A lot of people like religion. Look at how many different ones there are in the world. In addition to being so many, each one seems to have offshoots. For example, Christianity was happy with the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church at first, but then along came Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. And new Protestant religions seem to be popping up in America on a daily basis. The spectacle of Sarah Palin has brought home to many how wide spread the Fundamentalist beliefs are. Once upon a time educated people were slightly embarrassed to admit they actually believed in a virgin birth or a talking flaming bush. They were content in the 19th Century to consider such literary devices as metaphors.
A whole new breed of Christian has emerged in the last 50 years, and no one can say they are "Fringe". Such people believe in things such as diverse as a ten thousand year old Earth, the co-existence of dinosaurs and humans, angels and devils as physical entities, and the reality of the Garden of Eden. Never mind that the Bible itself is fraught with inconsistencies, for some of these religions it is considered a virtue to accept things on faith. Bible "study" in some of these sects, is more of a prayer meeting. I remember during the election some of my co-workers laughing at a YouTube video of Sarah Palin getting hands laid on her. It was an ecstatic prayer meeting where her fellow church members were praying for her protection.
"Hey," I pointed out, "there are more than ten churches within a twenty mile radius of here where I could show you people speaking in tongues, and laying on hands â€“ this is NOT fringe." My former husband, a covert drug addict who walked out on me three years ago was a deacon at one of these churches. I found it interesting in retrospect that none of the people who claimed to hear God on a daily basis ever received a message regarding Howard's drug addiction. It certainly would have helped his physical health to have been revealed.
A member of the "Healing Room" organization that lays hands on people and prays over them explained to me that Howard's drug use did not negate the power of his prayers. So even if they had known, which they didn't, it wouldn't have affected anything. That would be my first criticism of religion. If it doesn't help you have a better life, what good is it? I mean Howard was stealing prescription drugs and endangering lives by driving loaded, not to mention trashing his own liver with his drug use. It seems like a small "hurrah" to be able to say, but he's going to heaven when he dies, and his Jewish mother and father did not, because they died without saying "Jesus Christ is their personal savior."
Another problem I have with religion, criticism if you will, is the idea that being ignorant is a virtue. When scientists come across something they don't know they go into a "Oh Goody!" mode, "Here is something to figure out!" When Religious people come across something they don't know, they decide its God. As if "God" is an explanation for anything, when it's really just a dressed up way of saying "I don't know." You can see this in the Intelligent design movement. "ID" acts like real science in that it uses words like bacteria, and cells, and follows all known courses of known science until it hits something it can't explain, and then, rather than ordering more tests â€“ it stops and says "Here is proof of God's existence. We don't know how this flagellum evolved, so it was made by God." That's like saying, "I don't know how the microwave works, so it must be God." It's plain intellectual laziness!
You can even question them on their own book. When I was Christian, I was a moderate Christian what a Fundamentalist would call a cultural Christian. I celebrated Christmas had agreed with the moral teachings of Jesus. But I didn't believe the Bible was written to be a history book, and I never believed the Young Earth theory. I questioned the people in Howard's church about their insistence that bible never contradicts itself. "How is it," I asked, "that in one place Jesus says, 'if they aren't for us they are against us,' and in another gospel it says 'if they aren't against us they are for us?'" I mean which is it?
Or why are the genealogies of Jesus father so completely different? And if he was born of a virgin, why does it even matter what Joseph's family line is? And on and on, the sort of stuff that doesn't bother a person who accepts the Bible as a book written by People about God, but really, really, frightens people who believe the Bible is a book written by GOD for people. They went to absurd lengths to explain to Ms Muffintop how everything could be reconciled. They reminded me of how the queen in Alice in Wonderland was able to believe so many impossible things before breakfast.
So ok, why does it matter if people want to have pot lucks, and act superior, and hold silly beliefs? IT matters because this subset of Christianity seems to be on a mission to bring their style of belief into every level of government. Some of them want prayer in school, and they don't seem to understand any kind of national prayer will be a dilute verse and not the speaking in tongues thing. Some of them want the bible to equal the law, similar to how Iraq uses the Koran.
Which will span all kinds of invasive personal laws such as no more abortion even for crack head mothers who abuse their children, no marriages for gays even in long term committed relationships, no divorce unless adultery is involved and so on. Frankly it all sounds very dangerous.