Tuesday, 8 November 2011

On the Contrary

Certain religions and philosophies really open themselves up to jokes, or at least raised eyebrows, due to their inconsistent views. For example, relativism's ostensibly true claim that there this is no such thing as truth - that's a joke in and of itself. And tolerance's cry that we must tolerate everything... but jump viciously at the throats of anything hinting of intolerance? It's laughable, certainly. Extreme feminism, which advocates women's right to abort unwanted pregnancies, simultaneously heralds the importance of educating and keeping safe little girls in developing countries. When atheists talk about morality, my head starts spinning because their entire monologue collapses on itself.

Islam really makes a show of being inconsistent. Remember the incident where a nun was murdered by some Muslims because the pope offended them? By saying that Islam shouldn't be violent? Oh, that makes sense. Prove you have the right to be offended by proving the pope's point exactly? I've heard many Muslims claim that Islam is a religion of peace, but the killing the people who disagree doesn't exactly help their case.

Now, I know that not everyone who identifies as an atheist or Muslim falls prey to these issues. Some atheists acknowledge that ethics and atheism cannot coexist. And some Muslims are really nice and share many of the same principles I do. And, though I try to avoid it, I'm sure that some of my beliefs are at odds with each other, too. Or at least appear to be.

This summer, for the first time, I actually heard the words to a popular Christian kids' song that I've been singing for at least a decade:

"And the God of peace will soon crush Satan underneath your feet."

What?! Are we seriously tripping up on this? Is this actually a quote from the Bible? Sounds like it should be from the Qu'ran, if you ask me.

No, not really. I don't actually consider this a contradiction. "Peace" in Biblical terms doesn't quite mean "lack of fighting", but a wholeness, a oneness with God. Basically, it means peace with God, not a ceasefire with evil. And Satan is just that - evil, certainly not another human being. We can take non-human chickens, grind them into little pieces between our teeth and most people don't consider that an act of violence. If God grinds non-human Satan to dust beneath our feet, what's different from the chicken scenario? First, we won't eat Satan, though his death will still serve a very functional purpose, and second, Satan is purposefully evil rather than good-and-evil-less. Oh, and third, feet vs. teeth, but that's just getting pernickety.

Still, I can see how an "outsider" would think this is utterly ridiculous. And my chicken comparison and rationalization may not be the most rigorous defense, but I don't feel like writing a theological treatise at the moment.

Suffice to say, the main point of this post, which may have gotten lost, is that Christians say some pretty goofy-sounding things sometimes. We shouldn't think we're beyond that. And perhaps some of the goofy contradictions in other belief sets aren't quite so goofy when you understand them more fully.

Mark Twain seems to suffer from the opposite problem: “The more you explain it, the more I don't understand it.”

1 comment:

art said...

Interesting. I suppose there could be a lot of things that we do and believe that don't quite make sense. All men are fallible. The apostle Paul's words to the Romans are infallible. Or on a country level, "You cannot discriminate based on race" but "Natives do not need to pay sales tax." What about "You cannot discriminate on age" and "You cannot vote until you are 18?" Seems like you are on to something here...