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Atheism, morality, Religion

Invisible Friends and Blame

Many children have invisible friends.  For the most part, the practice is seen as relatively harmless, and healthy for the budding imagination.  Most of the time, invisible friends are just flights of fancy, and after a relatively short time, fade into the past and give way to big kid diversions.  I tend to agree that invisible friends are mostly harmless for children, especially if the parent is very clear in explaining that games and imagination are fun, but that the invisible friend doesn’t have any real place in the universe.

As an example, most parents will not tolerate their child blaming the invisible friend for breaking the window or wetting the bed.  When children begin to use the invisible friend as an excuse for their own moral failings, parents usually know enough to put a stop to the whole thing.

Perhaps we should start applying the same logic to adults.  The recent case of two girls being expelled from a religious school for acting like lesbians got me to thinking about how Christians and other theists use their god (or gods) as scapegoats for their own moral failings.  This becomes particularly obvious to me when I talk to Christians who are obviously bigoted against gays.  “Well,” they opine, “I don’t hate gays, but the Bible clearly says that they are an abomination, and are sinners, perverting the natural use of sex.”

Slap me in the face and call me Betsy, but I can’t see any difference between that and saying that Jack the Invisible Eight Year Old was the one who threw the ball through the window.

Have you noticed that people go to churches that agree with their own ethics?  That is, if you go to a Southern Baptist church, pretty much everybody there is going to have the same views on morals and biblical interpretation.  Sure, you have some leeway, but you’re not going to see any gay women as ministers.  Not for long, anyway.  If you go to an Episcopalian church in Boston, you can be relatively certain that you’re going to be in the company of relatively liberal people who believe in a very loose interpretation of the Bible, particularly when it involves hating gays and outlawing abortion and other such public issues.

Isn’t it about time that we start calling things what they are?  I’m tired of  letting adults hide behind their invisible friends.  People who go to churches that promote bigotry are bigots, and I’m done giving them a free pass.  If they really felt so strongly that bigotry is wrong, guess what… they wouldn’t be in the church they’re in.

So get angry at me if you want, but I’m done being polite to bigots.  I refuse to let them blame their personal opinions on God and get away with it.  It’s just another way that religion gets a free pass.  Want to be a bigot?  Join a bigoted church.  Then, you can say anything you want, and blame it on God.

Nope.  I’m done with it.  Bigots are bigots, and they don’t get away with it just by blaming their invisible friend.  Their parents should have taught them better.



9 thoughts on “Invisible Friends and Blame

  1. If only it were that easy. The power of belief is too strong. To them their friend is neither invisible nor imaginary.

    Posted by Stephen Willoughby | February 26, 2009, 10:44 am
  2. I have a hard time believing that most of the people in a particular church believe everything that’s listed in the church’s printed doctrine. Or even, any of it. What happens if they move to a new town, meet and marry a new spouse, join the local church, and it has a completely different doctrine? It preaches that everyone in the *other* church is going to Hell, and only members of *this* church will go to Heavon. (They nearly all say that.) What, is the person going to just say “Ok, I change my beliefs; there, done, I’m now a Catholic, instead of a Mormon”? Probably, yes, in many cases, I think. Isn’t most of so-called “belief” just playing along for social reasons, anyway? It seems a lot of hypocrisy to me; which is why I boycott all of the “one and only true religions” — all 8,385,129 of them (or however many there are).

    Posted by Robbie Hatley | February 27, 2009, 1:19 am
  3. Realize that I can speak as an authority on the subject, having been an evangelical Christian, and having changed denominations, and having dealt with the cognitive dissonance of opposing sects within Christianity. I agree with you that the “official” doctrine of a denomination is not an accurate representation of the preaching of an individual church, or of the beliefs of all the individuals within a church.

    This is not really all that germane to the point of this post, however. This isn’t about what the official doctrine says. It’s about what groups of believers agree on. In fact, I’m essentially coming at it from exactly the opposite side. People’s choice of church tends very strongly to mirror their own prejudices. Homophobes tend to be Southern Baptist or some other denomination that condones hateful attitudes towards gays.

    Regardless of any sweeping statements about what “everyone” believes or doesn’t believe, it’s incontrovertible that there are a lot of Christians who are very hostile towards gays (to keep using this example). My point is that their religious beliefs are essentially a projection of their own bigotry onto their deity, which, coincidentally, shares their beliefs. Rather than god declaring bigotry to be good, after which, believers become bigots, the reality is that bigots either consciously or (I suspect more commonly) unconsciously use religion as justification for their own deficiencies.

    In essence, God, for bigots, is an escape hatch by which they attempt to avoid responsibility for their own bigotry.

    Posted by hambydammit | February 27, 2009, 1:57 am
  4. I’m not so sure that people choose religions. Sometime in childhood, they tend to either learn to trust in the power of their own judgement (hence becoming nonreligionists, as I did around 1974), or to trust in authority (hence becoming religionists). If they join a religion at all, they tend to join their parents’ religion. (Eg, they’re not very likely to join the Sikhs if their parents are Shinto.)

    I do agree that within one religion, people feel more freedom to switch sects to something that corresponds better to their own prejudices.

    But the main point of my comment was this: I think religion has very little to do with belief or faith. Rather, I think religion is mostly about authority. The idea of authority isn’t that you believe it, it’s that thinking (and blame) becomes someone else’s responsibility. Saying “you must do xxxxxx because God says so!” is far easier than trying to come up with logical reasons to do xxxxxx. Logical reasons can be picked apart; but “God says…” is much harder to argue with, and hence much more convenient when trying to persuade people to support a cause.

    Posted by Robbie Hatley | February 28, 2009, 10:51 pm
  5. Robbie wrote: “I’m not so sure that people choose religions.”

    People almost exclusively join the *religion* of their parents. They often, especially within Christianity, go to a different denomination, or even just a different place of worship. At last count, there are over 15,000 Christian denominations, many with wildly different views on a wide range of subjects.

    Posted by hambydammit | March 2, 2009, 9:44 pm
  6. Robbie wrote: “Rather, I think religion is mostly about authority. The idea of authority isn’t that you believe it, it’s that thinking (and blame) becomes someone else’s responsibility.”

    You seem to be saying exactly what I’m saying. I can’t tell if you think you’re agreeing with me or not. Oh, the inadequacy of text…

    Posted by hambydammit | March 2, 2009, 9:47 pm
  7. I completely agree with you!

    Personally, I think those who judge do so because they are scared of being judged themselves. Thus, I think Christians exclude people because they are scared of being excluded. As long as Christians have someone to point the finger at, then they feel safe and off the hook. Perhaps before contemplating the sins of others, Christians or anyone who judges, should contemplate their OWN.

    Posted by Ashley | May 7, 2009, 4:34 pm
  8. Thanks, Ashley. Have you gotten to my piece on why people stay in Christianity despite the logic against it?

    Posted by hambydammit | May 7, 2009, 7:14 pm


  1. Pingback: Topic Summary: Christian Smackdown « Life Without a Net - July 24, 2010

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