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Opinion

Opinion

Keeping faith, losing religion

August 4, 2010

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“Today, I quit being a Christian.”

With those words last week on Facebook, Anne Rice delivered a wake-up call for organized religion. The question is whether it will be recognized as such.

“I remain committed to Christ as always,” she wrote, “but not to being ‘Christian’ or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to ’belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.”

You will recall that the author, famed for her vampire novels, made a much publicized return to the Catholicism of her youth after years of calling herself an atheist. Now, years later, she says she hasn’t lost her faith, but she’s had it up to here with organized religion.

“In the name of Christ,” she wrote, “I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life.”

If that was not nearly enough for atheist observers, one of whom berated her online for refusing to completely give up her “superstitious delusions,” it was surely plenty for people of faith. But Rice is hardly the only one who feels as she does.

According to a 2008 study by Trinity College, religiosity is trending down sharply in this country. The American Religious Identification Survey, which polled over 54,000 American adults, found that the percentage who call themselves Christian has fallen by 10 since 1990 (from 86.2 percent to 76 percent) while the percentage of those who claim no religious affiliation has almost doubled (from 8.2 to 15) in the same span.

Small wonder atheist manifestos are doing brisk business at bookstores and Bill Maher’s skeptical “Religulous” finds an appreciative audience in theaters. Organized religion, Christianity in particular, is on the decline, and it has no one to blame but itself: It traded moral authority for political power.

To put that another way: The Christian Bible contains numerous exhortations to serve those who are wretched and poor, to anger slowly and forgive promptly, to walk through this life in humility and faith. The word “Republican” does not appear in the book. Not once.

Yet somehow in the last 30 years, people of faith were hustled and hoodwinked into regarding the GOP platform as a lost gospel. Somehow, low taxes for the wealthy and deregulation of industry became the very message of Christ. Somehow, hostility to science, gays, Muslims and immigrants became the very meaning of faith. And somehow Christianity became — or at least, came to seem — a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Party.

Consider that, after the election of 2004, a church in North Carolina made news for kicking out nine congregants because they committed the un-Christian act of ... voting for Democrat John Kerry.

Who can blame people for saying, If that’s faith, count me out. Has atheism ever had a better salesman than Jerry Falwell, blaming the Sept. 11 attacks on the ACLU or Pat Robertson laying Haiti’s earthquake off on an ancient curse?

But what of those who are not atheists? What of those who feel the blessed assurance that there is more to this existence than what we can see or empirically prove? What of those who seek a magnificent faith that commits and compels, and find churches offering only a shriveled faith that marginalizes and demeans?

Its response to those people, those “seekers,” will determine the future of organized religion. And it might behoove keepers of the faith to keep in mind the distinction Anne Rice drew in her farewell:

Christ didn’t fail her, she said. Christianity did.

— Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald. He chats with readers from noon to 1 p.m. CDT each Wednesday on www.MiamiHerald.com. lpitts@miamiherald.com

Comments

kernal 4 years, 4 months ago

While my pops was in the Marines and stationed overseas, his mainstream Protestant church sent him a letter dismissing him from the church because he had not attended services in a year. He never went back.

Middleman256 4 years, 4 months ago

It seems like organized religion has a knack for shooting itself in the foot. It drove me away decades ago, but yes, I still believe.

grammaddy 4 years, 4 months ago

Great article, as usual, Leonard. I'm with Anne Rice.And only God can judge me.

jafs 4 years, 4 months ago

And you as well, if He is really in the judgment business.

hungryhustler 4 years, 4 months ago

you're right jafs. I didn't mean to imply that I wouldn't be judged. my apologies. He will judge us all. Christians, "people of faith", athiests, muslims....we will all be judged by the same God.

Stuart Evans 4 years, 4 months ago

the term is atheists. and you won't find a single one of them that believes your angry, vengeful, god will judge us.

devobrun 4 years, 4 months ago

I think I'll twitter that I gave up Cheetos. They are orange. They are a quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group of orange. I've had it with them even though I love them so. The orange coloring could be reduced, but the rulers of the company refuse to limit the orange. So I'm done with them.

Will I be interviewed by the media? Will Pitts the lionhearted write articles about me?

Kirk Larson 4 years, 4 months ago

Maybe if you had written a multi-million dollar selling series of books read by thousands of people around the world such that some people actually cared what you thought...

parrothead8 4 years, 4 months ago

Spot on. The example of Christ is compelling, but the practice of Christianity in this country has, by and large, become a farcical circus.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 4 months ago

Cute, Devo, but it sounds suspiciously similar to a comment made by an NPR listener about their interview with Rice.

grammaddy 4 years, 4 months ago

Mayb you can cash in on the fact that the guy who inventd cheese doodles died this week, in NY, he was 90.

yourworstnightmare 4 years, 4 months ago

Infantile, facile reply, Devo. As expected from a christian creationist masking himself as a man of science.

Kirk Larson 4 years, 4 months ago

Whether or not god exists, ALL religions were created by man. All of them.

seriouscat 4 years, 4 months ago

"Yet somehow in the last 30 years, people of faith were hustled and hoodwinked into regarding the GOP platform as a lost gospel. Somehow, low taxes for the wealthy and deregulation of industry became the very message of Christ. Somehow, hostility to science, gays, Muslims and immigrants became the very meaning of faith. And somehow Christianity became — or at least, came to seem — a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Party."

We can thank Roe v Wade for that. Single issue pro-lifers have been the most loyal activist base the Republican party will ever squander.

Tex 4 years, 4 months ago

The truth of Christianity does not depend on the number of people who assent to that truth. Anne Rice's public break-up with her perception of Christianity (which bears the implication that whatever she chooses to believe at any given moment is an expression of "true" Christian belief) is adolescent behavior at best. It's akin to readers who are turned off by the Twilight series (never read one, just seen them in the stores) deciding all vampire stories are teen trash, and therefore refusing to read any of Ms. Rice's vampire books.

