Sunday, February 08, 2009

Most and least religious

I was getting ready to head off to bed when I finished looking through Facebook updates. Then I found this. Well, I could kiss off sleeping for awhile. Discovering which states were the least religious as defined by that one poll was interesting. That the South is the most religious part of the US isn't news to anybody. Then I started reading comments and was just charmed beyond belief.

A few examples

Massachusetts has one of the highest average IQs of these United States
Massachusetts has one of the highest rates of education (with advanced degrees)
Massachusetts is one of the leading states in inventions and patents
Massachusetts is tied for the third least religious states. Go figure

Good to know. I'll stay away from the dark green states full of ignorant inbreds who wish for jesus ponies to return with their rapture.

Yeah.. GOOD. This is one of the best reasons to live here. The graph is great. It could also be a graph of productivity, crime, IQ, test scores, etc etc etc. It would look exactly the same. The worse the place the more religion..

Anyone who has ever been in the South understands that those crackers don't have very much to cling to, except God and guns. You'd be praying and attending those whacked-out mega churches throughout the Bible Belt too if you were married to your brother, sister, first cousin and had to endure all the y'alls and tobacco chewing and toothless neighbors that seem to come with territory south of the Mason Dixon line. The movie "Deliverance" was non-fiction!

Some of my favorite bible verses...
Ephesians 6:5
(My addition, the verse is "Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear and sincerity of heart.")
1 Corinthians 14:34-35 ("Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission like the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.")
1 Timothy 2:9 ["I also want the women to dress modestly, not with elaborate hairstyles, or gold or pearls or expensive clothes (10) but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.]
Deuteronomy 23:1 (No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the Lord.)

What a useless relic of a bygone era. I wonder if any of the bible thumping people have actually read their bible?

I think charming is a good word to describe comments like these, don't you? Well, since I'm a religious Southerner, I must be a stupid, uneducated, ignorant, inbred, lazy, gun-toting, toothless criminal, not to mention unconcerned and uninvolved with the spiritual texts of my religion. Maybe, I'm just too dumb and lazy to understand what charming really means.

There's an old saying around here. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck. I've had enough experience spotting a knee jerk, prejudiced reaction to know exactly what kind of duck I spotted here. The Bigot, specifically, the Northern Elitist Bigot, also regionally known as The Damn Yankee.

I want to be fair. There were a good number of commenters who called out the bigots on their responses. I also want to point out that poll referenced in the article did not mention a specific religion. The criteria was the percentage of people who say that religion is an important part of their daily lives. The last time I looked around, there were Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Pagans and a whole array of people with other beliefs who are actively religious, but not Christian. And my goodness, some of them are even Southern. The commenters though seemed to focus solely on Christianity. That seems a bit exclusionary to me, coincidentally another sign of bigotry.

Insults to my region aside, it upsets me that there is still the assumption that living with faith in God means shutting off the brain. I've known too many Christians who have worried about their faith being too thought oriented. They've feared that in intellectually delving into their religion, their faith and their understanding of God that they might be missing a deeper spiritual or emotional understanding. I personally cannot grasp the idea of not thinking through my beliefs. Understanding what I believe and the principles which guide how I choose to live my life is a key element of my faith. Also, the Bible isn't exactly easy reading. I'm not a literalist, and that might make it harder. I'm constantly searching through the layers of cultural traditions and context, the many years since the Bible was written, the individual perspectives of the authors and the many translations the Bible has gone through for the Truth behind the text to come through. I've learned along the road that pulling one verse away from that context can be a very dangerous and misleading thing.

I'm not one of organized religion's biggest defenders. I can honestly say that religion nearly destroyed my relationship with God, but it was religion that helped me make the connection to God again. Religion is a flawed, man made thing, no matter where it's practiced, but it can be a powerful asset in someone's life. Whatever its strengths and weaknesses though, I see religion best as a map of how other people found God.

There is part of me that would like to go through point by point and show how the generalizations that have been made here are just assumptions. I could point out that the American city with the highest number of Ph.D.s per capita is Southern (Oak Ridge, TN) or that one of the very public faces of American science, NASA, largely operates in the South. Yes, I can defend my region and religion in general, but I also recognize the problems of both. That actually feels like a gift of grace. It keeps me from thinking that all people who do not practice any religion or people who don't live in the South are all like the people quoted above.

