Bodine: Where's the tolerance for different beliefs?

Bodine: Where's the tolerance for different beliefs?

April 30th, 2014 Mike C. Bodine in Opinion Columns

I chanced reading recently on the Free Press page a great editorial on a very important sociological trend. I for one tend to agree with the bulk of this well composed defense of the Bible which, I might add, needs no defense. Indeed, it remains the premier literary accomplishment of Western Civilization. It is still one of the greatest revered documents in the world. On this, I wholeheartedly agree.

But - and this is important to me - my take is that in the opinion surveys mentioned, it is not the Bible that breeds antagonism toward the book, but rather its proponents - the evangelicals.

Now it is not a stretch to just imagine, as in my experience, that almost daily I either read or run into Evangelicals who present a holier-than-thou persona. It is as if they do not respect the beliefs of others, despite the fact that we are supposed to live in an egalitarian society. Am I a second-class citizen just because I read Richard Dawkins?

On TV there is no shortage of Christian ministries, and that is good. But it is the infusion of the evangelicals into politics, and their pushing laws, that offend me. And their allegiance to big business and the Republican Party also irks me.

Sometimes I think Christians are on one football team, and I am on another. And then there is "Christian Mingle" on TV. I mean, does that mean that I, who just helped my neighbor paint his house, am unfit to marry a Christian? No, it is time for all people in this great country to shed their prejudices and to look for the good in everyone. Judge not lest ye be judged.

So why then can't evangelicals just quietly practice their beliefs 24/7 without shouting in the face of the universe that: "We are better than you nonbelievers." I mean, I don't see Jews ad infinitum buttonholing me every day to become a Jew? Catholics and Muslims aren't chasing me down the road and stuffing fliers on my car windshield. Leave the Bible alone; let it speak for itself, I say.

In these times, social demographics are more and more coming into play, and it is estimated that the white population will be in the minority by 2030.

But for me, I already am in the minority, being what you call an agnostic.

Sure, I believe in God or a higher power, and that Jesus was a great man. But there are other considerations. I believe strongly in Darwinism and the theory of natural selection. I differ with evangelicals. I can't imagine a greater expression of God than Charles Darwin, for he exhibited a great awe and curiosity of nature's (God's) grand design. Was Darwin's crime simply that he dared to try to explain it? Well then, just why is there religion in the first place but to explain the inexplainable?

But I also fervently believe in global warming, and I believe the jury is still out on when human life begins in the womb. And I view the Bible with utmost respect, but I don't think its writers intended it to be dogma or taken literally. The good book is chock full of parables, wonderful metaphors, and history and lessons for life. But in the face of science, who can believe that the earth was created in six days and God rested on the seventh? Hogwash!

No, I think the Bible in the abstract is a wonderful teacher for life, but I also think in the same breath that it is the evangelicals who appear to market Christianity like a Wall Street advertising agency sells soap. You know, I once saw a bumper sticker that read: "My Karma Beats Your Dogma." Do you remember Elmer Gantry?

So my advice is to live and let live. Young people today are sensitive to divisiveness. Yes, rightly view your great religion as a way of life, but at the same time guard that it does not antagonize and become a wall between you and others. Religion should not be a litmus test to be a politician. In this way it would certainly be a less contentious world, and our politics would become less polarized.

Mike C. Bodine is a resident of East Ridge.