Friday, August 6, 2010

An Evolving Respect

by Cody Kilgore

In response to Paul's "A Matter of Faith or Chicanery."

At some point, while getting to know someone, whether they're a new personal acquaintance or a coworker, the subject of religion or beliefs comes up. It’s the part of a conversation that I dislike; I’ve never understood why any faith has anything to do with a person’s value, and I've grown tired of trying to differentiate being an agnostic from being an atheist. I usually make light of it by saying an atheist doesn’t believe there is a God, and an agnostic is too apathetic to care if there is or not.

But you never know how that whole part of the conversation is going to go, and I know that sometimes my definition has done little to clarify it for them, or avoid their labeling me an atheist anyway. It’s just as well to let it go. I figure if I’m judged on it, it’s not a worthwhile connection anyway.

The problem I most dislike about how people view either atheists or agnostics is that they believe we pass judgment on people of faith, and it very well may be the case with many in those two camps. But, for myself, I instead prefer to view everyone’s faith or religion as a very personal conviction, something deeply felt, and deserving my respect. I personally believe this applies to every denomination and faith on the planet, meaning that I see Hindu, Muslim, Baptist, Presbyterian, Catholic…all of them on the same level. No one has all the answers or the inside scoop on a ticket to an afterlife.

Truth be told, I have more problems with organized religion than I do with the concept of any higher being or afterlife. Most instances of my life that have shaped my feelings about faith have been a result of my dealings with organized religion and the agents of such institutions. I think that any relationship one would choose to have with their respective deity would be best done directly, one-on-one, without any reliance on an institution between them and their god that can either interpret, or misinterpret, or interfere between the two.

This is exactly where my biggest problem with religion lies. Too many of the religions I have experienced, or seen, seem to want to act as an agent that determines the nature of one’s relationship with their god and what is acceptable morality to their god. I have difficulty with that. I think that morality has nothing to do with God, or religion, or anything to do with following either, and I always shudder at the thought that someone else would or could try to define those parameters for me. I also think a person is either good, or bad, or maybe a little mixture of both, whether they are a person of faith or not.

And when I see people like Benny Hinn—whom I had never even heard of before reading Paul’s piece—I have to remind myself that he is the extreme and worst product of organized religion, and try to maintain that healthy respect I want to keep (and pass on to my daughters) of most peoples’ faiths. He, and those like him, would make it easy to laugh at and look down on religion and the people that follow him or any religion, but you can’t do that. He’s ludicrous, and he is not the mainstream, despite what it looks like his duped audience size may be.

In short, the answer to Paul’s “Faith or Chicanery” question, obvious to me: chicanery. He is the ultimate example of the worst thing I see in religions; I distrust someone that inserts himself between man and God, posturing to be the appointed authority over others. Often, this is done for the purpose of persuasion, dominance, or financial gain. I always want to see people like him exposed, like so many televangelists before him have been. I think we all know the list of those that have fallen from grace when their on-screen shill is seen in a better perspective because their off-screen antics have been revealed. And, when one goes down, there always seems to be another one pop up in their place. That procession of pilferers will likely never end, so long as there are flocks to be fleeced. But, neither the false prophet, nor those that follow them are indicative of any healthy religious experience, or any healthy relationship with God, or a god.

Hinn is a con artist, but I can’t let him color my feelings about faiths or most people that follow them. In fact, all the friends I know that are people of faith are actually a couple of evolved life forms above him.