Cait McKnelly 4 years, 4 months ago

The truth of Christ does not depend on the number of people who assent to that truth. The truth of Christianity is an entirely different matter.

Stuart Evans 4 years, 4 months ago

which kind of christian are you? are you the tongue-talking, snake handlers. Or maybe you're more of a methodist, once a week kind of fellow. Maybe you're the catholic kind that actually worships sainted people more than jesus himself? I know.. you're a Westboro baptist..however I'm not entirely sure they aren't the snake handlers...

StirrrThePot 4 years, 4 months ago

Just for clarification, Catholics do not worship saints at all all, let alone "more than Jesus himself".

Stuart Evans 4 years, 4 months ago

really?..so there are no prayers going out to Mary, or Theresa, or any of the other couple hundred saints the church has laying around? and I'm trying desperately to find it; but I read an article some time back that showed Jesus as being several rungs down on the who to pray to list.

Tex 4 years, 4 months ago

I am a convert to Catholicism; I left the faith in college and returned about 25 years later. Your understanding, Mr/Ms Norml, of the Catholic faith, at least from what you say here, is flawed. Catholicism does not teach the worship of saints. We esteem them for different reasons, some for their teaching, some for the holy example they set by the way they lived and, in many cases, died. "Praying to the saints," for those who do not understand this aspect of Catholicism, is essentially the same as asking a friend who you believe to lead a holy life to pray for you. The teaching, and our belief, is that the saints are not only alive in the spirit, their souls are in the presence of God, and that makes their prayers effective. There are many atheists/agnostics who, on the subject of prayer, tend to bring up so-called "studies" that prove that prayer doesn't work. The only thing that such a study proves is that the researcher(s) have little or no understanding about how prayers are answered. And while we're on the topic of misunderstandings about the saints, the Church also does not teach the worship of statues, holy cards, medals of the saints, etc. They serve essentially the same purpose as family photos, in that they remind you of loved ones. That, at least, is my understanding.

Stuart Evans 4 years, 4 months ago

while the church may not "teach" the worship of statues, holy cards, saints, etc., they certainly allow it. Never before or since has there been a church with so much idolatry as that of the catholics. from the mary statues on dashboards to the outlandish cemetery gravestones; the entire thing is a worship of false idols. Not that I really mind, the original idol is non-existent, catholics have to put that faith somewhere.

This part was my favorite: "the researcher(s) have little or no understanding about how prayers are answered." Neither do you. And how dare "researcher(s)" come up with scientific data to back up their theories? I gotta wonder about the little children, lets say under the age of 10; the thousands that die every single day in anguish, from torment and abuse, and can't help but wonder..weren't any of them praying?

Tex 4 years, 4 months ago

The Church does not allow the worship of any created object: "The Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566) taught that idolatry is committed "by worshipping idols and images as God, or believing that they possess any divinity or virtue entitling them to our worship, by praying to, or reposing confidence in them" (374).Idolatry is a perversion of man’s innate religious sense. An idolater is someone who ‘transfers his indestructible notion of God to anything other than God’" (CCC 2114). A statue of Mary or St. Joseph is no more inherently idolatrous than a photo of your mother.

Since I don't know these Catholics who worship statues, medals, holy cards, perhaps you could inform them of the Church's teaching on this matter.

Scientific data to prove that prayers aren't answered? No such thing exists. The only thing a "study" of this nature might prove is what any person with even a passing familiarity of the Old or New Testament should know: you don't put God to the test. The point of my original statement is this: God is not a Coke machine. These "studies" are reducing God and prayer to that level. If you have children, you may have noticed that they often do not know what is best for them. They have desires, they have wants, they have needs, but in their limited understanding they may not know how those needs, etc. might best be fulfilled to their ultimate benefit. No earthly person knows what is best for someone else all the time; it can't be quantified in any research. Yes, people suffer, in great ways and small ways, day in and day out. You've suffered, I've suffered, but while suffering, great and small, may prove many things, but it does not mean there is no God.

Tex 4 years, 4 months ago

The Church does not allow the worship of any created object: "The Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566) taught that idolatry is committed "by worshipping idols and images as God, or believing that they possess any divinity or virtue entitling them to our worship, by praying to, or reposing confidence in them" (374).Idolatry is a perversion of man’s innate religious sense. An idolater is someone who ‘transfers his indestructible notion of God to anything other than God’" (CCC 2114). A statue of Mary or St. Joseph is no more inherently idolatrous than a photo of your mother.

Since I don't know these Catholics who worship statues, medals, holy cards, perhaps you could inform them of the Church's teaching on this matter.

Scientific data to prove that prayers aren't answered? No such thing exists. The only thing a "study" of this nature might prove is what any person with even a passing familiarity of the Old or New Testament should know: you don't put God to the test. The point of my original statement is this: God is not a Coke machine. These "studies" are reducing God and prayer to that level. If you have children, you may have noticed that they often do not know what is best for them. They have desires, they have wants, they have needs, but in their limited understanding they may not know how those needs, etc. might best be fulfilled to their ultimate benefit. No earthly person knows what is best for someone else all the time; it can't be quantified in any research. Yes, people suffer, in great ways and small ways, day in and day out. You've suffered, I've suffered, but while suffering, great and small, may prove many things, but it does not mean there is no God.

MyName 4 years, 4 months ago

Okay, I think the twilight author (Stephanie Meyer, who is a Mormon, IIRC) is different from Anne Rice (who was raised Catholic, then left, then came back).

