Monday, August 19, 2013

In Praise of Curiosity

Yesterday one of my clergy colleagues (and FaceBook friend) encouraged folks he knew to reach out to an FB page called I HATE RELIGION.  He an another colleague/friend had each posted a comment there recently and had been summarily blocked and their comments deleted.  He was suggesting that it'd be great if a bunch of liberal religious folks posted kindly, respectful comments.  My first response was to doubt that there were "ears to hear" there.  But I had a second thought and decided to post this:

Why such anger? Saying "I hate religion" is kind of like saying "I hate music." What kind of music? Jazz? What kind of jazz -- blues, trio, bop, atonal? "Religion" is not one thing. (As is true of atheism, too.). The approach I see here closes more doors than it could possibly open. Why?

I fairly quickly saw this follow-up:

To those who don't get it why I hate religion and nope I don't hate god because he doesn't exist then you should learn what religion does, . . . Erik,you really don't know nothing if you don't get why people should hate religions (as they're all evil and ruin the world) and comparing it to music you only proved how ignorant you,so go learn,. . .,it's obvious why we hate religion,it's not obvious only to idiots and I don't welcome those here.

To which someone else added:

Besides, you're on a page entitled "I hate religion" and upset because someone hates religion!? Should have been prepared for that.

And like others before me, I was blocked.  And, yes, my comment was deleted. 

Truth is, I'm not particularly "upset because someone hates religion."  Heck, there are members of congregations I've served who'd say that they "hate religion" too!  At first I thought that I was "upset" -- and that's not really the right word . . . "dismayed" maybe . . . or "disappointed" . . . or "discouraged" -- because of the anger.  The hatred.  But given that yesterday we'd had a service here at Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church celebrating some of "revelations" of science I've been thinking about this atheistic animosity through that lens. And what I've realized is that I'm disturbed by the closed mindedness.  (The same kind of closed mindedness, I'd argue, that is one of the reasons this person "hates religion.")

What folks like Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Richard Feynman, and Michio Kaku, and Carl Sagan, and Jill Bolte Taylor, and . . . well . . . all of these kinds of folks have in common is an apparently insatiable curiosity.  The best philosophers also have this, and the best artists, and the best religious folks.  And that's something that's sorely missing from folks who "hate religion," or "hate atheists," or "hate gays," or "hate liberals," or "hate conservatives" or any other generalized expression of "us" and "them" thinking.  We are, as noted yesterday, deeply connected to every other person, every other living thing, and every non-living thing too in the universe.  As Neil deGrasse Tyson has said:  "We are all connected -- to each other, biologically; to the earth, chemically; to the rest of the universe, atomically."  To close our minds, then, to anyone or anything, without even entertaining some level of curiosity about it?  That's a sin in my book.  One of the few I could name.

Curiosity my kill cats, but I'm convinced it awakens souls like nothing else.

Pax tecum


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Lynn said...

There's lots of anger there, certainly not limited towards religion. I think your original assessment of no ears to hear was accurate.

As we get more and more polarized, I don't see how we will ever get closer together. The defensive, immediate reactions accompanied by judgmental, disparaging comments do not bode well.

These folks may well be our neighbors, and have much to teach us, but they seem more like the armadillo (curled up in their armor)than unfortunate travelers by the side of the road.

Pete said...

Wonderful. Some folks just need to hold onto their ONE thing that fits neatly in a box and hold onto it tight. Intellectual curiosity (and openness to other views) goes by the wayside.

Dave Dawson said...

I am coming to realize after all of my years of living, how much I respond in angry ways. How attached I am to my "cherished" understandings of religion. But when I reread your book TGC yesterday along with parts of a newer book by Deepak Chopra, I sense the need to stop being defensive about what I cherish and do what comes so hard for me..."to love anyway." I appreciate your ministry Erik and your incredible church community. Just keep on!

Cathy Finn-Derecki said...

I went to a local Skeptics Society discussion a few months back and was hoping for an open discussion of all ideas. What I encountered was a closed-mindedness about anything that smacked of religion. I realized that although some folks find comfort in that, I am rarely comfortable with any organization dedicated to closing off inquiry or even mention of any subject (I mentioned the Bible as a valuable source of cultural literacy if not faith, and was looked at as though I had just stepped in poop.). It made me sad. But, the Skeptic Society's website has the following on it: "…membership or involvement in any capacity with the Skeptics Society and Skeptic magazine is not exclusionary. We could not care less what anyone’s religious beliefs are. In fact, at least two of our more prominent supporters—the comedian and songwriter Steve Allen and the mathematician and essayist Martin Gardner—are believers in God. "

RevWik said...

Dave, you remind me that I need to remain vigilant . . . even my distaste for closed-minded people can be a form of my own closed-mindedness. Because, as both Lynn and Pete's posts lift up for me -- there's a reason each of these people have assumed this defensive posture. Does my writing them off as "closed-minded" do anything to help me -- person to person -- reach out?