Tuesday, February 24, 2009

How much have you crossed off the pyramid?

I think fundamentalists Christians fear more than anything else a non-literal interpretation of the Bible and the creation story because it is often the beginning of disbelief for many ex-Christians/atheists.

This idea came from Dan Barker, but it does fit my life as well. Start with a pyramid. The pyramid has a descending order of beliefs. For example, at the top is belief in an all powerful god. Below that is the divinity of Jesus, the resurrection, the Trinity, atonement by the blood of Jesus, the belief in salvation in faith alone, etc.

At the bottom of the pyramid is maybe belief that Baptism is required to enter heaven. Or that Christians can’t work on Sundays. Most Christians don’t believe these are necessary tenants of faith, so go ahead a cross them off your list. As you go up the pyramid, you have various denominational beliefs. Some restrict pastors to being only male, for example.

As you get up the pyramid, you come to issues like belief in a literal creation story. “Well, if the creation story isn’t literal, that’s okay. It was parable, just like Adam & Eve and Cain & Able were parables. The truth is in the message of a parables.” Scratch another level off the pyramid.

Creationists/fundamentalists say “Here’s what we believe, what evidence can we find to support it?” Scientists and freethinkers say “Here’s the evidence, what conclusions can we draw from it?”

“Most of the old testament was written by a primitive people trying to understand god, so I’m not going to take everything literally. Noah was a parable. Moses was a parable. This doesn’t conflict with the belief that god loves us and has a plan for us.” Scratch another level off the pyramid.

As Christians become less literal in their interpretation of the Bible, the fundamentalists have lost control over them. They no longer have the ability to steer Christians in one direction or the other on their political agendas. No longer does it work to cherry pick one or two verses and telling Christians they must interpret this verses literally.

Eventually, as the pyramid gets smaller, you cross off things like Jesus being the only path to heaven, and eventually you doubt the need for Jesus' divinity at all. Like Thomas Jefferson and many other deists, your faith is in the overall message of Jesus, but you don’t take literally the stories of miracles or even the resurrection.

At this point you see many other stories of morality through out the world that are as good or better than the Bible. You see that morality is found outside the church. As Steve Weinberg said:

"Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."

There’s only one block left atop the pyramid now - scratch it off.

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