And I don't think the author is arguing about the truth of the tenets of Christianity, but rather the stubborn politicization and the false righteousness of the people who are running the religion. In many ways, this is full circle from how the way Jesus described the people who were running Judaism (the Pharisees).

cato_the_elder 4 years, 4 months ago

The Religious Left (whose members include a number of prominent Lawrence clergy who sport the brand name "Social Justice") is often every bit as extreme and divisive as the Religious Right, and is equally committed to influencing politics in America.

tomatogrower 4 years, 4 months ago

And you and Glenn Beck would have been at the front of the line to cruxify Jesus, because he did not fit into your conservative views. He practiced and preached social justice, forgiveness, and he even threw the money changers out of the temple. I mean, they were just business men trying to make a living. Maybe Jesus was suffering from "class envy". How dare he tell people where and how they can make money. He wouldn't fit into the conservative mold very well, would he.

cato_the_elder 4 years, 4 months ago

Tomatohead, the word is "crucify," not "cruxify." Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple because of when and where they were doing it, not the fact that they were doing it. Jesus emphasized voluntary compassion for those less fortunate, with which many of us strongly agree, not forced government redistribution of wealth. In fact, the closest analogy in biblical times to people like you and Obama is the Roman tax collector.

Lindsey Buscher 4 years, 4 months ago

Wow. Just wow. Talk about your classic case of selective interpretation of one's religion to fit neatly into one's political beliefs.

voevoda 4 years, 4 months ago

Jesus advocated the redistribution of wealth as a requirement for salvation (Matthew 19:21-24):

21Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

22When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

 Jesus commanded that people pay their taxes (Matthew 17:24-27), even though they don't approve of the institution that is collecting them or who is required, or not required, to pay.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 4 months ago

By advocating helping the poor, Jesus was merely following the Jewish tradition of Tzadaka.

cato_the_elder 4 years, 4 months ago

Voevoda, Jesus never advocated the FORCED redistribution of wealth by government, which is exactly what I said earlier. Go buy a pair of reading glasses.

voevoda 4 years, 4 months ago

Cato_the_elder, "There are none so blind as those who refuse to see." Jesus never advocated the use of force, period. He told the rich man that he could not go to heaven if he kept his wealth instead of giving it to the poor. Jesus did not tell the rich man which method to use to distribute his property to the poor, whether directly, or through charitable organizations, or through government agency. Jesus' point, unequivocably, was that the rich must redistribute their wealth to the poor.

cato_the_elder 4 years, 4 months ago

Voevoda, you must know full well that virtually the only way one's property is ever distributed "through government agency" is by governmental force, i.e. legalized governmental coercion. Including the phrase "through government agency" in your most recent post is patently disingenuous. Again, however, the fact that Jesus taught that wealthy people had an obligation to care for the less fortunate has nothing whatsoever to do with forced governmental wealth redistribution schemes foisted on productive members of society by career politicians. As I previously implied, the closest biblical parallel in Jesus' time to present-day wealth redistributionists is the Roman Senate, which ordered its tax collectors to squeeze the last drop out of all citizens of Judea so that their wealth could be returned to Rome to further its own schemes. In the present day, liberal Democrat wealth redistributionists' schemes are directly designed to make as many Americans as possible beholden to government largesse so that they will vote for liberal Democrats and thus allow them to retain power. If you don't understand that, you're very naive.

voevoda 4 years, 4 months ago

Cato_the_elder, You reiterate the same point, and then you attack me personally. Now "naivete," before visual impairment. In previous exchanges, you accused me of sacrilege, and of collecting public assistance, and of not filing taxes. When you resort to that debating tactic, it's clear to everyone that you have run out of arguments.
"We cannot control the evil tongues of others, but a good life enables us to disregard them." Cato the elder, d. 149 B.C.E.

cato_the_elder 4 years, 4 months ago

Voevoda, "sacrilege?" "Collecting public assistance?" "Not filing taxes?" I never accused you of anything of the sort. Read my posts please - it's not that hard, and there are only two of them responsive to yours. I simply objected to the false notion that Jesus advocated the forced redistribution of wealth by government. A bit paranoid, are we?

voevoda 4 years, 4 months ago

You accused me of those things in posts on previous times, all within the past month. I have a good memory. Other regular readers of these forums do, too.
As for paranoia, cf. your repeated allegations that the modest attempts of the Obama administration to reform health insurance coverage represent some conspiracy to "redistribute wealth" in a way you have compared (inaccurately) to "Lenin" and "Marx" (see your posts earlier this month on this, too.

cato_the_elder 4 years, 4 months ago

Voevoda, "modest" attempts? A "modest" attempt to reform health insurance coverage would have entailed (1) prohibiting insurance companies from refusing to write insurance based on pre-existing conditions, and (2) simply agreeing to pay the costs of medical treatment incurred by those who truly can't afford it. Many of us would have supported such an effort. Seriously, how familiar are you with the ridiculously bloated increases in the size of the federal bureaucracy and the huge bureaucratic cost increases that Obamacare will entail? Have you studied it at all? If you value individual freedom, in a free society how can the federal government constitutionally require private citizens to purchase health insurance or pay a fine? Unless I receive Medicare (I do not), why should the federal government have a thing to do with telling me what kind of health care I can receive? Is it just that you don't care about individual freedom, which was the key concept on which this country was founded? As both you and the letter writer imply, whether you call Obamacare a "toehold" or "modest," it's absolutely clear, based on your prior posts, that what you and the letter writer really want is British-style socialized medicine. You, like Obama, are a committed hard leftist, and you, like Obama, are keenly jealous of those who have enjoyed financial success in the private sector and want to tax us until we drop. I would be extremely surprised to hear that Saul Alinsky is not one of your heroes.

