As Christianity is the dominant religion in the United States, Beyond Religion (and this blog) focuses on its critique, the wisdom it has to offer, and how it could be a consistently positive force in the world. It does this by breaking down dogmatic, unquestioning religion from five distinct perspectives:
- the teachings of Jesus which are universal and threaten institutional religion,
- a dissection of Christian dogma/doctrine (including New Atheist critiques)
- myth, storytelling, and an understanding of cultural worldviews,
- interspirituality (the common contemplative core of many world religions), and
- science, with a focus on the importance of science and rational thought in ethics.
Originally inspired by Sam Harris’ candid and thoughtful Letter to a Christian Nation, a penetrating critique of Christianity, my book will deepen New Atheist critiques and also highlight some of their oversights and limitations.
Discussing and critiquing religion is a difficult topic that stirs up defense mechanisms and the “baggage” people carry related to religion. My approach recognizes the good in Christianity (although mired by dogma), dulling the pain some will feel in its critique. My experiences of being judged by Christians for questioning tradition and dogma make it easier to relate to atheists and understand the sting they feel when judged by religious people.
As Sam Harris pointed out in Letter to a Christian Nation, we need to converge on similar answers to pressing questions relating to ethics, justice, well-being, and the sustainability of our global culture. To do this, we need to use and understand the limitations of all types of knowledge and approaches available to us such as spiritual, rational, analytic, intuitive, and historical.
I hope that discussing biblical studies and the specific teachings of Jesus won’t scare away readers not familiar with these subjects or whose negative experience of religion taints these subjects. In fact, I think it is Christians who will find these subjects most troubling as the church has largely ignored or brushed the contradictions between Christianity and Jesus under the rug. I bring insights and critiques that come from being raised Christian but coming to my own conclusions about what Jesus was about. Even in discussing the bible you should see accessible language that doesn’t rely on obscure religious meanings and dogma.
I look forward to a lively discussion, and hope it is fruitful and productive. We should never stop “searching and knocking” for meaning, depth, and solutions to our problems. This has to include questioning and critiquing: even a sensitive topic like religion.