:36:34 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  My point was (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          gsenski, vgranucci, lockewasright, BYw

          the evidence against some beliefs that are central to many religions is not hard to find, though people do their best to overlook it.  (Sorry I didn't express it more clearly.)  I am unaware of any evidence of the reality of God.

          •  Eyewitness testimony (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            snackdoodle, vgranucci, mapamp

            Thousands upon millions say they have experienced God in some fashion.

            Carl Sagan used to speak of the invisible dragon in the garage to mock belief in God.

            Taking his analogy and running with it - a line consisting of billions of people are coming forward to tell you they have a scale from the dragon.

            Some are peasants with shiny rocks.
            Some are charlatans with fakes.
            And some are people of good character with a good understanding of the law of large numbers. These last are not so easily dismissed, and they still number in the tens of thousands.

            And how many actual dragon scales are required before there is a dragon in the garage? Exactly one.


            In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

            by blue aardvark on Wed Jun 01, 2011 at 02:44:15 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  As thousands have woken up in the morning (7+ / 0-)

              and found money under their pillow and known that it was from the tooth fairy. When the unexpected or unexplained occurs, especially if accompanied by unusual physical sensation, there is absolutely nothing that makes any unindoctrinated person claim to have seen or felt the presence of god, and, in fact, they do not so claim. The god explanation is taught and ingrained, a cultural phenomenon, like the easter bunny and tooth fairy.

              That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

              by enhydra lutris on Wed Jun 01, 2011 at 03:10:04 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Some people come to faith as adults (0+ / 0-)

                Calling all people of faith simple deceived children doesn't say anything good about you as a person.


                In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

                by blue aardvark on Thu Jun 02, 2011 at 05:55:26 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  That makes it better? (0+ / 0-)

                  To adopt willful ignorance as a functioning adult?  
                  Smell the coffee, the 'good people' are the atheists.  The non superstitious.  The non fear mongers with no false message of 'love.'
                  The non atheists?  Frauds.  Every last one of ya.

                •  That's an amazing bit of creative reading (0+ / 0-)

                  you did there. I'm saying that the idea of god, as the explanation of certain types of experiences is taught, a cultural phenomenon, just like the tooth fairy is taught. If our culture did not have the tooth fairy myth, kids wouldn't hit upon that explanation by themselves. If our culture did not have the god myth, people would not conjure it up to explain the unusual.

                  Claiming that I called all people of faith simple deceived children is a complete misrepresentation of wht I said, and I suspect that it was intentional, so that you could toss in that ad hominem, which you desperately need, since it is the only response you have.

                  That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

                  by enhydra lutris on Thu Jun 02, 2011 at 08:50:00 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

            •  And how many dragon scales are possesed? (5+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              gsenski, vgranucci, lockewasright, zedaker, BYw

              By all of the religions put together?  Exactly zero.  Look, either religion is the most important thing in the world or its a manifestation of stone age superstitions.  You would think in a couple of thousand years (large numbers) that several million people (large numbers)would have been able to show, one time, that "God did this".  It's never happened; never, ever, happened.  Hundreds of millions looking for scales for thousands of years and not a single one to show.  That's your law of large numbers for you.

            •  they may have experienced something (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              BYw

              but there is zero proof that that something was god or any supernatural effect.

              blink-- pale cold

              by zedaker on Wed Jun 01, 2011 at 07:03:44 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Except the experiences are inconsistent... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              BYw

              and their description is heavily laden with culturally variant interpretations. In particular, the experience of the impersonal oneness of being described in some traditions is just inconsistent with the experience of a personal relationship with a divine person or persons described in other religions. Sure the pluralist can try to interpret all these experiences as experiences "of God in some fashion", but in this regard they are in a boat with the naturalist. Both are in the business of interpreting others' experiences into pluralist/naturalist terms respectively.

              Passive renunciation is not the whole of wisdom.

              by play jurist on Wed Jun 01, 2011 at 07:43:21 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  Only folks with a poor grip on reality n/t (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          gsenski, vgranucci, BYw, crescentdave
        •  what's obvious about that? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          BYw

          seriously. exactly what is self-evident in your claim?

          blink-- pale cold

          by zedaker on Wed Jun 01, 2011 at 07:01:49 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  This isn't a "yes but" question (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        vgranucci
  •  asdf (6+ / 0-)
    Real religion and spirituality, not its watered-down, adulterated, self-serving imitation is never plentiful.  

