14 September 2004

How are the chosen chosen?

During the last week, I keep running across posts discussing that age-old sore spot in the American body politic--separation between Church and State (and the lack thereof). In the U.S., the more aggressive stance of fundamentalist Christians rests on the premise that they are in fact the chosen people and thus have an obligation to shine their lamp on those of us bumbling around in religious darkness. Personally, I wonder how many of these people have really analyzed their own beliefs. In particular, there seems to be an unsettling issue for those who follow theistic beliefs when it comes to how the "chosen" are chosen. As I see it, there are a couple of alternatives--none of which are very satisfying:

  1. The believers are the smart folk who are able to look at the world and really figure out the underlying reality behind appearances.

    Problem: If this were the case, we would expect to see all those with high IQs in church on Sunday, and everyone else boozing it up in the local bar watching pro football. Test scores would match religious affiliation and a roster of world chess champs would provide us with the names of leading bishops and cardinals in Rome. This option is clearly out. 

  2. Believers are the sincere folks. Anyone who wholeheartedly seeks the one true Way with all their heart is sure to find it.

    Problem: It would then follow that only people of certain nationalities have a high capacity for sincerity. There would be entire swaths of the world population, say in Yemen (overwhelmingly Muslim) or Myanmar (overwhelmingly Buddhist), who are almost incapable of sincerity. The American South, on the other hand, must be chocked full of sincere truth-seekers. Of course, this runs completely counter to our experience if we leave our provincial little town in Alabama and travel anywhere else. We meet sincere Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus, people so sincere in fact that they give up everything in life to pursue religious truth, people for whom virtually every waking moment is pregnant with religious devotion or inquisitive awareness.
  3. God simply took out a book, wrote down all the people who were going to get saved, and tossed the rest of the names down to his co-conspirator in the basement.

    Problem (?): This is perhaps the most logical solution and one that many will accept as doctrinally consistent. The problem of course is that it belies the "sincere" efforts of all who work to convert us soul-less people not written in the Book of Life. If we ain't in it now, we never will be. Hell, you might as well just drop bombs on us and take our resources away, cause we don't matter. This so-called solution really isn't a solution at all since it doesn't leave any space for moral indeavor or religious insight.
In the end, I think this problem of how the chosen are chosen is a koan for our times, and as such, is actually more daunting than the traditional brain-teaser of theodicy (i.e., how a benevolent, omniscient deity allows evil to occur.)

There's a strange confluence of religious-related posts in the blogosphere at Viking Zen, Wildhunt, Pharyngula, Chuck Currie, Mirror of Justice, Blogicus, Get Religion (offering a Pagan view), The Objectivist Club at the University of Utah, Dispatches from the Cultural Wars, Dummies for Idiots, and Toni Saint's blog. (Is it a sign from the Heavens?)

8 comments:

RanDomino said...

Agreed. Even if God exists, there's logically no reason to worship it.

spiralsands said...

If you want to know why 'christian' followers believe how they do then you gotta read a book called "The Closing of the Western Mind, The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason" by Charles Freeman. It expands on the crap that your college Humanities class forgot to mention, for some reason....maybe because colleges are funded by institutions with political agendas. Myself...I remember a heavy dose of Augustine during my sophomore year, without knowledge of his personal problems with women...

Karlo said...

It sounds like a good book. I'll try to get it.

Mark said...

Hey, thanks for the link! I've already reciprocated ...

And thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I'll try to do the same (a REAL comment) sometime ...

Viking Zen said...

Hey Karlo-
New layout! Very nice- easier to read, also.
Thanks for the plug!
VZ

Karlo said...

Thanks for the link Bryk and I'm glad you all like the new lay-out VZ. I was sick of that sickly green color of my former lay-out and tried to tweak it in my template, but I had a really hard time finding where anything was within all the blogger code. I figure the white background is best in the end. If I want to add a few pictures or color later it's easy to do so, and the text seems to show up a lot better now. Unfortunately, the previous comments on all my post got erased (very disappointing). Anyway, thanks for the comments and the visits.

Mick said...

Hi Karlo--

Your comments haven't been erased; they're still on the Haloscan server. Shut off the Blogger comment program and then go to your account and regenerate the code; when you re-install the program in your template, all the old comments will show up again as long as you're using the same ID, password, and address. I went thru this at Omnium--I had a different comment program for 6 months. When I re-installed Haloscan last month, I was shocked when cruising the archives to realize that the comments I had thought long gone were back again.

BTW, I had the same template you did to start with, and I didn't like it either. What Omnium is now is what I built--the only thing left intact is the size of the header, but underneath it's Split-Pea. Your new one is simple but a lot easier to read.

Karlo said...

Thanks Mick! I'm glad to hear that the old comments are still retrievable. I still have the old code, so I'll stick it back in in the next few days.