As for comparing Obama to Marx and Lenin, the comparisons to both, albeit in different ways, are striking. In particular, Lenin was the ultimate "community organizer," as is Obama. I have engaged in that analysis, in greater depth, in earlier posts. "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." Marx said it. Lenin believed it. Obama believes it. Based on your prior posts, you clearly believe it. 'Nuff said.

voevoda 4 years, 4 months ago

Once again, you follow the same pattern, Cato_the_elder. You reiterate your position and then cast personal aspersions on whoever challenges you. Now "committed hard leftist" and "jealous" join your earlier "paranoid," "naive," visually impaired, taking welfare, not paying taxes, and sacrilegeous. You wouldn't have to resort to name-calling If you had real arguments, based in fact rather than the falsehoods right-wing pundits and politicians devised for their own self-aggrandizement.

cato_the_elder 4 years, 4 months ago

Wrong, Voevoda. You need to look in the mirror. You haven't responded to any of the questions I posed in my last response, have made no attempt whatsoever to refute anything I said, and have simply engaged in complaining about alleged "name-calling." The truth is that you can't refute the fact that Obamacare is wholly inconsistent with our Constitution. I've read every one of your posts since you signed on in late May of this year. You, like Obama (he's on tape in a previous interview in Chicago - even you can find it), don't like what the Constitution says about individual freedom, preferring instead to live in a dream world in which "social programs" grow on trees and financial success, rather than being rewarded, is punished through confiscatory taxation. I know you like a book.

bankboy119 4 years, 4 months ago

Voevoda,

Your claim that redistribution of wealth was a "requirement of salvation" is not at all correct.

If for no other reason than “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” –Ephesians 2:8,9

Also, Jesus says "Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" --John 14:6

There is no work that is "required" for someone to be saved.

Also, just because someone has money does not mean they are not Christian. Not everyone is called to sell all of their provisions. Jesus told this rich man to sell all of his possessions because he understood that the rich man loved his possessions and his money more than he loved Christ. In doing so, he had another "god" before God.

K_Verses_The_World 4 years, 4 months ago

You can laugh at salvation, you can play Olympic games You think that when you rest at last you’ll go back from where you came But you’ve picked up quite a story and you’ve changed since the womb What happened to the real you, you’ve been captured but by whom?

He’s the property of Jesus Resent him to the bone You got something better You’ve got a heart of stone

weeslicket 4 years, 4 months ago

WHAT? nothing about "essene"? c'mon cato, offer up something HELPFUL, like: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/essene (oh, wait. i forget. you prefer to spout about spelling issues, as distinct from language. my bad.)

cato_the_elder 4 years, 4 months ago

Weeslicket, good call. I was otherwise preoccupied.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 4 months ago

1 Timothy Chapter 6 [10] For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs.

That was the first thing that popped into my mind when I read your comment!

Stuart Evans 4 years, 4 months ago

actually the earliest uses of christianity were indeed created by the government for the exclusive purpose of herding the masses into compliance. and it still works today. Karl Rove is an atheist, and there's good reason to believe GWB wasn't being completely honest about his "faith"

Stuart Evans 4 years, 4 months ago

i should rephrase that. Karl Rove is a non-believer.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 4 years, 4 months ago

Wow, I thought I was the onlly one who felt this way! Cappy says it best "Whether or not (a) god exists, ALL religions were created by man. All of them."

I have embraced this little wisdom for many years. All "religious" dogma is the creation of very human beings, and much of it is aimed at elevating one group of "believers" above any others.

For many years I have cringed when some group has used the "Christian" label to enoble their undertakings. Most frightening are the "Christian" counselling groups, using vapid religious dogma to substitute for real mental and psychological dysfunctions and doing untold harm and damage with their iimaginary and false notions of "casting out devils" and "prayer" to cure very real and dangerous physical disorders. Many of the advocates of such religious fervor are as unbalanced as those they seek to help, witness the parents who allow their own childern to suffer from lack of medical treatment choosing instead "prayer" and other religious frauds. I know this will chap the backsides of many who think they know all about "God" and "Jesus", but I think that if Jesus were around today, he would be very upset at the extremes that some folks have exceeded to in His name. As Cappy stated, all the religious dogma and doctrines of today are the work of human beings that put on their pants (or whatever) one leg at a time and as human and fallible as any one of us.

And just in case you think I am an athiest, I am not. I believe there is a Divine Power of the Universe that is responsible for all creation. But I also believe that no human has the slightest notion as to the nature and substance of this Divine Power and that all who claim to have some sort of wisdom of this nature are liars.

Way to go, Leonard, you have hit the nail on the head!!!

whats_going_on 4 years, 4 months ago

This reminded me of last October, when we went to a haunted house in KC, this group of religious kids comes up and tries to convince us to pray because there are real demons inside the attraction, etc....and I'll mention, as they were also passing out Halloween candy (at 1 am)

Creeped me out more than the actual haunted house did.

yourworstnightmare 4 years, 4 months ago

Of course Rice is correct. However, why still believe in a superstition that is beyond human empirical observation?

Pitts writes: "What of those who feel the blessed assurance that there is more to this existence than what we can see or empirically prove?"

Sorry , Leonard, there is no more to existence than what we can empirically see and prove. Belief in the supernatural is just that. If one can believe in a mysterious sky god, what is stopping them from believing in the divine right of rulers and in all manner of fantasy? There is as much empirical evidence of the existence of the flying spaghetti monster as there is of the existence of divine christ.

Grow up and stop believing in fantasy.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 4 months ago

"there is no more to existence than what we can empirically see and prove."

Therefore, prior to 1905 the "Theory of Relativity" was fantasy.

yourworstnightmare 4 years, 4 months ago

Yep, but empirical data now support it. Humans have been looking for empirical evidence for the existence of divine christ for long time, and none has been found.

