It’s Got Me Mystified

It’s clear there’s a lot I need to learn about how people feel about religion — especially other people’s religions.

Personally, other people’s religious beliefs don’t threaten me except for the ones that incite people to violence or to unconstitutional legislation. (And, please, let’s not get into historical debates about precisely which religious sects that might be…). Thus, for example, I got myself into a little trouble last week by suggesting that during the stike UM classes might meet in near-by local religious establishments, including a local Catholic church. It seems that, contrary to my expectations, a small but appreciable minority of our students would be troubled by this, although I don’t know if it’s because, being church goers, they object to the profanation of the church’s common room (it’s not the main sanctuary, but I don’t know if that was clear at the time), or if they belong to a different tradition and would find entering a Catholic church in some way uncomfortable. Incidentally, since this same space is our local precinct’s polling station, and I and everyone in this neighborhood have been voting there for years, if it’s true that there’s something off-putting about the space we have a bigger problem than where to hold classes…

Which brings me to my complete mystification about this post at TalkLeft: Jerry Falwell: Jews and Muslims Can’t Go to Heaven:

Jerry Falwell gets further and further out there. His latest knucklehead theory is that Jews and Muslims can’t go to heaven.

While I am a strong supporter of the State of Israel and dearly love the Jewish people and believe them to be the chosen people of God, I continue to stand on the foundational biblical principle that all people — Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, Jews, Muslims, etc. — must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ in order to enter heaven. -Jerry Falwell

Blogger Jason Weisberger at Just Plain Bother has co-opted Falwell’s comments and urges you to click here and demand Falwell apologize.

Eh? “Knucklehead theory”? “Apologize”?

First off, this is hardly some new theory of Falwell’s: as I understand it, it’s pretty much routine, main-stream, evangelical Protestantism. And it’s not limited to Jews and Moslems: many evangelicals, including I’d suspect Jerry Falwell, believe that because only those ‘born again’ can go to Heaven, it follows that Catholics, not being ‘true Christians’, are excluded too (or damned, if you prefer). And many undoubtedly would say the same about members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Unitarians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Scientologists.

Second, Falwell is surely entitled to believe whatever he wants about what it takes to get to Heaven. And to preach it. So long as he isn’t threatening anyone with violence in this life, nor asking the state to impose any disabilities on them, nor seeking for special government cash or legal status for his own church and faithful, why on earth should he have to apologize for professing his faith, even if might offend Jews, Moslems, Catholics, Mormons, Quakers, Buddhists and many others?

And anyway, why should people of other faiths be offended? Or even care? If some people believe something about an afterlife which happens to differ from my beliefs, what difference is it to me — so long as they neither try to speed me towards the afterlife nor try to limit me in the enjoyment (or even propagation) of my own views in this one? Not being part of his flock, Falwell’s views on the afterlife simply have no relevance to me. Isn’t letting him preach them the essence of the First Amendment bargain?

But evidently this is not as widely shared a view as I would have expected and hoped.

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8 Responses to It’s Got Me Mystified

  1. zwichenzug says:

    A couple of years ago I witnessed a vicious argument break out between two union activists when one (who happened to be a fundamentalist christian) said to the other (who happened to be a bisexual woman) that he believed that homosexuals were committing a mortal sin. Now, it wasn’t as if this guy was there to preach his views — he was asked what he thought of homosexuality and he answered — but he was accused not just of being wrong but of committing a hate crime. The crime, it seems, lay in holding that particular religious belief.

    I’m still a little stunned by that argument. On the one hand, I have the greatest respect for the woman who flew off the handle and agree with her on almost every substantive issue. On the other hand, it seems to me that you’ve just got to give people space to hold beliefs you disagree with.

  2. Up close and personal Jehovah’s Witnesses can be wolves in sheep’s clothing.

    Think about this-When the devil comes knocking on your door he may not have the ‘dark goth look’.They could be smartly dressed and wielding the Christian Bible.

    I have Jehovah’s Witnesses family in the usa who practice the Watchtower JW enforced ritual shunning that i have not seen or heard from in 15 years.

    The central CORE dogma of the Watchtower is Jesus second coming (invisibly) in 1914 and is a lie.Jehovah’s Witnesses are a spin-off of the man made Millerite movement of 1840.

    A destructive cult of false teachings, that frequently result in spiritual and psychological abuse, as well as needless deaths (bogus blood transfusion ban).

    Yes,you can ‘check out anytime you want but you can never leave’,because they can and will hold your family hostage.

    The world has the Internet now,and there are tens of thousands of pages up from disgruntled ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses like myself who have been abused by the Watchtower cult.

    Jehovah’s Witnesses are often a mouth that prays a hand that kills.The Watchtower is a truly Orwellian world.
    Danny Haszard former Jehovah’s Witness X 33 years and 3rd generation

  3. Katherine says:

    Asking Feingold to apologize is dumb, but otherwise I pretty much completely disagree. I tend to think of religious beliefs similarly to any other moral belief: you have a right to believe or say whatever the hell you want free of violence or government interference, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be offended or in more extreme cases think you’re a complete jerk (or fool).

    I think I’d have a hard time being good friends with anyone who thinks the Jews are damned. And anyone who gets off on that in some way, a la the Left Behind books…

    Holding these ideas harmless in a way that other moral claims aren’t seems like it’s not taking them seriously, in a way.

  4. Katherine says:

    And by “Feingold” I mean “Fallwell.” I have the NSA thing on the brain, obviously, but that’s inexcusable.

  5. Mojo says:

    What Falwell said was along the same lines as, “Some of my best friends are black, but blacks certainly aren’t as good as you and me.” The fact that he says that because of his religion does make asking for an apology pretty silly since it’s tantamount to demanding that he convert, but calling him an idiot is certainly appropriate.

  6. Donald A. Coffin says:

    “Falwell’s views on the afterlife simply have no relevance to me.”

    Or, presumably, to god, if god exists.

  7. billg says:

    To beat a wounded cliche, heaven can’t be all that great if Falwell thinks he’s going there.

  8. steveh2 says:

    I thought that was the point of Christianity — if you accept Jesus as your Savior, or something along those lines, then you get into Heaven. If you don’t, you don’t.

    The “some of my best friends are black” analogy doesn’t cut it, because Falwell’s statement is about choice, i.e., if you reject Jesus, you don’t get into Heaven. That’s a little different from prejudice against someone based on the color of their skin.

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