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Helen, Amen!

Helen Philpot (of Margaret and Helen) has a better grasp of religion that most of our presidential candidates:

Margaret, here is the thing about religion: Faith is a wonderful thing until it becomes certainty; at which point it becomes fanaticism. If there was only one true religion, fanaticism wouldn’t be all that bad. But there’s the rub, honey. Not only are there many different religions; there are many different versions of each religion. These days religious beliefs are like a backside. Everyone’s got one and often times they stink.

If you’re a Baptist, you probably shouldn’t work at a liquor store or a dance hall. If you’re a Catholic, you probably shouldn’t work at Planned Parenthood or any organization that thinks women should have a voice. And if you’re an idiot, you probably shouldn’t get yourself elected as a County Clerk in Kentucky.

My late husband was Catholic. I am a Methodist. I cooked and he did the dishes. Thank God we didn’t live in Kentucky because he would have starved and I would have had dishpan hands.

If we can’t all get along in the name of Jesus then can we get along? I don’t know, but imagine asking that question in the Middle East much less the middle of Eastern Kentucky. Of one thing I am certain: I’d rather live my life believing there is a God and finding out there isn’t, than believing there is no God only to find out there is. The problem is that some want to make a dialogue out of what is essentially a monologue. And some so badly want to have a conversation with God that often they decide to make up his part of that conversation as well.

My religious beliefs don’t have to affect your religious beliefs. In fact, you can even have no beliefs and we can still be friends and agree to live and let live. That, my friend, is what having faith really means. And I really do mean that. Really.



  1. ThatGuy wrote:

    “I’d rather live my life believing there is a God and finding out there isn’t, than believing there is no God only to find out there is.”

    I always find that reasoning interesting, but that’s neither here nor there. The follow up points are spot on. I think it’s some sort of toxic mix between American’s (not that it’s limited to the US) “me culture” and the born again/finding Jesus type of belief that creates so much passion so quickly. Instead of just holding a firm belief, people start to think that they’re religious authorities or martyrs or prophets with God on speed dial.

    I wish that Helen’s last paragraph was the first of every religious text.

    Monday, September 14, 2015 at 7:04 am | Permalink
  2. Iron Knee wrote:

    Sometimes I think about a “theory of evolution for religions”. In order for a religion to survive and grow, it needs to convince people that they will get something (e.g., salvation, everlasting life) in exchange for their faith, and it needs to convince them to convert other people (missionary work). I think as the world continues to get smaller, this becomes more true.

    Monday, September 14, 2015 at 8:45 am | Permalink
  3. rk wrote:

    I’ve often thought about the evolution of religions as well. It doesn’t take long to get to ‘force my religion on others to further the faith’. The old gods that didn’t do favors (miracles) for humans didn’t stand a chance.

    Monday, September 14, 2015 at 10:09 am | Permalink
  4. Ralph wrote:

    That Helen is one salty old dame, I love her!

    THATGUY – I strongly agree, the idea of believing and praying to your God “just in case” is perhaps the lamest argument and only exposes the shallowness of such conditional faith. My late father used to use this line of “reasoning” on my late atheist uncle many years ago, but I loved and respected him too much to point out the fallacy, despite agreeing with my uncle on little else back then.

    IK – frankly, I think the very concept of a “theory of evolution for religions” is an oxymoron. Orthodox religions, by definition, depend on absolutes and authoritarian decrees and resist practically all change at all cost. Such absolutes are the seeds of all religious and sectarian conflicts. They may proclaim love, but in practice thrive on fear. The promise of eternal salvation is a two-fer, as it comes wrapped in the fear of eternal damnation that can be avoided only through unquestioning obedience and worship. The Catholic Church (the one of my youth), for example, is being dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st Century as it struggles to retain its dwindling flock, especially in the West, who view it as outdated and out of touch. Its growth market is largely restricted to uneducated, third-world countries in Africa and Latin America. It finally, grudgingly pardoned Galileo (after only a few short centuries!) and then only after it became painfully obvious and an embarrassment to all rational thinking people. Biological evolution was granted a conditional “may not violate God’s plan” by the last Pope, but has been met largely with hostility, if not indifference, by the general congregation (especially, of course, the 6,000 year old earth demographic) while the new Pope has been generally silent on the issue so far. He may be the most progressive Pope in history, but he’s got a lot on his plate and massive historical momentum to work against. I can only guess how he comports his previous scientific training with his current post.

    Here’s what Christian and surging presidential candidate, Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon and supposed man of modern science says about evolution: “If there is some force evolving to the maximum, why isn’t everything a human?”. How did this guy ever pass Bio101?!? He may be a terrific surgeon, but I wouldn’t want him digging into my brainpan and certainly don’t want him as my President!

    As a trained scientist myself, I am inclined to suspend judgment in lieu of objective evidence. The more we learn about the Universe (Multiverse?) the more we realize how little we really know. But if, in the unlikely event, there is a conscious, supernatural force out there it surely can’t be so vain (or bored?) as to need us on bended knee for its aggrandizement, let alone play hide and seek about its very presence.

    That’s, like, just my opinion man and I’m stickin’ with it. Cheers!