This is the difference between the theory of relativity and belief in the divine christ.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 4 months ago

If you're talking to a person with Jewish beliefs, talking about a "belief in the divine christ" is falling on deaf ears. There are many Jews who believe that something beyond understanding created something that scientists call "the big bang", and that resulted in the here and now.

And after that, The Supreme Being let His creation take its course.

And as for exactly how the "the big bang" happened, or exactly where the here and now came from, there is absolutely no evidence at all.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 4 months ago

"Yep, but empirical data now support it."

So it became real only after the fact? Who's to say how we will view all this in 10,000 years?

yourworstnightmare 4 years, 4 months ago

Lest you all think I am an atheist, I am not. I am an antitheist.

jaywalker 4 years, 4 months ago

This is a good column? Puhleeze. Let's base an opinion column on a 'former' atheist denouncing religion. Isn't that a little bit like David Duke, after a brief change of heart, sayin' he has little use for the NAACP anymore?

I do think organized religion has some serious pitfalls and hypocrisies, this was just an incredibly weak way to prop the argument up.

gatekeeper 4 years, 4 months ago

If you knew much about Anne Rice you would understand this. She wasn't always an atheist, went back to the church for many reasons and has left for many reasons. Go to her site and do a little reading. Anne Rice is an amazing woman.

gatekeeper 4 years, 4 months ago

She didn't just quit her church. She left organized religion totally.

Ricky_Vaughn 4 years, 4 months ago

I agree with this article 100%. I think Mr. Pitts jacked one out of the park with this one.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 4 months ago

The title of the article was misleading. It read: "Keeping faith, losing religion." Later, "Anne Rice delivered a wake-up call for organized religion."

I don't see why the word "religion" was used, instead it should have been "Christianity," since that was the only religion that was discussed.

The rest of us were left out. Oh well, it's better to be ignored than to be rounded up into camps and burned up in the ovens.

Kirk Larson 4 years, 4 months ago

Although, there are many among christian circles for whom Jesus does result in profit. Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart, and many others come to mind

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 4 months ago

I was at a Benny Hinn rock concert once! Never felt more Jewish in my life!

voevoda 4 years, 4 months ago

Christianity beganas a sect of Judaism. But the two religious communities parted ways about 1850 years ago. For most contemporary Jews, if a person believes in Jesus as the Messiah or as the Son of God, that person is a Christian, and not a member of the Jewish community (regardless of family background).

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 4 months ago

Very true. The core belief of Judaism is that there is a single God, and you cannot be Jewish if you believe that Jesus and the Holy Ghost were also God.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 4 months ago

No, the mashiah (Jewish saviour) is not considered to be divine.

If you believe in the trinity or accept Jesus Christ as your personal saviour you are simply not Jewish.

Sure, you can call yourself Jewish and consider yourself one if you want, but by following the same logic, I could call myself a Martian. But at a certain level, I will never be a Martian, no matter how firmly I believe that to be the case.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 4 months ago

My statement about the mashiah not being divine may not be what all Jews believe. I am not an expert on Jewish eschatology.

voevoda 4 years, 4 months ago

The Knesset sets laws about who is Jewish for the purpose of Israeli citizenship. In other countries, rabbinic councils decide (in disputed cases), based on their understanding of Jewish law as it has evolved over the centuries. According to some rabbinic councils, persons who were born Jewish but have adopted Christian beliefs are no longer Jews. According to other rabbinic councils, such persons are still Jews, but they are bad Jews, who have cut themselves off from the community.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 4 months ago

Not bad Jews, they are apostate Jews. The word "bad" has negative connotations, and being apostate is not necessarily bad.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 4 months ago

That is perhaps a valid claim. However, Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Orthodox Jews all consider Messianic Jews to be Christians.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 4 months ago

A rabbi can look someone up in the records to see if they're Jewish. It's not like Christianity where a declaration of faith is all that is required. Converts have to go through a period of study, have a hatafas dam bris if they're male, stand before a bet din, and go through a mikvah before they are considered to be Jewish. Then you are recognized as a member of the Jewish community, and a record is kept of your conversion.

Any claim that conversion to Judaism is not possible is simply wrong. Refer to the book of Ruth in the Old Testament or the Talmud for clarification on that matter. Or, discuss the matter with a rabbi if you are actually interested, there's no such thing as a Jewish missionary.

You are correct in that you aren't Jewish by birth if your mother wasn't Jewish, a conversion is then required.

Stuart Evans 4 years, 4 months ago

one reason is that nearly every christian is an atheist in regards to every other religion. and I'm sure that sentiment reciprocates. after all, there are like 3,500 different deities from throughout time, and you only believe in 1. I just believe in 1 less.

Abdu Omar 4 years, 4 months ago

I can see why someone would renounce their religion if their religious book was written by men and not God. I can see why our desire to inflate someone's real role by calling him "GOD" is compelling. But a religion that was sent to mankind by God him self, should be what we follow. For 2100 Years the Chrisitan churches have fought over the divinity of Jesus and they made him Christ and part of God. Did God agree with this? Simply, No. Otherwise He would have had Jesus say he was Part of God. Read your Bible and you will see. Not the fantasies dreamt up by Paul. He was looking to make Christianity to be like the Greek Paganism and he has mostly succeeded.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 4 months ago

"He was looking to make Christianity to be like the Greek Paganism and he has mostly succeeded."

Also, Christianity was remarkably adept at incorporating aspects of prior religions in order to appeal to the masses in ancient times. There are many "Christian" traditions that have NO scriptural basis whatsoever.

These are examples of celebrations that were borrowed from pagan religions in order to make Christianity more appealing:

Easter: celebrated with rabbits, the pagan symbol of fertility. celebrated with eggs, the pagan symbol of new life.

