Friday, March 2, 2012

The Atheist Camel & The Christian Left: Strange Bedfellows?

I suppose the old saying is wrong - perhaps you can teach an old camel new tricks. Or if not tricks, at least get him to rethink his self proclaimed anti-theist label. That’s what happened to me when I was introduced to a liberal Christian Facebook group and a blogging minister both of which invoked in me what can best described as an epiphany (the non-religious definition thereof).

Right about here is where I can just about hear the gasps and panicked ejaculations (the non-sexual definition thereof) from my readers: “The camel’s gone Jesus Freak on us!”, “He’s lost his humpin mind!”, “Say it ain’t so!” Relax. Take a breath. Pour yourself a martini, and sit back. Stay with me, because what I’m about to share here may be as perspective changing and as welcomed a comfort to you as it was for me.

But, first let me reassure you that as it relates to those theists who want to control our lives, and force their beliefs on us and our government, or who kill in the name of their religion I will always be an anti-theist. Nothing has changed there. I have always said that it is the duty of every atheist/freethinker to, in some way large or small, stand against and counter the religious fanatic agenda. I also retain my contention that religion is, in and of itself, a source of reality avoidance that civilization would be better off without... even in it's benign forms.

What I want to tell you is that we are not alone. As atheists / freethinkers we are not the only ones waging the battle to keep the Wall of Separation between Church and State standing tall and unshaken. We are not the only voice in opposition to a Christian US theocracy, or against imposition of religious precepts into government or our personal lives. We aren’t the only ones who find the Christian right extremist threatening to our freedoms as secularists, thinking people, women, or gays. Our disgust at the religious right’s historical revisionism, “Christian Nation” rhetoric, and divinely inspired candidacies and wars is not exclusively ours. If you ever felt like it was just us against the Santorums, Perrys, Huckabees, Bachmanns, Dobsons, Glenn Becks, Hannitys, Limbaughs, et al you should be happy to know you were mistaken.

I was introduced by a fb friend* to a 13,000 strong member group entitled “Christians Tired of being Misrepresented.” Reading their posts and objectives it was clear that they share our concerns and are actively fighting the religious right. Oh sure, they still revert to bible quotes, and speak of Jesus as a god, but they see Jesus as a liberal, not a war mongering, gay hating, anti-abortion pontificating American national. Here’s an extract of a posting at random:

“Deeply rooted Biblical traditions denied women and slaves their equal rights, and that was wrong. We’re doing it again, this time with increased vigor. Knock it off Christians.

If you are not known for the love you give all others, you’ve missed the point of the relationship with Jesus. We make Him look bad, really bad and our image sure could do with a boost. If we were to actually reflect the Man who came for all, loved all and served all, we’d get it right, finally.

And, this equality thing, it is a Jesus value. People outside the church, sadly, seem to know this better than we do.”

Not something you’d expect to hear from the stereotypical Christian. Nor do they proselytize there, or condemn those of other or no beliefs. I was welcomed there as a fellow traveler in the fight to retain that which the Religious Right would take from us or force upon us.

On the same page I also stumbled across Rev. Guy Lynch who has his own page entitled “The Practical Christian” as well as his own radio program and blog. His fervent support for gay marriage, equality for of the sexes, the separation of church and state almost brought a tear to this old camel’s eye. I even made a small contribution to his ministry and have established a dialog with him. Other than Rev. Barry Lynn, the director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, I had no idea that men of the cloth like this existed, much less a whole movement of like minded Christians. There are other such groups with much larger memberships. “The Christian Left” page has over 50,000 members.

With all the news reports of the Christian Right’s outrageous antics and war on reason it’s easy to lose site of the fact that they do not represent all believers in this country. I need to be reminded from time to time that not all Christians are a fanatical threat; that there are reasoned people of faith who share our ideals in spite of their Christianity (or as they’d probably say because of their Christianity). We can all take some comfort in the fact that the moderate and liberal Christians DO see the threat we see, Do object to it, and ARE actively speaking out and voting against it.

