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(Coffee) Shop Talk

Welcome to the shop where I talk about things that go well with coffee, which is almost everything.

I’ve always been annoyed by embittered extremists who attack religion, particularly those who attack Christianity. Although I personally do not subscribe to the doctrines of Christianity anymore, I haven’t seen any need to go on the offensive. But I think that might be changing.

I went by the Focus on the Family web site on a study break and clicked on the link to their magazine for high school girls, Brio. I subscribed to Brio for years and enjoyed it very much. Sometime during my senior year I gave it up in favor of Newsweek, so I haven’t looked at it in about four years. Here’s one of the first things I read on the Brio website:

Only God is worthy of our worship. You see people who idolize, chase after or follow things other than God. You can see how their lives lack the meaning that believing God gives.

In context, this is actually quite innocent, even benevolent. It is from an article telling girls that their number one priority should not be to look pretty.

“We must be careful to give God more worth than our bodies. Rather than chase after a dream of looking a certain way, we need to chase after God.”

The author of this article and I would no doubt agree on one very basic principle: the objectification of women is bad, and women objectifying themselves is worse. But is urging girls to try and forget about their bodies in pursuit of the spiritual really the answer?

While I’m not ready to say that God definitely does not exist, I don’t particularly believe in him, and I definitely don’t worship him. According to Brio, my life now lacks meaning because I am “worshiping” earthly things like education, relationships, financial solvency, and the betterment of the human condition. I mean, with that kind of vacuous existence, how can I possibly stand to keep living?

The idea that life outside of God and the Christian community has no meaning or can’t be deeply fulfilling is a lie, although I wouldn’t call the people who promulgate it liars. I know they aren’t really lying, just voluntarily continuing in ignorance. Most of them genuinely don’t realize that what they are saying is not only untrue but is also contributing to a false dichotomy that could have devastating effects in the lives of those they are trying to educate.

Dichotomy: Christianity…..or… empty existence.

Actual truth: Christianity is just one way to find deep meaning in life.

Adherents to other religions find just as much meaning in their own practices; every study I’ve read about has found that the social and psychological benefits that people garner from their spiritual practices varies not by religion but by the level of devotion to that religion.

Devotion to a way of life that does not involve religion can be equally fulfilling. My life now revolves around friendships, self-expression through writing, a significant other, academia, holding down a challenging but rewarding job, and figuring out where to go from here. It is neither empty nor religious. And, in the end, very few of the things that I learned from Brio, youth group, or the Christian books I read in high school have turned out to be strictly true. They are only true when I believe and fulfill them.


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