A few days I in this venue I made reference to a Muslim terrorist gunning down shoppers in a mall as he kneeled from time to time to pray. There is a similar demonstration of religious lunacy taking place in many states in my country where laws exempt parents from homicide or murder charges if their children die because their faith did not permit them to use medical care, relying instead on “faith healing.” To make it worse, in these states the legislatures turn a blind eye to this issue because to address it with the firm hand of the law would be to turn the conservative, bible-thumping electorate against them. Therefore, my charge of “lunacy” can also be applied to these legislatures as they stand by and allow children to die because they don’t have the courage to confront group insanity. (See: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/11/08/in-idaho-faith-healing-may-have-killed-more-children-than-we-ever-suspected/ and http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/11/idaho-christian-faith-healers-12-kids-have-died-since-2011-and-nobodys-doing-anything-about-it/)
It seems like there is insanity in everyone’s religion. With everyone I meet, everything I read, everywhere I go I see people believing and doing stupid things because of their faith. And, yes, I fear that is the case with you also, my friend. Gosh, I’m the only one who is doing this faith “thingy” right and I wish the rest of you people would just wake up and listen to me. Or, as I often like to put it, “You know, I think you and I are the only ones who are right on this matter…and sometimes I have my doubts about you.”
Now, those who know me, or have read this blather very long know that I’m speaking in jest here. For, I see clearly that the lunacy I note in other people’s faith is very much here with me also. And, I don’t actually see “lunacy” everywhere; my point is merely that in our faith…and in the whole of our lives…lunacy abides and it is frightening to acknowledge it. Now to be fair, most of our “lunacy” does not merit that label and can best be described as not seeing things with the maturity we are capable of. This is because we tend to see things as we wish to and that self-serving dimension of our perspective, carried to an extreme will always be lunatic!
You might say “there is a fly in the ointment” in everything we do and this is especially critical in our value system; for our values are always sullied by this aforementioned self-interest. But the “true believer” is always incapable of considering this gut-level flaw and that is one reason why he is capable of such “true” belief.
But the real culprit in Idaho, the real “lunatic”, is the state legislature who see clearly that these “faith healers” are impoverished, poorly educated people and are permitting their faith to rule them even to the death of their own children. YET, these legislators will not intervene because of their moral and spiritual cowardice.
This stupidity…and I’m talking here of the legislators…is one of the reason that people like Bill Maher (and I love this guy!) so readily lampoon Christians for belief in their “imaginary friend.” Well, though I am a Christian, I agree with Bill Maher regarding this stupidity. Just because we have faith does not give us the freedom to be stupid and fail to consider the outside world and the relevance of our faith…or lack thereof…to this outside world. Mental illness is a reference problem and anytime when our field of reference becomes too private, a private self-referential system, we are in deep trouble. Paul Tillich called this an “empty world of self-relatedness” and that is always lunacy, regardless of the positive feed-back you might be getting from inside your echo chamber.
And, Christians need to be aware that to some degree even their faith is guilty of becoming an echo chamber and will inevitably do so from time to time. If our religious tradition, including recitation of dogma, becomes merely a form of “self-soothing” it is not any better than someone who “self-soothes” with a substance addiction. Our faith…even the one we are so “sure” about…can become a means of escaping reality rather than empowering us to deal with reality openly. This is what T. S. Eliot had in mind when he noted, “Human kind cannot bear very much reality.” This is why Eliot also noted the importance of coming to a point in our life when we find the courage to “live in the breakage, in the collapse of what was believed in as most certain, and therefore the fittest for renunciation.”