It wasn't intentional. I didn't realize what I was learning about until it was too late. Too late being months into reading this blog and the comments to each posting. That’s where my real education has come, in the comments.
Let me backtrack a bit to how I got here. It all started in a coffee-shop with a stray comment about The Bloggess and her site and humour. I read that blog a lot and I also read the comments. She is funny and they are sometimes funnier. One day there was a very funny comment from HereticHusband. That led me to his blog, which I admit I got totally sucked in by in the first five minutes of reading. Here was someone from a background completely different from my own, writing in a way that made his experiences and ideas compelling. I read a post, and then another and before I knew what had happened six months had gone by and I was hooked. I was also learning.
So here’s the interesting part for me: I really didn't expect to get so interested, but something about the passion with which people were commenting on the posts made me read and then re-read them to see why some comments were so heated. If I was going to learn about a religion, this seemed to be a great way to do it - from the insider’s view and through the eyes of an avowed, (and smart) heretic who had the morals of a Buddhist, (meaning do no harm in the world).
So what have I learned from reading this thing for months? Well here’s the short list:
1. John Piper and Mark Driscoll are scary and I had never even heard of them! How many more are out there? Granted, there are people like this in every religion but these guys take the cake! Somehow the misuse and abuse of power seems more egregious to me when we are talking about groups who have banded together because of what they believe about things other than politics, but hey, that’s just me. In the past year I have seen the yoga community torn apart by people who are just as divisive as John Piper and Mark Driscoll. Where we have "gurus" who trademark thousand year-old ideas for their own "schools of yoga", these religious leaders/speakers are trying to hoodwink the populace into following a school of thinking that holds them above and apart from other human beings. How is this what god, or even GOD would have wanted or meant? Even if I don’t believe in god, I do believe that division can’t be a good thing for humanity in general.
2. People who comment on religious topics are often very close-minded, (and then…some aren't). What really struck me was how many people who commented really could not get past their own ideas and beliefs to step inside of new ideas about their religion. I guess this isn’t new in any way but it makes me sad...and worried.
The great thing about reading comments is that I can follow them to the source, and often that source is another blog. So I got a chance to see more than a single comment from many of these people. That’s also the bad part. When people are posting how strongly they think that I should believe what they believe…I feel a bit pressured.
What worries me is that generally speaking these people are the same kinds of people who make broad statements on T.V. and radio about how we are "living in a Christian nation". As openly non-Christian, that frankly scares me. On bad days I start to wonder whether I need to look over my shoulder when I don’t pledge to god, or whether I will be asked to leave if I sing in a choir that performs in a christian church. After reading many of these blogs - I would not be surprised if much worse happened in the name of an organized, "Christian" religion.
3. Fundamentalists are even more dangerous than I thought. I was pretty naive when I started as a reader here. Though I understood that Radical Islam was a danger to just about everyone else on the planet, including the vast majority of Muslims who abhor violence as much as the rest of the peace-loving population; I was unaware of just how dangerous fundamentalists of any stripe were. Intolerance, screaming one’s beliefs at the top of one’s voice (so to speak), berating all who fail to heed their words, these Fundamentalists and Evangelicals in the Christian world are just as bad. Secondly I wonder that there seem to be more men than women yelling at what people should do and believe…but perhaps that’s merely my lack of experience in the world of the "preacher".
4. There are a few voices of reason in the world. Whew! This is what saves me at the end of the day. That I can find, amongst all the yelling and pushiness, some calm voices who can talk me down the path of tolerance and moderation and let me see that there are spaces in the world, on the web, wherever, that sanity reigns and introspection and consideration of ideas are values.
Unorthodox as it may have been, I actually would recommend learning about religious groups, (or any other groups who are really foreign to you), through a blog. People are heated, They are honest and ideas get poked, prodded and with luck, dented and bent and examined.
The path I traveled while reading started with humor and delight in someone willing to examine the ideas he grew up with. I moved through commiseration and booster-ism to really thinking the leaders of these religions were nuts and should be shot. I read on and my feelings shifted again as I started to see the wide variety of people who wrote in on guest posts and comments. It’s been an education and I think, a good one. I've come not quite full circle. My thinking has been changed and my eyes are wider open to the messages flitting across the airwaves. At the end of the day, I thank all of you for the education.