6.8 Question #2 Religion. Revisited

The first person I asked my about religious change in America over the last 50 years was Dorothy Davis.  Dorothy is an interesting woman I wrote about in March 2011 (http://allevenson.wordpress.com/people/doris-davis-walking-across-america/)

Dorothy retired after a conventional career and decided to enter the priesthood.  She chose not a traditional Christian priesthood but something that represented one of the evolutionary tendrils of traditional religion.

Dorothy’s response was, “the rise of spirituality.”  Her perspective is that without abandoning the monotheistic roots or the fundamental commandments of old time religion, people were examining the dogma of the Bible.  Incorporating the fruits of their own considered study into a personal belief system.

I do not hear Dorothy’s ideas as confrontational to the religious establishment.  Her observations were reflected in many of the comments posted in response to the question of religion.  Comments that indicated some were further outbound than others, some confirming their core beliefs were close to their origins.

Although many blog responders referred to the rise of fundamentalism, all referred to it with alarm.

Not so with everyone I met on the road.  Not long after my encounter with Dorothy, I met a young man who was hitchhiking in Arizona.  During the time he rode with me, he told me he’d been born again at the age of fourteen, twenty-five years before.

His saw the decline of morality and the rise of sin, including lawlessness, disrespect for God’s law, and disregard for the rights of the unborn.  When I asked what all this meant, he was quick to respond,  “It signals the coming of the Anti-Christ.”

Nephew Eric pointed out that he sees what is happening in the realm of religion as inseparable from what is happening in the political arena: fundamentalists in both have allied ad their political clout has increased.  It seems to me both are exploiting one another, and I wonder which group approached the other first.

No one mentioned that there has been a parallel movement in the Middle East, and it could be argued they both began to take hold in the ‘70s.  The fundamentalists of Islam fought against moderation in their government.

Can the case be made that fundamentalist wing of religion in America and the most vocal of the political conservatives have more in common with their counterparts in the Middle East than they do with their opposites here at home?

And this brings us to the next question.  How has the political landscape changed in this country in your lifetime?

18 Responses to 6.8 Question #2 Religion. Revisited

  1. jordan says:

    i clearly have a continuing theme with these questions..
    1. labels don’t work anymore
    2. i believe things were worse in the past

    labels..the labels of the past just don’t work anymore..is it a human function to try and label everything?
    politically, i can say i have liberal, independent, libertarian and some conservative views..i am liberal to most social issues..libertarian in that i think most of the time i want to be left alone by the powers that be..conservative–to be safe..rule of law..granted, the rule of law sometimes is overdone..i want to be safe on airplane and am happy with the applicable laws..do i care if people smoke pot? no..
    it baffles me about the abortion thing..who can tell a woman what to do with her body? and in many cases it’ middle age white men telling 50%+ of the country what to do with their body..i ramble

    politically–all depends on where you live in the country..if you lived in spokane or couer d’alene, it would be 95% red 30 years ago and today..i notice the further you are from a city. the more conservative it is..

    these questions sure beat browsing on facebook or watching silly tv shows uncle al..keep em coming..

  2. karen wittgraf says:

    Where I live in Minnesota (rural) I find that most people that have lived here all their lives are, what they like to call, conservatives. I find that they are people that are somewhat reclusive, have not left their homestead enough to find out what other’s believe. They are comfortable and love to debate social issues..e.g “Shut up and get a job, pull yourself up by your bootstraps”. They fear non-believers, people of color, and Democrats and what they stand for. Fear equals hate., and hate equals fear. It’s almost “I am better than you are” attitude and they live by it. Many have inherited farms, work hard at their livlihood and believe only their religion will get them into “the gates of Heaven”. Can’t argue with them…lost cause. Has religion changed? Yes, we’re going “back to the 50′s” in fundalmentalism.

    • Eric says:

      This reminds me of a speech by Martin Luther King Jr, where he said that it was alright to tell a man to lift himself up by his bootstraps, but that it was ‘a cruel jest to tell a bootless man that he ought to lift himself up by his bootstraps’.

      Cruel indeed, and hypocritical, when as is often the case those bemoaning someone elses ‘welfare’ are the first in line for low interest government loans, tax breaks on farmland and depreciation of equipment, subsidies for growing (or to NOT grow!) certain crops, etc. Oil at $100+ a barrel and we PAY farmers to grow corn for ethanol?

    • Can’t wait to move there. Btw, my mother was born in Brainard, left in 1928 and seldom looked back. Bless her.

  3. karen wittgraf says:

    Me again. Yes, there is a significant comparison – similarity to the fundalmentalists of Islam. Any fundalmentalism is scary.

