Conspiracy? What conspiracy?
One of the most frustrating things about the state of religious conversations is the degree to which everyone accuses the other side of supporting some kind of conspiracy to ruin all that is good. My two least-favorite imaginary conspiracies are the so-called “gay agenda” and the non-existent cabal of scientists out to destroy God by teaching evolution. These two constructs exist almost entirely to discredit anyone who would dare speak against conservative views.
Here’s the extent of the gay agenda: a bunch of psychologists got together and discovered that same-sex attraction happened normally and that gays and lesbians exhibited no signs of mental dysfunction. The scientific conspiracy is about the same: people examined evidence and determined that animals must have evolved from common ancestors. In neither case did anyone set out to destroy Christianity or morals.
Now, of course, some non-Christian people do believe that evolution or gay marriage is a direct threat to Christianity. Even so, there is a big difference between that and actively conspiring to end religion, which no one is trying to do. Take Richard Dawkins for example: I have heard him say (in an obscure video that I can’t find) that he believes evolution is poisonous to religion. Now there are millions of religious adherents who would disagree, but notice he’s not saying that he invented some stuff about evolution just to damage religion. It’s just an incidental observation.
Let me repeat that, because it’s fundamentally important, here: any alleged damage to religion on the part of something like evolution is totally incidental. It’s not something which any scientist is actively seeking.
You mean these conspiracies?
While there are no liberal/secular conspiracies to end religion, by contrast, the religious conservatives who propagate belief in these non-existent conspiracies have quite a few actual conspiracies of their own. The split of the Southern Baptist Convention is an actually-successful conspiracy to take control of an organization. The Proposition 8 nonsense, too, was a religious conspiracy to enforce conservative Christian morals on others through the government. As Tool put it, “Soapbox house of cards and glass, so don’t be tossin’ your stones around!”
Most of these conservative religious conspiracies exist strictly to combat the phantom conspiracies thought up by conservatives in the first place. My fellow Despised Ones blogger Morgan Guyton recently pointed out that many of the key figures in conservative politics and religion exist under the impression that there is this huge socialist agenda to stamp out God and replace it with authoritarian government. If this were the case, then we should all fight back! But since it’s not the case, it’s actually the delusional, rage-induced fever dream of a conspiracy theorist with all too much political power.
The underlying reality
By spreading fear among themselves, these conservatives actually create for themselves a new authority which in turn enslaves them (this should sound familiar). They chain themselves to their fear of others. To change the beliefs which underpin this fear is not only an admission that they were wrong; it is a moral failure and a sin against their false god.
Worse, perhaps, is that this behavior dehumanizes all who don’t abide by this new code of religious law (the rule of the “Colossus” if you remember my earlier post). The Colossus’ adherents view all who do not abide by its laws as filthy sinners. By fabricating a sense of moral superiority, the enslaved are then able to justify totally ignoring any evidence which contradicts their claims.
If you show them evidence, they say you need to have faith and to humble yourself. If you tell them that they’re hurting people, it’s because they’re just following God’s will. If you tell them that you’re suffering because of what they’re doing, it’s because they love you. They have the moral trump card to anything you say or do, and it allows them to ignore you and dehumanize everything about you which threatens them.
What we must do
The number one thing any of us can do is to rid ourselves of fear of one another. This is a difficult step for anyone, especially for me. I have gone through hell as a result of what conservative religious folk have done to me in the name of “God,” so it is so easy for me to give into the fear of my abusers and those like them.
But no, I choose radical confidence in the goodness of the human spirit, even in the face of evil. It might seem like blind optimism, but God created mankind and called us “very good.” He didn’t say, “very good, except for those people over there.” I believe if we all begin to tear down these constructs of fear which enslave us, we will learn to love one another as God intended us to love.
This is the spirit which the writer of 2 Timothy encourages us to foster: “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.” Even when we feel as though the world has turned against us, we must never give in to fear. And even if we cannot believe in ourselves, believe in the God who believed in us when he called us “very good.”