8 Comments:

Blogger Lisa :-] said...

Cyn, you know that I don't practice religion nor do I live in the south, and I surely do not agree with any of that idiotic drivel that you pulled out of the comments.

I think the best lesson to be learned in this situation is to NEVER read "at large" comments anywhere on the internet. I learned my lesson on that long ago from the AOL message boards. It made me crazy that there are so many idiots out there, and that they seem so attracted to posting (anonymously) their bigotry on the internet.

I choose to believe this is simply not a truly representative cross-section of public opinion. Not even close...

February 08, 2009 1:28 PM  
Blogger Donna said...

I don't find things nearly as black-and-white as I did years ago. There are things these days I'm not sure about. I go to a couple of very fundamentalist churches, but there are many points in their doctrine about which I disagree. I love the people and their fervor, so I go.

I read blogs of all flavors, and one thing that amazes me is the anger some atheists have toward believers. They have made it their agenda to let Christians know how "stupid" they are.

Maybe it's just that they've had people try to convert them for so long that now they're trying to make converts themselves.

I want to ask them, "Can't we all just get along?".

February 08, 2009 3:03 PM  
Blogger Reflections on an Ordindary Life said...

Like Lisa, I rarely read the public comments people post on the internet for the same reason, I find the racism, sexism, and even regionalism genuinely upsetting. Who needs to invite that stuff into their lives?

I've seen and heard plenty of stereotypes about the South but the prejudice works both ways. Southerners have just as many prejudices regarding Northerners or "damn yankees". I'm a Northerner but have lived in the South. Even as child I was called a "damn yankee" and was frequently told I was going to hell as I was not raised in a religious home. There are plenty of people driving around the South sporting bumper stickers that say "Yankee Go Home".

It's unfair and inaccurate on both sides. I think if we all took the time to really get to know each other we'd learn we have more in the way of commonalities than differences. I also think the people who post that stuff anonymously on the internet are a small and wacky minority - at least I hope so.

Anyway, I also wanted to say how much I enjoy your journal. You are an excellent writer and I've been reading it for quite some time now.

February 08, 2009 7:41 PM  
Blogger IndigoSunMoon said...

Imagine living in Alabama! Most people think that Alabamians are exactly what you said. Toothless, truck driving shotgun toting, mindless idiots. I have a college education. Susan has a bachelors degree and only likes a few courses having her masters. My brother in law is a computer engineer who is the smartest person I know! Lumping all southerners into the "stupid podunk" catagory infuriates me.
As far as the bible goes...the only people I have a problem is are the people who believe it is the literal word of God and as such is not subject to change or interpretation on any level. This puts women on the same level as farm animals, and I can't tolerate that.
The God/Goddess I speak to loves me just the way I am.
Thanks for this entry Cynthia!
Connie

February 09, 2009 8:18 AM  
Blogger Anne said...

Cyn, Ya know I found religion to get in my way of faith. I view it as a non-taxed business who has lost the basic vision of helping out ones community and the desparation of the people who live in it. I also wonder, IF Jesus did return would we even recognize him? Anne

February 13, 2009 4:08 AM  
Blogger Kathy said...

Like Donna, I don't find things as black and white as I used to.

Not particularly religious ... I have faith in God ... and I believe that my prayers are heard.

Generalized statements and comments are just that ... but I am very glad you wrote this post. I thoroughly enjoyed your point of view and not surprisingly .. agree with you!

February 17, 2009 8:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for putting into words my feelings that I have a difficult time articulating - (good word for an dumb, Bible toting, gun loving Southerner). I'm old (75) by some standards and I've found that, no matter the belief system, people are good, bad and indifferent. The Bible is such a multi-layered book that it still teaches me and comforts me and it doesn't take a particular faith to find solace, wisdom and good, sound advice in it's pages.
Like you I've lost someone so precious to me that nineteen months later I still can't "get my mind around it". One help has been the blogs on grief that I've found on the internet. I arrived at yours from Desert Year.
Thank you from all the parts of my broken heart.
April

March 28, 2009 11:10 AM  
Blogger Christina K. Brown said...

I love the line: Religion almost destroyed my relationship with God.

Well said lady. Bravo.

March 30, 2009 12:25 PM  

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