    Because it is fictitious. The ideal religion has as much substance as the other ideals drifting about Plato's cave. The real religion is what each person themselves defines it to be, and historically, has been more often than not the mass acceptance of doctrines of hate and separation used to control and exploit people.  Pretending that some few handfuls of words in one book override all of recorded history doesn't change that, especially since they are so rarely acted upon or taken as the crux of the matter.

    I would not agree to remove moral teachings with a religious focus altogether from the process.

    Neither spirituality nor morality nor anything else but religion requires religion. If by the quoted passage you mean hanging morality on some religious hook, then it actually fails. If you cannot teach or support or argue a moral precept without relying upon falsehoods, then the underlying morality is questionable to start with, and, in the end, it isn';t supported because a false premise supports all conclusions identically and hence none well.

    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

    by enhydra lutris on Wed Jun 01, 2011 at 02:43:23 PM PDT

  •  I take my religion with a good dose of skepticism (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marykk, vgranucci, mapamp, houyhnhnm

    I am religious. Faith and reason can and should be the flip sides of the spiritual coin...

    "…don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering’ — then you should abandon them." -the Buddha, Kalama Sutra
    (Bold type mine)

    I am sympathetic with agnostics, atheists, etc. who hope for sane, reasonable world.  I'm also sympathetic to folks who embrace the richness of a spiritual life.

    I have no sympathy with fundamentalists, of any persuasion, who dictate that I have to adopt their brand of "my-way-or-the-highway," all or nothing thinking.  

    "The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid."- U.K. LeGuin

    by CajunMurph on Wed Jun 01, 2011 at 03:30:16 PM PDT

  •  Did you really just quote someone saying (0+ / 0-)

    that Jews were a part of the body of Christ?  That's a bunch of nonsense, Jews are not Christian.

    I refuse to represent my political beliefs using numbers. It isn't accurate, nor is it helpful. But I'm around a -10 on both scales.

    by AoT on Wed Jun 01, 2011 at 05:55:30 PM PDT

  •  This is why I tipped and rec'ed you (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mapamp
    If I am to apply the passage to more than just my faith community, I could never say to an Atheist, "I don't need you."  

    From a logic standpoint I don't see much to choose between theism and atheism. Existence is still absurd either way.

    From an experiential standpoint, I can only relate something that happened almost twenty years ago but which I remember as if it were yesterday.

    I was working a substitute teacher gig. Third graders who knew every trick in the book to make my day hell.  There was one ring-leader whom I found off-putting from the moment he walked into the classroom. He wasn't dressed like the other children.  He had on sharkskin trousers, a silk shirt, an adult hairstyle.  He was the mastermind behind every bit of mischief and meaness.

    I spent half an hour winding an LD kid back up every five minutes until I finally got him going on his own.  Little Mr. Lounge Lizard came over and said, "You're stupid," and shut the kid completely down.

    I had to freeze.  I was so angry, if I'd allowed myself to do or say anything it would have been something that cost me my job.  

    I stood there staring at the boy.  He stared back.  This little half pint eight-year-old was going to stare me down.

    All of a sudden, I felt a wave of pity.  "Poor little fellow," I thought, "You think you have to be a grownup man and you're just a little boy."

    He changed right in front of my eyes.  He turned into a sweet little boy.  No words were spoken between us, but from that moment on we were friends. He was my helper for the rest of the day.

    A theist would say that I experienced Grace.  An atheist would come up with a psychological explanation.

    I don't care who's right.  Whatever made it happen; I believe in that.

    Light is seen through a small hole.

    by houyhnhnm on Wed Jun 01, 2011 at 06:44:05 PM PDT

  •  asdf (0+ / 0-)
    Real religion and spirituality, not its watered-down, adulterated, self-serving imitation is never plentiful.
    And how do you determine what is real?
    I've kept the idea of judging people/organizations by their actions. That is why I oppose religions instead of just maintaining my own non belief.
    but each of us is trying to reach Heaven, be it literally or figuratively.

    No. Just no. I'm trying to make this a better world, but in no way am I thinking of a utopia/heaven.

    I agree with the premise that we need to work together. The difficulty lies in ignoring some of our prime motivations to promote common goals. I see a difference in caring about others because I've come the the conclusion that caring is beneficial to all. And what I often see as caring about others because it's been commanded by an authority. I consider doing good as a byproduct of obedience as a weaker good than doing good as a consequence of rational thought.

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