The old Arabic saying “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” has never been more appropriate. To discover that tens of thousands of brothers in arms against the religious right are out there, and speaking up is a great relief to me. I don’t care one bit what their religious perspectives are. I’m proud to call them friend.

*{thanks to Cheryl Stone-Hamilton for opening my eyes to these new bedfellows}


NewEnglandBob said...

Thank you for this. Like you, I had no idea these people existed. I hope the knowledge of them gets out to a broad audience and their organizations grow at the expense and detriment of the Christian right. This information needs to be shouted from the rooftops in the atheist communities.

Just Wondering said...

I agree it's very nice to see fair-minded Christians like this. Unfortunately, it just seems like they are very rare.

I often peruse the Christian Post website to see what the evangelical crowd is focused on, and they certainly seem to have an obsession with homosexuality. Nearly every day there are multiple articles on the subject. When you read the comments, they are often so full of hatred and vitriol that I'm astounded they call themselves Christians.

Where is the "love of Christ" from those people? As a former fundie myself, I know I would have been embarrassed and disgraced by such people. Every now and then, you see a comment there from a loving, fair Christian that puts the others to shame. To me, those people seem so much more secure in their faith than the ones who run about screaming about the downfall of America due to gay marriage.

Hopefully over time, the "liberal" faction of Christianity will take over the fear-mongering, hate-filled crowd.

Doc Ellis said...

Greetings Bart

Shared on FB & G+

Thank you for writing this essay

Doc Ellis 124


flyz4free said...

Your Humpness....good to hear you champion reason in all it's forms even when it comes with a christian bite of belief without evidence. Not all sects of chritianity are the same obviously. My main beef with religion is when they insist on not obeying the law. These folks seem to have that concept well in hand. I applaud your acceptance of their rational points of view in conjunction with their christian religion. Personally I am surrounded by creationists and have not experienced this more reasoned pursuit of religious beliefs. Good for these folks.....and you.

David said...

I would agree that these Christians are out there and probably more common than you think. The surveys show that at least in my country most Christians complain about being misrepresented by the fundie Christian right and their gay hating video game censoring lobby groups. (The censorship of video games was a hot issue here in Australia recently that the Australian Christian Lobby got behind.) I just wish these liberal Christians would just speek up and be more vocal and put the fundies in their rightful place. And Just Wondering, if you're wondering why there are no gay friendly comments on the Christian Post: I have often defended the gay community on their website. My comments are always deleted.

Bob said...

you're sure to hear some shit for this but, then again to be a freethinker is just that; to be able to make your OWN mind up as to what YOU will accept. My sister is a Lutheran pastor in North Carolina. She would fit the definition of the xtian left. We get along pretty good by the way.... As always , Hump, a great read!!! Bob Kresse

Anonymous said...

I am just tired if Christianity.

Anonymous said...

Interesting! Before I buy in too strongly, I'd like to know their views on climate change and the whole rapture thing. Mitch

Dromedary Hump said...

Thanks for your comments all.

not asking you to "buy into" anything. Just letting readers know that it isn't the 10-15% population of freethinkers that is getting gay marriage passed, Santorum defeated, Rush Limbaugh to apologize, and keeping creationism out of science classes. ...etc., etc. We have Xtian partners who share social concerns and political values that many freethinkers embrace.

You must be psychic. I never expected it, but I have rec'd quite a bit of negativity from my facebook atheist friends.

Seems to some of them the pink photo on the article is all that's important and all they read. They figure these are former persecutors who owe gays more than an apology. They don't realize it's an apology from people who never persecuted gays, who vote for their full rights, but are apologizing for the acts of their brethren. I think I selected the wrong pic from google images to head up this blog, it diminishes the real message in my article.