    Monday, September 14, 2015 at 11:27 am | Permalink
  5. Iron Knee wrote:

    Ralph, I mostly strongly agree with you, but one comment. I wasn’t suggesting that individual religions evolve. More about how they compete against each other to survive and increase their membership. However, natural selection for religions certainly does not seem to value truth or reality most of the time!

    Monday, September 14, 2015 at 1:31 pm | Permalink
  6. Redjon wrote:

    The point is that, there should be NO religious test. The constitutional interpretation refers to holders of public office but, in point of fact, things would be more functional if it applied to policy as well.

    When debating policy in the public square, our government’s responsibility to ALL of its citizens should be to base its laws on grounds that can be accepted by people regardless of their religious beliefs or lack of them. Public commitment to reason and evidence is the bedrock of a functional pluralist democracy.

    “Functional” being the operative word.

    Monday, September 14, 2015 at 2:34 pm | Permalink
  7. rk wrote:

    Religions do change, albeit slowly. Especially since the printing press.

    However, if you get a bible from about a century ago, you can see differences. I’ve been told, but haven’t confirmed, that the term ‘homosexual’ didn’t appear in the bible prior to somewhere in the 30s. There have been a few other similar changes that may not be intended to, but do lead to new interpretations.

    You can also have evolution through the creation of sects.

    Monday, September 14, 2015 at 2:55 pm | Permalink
  8. Ralph wrote:

    IK – guess I missed the zero-sum metaphor there, but I take your point. There’s a more or less fixed pool of customers for religious “products”, true enough, but of course not all religions are evangelical either. Jews, for instance, do not actively seek recruits, like Jehovah Witnesses. Unlike ISIS, who would have your head otherwise.

    Conversely, the theory of evolution by natural selection is not a zero sum game or some quasi-conscious quest for all life to become human, as Carson would dismiss it. Rather, it operates through the process of random point mutations of an organism’s genome, which happen all the time via internal biochemistry gone awry or external stressors, like radiation. These mutations may then be passed on to offspring, which may (but more often do not) confer a survival advantage within their niche environment, who are then more likely to reproduce and pass on the advantage to subsequent generations. But “random” is a key operative of the process, not some inevitable march to maximum perfection (whatever that is). The environment changes and species change in response as possible, or fade into extinction. To paraphrase the late, great biologist, Stephen Jay Gould, if the clock of biology could be started amew, it is extremely unlikely that homo sapiens would arise again in its present form, if at all.

    Sorry if I inadvertently insult your intelligence here, but it never ceases to amaze me how often people misunderstand the theory of Evolution by natural selection or appreciate how it works, especially if they are prone to dismiss it out of hand. Modern biology can not be discussed or understood except in light of it. And even if there is a God, there’s no reason to doubt He’d find it a useful tool to add diversity, beauty and resilience to every niche of his creation.

    Guess that’s enough from one windbag for a Monday!

    Monday, September 14, 2015 at 3:03 pm | Permalink
  9. Hassan wrote:

    “Faith is a wonderful thing until it becomes certainty”

    What does that even mean. I am not english expert, but I think by definition faith is certainty. I believe there is one God is not equal to I think there is one God. Faith is opposite of doubt.

    Monday, September 14, 2015 at 3:49 pm | Permalink
  10. Iron Knee wrote:

    Ralph, I am an amateur at evolution, but I have read quite a bit about it, including S J Gould’s “Wonderful life” and subsequent followups (and partial rebuttals). I’ve also been lucky enough to visit the Burgess Shale and the “Cradle of Humanity” in Africa.

    Gould would totally agree with you that evolution is not a single ordained march to a fixed result (whether us or something else). My understanding is that it is more like filling ecological niches. I lived in New Zealand for a while, and the original lack of mammals there led to various bird species filling those niches. Similarly, when the dinosaurs went extinct, that opened an opportunity for mammals and eventually humans. Punctuated equilibrium.

    Hassan, a better analogy would be “I believe there is one God” versus “Everyone should believe there is one God”. Faith can be personal (and I think it should be). Certainty is when you try to change faith into universal truth. Like when the faith of another person, whose faith does not agree with yours, offends you.

    Monday, September 14, 2015 at 4:47 pm | Permalink
  11. David Freeman wrote:

    Like Hassan, my first thought was, “what does that even mean?” Not just the last paragraph but every argument she attempted. Yes, I get and support the whole kumbaya thing but other than that this was a Sara Palin word salad without the mean dressing.

    Monday, September 14, 2015 at 6:30 pm | Permalink
  12. Iron Knee wrote:

    Remember, this was an excerpt from her blog post.

    Monday, September 14, 2015 at 10:34 pm | Permalink
  13. ThatGuy wrote:

    I think that there’s a difference between “I believe there is a God” and “I know there is a God.” Unfortunately faith means equating that belief to actual knowledge, which would be a serious and often disastrous step in any other field from sports to economics to chemistry. I think her overall point is that being certain you and yours know the mind of God causes serious problems, as we see in KY and elsewhere, with varying degrees of intensity and resulting problems.

    Tuesday, September 15, 2015 at 8:23 am | Permalink