I think Christianity used to have quite a lock on most of the world, even if they didn't have a plurality of the population by religion. Christian countries were the most powerful. The white Europeans, their stock, and their religion seemed supreme.
But not so fast. There were a fair number of revolutions against this domination, even in the heart of Europe. The reformation was full of murder and mayhem in the name of one Christian sect or other. Anti-Christian feeling moved in a different direction in the 1700's through now, with political and moral philosophers building the foundations for public life that didn't depend on religion.
Religion as necessity?
Perhaps this was possible because religion isn't a necessity for quite a few people. They live largely without religion affecting them much. They manage to earn a living, raise families, get along with their neighbors, and defend their countries without religion playing a big role in any of these necessary parts of life.
So what happens when you realize you don't need religion to grow your crops or make a living? If you don't need it in raising your family? Or in teaching morality and how to live with others?
Well, religion may seem superfluous. But even more so, it may seem like a con game. If your religion requires you to follow strict food rules, strict rules on when you can work, strict taxes on pain of terrible punishment or exile, you might want to throw off that religion.
Rebelling against that old religion
Of course that is what most early Christians did. They jettisoned the accretion of rules that happened to Judaism, and the streamlined the religion quite a bit.
The same instinct is at work today. I look at traditional Judeo-Christian rules, and I see areas where the rules don't make sense. Is there a religious or moral reason that I have to wait until marriage (in my 20's or 30's) to have sex? Is there a religious or moral reason sexual relations between two men is wrong? And remind me what's wrong with occasional masturbation?
This isn't the only area where Christian teaching have been questioned. Christians haven't generally given away everything they owned, as Jesus told his followers to do. They started lending money with interest at some point. I can't think of a single person who has balked at buying a house because they had religious qualms about the mortgage interest.
To me, the sexual rules aren't sacrosanct, and modern life has eliminated some of the practical reasons for those rules. We can now easily have sex without the worry of unintended pregnancy. We know that masturbation doesn't cause blindness or schizophrenia. We know that same-sex attraction is usually a life-long preference, not a temporary surrender to temptation.
Can't let go
Somehow, letting go of these sexual rules has been very hard for some Christians, even the ones who have mortgages. I don't really know why, and I wish I could find out.
In particular, I'm thinking of Rod Dreher. He had an epiphany at some point and realized it was terrible to treat gays badly. However, this epiphany only included beating up gays, denouncing them, and throwing them out of jobs. His understanding didn't extend to realizing that they have the right to marry too. So Dreher, like many conservative or Orthodox Christians, has been very loud in protest against marriage equality.
Now Dreher doesn't understand how anyone can label him a bigot, or be angry with him. After all, he realized that Jesus commands him to have love in his heart, and he does. Isn't that enough? He's not against gays because he hates them, but because his religion commands him to see them as sinners.
Wake up, Rod. You're living in a world where the sexual condemnation you cling to has been largely discredited. You're likely to be dumped on your keister when you try to tell people that God has ordained these rules. That doesn't fly anymore with a large number of people. You can whine about the loss of 'truth' or 'morality,' but my suspicions is that you miss the power to make people follow these rules.
Dreher writes about his own experience of disobedience and conformance, and how that helped in his life. That's fine, but others have vastly different experience, and they take the lessons they learned to heart also. Why Dreher thinks he can get on his high horse and lecture people based on personal luck (sexual continence worked for him AND it's biblical too!!) is beyond me. Yet he never hesitates to do that.
He may have apologized for his formerly hateful ways and statements, but he falls back on the same behavior so readily. Here's an exchange:
Compare that to this exchange at a religious conference:Lee says:The issue you lament came about as a reaction (and inevitably in some cases overreaction) to conservative Christians using their religion as license to dehumanize and mistreat others. If conservative Christians want to complain that they are now being mistreated, they must first own up to their own sin. Unfortunately, one does not need to look far to see self-proclaimed Christians still spouting hate today. Christiantity’s failure to own up to and deal with its own hate-mongers makes its claims of victimhood ring very hollow indeed.[Rod's reply: It is useful to know that this is all about vengeance for folks like you. There is no amount of apology -- none -- that will satisfy you. It's important for Christians to know this, so we suffer no illusions that those who seek to destroy us personally and take our livelihoods can be appeased. You can't be. I do wish you would quit lying to yourselves about what you want, though, and why you want it. -- RD]
Apologies and pleas for forgiveness don't last long when it's someone else pointing out Dreher's errors. I guess Dreher only believes in making apologies as noblesse oblige, not as an equal. He's got a lot to learn about not being on top. I'll have to see if he changes his tune in a few years.Lyons apologized to Andrew on behalf of Christians for vicious treatment of homosexuals. “I know many people did what they thought was right in the name of Jesus,” Lyons said. “I ask for your forgiveness as well.”“You have it,” said Andrew.
Extras. Read the whole long post by Dreher. Notice how readily he circles the wagons to defend his tribe. How quickly he forgets the log in his eye.