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Conservative Religion vs. Liberal Religion

August 5, 2009

Here’s a sample conservative monotheist:

  • There is one, giant, powerful god; if you don’t worship him and him alone (and he’s gotta be a he) and do what he asks of you, he’ll send you to hell, where your eternal life will suck.
  • However, he’s helped us out by sending us his instructions. It turns out that he has ordained gender hierarchies, a bunch of moral codes (don’t divorce, don’t have an abortion, etc.), the need to help the poor, the need to be nice to people, and so on.
  • These instructions (and the stories that go with them) are perfect: they’re 100% historically accurate and true, and the instructions are the best instructions there are.
  • In fact, if you don’t follow these instructions, not only will you be screwed in your afterlife, you’ll be screwed in this life too. For instance, if you don’t worship him, or if you get an abortion or something, not only will you go to hell, but you’re present life will be ruined. That is, he didn’t give these instructions on a whim, he gave them because he knows what’s in our best interests in our present life.
  • If you screw up—if you have an abortion, for instance—don’t worry too much; you still have time to get back in our god’s good graces.

Now, let’s do a little addition and subtraction to get the liberal monotheist’s view:

  • There is one, giant, powerful god; if you don’t worship him and him alone (and he’s gotta be a he) and do what he asks of you, he’ll send you to hell, where your eternal life will suck. [Don’t listen to that conservative guy. There may or may not be a god, and he (or she) may or may not be powerful. If he or she does exist, he or she probably isn’t all that worried if you worship him or her—that would seem petty, in fact.]
  • He’s [or she’s] helped us out by sending us his [or her] instructions [maybe, we’re not sure]. It turns out that he has ordained gender hierarchies, a bunch of moral codes (don’t divorce, don’t have an abortion, etc.), the need to help the poor, the need to be nice to people, and so on.
  • These instructions (and the stories that go with them) are perfect: they’re 100% historically accurate and true, and the instructions are the best instructions there are.
  • In fact, if you don’t follow these instructions, not only will you be screwed in your afterlife, you’ll be screwed in this life too. For instance, if you don’t worship him, or if you get an abortion or something, not only will you go to hell, but you’re present life will be ruined. That is, he didn’t give these instructions on a whim, he gave them because he knows what’s in our best interests in our present life. [These instructions are really more like suggestions, especially since we’re not actually certain if they’re divine or not, so feel free to pick and choose for yourself—as long as you don’t insist that anyone else picks the one’s you’ve picked. That would be intolerant!]
  • If you screw up—if you have an abortion, for instance—don’t worry too much; you still have time to get back in our god’s good graces. [See above—you don’t really need to worry about this at all.]

In sum: Liberal Religion: What’s the Point?

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 5, 2009 6:48 pm

    Have you read Georg Lakoff’s Moral Politics? I think he’s got the most insightful approach to the issue of liberal vs. conservative Christianity that I’ve seen. I think you can get most of the chapter on Google Books.

  2. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    August 5, 2009 8:10 pm

    I read that book a few years back. I vaguely remember the nurturant parent and strict parent stuff. In my opinion, of course, both are projecting their values on their imagined god. It makes sense in the conservative case, but—to me—not in the liberal case: what good is it to project your values on a god that you’re not sure exists and when you can’t be sure she shares the values you’ve projected?

  3. Deane Galbraith permalink
    August 6, 2009 4:43 pm

    I like your post.

    Maybe the phenomenon of religious liberalism just shows how hard it is to shift your heart, even when your head moves someplace else? The bigger the emotional-existential investment, the greater the cognitive dissonance involved?

  4. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    August 6, 2009 4:52 pm

    Deane, that sounds about right. I suppose I had a hard time giving up my “religion” when I went from the right to the left. However, I was able to do so, and I didn’t subject others to 3 books about how my god (who may or my not exist) really supports my new leftist values.

    Crap; that sounds so snarky. Argh. I’ve really got to get out of this bad mood. I blame it on changing my medication regiment.

  5. Deane Galbraith permalink
    August 6, 2009 6:57 pm

    Ha!

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