  4. jordan says:

    im noticing i don’t actually answer your questions al..it’s so rare to actually visit with these questions in life..im questioning my responses and clearly, thinking about them more..
    if i can revisit the religious question first
    i was raised jewish..remember a few years my family would go to connecticut for the high holidays..my parents split up..i had a bar mitzvah but, at home..not at a synagogue..after that the family celebrated passover and hanukkah but, just with candles and a 20 minute seder..for a few years i went to synagogue for the high holidays..and did fast on yom kippur..then i stopped..why? i wasn’t religious at all..had no interest in it..it had zero meaning for me..

    my biggest issue with religion..if i don’t believe in your religion, your books say i should die..no tolerance..as what many people said in their responses..

    • allevenson says:

      We all ought to have a formula by which we interact with others. From its inception, religion provided that in a sound and workable way. Christianity went through an angry persecution period during the Inquisition and again during the Puritan period. A religion loses credibility with thoughtful people by being exclusive and superior. But it seems to gain from people who prefer to be led.

      What does that say about the fundamentalists–Western or Middle-Eastern– of today?

  5. michael says:

    The backroom is more public. Fights for individual rights have been won. Social movements have technological vehicles increasing their power. Words like “Christian” and “patriot” have been co-opted undermining identity as an American and respect for bipartisanship. These may be ugly, but these are parts of a robust democracy capable of major change.

  6. jordan says:

    politics..both my parents voted democratic..but, politics played little or no part of my life growing up..i recall almost voting for ross perot in 92.,why? if i can remember it had something to do with wanting someone to shake things up..but, in the end, i voted for clinton..
    today–no doubt things are polarized..but, most people still vote the way they always have..so people yell more than in years past..but, nothing rush or hannity will ever say will get me to vote their way..i can’t watch hannity for more than 10 seconds without getting sick..
    so how have things changed? to me, if you turned the volume off..maybe not at all..

    i do see these questions causing a stir al..they excite me and make me uncomfortable..i live each day living and not thinking about these issues..on a day to day basis..then i answer these questions and am left unsure..unsure it i completely feel they way i feel..how my views may have changed..etc..

    i can see why they say not to bring up religion or politics on a first date

  7. David Bauer says:

    I think that one way the political arena has changed is that there are few moderates in either party. Thus, unlike the America of the 1960s through the 1990s when representatives in opposing parties attempted to work together, today there are few representatives who seem to be motivated to work toward political compromise. As a result, very little gets accomplished.

    I see this state of affairs as being largely a result of the way local, state and national representatives are selected and promoted by extremist groups within the parties, and the whole political process in the US has become nauseating to me. The situation has been made worse by the increased use of various electronic media and virtual social networking systems to sell various candidates to targeted audience which are composed largely of compliant sheep waiting to be herded. Ugh! Burp! Get the bucket. I’m getting queasy.

  8. Dave L says:

    I must lead a sheltered life as I don’t see a rise of fundamentalism in the near east, just the opposite, a rebelion against it – some with the help of NATO and the US. And I cite Eygypt, Sryia, Iraq, Saudi, Lybia, and others, all attempting to liberalize and democratize away from Islam and totalian rule. In this country I see the Republicans exploiting the “born agains” (a reaction to the sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s) as they instil and gather those conservative votes. There has always been a fundamemtal approach to Christianity in the midwest and south (the Bible belt) and that isn’ t changing. And the coasts remain esistential in their relgious thinking as they always have – more variety and acceptance than one can count. There’s been a bit of a surge in chruch attendance recently but it’s a social thing. People are tired of bars and the by-product.

    If there’s been a change, it’s a change in perception. Everyone with a vocablulary has become a columnist. You can’t get away from opinon and the more sensational it is the more noteriety ascribed to its origin. Look, a million hits today.

  9. Karen Goucher says:

    My religion is to be a better person today than yesterday and I use all the tools in the box
    I can get my hands on……tending to be conservative when in others’ space. Liberal when
    giving, and fundamentally crave to have life around me simple, loving and uncomplicated.
    Dodging the spears from all avenues is key while keeping a calm sense of self in between
    all the doubts and flaws.

    Merry Christmas to all and good night…….

  10. Bob Morgan says:

    From most people’s standpoint, at 80 I am and old buzzard. But I have lived long enough that I my belief system went early on from confusion, to doubt, to “If you are there, God, show me the way, because I now don’t believe in anything”. From that day on I grew in my faith, but I hate labels, because they bring separation.
    My observation of the world for the past, is that my childhood was without TV. As I look at TV today, as well as movies (I see few anymore) I see how children grow up with the crudeness, the violence, the cruelty to the point that nothing phases them any longer.
    Many have gotten ‘immune’ to the violence, and I believe as we progress to that state of being, it is easier to be violent, easier to hurt, even easier to kill. Yes, I miss the times when we didn’t have to double lock everything, because today there is little morality.
    And, believe it or not, as innocence leaves, so does the joy for life inherent in all of all.