Others said you can't trust them because they believe in a sky daddy. Others call them enablers of fundies. Others say they are no more than cherry picking Xtians just like the fundies and thus are unworthy of being an ally in the culture war. Others who simply dismiss them because they believe in god.

I understand the reaction... i too painted all religionists with the same brush. Some of my fb friends have been burned hard by religionists, so I understand their rabid reaction.

But I think maybe the right wing religionists aren't the only ones who are guilty of harboring long held preconceived notions. I know I was.

K.E. said...

As a liberal Christian, it's really nice to hear an atheist/freethinker acknowledge that we aren't ALL totally insane. :) We have to recognize and respect each other if we're going to stand together on important issues like LGBT rights, women's rights, and keeping religious extremism out of our government.

Mitch: I can't speak for all liberal Christians, just like a fundamentalist Christian can't speak for me. We're a big group with lots of varied personal beliefs, but I can tell you what my personal point of view is on climate change and the rapture.

Climate change: Real, happening, our fault. Global warming is a scientific phenomenon that has caused global temperature to spike sharply since the Industrial Revolution, and it's because of us. We need to make serious changes to the way we treat the earth if we expect it to be around for our grandchildren to live on. I thought Firefly was a brilliant TV series, but it doesn't sound like such a stellar future for my great-grandkids.

Rapture: My personal belief is that Jesus will come back and save humanity. This event might be what you call "the rapture." All that ever was and ever will be, will be reconciled to God, and His kingdom will finally come. I don't envision an apocalyptic scene out of Revelation happening, because I believe that John was using metaphor and imagery to speak to persecuted early Christians in Rome, he wasn't being literal. But yes, I do believe that the world as we know it will eventually end and Christ will reign. I'm sure that sounds crazy to you, and that's fine, we can respectfully agree to disagree.

Anyway, unnecessarily long post, but I'm just really thrilled to hear somebody outside of the Christian Left acknowledge that we exist and that we can be partners in making our country a better place for ALL people, period.

- K.E.

Reed Boyer said...

Thanks for this. I have a few atheist friends. We laugh together over the ridiculous aspects of "Christianity," and I try to explain the concept of "Jeffersonian Christinity" (devoid of all supernatural elements, only following "that stuff in red") being a philosophical ethical/moral approach to things. And there we find excellent points of agreement.

They also appreciate that "I believe in everything until disproven" is very much my basic M.O. and that absurdity rules my life with a whim of iron.

On the other hand, I've been struggling to confront anti-gay bigotry for three decades now, and it's incredibly frustrating to have to deal with verbal grenades from hostile anti-theist (as opposed to "atheist) "allies."

I'm hugely encouraged by the many dialogues that are emerging through social media.

Again, many thanks.

"The Rev." J. R. Boyer
(because anyone can become a "reverend" with one mouse-click, and that's how I roll with being able to marry people, thanks be to the U.S. Constitution).

Cherish said...

I found this post via the Christian Left FB page. I want to say thanks.

I'm an agnostic Quaker (kind of sounds funny, I know...though there are a few of us, but I could never understand the beef Christians have with atheists or atheists have with Christians. As far as I am concerned, who really cares as long as you have the same values? Getting concerned over what is going on in one's brain rather than what they're doing with themselves is simply an attempt at mind control or an indication of insecurity. Or both.

Ange'lee said...

Thank you, I am so glad that the Christian Left is finally getting out there. I am a member of them and appreciate this so much. We're not as rare as some would think, it's just hard to get a word in edgewise. We're here and we will not let the Christian Right take over. There are many many more of us, with all of us put together, than of them

If anyone is curious what other thoughts are, visit the FB page Christian Left.

Anonymous said...

To the other anonymous. . .Not all Christians are Creationists.

Dromedary Hump said...

Wow! A sudden flurry of Christian postings to this old article.

Thanks so much for your comments. They perfectly express/ reinforce what I've tried to get across in this column.

happy to have you as "brothers in arms" in keeping our gov't secular and peoples rights free of religious oppression.