I like to argue, no, I love to argue. My six –nature leads me to find all sorts of opportunities to set myself against opposing forces. I listen to Rush Limbaugh and to Catholic radio. I watch the Daily Show and Colbert Report for their spoon-feeding diet of enraging Fox-News tactics. I follow blogs that point out in horrible detail how badly churches/political parties/state and local governments treat vulnerable members of society, or even not so vulnerable things like, I don’t know, science.
So I get into conversations with people I generally don’t agree with a little too quickly and with a little too much spunkiness. Oooo! Yes! Let’s talk about how the pill doesn’t cause abortions and the WHO never said it caused cancer! Yes, please, let’s talk about how funding food stamps is a vital form of government spending and an act of mercy for children, parents, and the elderly! And that that’s not contradictory!! Let’s talk about fracking, or sending people to hell, or whether or not we need the penny in circulation. I am an argument junkie.
But sometimes people start a controversial subject and I lose all enjoyment in the argument. They want to talk about a handful of subjects that rather than enjoying the sparring I just want to spare them what I have went through. I had a conversation like this a few months ago with a minister whom I worked with on a non-religious basis. He articulated the opinion that he believed in the story of Adam and Eve as it is presented in Genesis as truth in the simple way. It wasn’t a story or a parable for our edification but that two people walked around naked in a special garden til a snake and some fruit got them kicked out. He believed this because it gave a reason to believe in “original sin” which was necessary to his beliefs about Jesus. His faith in Jesus needed original sin and original sin needed original sinners, therefore Adam and Eve must be real people with a confusing personal history of belly buttons.
Oh, I can go all day about creationism, the messed up view we take of Eve’s participation in sinning, on whether we even have the cultural wherewithal to understand what this story means to it’s writers, what modern culture has done with it. I wrote my senior thesis on this stuff. But I didn’t want to talk about that any more. No, friend, I said, you can’t base your beliefs on reasons like that. You can’t expect to believe something is true because you have to believe it is true. If everything might fall apart if this turns out not to be so, chances are it will all fall apart for you because its not. Basing so much of your beliefs about unknowable religious truths on very knowable human truths is a bad plan. I know. I tried to make it work.
I used to believe certain things about God, faith, and the church. I believed that the church worked for the good of all god’s people. I believed that Christianity was the only path to god that was legitimate. I believed the bible was perfectly inspired by god. That god had an answer to the world’s terrible suffering. My beliefs weren’t sophisticated. They were sometimes at odds with accepted orthodoxy. They were by no means to be trusted. But trust them I did. Until I couldn’t anymore. It became clear that the church showed little care or compassion for anything but either the bottom line or the party line; that in many contexts the Christian mythology made little or no sense; that the bible was full of horrible advice and strange discrepancies. I watched in horror the news of Hurricane Katrina and how clearly god did not answer this people in their sufferings and sorrow. Things began to fall apart.
I had pledged myself an allegiance that I could not sustain. Although I wanted the ultimate results of being evangelical could not stomach the requirements to get there. I couldn’t meet the cultural litmus tests of this particular tribe. I believed in marriage equality, in protecting the environment, in a woman’s inalienable right to choose. But when I so closely identified with this group of people, evangelical mainline Protestants, I didn’t stop to count the cost of what that would mean. It would mean abandoning closely held beliefs on the dignity and worth of individuals and letting go of freedoms for myself and other women. I tried to believe these things set out by the establishment as necessary because I needed to stay in the tribe. They were either essentially not true or against my essential nature.
I was taught, the one thing I still hold dear!, that either all is true, or none of it. Though I know, in my mind, that this is a logical fallacy it still holds strong emotional sway over me. I believed things for the wrong reasons, because I had to, so that when I could no longer believe them the higher order beliefs they so sketchily supported fell down with a horrible din.
I believe the issues of holding beliefs because you must and finding the whole house of cards falling if a single belief changes intertwined. If I had had an elastic faith, one able to roll with the punches of life and changing views, I might not have had the crisis of faith that I experienced. By requiring prerequisite beliefs (Adam and Eve were real, the church is always gracious) it says that the higher order belief (Jesus atones for sin, god is always gracious) can’t stand on its own merit. That’s dangerous and risky.
My co-worker was unmoved by my warnings. Perhaps he is more capable of protecting that delicate house of cards than I was. But I found that when I sought the truth by following required beliefs, I most certainly found confusion!
What do you like to argue about? Are there things you won’t argue about? Do you have beliefs that might make other beliefs tumble if they were proved wrong?