  11. MaryAnne says:

    Oh , wow!
    what a fabulous array of good ole honest feelings and thoughts have preceded me here. I am impressed with these folks, Al, and again compliment you for creating this opportunity to contribute to each other’s lives. Re, Jordan and his first response; I did vote for Ross Perot just cuz I couldn’t make up my uneducated mind at that time. Interestingly, I met him a few years back when he was a patient of mine in Colorado.
    To respond to your question I’ll be honest too, and say I am not well enough informed to make a proper declaration. I was not that attracted to history and government as a young person to give you an intelligent response to the changes from eary American governing to the present day.
    I can tell you that my own personal assesment is that most (if not all) so called politicians are in that business for the noteriety, money and benefits. (read power and greed) Perhaps they don’t all start out on that path but soon are swayed to that persuasion by the movement/energy of their peers in the business. I can neither trust nor believe any of them as my feeling is they are motivated by a very personal agenda and/or the dictations of their particular “party” leaders. I find it sad we have an “us and them” society, imitating our various religions. Labels again rearing their ugly heads. Jordan made me chuckle with his last statement re the first date. That said, I do believe it’s a point to adress early on in a potential relationship of any kind to determine if one’s “belief” or political identity (label) will affect their respect, equality, companionship, conversation, etc. with another and to what degree. It takes highly conscious folks to “agree to disagree” and move forward in productivity and love. My daily hope/prayer is for “other oriented” men and women to be moved to leadership positions in our great country and serve as we have elected them to do. Nuff said.

  12. David Bauer says:

    As I have think back on my own comment regarding changes in politics in my lifetime along with postings of others contributing to Al’s Blog on this topic, it has occurred to me that a powerful force in politics today, which was not on the scene even 10 years ago and which we have not been acknowledging, is the Internet (e.g., Political Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc.). Starting with the election of President Barak Obama, the Internet has changed the dynamics of politics in the US as well as worldwide. For example, I am told that Internet communications are what generated and supported the Arab Spring. For better or worse, communication via the Internet has changed the face of the world of politics from the one in which I came of age in 1960.

  13. allevenson says:

    PETER BRUSO sent the following to me privately, but he intended to share it.

    Al -

    Your earlier inquiries about opinions of religion piqued my interest, as it is something I’ve devoted a good deal of time pondering, but have hesitated to respond to you because mine is just one more viewpoint. I have a little quiet time this afternoon, so here goes:

    My mother was a divorced single parent in rural Vermont who had to raise two young boys. Her greatest fear, I think, was that my brother or I, or both, would end up in jail. So she tried to cover all her bases, figuring it wouldn’t hurt to raise us in the church. My early memories include endless dull hours in a Methodist Sunday School, followed by an even drearier church service. None of it seemed to make a lot of sense to me even then but every one in the community was involved in the practice so I figured it was best to just go along with the program. ( Besides, I even got a lapel pin for perfect Sunday School attendance !) I recall one sermon from our pastor warning that we should limit our contact with members of the community in the Roman Catholic church, the reason never having been made clear to me. (This was probably around 1954.) Since my very best friend was a Roman heathen, it made less sense than a lot of other church teachings. Ultimately, I drifted away from any organized religious participation simply because I wasn’t comfortable with the Christian religion. As I matured and mingled with Jews, Muslims, atheists and others, I concluded that any one religion’s claim to the TRUTH was parochial, arrogant and irrational.

    I have come to the point that I cannot even accept the concept of an intelligent God (or is that god). There is simply no evidence to support such a concept. In this vast universe (or, perhaps, multiverses) the idea of any intelligent being giving a damn about our species seems, to me, to be the ultimate arrogance. It feels liberating to have finally thrown off my childhood superstitions.

    For a good read, I highly recommend to anyone who seriously cares about the subject Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion.” Dawkins is probably the best of all English language atheist writers. Also excellent is “god is not Great” by the late Christopher Hitchens.

    One of the bumper stickers we sell in our store reads: “Militant Agnostic: I Don’t Know and You Don’t Either.” Wisdom in a nutshell.

    Peter Bruso

  14. karen wittgraf says:

    Again- very late on this one- Peter- have you read “Good without God” (can’t remember the author, but very practical and meaningful). I was raised as one of those Romans that the Protestants in my neighborhood were told not to play with. Organized religion can be brutal.

  15. Bruce Bethany says:

    When I do good I feel good, when I do bad I feel bad, and that is my religion. Abraham Lincoln
    Btw, don’t miss Spielberg’s upcoming film Lincoln with the great Daniel Day-Lewis.

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