Christmas: celebrated during the pagan midwinter celebration. celebrated with evergreen, the pagan symbol of eternal life. celebrated with the pagan yule log that is to burn for twelve days. (hence the twelve days of Christmas)

All pure paganism. I'm certainly not an expert, but I think most of those traditions came from the Druids.

As Christianity spread throughout the ancient world, it aquired many aspects of then extant religions so as to make itself more appealing, since people did not want to give up their ancient traditions and holidays.

The Christian tradition of acquiring aspects of other religions was so successful that today, some people actually believe that those traditions have something to do with Christianity.

gatekeeper 4 years, 4 months ago

They basically stole everything from the pagan religions anywhere they spread Christianity. Easter = Oster (spring festival). Most pagans had winter solstice holidays. Mary is just the goddess Isis. Countries that have heavy Mary worship had pagans that worshipped female fertility gods and they had to have something to take the place to get the masses to be Christian.

Christians are clueless that most of their religion is taken from other religions. Check out Mithra. Even had their own Jesus.

Abdu Omar 4 years, 4 months ago

Christmas, the 25th of December was Constantine's Birth day. He approved the 4 books of the Bible if his birthday was used to celebrate Jesus' day and if Easter would coinside with the Rite of Spring and that is why Christians do not have a specific date for it. It is calculated like Ramadan is for Muslims and other holidays in Judaism. There was (is) a distinct war between Paulists and Unitarians about the divinity of Jesus and hence the word Chirst became the Paulists word for Jesus. I have read some of the books in the library that is more exacting about Jesus. Most of them are written by good theologians mostly Christian and Jew. There is more to Christianity than what is really practiced and if the average Christian knew more they would question their faith more. In My opinion religion is from God to mankind, not the other way around..

jayhawklawrence 4 years, 4 months ago

If you are committed to knowing Christ in a personal way and living each day with Christ, then I don't see any logic in saying that you are no longer a Christian or not connected to Christianity.

I simply think that Anne Rice may have a misunderstanding about what the walk is all about.

I think people are making too much of this just as they are making too much of Brett Favre right now.

The fact that Pitts would dedicate an entire column to this is a bit of a mystery to me.

Hudson Luce 4 years, 4 months ago

It's simply that Organized Christianity in its many forms is deeply inimical to those who have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Organized Christainity is more about monuments to ego, the immortal building funds, the profit-making church bookstores, the seminars, the workshops, the tours of the "Holy Land", and all of the other nonsense associated with Pharisaical Christianity. Organized Christianity covers up its gross abuse of people, ministers committing adultery with wives of parishioners, priests committing pederasty and being transferred to other parishes and their victims stonewalled by the Church hierarchy up to the Pope. Organized Christianity does not appeal to the meek or the poor in spirit; it's looking for cold, hard cash, as much of it as it can lay its hands on, to increase its tax-free property holdings and its tax-free "not-for-profit" business operations. It's all about success, and sales, and marketing. It's a great way to get absolutely filthy rich, and if Jesus Christ were to come back today, he'd recognize none of these people as his own - and they'd call the police on him, in an instant, and have him taken away to jail or to Osawatomie State Hospital for "observation". The only possible thing for Christians in relationship with Jesus Christ to do as regards Organized Christianity is to walk out of it, brushing the dirt off of their shoes as they walk out the door, as Anne Rice and many others have done.

ivalueamerica 4 years, 4 months ago

I think there is really a misunderstanding of language there, like the first moonwalk, one small step for man, one giant leap for mandkind does not really make sense, but we know the meaning.

I think she should have said that she still beleives in God, just not the organized church. I think, however, most people who actually followed this story and did not rely on the headlines to give the whole picture realize that was her point.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 4 months ago

That might be true of some religions, I certainly am not a scholar on religion. But the Jewish people are usually very literate, since education is considered to be very important in Jewish culture.

To counter your point, the Jewish religion has managed to survive for thousands of years. In fact, it's one of the oldest surviving religions on the face of the Earth.

A few weeks ago I heard a sermon discussing miracles at the Reform Jewish Temple in Topeka. The topic of the rabbi's sermon was, Did the miracles described in the Bible actually occur?

No. But you are free to believe they did, if you want.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 4 months ago

P.S. That is the Reform Jewish point of view. Other sects have different points of view.

Stuart Evans 4 years, 4 months ago

I have the damnedest time understanding how intelligent scholarly people can continue to believe in these ancient fairy tales. Does it just take a certain level of ignoring facts and accepting those terms?

voevoda 4 years, 4 months ago

Many intelligent scholarly people see the same sorts of truths in ancient myths that intelligent scholarly people see in works of fiction. That is, they illustrate the human condition and impart abiding values.

Stuart Evans 4 years, 4 months ago

the sort of truths that intelligent scholarly people see in fiction are still fiction. and the people who write the fiction (and most of them who read it), know that it's fiction. But that's not the case with holy texts about ancient myth. for some reason, people sell out all their factual knowledge of the real world/universe so that they can lead this fantasy life of gods, angels & demons.

ooops, gotta go, Orbital Teapot is making it's appearance in 20 minutes from behind the sun and I have to sacrifice 12 goats and a blond child. it's Teapot's way, don't question it!

gatekeeper 4 years, 4 months ago

Most Christians have never sat down and read the entire Bible, front to back. They were taught the stories from the Bible, many embellished, but are really clueless about the entire book. They may go to church, listen to the sermons, but have no real grasp of the book.

I was brought up in a strict religious household, parents were heavily involved with the church. We did read the Bible on Sundays after church. When I was 8, I started questioning some parts of the Bible (mainly Genesis). I left the church when I was 13 (parents finally realized I was not a believer and let me be). I have read the Bible as an adult (just read Genesis again a week ago). I love ancient history and study a lot of ancient texts and religions. What you are taught in church is not all that is in that book.

A lot of people wouldn't be religious if they actually read all of the text.

