In the Beginning..."In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth"...and then quarrelsome humans created religion. Death and pestilence then did descend upon the earth.
-- Omnipotent Poobah
The briefest of CNN glimpses or shortest of WaPo articles shows the awesome power of religion. Even before the Romans tried to ethnically cleanse the Jews, religious wars had already riven mankind for centuries. Today, the deeply religious continue that inglorious tradition as Shia fight Sunni or a hundred other pairings pit religion against religion or sect against sect.
Oddly, many of these wars aren't even about who's God is most divine, but about who's mortal prophet preached the most charismatic dogma. So strong is the urge to fight that even progressive religions bog down under the crowns of thorns and heavy crosses of Wars on Christmas or whether "faggots" should be stoned.
The Meek and the Zealous
One could rightfully argue that religions have bestowed much compassion and comfort throughout history. Even amongst the wars wrought by their fellow sectarians, most rise above the hate and show the true light of their beliefs. There are many more adherents to these tenets than the tenets of their violent brethren, but the violent are better armed and infinitely and bloodily more persistent than the meek. It may be true that the meek shall inherit the earth, but that inheritance is a long time in coming and coupled with a horrific cost.
I consider these arguments this morning because my daughter - the child of an atheist and an agnostic - is going to church. We've always treated her with respect in matters of religion. From a very young age, we've answered her religious questions as truthfully as we could, absent as much bias as we could manage. Our parental belief is that she should chose her own path, armed with the best knowledge we can provide.
Off to Church
So, she's off this morning to the neighborhood mega-church accompanied by several friends. It's the cool church, the one with a band and gleeful singing and a minimum of sermonizing and prayer - light on the fire and brimstone, heavy on the fun. It's where many of her suburban friends go - a safe place where they socialize and escape their tumultuous teenage years for a few hours in relative comfort.
Despite her recent interest in religion, I suspect it's more curiosity than a religious awakening. She asks intelligent questions and weighs the responses with a maturity far beyond her 17 years. In the end, I'm not sure she'll be convinced of God or absorbed into a religion, but if she is, that's OK with me. She's a young adult and free to make her own choices - just as I did after spending years in the church before embracing atheism.
My only hope is that whatever path she chooses, she'll retain the calm rationality we've tried to teach. It serves no one if she falls into the trap of warring over theocratic technicalities. If she does, I'll feel as though I've lost the war. I'll still love her. I'll still support her. But, I'll feel like any parent sending a child off to war - anxious and worried for her safety. It doesn't much matter to me if she's in the military or becomes a militant. What will matter is how I failed to enlist her in one of the types of wars I can readily get behind - the war of rationality over ignorance and tolerance over intolerance.
And, that's just too important a war to lose.
Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Sunday, March 18, 2007