Of course I'm liberal, I believe in liberty.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

A letter to a Christian Fundamentalist

A few months ago my cousin Kim and I sent emails back and forth dealing with religion and the upcoming election. Kim is a born-again Christian Fundamentalist who moved to Texas to be with others who share her beliefs. I thought I'd share one of my letters.

I won't post her letter here, but I should point out she included two biblical quotes to support outlawing abortion and same-sex marriages:

Exodus 20:13  You shall not murder
Levitics18:22  Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman, that is detestable.

Here is my response:

I've been meaning to write you for months now but keep chickening out due to a deep inner conflict. On one hand I am deeply and extremely happy for you. For the past several years you have truly known peace, love and happiness; the power of faith cannot be denied, it is a wonderful and beautiful force. I never want you to lose that.

On the other hand, I believe this world is at war between the forces of religious fundamentalism and enlightened reason. Enlightened reason must win. It isn't a coincidence we refer to the last time religious fundamentalism ruled as the Dark Ages. Religious fundamentalists brought down the twin towers. Enlightened reason must, must win.

There need be no conflict between enlightened reason and religion. Many of the founding fathers were deeply religious, but they all believed in The Enlightenment, the base philosophy this country was founded on, the principle of open discourse that lead to democracy, capitalism and science. But they were not fundamentalists.

Even if the Bible is perfect, no human who reads it is. We decide which lines to emphasize. We interpret meaning. We humans decide what biblical laws should translate to modern laws and what should be left to the individual. We humans are very prone to cherry-picking those passages that agree with us.

Fundamentalism forgets those human fallacies and places absolute meaning on human interpretations, with no tolerance for disagreement or open discourse. Fundamentalism is the opposite of enlightened reason and at it's modern core is a backlash to [the] triumph of The Enlightenment and everything this country stands for.

Exodus 20:3 You shall have no other gods before me.
Leviticus 19:19 ... and you must not wear a garment made of two different kinds of fabric.

The Bible can easily be interpreted to outlaw other religions, mixed fabric garments, homosexuality and murder. We humans decide where to draw the line between rights of individuals who do not agree with us and what laws are best for society. Should all be forced to live by the laws of strict Islam, Buddhism or Christianity? Or should we only pass laws that prevent one individual from hurting or denying the freedom of another?

Well, I should stop now. I'm sorry if you find any of this offensive; I tried very, very hard to be both honest and sensitive to your views. I think I'll end with my favorite quote from the man who should have been running against Bush (if only he campaigned in Iowa!), General Wesley Clark:

“You will determine whether rage or reason guides the United States in the struggle to come. You will choose whether we are known for revenge or compassion. You will choose whether we, too, will kill in the name of God, or whether in His name, we can find a higher civilization and a better means of settling our differences."