Thursday, 24 August 2017

Popper's Paradox

Free speech,
Unconditional love...

How do these things work in reality?

In 1945 the philosopher Karl Popper proposed the paradox of tolerance.

In a nutshell he said "if a society is tolerant without limit, their ability to be tolerant will eventually be seized or destroyed by the intolerant", or to paraphrase that: we can only survive by being intolerant about intolerance.

As we all know, white supremacy and all it's ugly variants are making headlines and empowering those who secretly embrace those views to speak out. There's also the current political mess in Australia over gay marriage, where conservative christians are doing all they can to stop it.

So where do we draw the line on free speech and religious freedom?

We have to draw it somewhere, or our society will become victim to it and we will loose those very freedoms!

The balance is in how we confront them. If we use "violence" (physical, vocal or in any form) we are playing the same game, and when confronted in this way, the intolerant simply dig their heels in and use the opposition to fuel more intolerance.

Respect for their humanity is key. To recognise that we could be the same if we'd been raised in a different environment is a sobering thought. It's a learned trait, something we aren't just born with. So compassion and empathy is the key to any communication, bypassing the rhetoric and reactionary thought processes and focussing on understanding why people are like this.

At the risk of being overly simplistic, it comes down to a lack of love. They never experienced the type of unconditional love themselves that breeds self worth and empathy for others. They are broken and angry, but instead of looking within, they are lashing out at the rest of us.

But they still have to be stopped from spreading this disease, and that's where we have to draw lines. Although love is the only "cure" for these people, we still have to deal with the affects they are having on our society.

The alt right issue is pretty obvious, but the christian right style of bigotry, especially towards LGBT people is more complex because of the religious freedom problems. And that opens a very large can of worms because it will eventually confront all religions on issues of bigotry and tolerance.

Perhaps it's time we stop being afraid of challenging people's belief systems?

We can do this with love and patience without compromising our stand. They believe they are doing the right thing, so we have to talk to their hearts, bypass the religious rhetoric and present compassion and empathy for the broken as our motivation.

We also have to remember that for most christians it's a case of "the bible says so", and that's a tough nut to crack. But with the same level of compassion we can help them to understand that their views are in error, as have been so many christian opinions over the centuries, that had to be adjusted and morality, ethics and science outgrew the ignorance of ancient culture.

We must be strong but loving - compassionate but without compromise - draw the lines but help them gently step over them. It's hard work, but if we can step back from our own reactionary thought processes we will be able to exercise the love they need to see in action.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

"Real" Christians?

I've been getting a bit of backlash lately. Not from the usual quarters, but from concerned friends. They are worried that I'm too angry about Christianity and religion and point out that I'm painting all Christians with the same brush - that I'm offending those who I shouldn't be offending and that really, I should just get on with loving people, not judging, and living my new found life to it's fullest.

I'm told that I'm still angry at what the church did to me, and that isn't what christianity is about, and I should back off and pursue the love that I preach and leave others to live their own journeys.

I totally understand this. I really do!! And to be honest, I often contemplate just walking away from all this stuff (even Silent Gays) and getting on with living a nice life.

These days, I'm not particularly angry over what has happened to myself  (apart from the odd trigger of course), but I am angry over the damage I  still see every day from Christianity in all it's forms.

One of the many issues that needs clarification is "real Christianity".

My main concern, obviously, is with fundamentalism. But even this is a broad term with many variations and complexities.

Most of us would assume I mean the bible belt red-neck version, that encompasses biblical literalism and strict dogma built around the Old Testament version of god - the type that believes rational thought has no place and the bible takes precedence over science and psychology etc.

But there is also the type of traditionalism that is embraced by the broader church, that still has strict dogmas based on things like the Nicene Creed and other dogmatic statements of faith that very clearly define what you must believe to be "saved".

Then there are the more liberal doctrines that allow for far more gnostic and esoteric interpretations, right through to those who just follow the example of Jesus as practically as they can and don't even concern themselves with all the other stuff.

So the waters become very muddied when we all respond with our various paradigms based on our experiences, our upbringing, culture etc. Everyone thinks they understand "real" Christianity - that their beliefs are right/best/loving/biblical/just/compassionate or whatever.

Because of all this, we are faced with "what is real Christianity?". So when I dissect and expose so many doctrines and expression of belief, am I calling any particular belief system that is loosely based on Jesus into question? Or all of them?

Can you see the problem here? Where do we draw the line between what is "true Christian doctrine" and what isn't? I realise that everyone will immediately try to justify their biblical interpretations and the traditions of the church and 2000 years of church history etc., but the fact remains that the bible, and Christian doctrines are a mess of ambiguity and contradiction. And the crunch really comes down to when is a Christian not a Christian and, even more important, what are the "fruits" of those beliefs that define your own brand of Christianity.

My "mission" then, is to help bring some clarity to what we believe and why we believe it. The sooner we all realise that every form of religion is totally subjective, with no empirical evidence for any of it, the sooner we can get on with really making this world a better place - of discovering what real love is and actually living it.

You can believe in anything you want, but do so in the knowledge that you are simply adopting something that just feels good to you and empowers you (hopefully) to bring love, compassion and peace to this world.