William S. Lear rael at
Tue Jun 2 10:05:57 PDT 1998

On Tue, June 2, 1998 at 12:46:58 (-0400) Doug Henwood writes:
>Michael Eisenscher wrote:
>>Perhaps we of the Left might benefit from a bit more ecumenism in our
>>approach to the religious movements that we have heretofore dismissed as
>>hopelessly reactionary.
>I've certainly softened towards religious people over the years - there are
>lots of fine people doing good stuff politically because they think God
>told them too. But can we still say that religion is a crock? That it is an
>invented solace for the pains of the world ("sad men made angels of the
>sun," as Wallace Stevens said)? That it's encouraged people to horrible
>acts of hate and violence over the centuries? That it's helped construct
>and enforce the subordination of women? How far does this ecumenism go?

I've softened a bit too. I now treat religion like hairstyles or choice of clothing. As long as the person is decent, they can believe whatever nonsense they like. We all have, to some extent or another, irrational beliefs, so a bit of common ground exists between atheists and believers. On a personal level, when I get to know someone who believes, I usually end up discussing my lack of belief, noting that I think religion is essentially a fairy tale, something I gave up when I was very young, etc. I try to challenge them somewhat, quoting the story of God sending out a she-bear to maul children just because they teased Elisha (II Kings, I believe), but I ultimately end up with conciliatory nods to some of Jesus's rants against the rich, and the heroism of some of the Jesuit priests in Central America. This usually helps to let them know where I stand, and how I judge people. You can't ask for much more than that, I don't think.


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