Cait McKnelly 4 years, 4 months ago

Actually, I have. More than once. The Old Testament is full of gore, sex, dishonesty and murder along with a bunch of pagan laws about slavery and who can sell whom, keeping away from menstruating women and not eating this and eating that and when and where you can eat it. The Gospels are beautiful. They portray Christ as a gentle, transcendent, caring, communistic (in a microcosmic way) man willing to martyr himself for his beliefs and save the people who believed him. Following that is a bunch of trash from a misogynistic, bitter man who changed his name to Paul and who never saw Christ in his life except in the throes of a Grand mal seizure. Yet he managed to con the early church into becoming the twisted, hate filled, violent and virulent religion it's devolved into today. There is a song about a three thousand year old yew tree in Scotland. One of the verses is this (speaking of the tree itself): "Did you no think to tell when John Knox himself Preached under your branches so black To the poor common folk who would lift up the yolk Of the Bishops and priests from their backs. But you knew the bargain he sold them And freedom was only one part For the price of their souls was a gospel so cold It would freeze up the joy in their hearts."

Chris Golledge 4 years, 4 months ago

Not that long ago there were fervent Christians who did not believe that Christ was divine. In a struggle that appears entirely human (not divine), they were squashed. In competition with other faiths, a divine Christ was more marketable.

Though, you might find some resurgence in recent times.

Stuart Evans 4 years, 4 months ago

Anne Rice was a confused agnostic. I'm happy to see her shed the cinder block of religion, at least now she has a better opportunity to swim to the surface and really breath some knowledge.

I recommend anyone who is unsure or has a lot of doubts to watch Zeitgeist (at least the first portion); as it explains in very good detail where the idea of god and jesus (and so many more) came from.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHiuaGJ46zo

gatekeeper 4 years, 4 months ago

I just wish she'd finish the vampire, witches and mummy stories. I've been going nuts since she started only writing about Jesus. I want my Mayfair witches and Lestat!

StirrrThePot 4 years, 4 months ago

"Somehow, hostility to science, gays, Muslims and immigrants became the very meaning of faith."

They forgot to add "other Christians"...I've seen just as much hostility from "Christians" of certain denominations toward other Christians who do not practice the faith like they do.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 4 months ago

Jews: 12 to 18 million. Certainly not the winner in the popularity contest!

But if you're going to chose a religion based upon its popularity, you're not being very sincere.

Mike Ford 4 years, 4 months ago

I go to church to sing hymns in many different indigenous languages and have religious materials in my language because my tribe was one of the very few tribal nations that benefitted from christian involvement in the 19th century. I have a sense of honoring my fellow person and being a giving charitable person but this action comes from me as a person and has little to do with christianity which has become little more than a tool of political identity and a reason to try and exterminate one another in this world.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 4 years, 4 months ago

AreUNorml has stated "I have the damnedest time understanding how intelligent scholarly people can continue to believe in these ancient fairy tales. Does it just take a certain level of ignoring facts and accepting those terms?" The response to this is worth noting.

However, There are people who are terminally ignorant who only know how to "lean" on religious dogma. Just try to convince someone who fervantly believes that the Earth is only 2000 years old that the recent findings of evidence of human ancestors is over a million years old. They will unerringly quote you "scripture" as if it were fact and history. They have been brainwashed by clergy anxious to fill their collection plates that the Bible verses are literally correct, something that educated and intelligent folks can easily dispute (well, most of them). Many fail to recognize the difference between religious doctrine, which is contained in the Bible, and scientific fact and hostory. There are some clergy that will rail and rant against "science" and "psychology" as tools of their imaginary "devil"

The truth and civility and humanity presented in the verses of the Holy Bible is very much neeeded in a civilized society. But I do not believe it was ever the goal of Jesus Christ to pit one "denomination" against another, that we need to choose up sides and assert to one another that "My god can kick the crap out of your god". Or that intelligent science and education of the mind is somehow irrelevant to the "sacred verses" of the Holy Bible.

Stuart Evans 4 years, 4 months ago

I don't believe that humanity needs the book of the Holy Bible to lead a societal life. Morality; right and wrong, are ingrained within us as humans. This is an evolved and learned trait. It has always been the charlatans who were able to convince a group of people of something that was not. The stories of the bible have been around for thousands of years before anyone devised this latest rendition, and it will be rewritten dozens more times. Perhaps somewhere down the line, someone will rewrite the stories as originally intended; a worship of the sun and the life that it brings. nothing more.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 4 months ago

I think someone beat you to it.

Genesis chapter 1 [1] In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. [2] The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. [3] And God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. [4] And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. [5] God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

Stuart Evans 4 years, 4 months ago

merely words, written by man to explain a sunrise. poetic prose.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 4 months ago

Brigham Young University is associated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons), which takes a very literalistic view of the Creation. It took 6,000 years to create the Earth and Man, then God rested for 1,000 years, and they have the scriptures to prove it.

And, BYU has an excellent paleontology department!

Stuart Evans 4 years, 4 months ago

BYU paleontoloy...LOL>

"Dr. Jensen provided the answer. "We know why the Earth was created," he said, "we just don't know how."

Such intellectual curiosity continues to fuel the museum's ongoing work, Brother Scheetz said. Even visitors who can't tell a brontosaurus from a triceratops will likely appreciate the Divine's hand in their creation."

While they have a massive collection of dinosaurs, they still believe an invisible man planted them at varying depths; and really want to know why he did that. The best part; if they'd just remove the 6 days of creation, and look at the record logically, they'd know a lot more.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 4 months ago

"it will be rewritten dozens more times."

Simply put, no. At least, not by the Jews.

The Jewish people have kept the Tanach in the Leshon Ha-Kodesh without translation for thousands of years. Translations invariably obscure the original meaning. Especially when it's done through a few different languages.

