There's been a rather spirited debate going on in the comments on Joe's blog the past few days on the topic of religion and its place in determining law - specifically with respect to the referenda banning same-sex marriage. As someone who's often on the receiving end such faith-based ballot box bashings, I have a real problem with the melding of faith and the public sphere. I don't know that I'd go quite so far as Richard Dawkins - to the extent that a person's faith gives them a framework to work towards improving themselves, then it can perhaps serve a function - but I fervently and adamantly insist that faith has no place in developing law in a secular society. That's what theocracies are for.
My other big problem with faith is best illustrated by a story. Three years ago, S & I went to Europe on vacation. We spent about half of our time in Rome, and one evening we were approached by a fresh-faced, blond-haired, blue-eyed American kid who, obviously not familiar enough with Europeans to recognize that we were distinctly American, asked us, "Parla inglese?" I had a suspicion about his motives, but I took the bait and told him that we were American. And then the proselytizing began - all about the wonders of Jesus Christ and faith and everything that I'd heard every day of my childhood and long since rejected. So I politely told him that I didn't share his faith and that I had no problem believing in a universe without a creator and that, if anything, the fact that this world existed at all was made even more magical by the thought that it happened in all its complexity purely by chance. His response was, "I just HAVE to believe that there's SOMETHING."
It was late, so we politely took our leave, but the question I wanted to ask him was, "Why? Why do you HAVE to believe in a God?" Why, indeed, does anyone? What does it matter if this is all there is? Doesn't that make this world and this life more precious? Doesn't that increase the need for us to be decent to one another? That is the very basis for secular humanism, after all, and yet the term "secular humanism" gets spat out of the mouths of religious fundamentalists as if they were saying "shit sandwich". To fall back on faith just because you "HAVE to believe" is, to me, intellectually lazy (NOTE: I count among my friends many people of faith who are anything but lazy, but they're also people who don't use their faith as a crutch and who aren't afraid to question their beliefs).
One of the main things that attracted me to Buddhism is that, despite the mythologies that have sprung up within the tradition, it is at its core a humanistic religion. There is absolutely no incompatibility between being an atheist and being a Buddhist. Granted, there are Buddhist nations with some serious internal problems, but it seems to me that the problems lie not so much with the religion itself as with the fact that the religion (or at least particular versions of it) has become institutionalized in those countries to the extent that form has generally become more important than substance. Siddhartha Gautama's last instruction to his followers was, "Be as a lamp unto yourselves." I feel that teaching often gets lost to a society's detriment. To institutionalize "Christian values", or at least the particular version espoused by most evangelicals, in this country would be no less problematic and damaging.
And now on to more funner topics. I've started working on my holiday knitting, though I'm by no means sure I'll get everything done that I'd like. I wanted to knit something for my niece and nephew who are currently living in Phoenix, so I settled on socks. My LYS has started carrying Bearfoot sock yarn from Mountain Colors, so I've started this one in 'Mountain Twilight' colorway:
For my brothers two stepsons who live here in Maine, I'm doing hats in Lion Brand WoolEase. Machine-washability is essential and I can make them functional and comfortable hats that will keep them warm in the Maine Winter. I'm still undecided about my sister's girls in North Carolina, but I doubt I'll have time to crank out anything additional in time. Maybe hats, though.
Overnight here at work I've been working on something for David. I will only say that it's not for public viewing and it's all Franklin's fault. And if you happen to be astute enough to figure out what it is, don't you dare say anything to spoil the surprise.