There are atheists and theists
If you listen to the hype
Those who follow a religion
And the other, godless type
If you look a little closer,
It’s a little more complex;
There are major, true religions
And some minor cultish sects…
That’s the Christians, Muslims, Jews—
Are a single, happy family
(You wanna bet? You’d lose)
There are Christians; there are heathens,
Without Jesus in their heart
But the Christians are united
Till it all just falls apart
There are Catholics and Protestants
And Orthodox as well
Choose correctly, go to heaven
Choose the wrong one, go to hell
There are Methodists and Baptists,
Quakers, Shakers, and the rest
All united in believing
Their religion is the best
From a distance, they’re united
All together on one team
It’s a matter of perspective;
Things are never what they seem.
A recent post of mine got a bunch of hits from the Christianity sub-reddit, which is unusual for me, so I thought I’d take a look at the place. I had never looked there before. I am more accustomed to the comments sections of blogs and news sites, where I’m looking at, say, first amendment topics, where believers appear united against non-believers. At that level, it makes sense.
But of course, that level is artificial, and fairly new. “Theist” is an artificial category, a sort of double-privative, defined by “not atheist”, where “atheist” is defined as “not baptist, methodist, catholic, orthodox, sunni, shia, reform, or any of the thousands of other positively defined religions.” Atheism is the artificial “none of the above” category, and theism is the artificial “one or more of the above” category. In neither case can a single set of positive attributes be expected to apply to every member of either atheism or theism.
And the strange thing is, I saw that at r/christianity. As united as various believers appear to be when it comes to, say, wanting prayer before town council meetings (note–we should expect this to be the case, as this is a self-selected, motivated group of commenters), r/christianity (again, maybe it is just the few threads I read) was full of fighting between points of view. “Do you have to read the whole bible to be a christian?” asked one commenter, and received something like a dozen completely different, often contradicting, answers (none of which was what I would have expected at the places I haunt, which would have been “if you read the whole bible, you’ll come away an atheist”). Yes, you need to; no you don’t; you just need to accept Christ; no, you don’t, he already died for your sins; you need to believe the bible is God’s Word; no, it isn’t, Jesus is God’s Word.
And it seems to me that this is far more the natural state of religions, when deprived of the common target of atheism. Arguments, fights, schisms, and the splitting of religions into new ones. Rather than converging in tighter focus on a commonly-perceived truth, the community of religions looks at the world through a kaleidoscope.