For a very good example, refer to the King James translation of the Bible. It's so far removed from the original that it can hardly be understood. Plus, Middle English is not the vernacular of our time.

And yet, some think of the KJV as "the inspired word of God."

Stuart Evans 4 years, 4 months ago

Moses was a retelling of other stories as well. Judaism is not the ONE true religion either.

BorderRuffian 4 years, 4 months ago

This is interesting. Although I agree with a few of Pitts's points, it is hard not to look over at one of the fastest growing religions - Islam - and not notice that it is intolerant on most of the same things Christianity is blamed for being intolerant on.

This is NOT a slam on either Islam or Christianity. I just think that before Pitts lays down his carpet of shame and draws sweeping conclusions, we ought to ask if the trends Mr. Pitts is describing correlate across the board. If not, then perhaps we might stand back and look for additional evidences and causes.

jayhawklawrence 4 years, 4 months ago

When I was young and thought every answer should be quick to get and had to be logical, I was very critical of religion.

Today, I look back and can't believe how much I did not understand. I am glad that I lived long enough to change my point of view and I thank God for that. I would say that I believe he saved my life on a number of occasions in ways that defy logic.

I have seen and been hurt by the things people complain about with the churches and the wrong kinds of people and today, even though I have attended the same church now for almost 10 years, I cannot bring myself to becoming an official member. I have tried and I believe God wants me to be there but I appreciate that the minister allows me to attend.

The reason I go there is because I feel the spirit of God and I believe the minister has what the Bible refers to as the gift of ministry.

This is a place where I believe God has led me and as we grow older in our faith, I believe we become less hung up on all the externals. The most important thing is our daily walk with God. It is a very real experience.

As for reading the Bible cover to cover, my first time was while living in a cinder block building in the middle of Africa with an African family and their friends. We cooked our meals in the front yard. It was an incredible experience and during that time, I read the Bible from the beginning so it was also a very spiritual time.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 4 months ago

People who have never experienced a spiritual time in their life are absolutely certain that there is no such thing, and they know they're right.

Ever notice that?

Liberty275 4 years, 4 months ago

Define "spiritual time".

Nevermind, I'll do it for you: synapses firing.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 4 months ago

Maybe I ought to explain to you the difference between "tenant" and "tenent". You seem to be confused on that difference a few postings down.

weeslicket 4 years, 4 months ago

i had to stop about 2/3 through. sorry. just couldn't take it any more. anyway, reposting: A Common Faith (john dewey, 1934) of course it's about 85 pages of philosophy writing, which you may not like.

john dewey: once again the most precient (heh, heh... that's for you cato... prescient) of american thinkers, speaks to us about this issue from some 75 years ago.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 4 months ago

Really, why should anyone bother to think about philosophy when they already know all the answers?

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 4 months ago

Wow!

So far, there's only four of us in this discusssion! Anonymous, Jesse Crittenden, Paul R. Getto, and myself!

Stuart Evans 4 years, 4 months ago

I'd be happy to use my real name, but as an atheist, I'm one of the most loathed members of society. and I don't trust religious nuts to refrain from torching my home and car in the middle of the night as a way of "fixing" me.

independant1 4 years, 4 months ago

i take back the nice stuff i said about pitts previous opinion piece

Liberty275 4 years, 4 months ago

She'd be better off dumping her faith in the god lie and keeping the more benevolent tenants of whatever religion she chose.

ndmoderate 4 years, 4 months ago

I think a major tenet of a landlord's belief structure includes benevolent tenants.

Liberty275 4 years, 4 months ago

Touche'... tenets. It's always nice to have grammatical and spelling experts around. Neither was ever my strong points.

independant1 4 years, 4 months ago

there ain't nothing more contentious than arguing politics and religion, the felpses are cashin in

funkdog1 4 years, 4 months ago

She was never a real atheist to begin with. You don't go from being an atheist to a believer. It just doesn't work that way.

verity 4 years, 4 months ago

I didn't read every word of every post, but I think that a great big draw of religion has been left out---and this is coming from an atheist.

Community.

In fact, this may be the biggest reason why people are religious.

Ricky_Vaughn 4 years, 4 months ago

Looking for humanity and civility in a story book? Read Aesop's Fables...same messages, different characters.

independant1 4 years, 4 months ago

But, ceremony There's someting about a high mass A baptism A confirmation An ordination A marriage A big tent revival A healing A testimony A confession A sacrament A holy day A sense of belonging A sense of hope folks gotta get their thing on to feed their spirituality, the soul. That source of nourishment ain't available in the secular world.

blindrabbit 4 years, 4 months ago

Definition of Faith: "A firm belief in something for which there is no proof". Therefore everyone can have their own faith, different than everyone elses, and still be valid. The problem with religion is that religion is "faith" and the interpretation by the organized church is based on the bias of the hierarchy of the particular religion. No wonder that faithful people are abandoning the religious community to look to their own "faiths" which seem to make more sense in the religiously challenged world.

Also, the comment early in this article about the GOP hijacking the religious community makes perfect sense to me. What better way to rally the troops other than to apply the "original sin" concept of guilt to the accepting masses. This need to be masochistic is well explained in the book/movie "What's The Matter With Kansas". Many followers are willing to accept policies that are detrimental to their well being as long as they have been convinced by the Right-wing media, that there is some religious validity.

Christianity is especially vulnerable because of the drift from the real meanings and teachings in the Bible have been so obfuscated by modern clergy. The christian church has been very arrogant in it's attitude to other religions, and not introspective of itself.

Enough of this: Accept the Golden Rule!

independant1 4 years, 4 months ago

"What's The Matter With Kansas". I missed that citation in the body of knowledge esp. psychological abstracts.

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