I think my recent serious, but not deadly, illness, distracted me from writing about the religious cult to which I belong, Transition Lutheran Church. I participate in a peripheral way with the “wood ministry” crew that cuts, splits, and hauls wood, and sells it to people (at a very reduced cost) for heating purposes.
In the past, I communicated with conservative evangelical Christians (mostly on the Internet, but in a few cases in person). Most of the ones I encountered professed (and perhaps really did believe) that God exists, that Jesus is his son, and that with the Holy Ghost they make up some kind of magical “Trinity.” I regarded this as absurd and offensive. These conservative evangelicals were full of intolerance and hostility (while prating constantly about love), and full of condemnation of Communists (reasonable enough) and of Muslims (not so reasonable), atheists, abortion doctors, homosexuals, “liberals,” and lots of other people who don’t agree with them. After several years of participating in their discussions, I was eventually “banned.” from participation. Though I was guilty of a few intemperate remarks, mostly – as I said in a comment – “evangelical Christians like to dish it out, but they don’t much like to be on the receiving end of dishing.”
However, all humans – individually and in groups – change and evolve. When I began to participate with Trinity Lutheran, it took me a while to realize that they were indeed Christian zealots, as much obsessed with “converting me” as the evangelicals I encountered before. However, the Trinity group with much more tolerant and open-minded than the zealots at worldmagblog (a division of World Magazine, the group I had encountered before.
At Trinity, the obsession with bringing people into the flock is much purer, more ecumenical, gentler, and inclusive than the obsessions I encountered before. “You are a Jew? You are a Muslim? You are a Hindu? You are a [whatever your faith] – well, that’s fine. We all worship some aspect of the same God” seems to be the current doctrine.”
However, I am a stone cold, fanatical atheist. Most of the people who participate in the wood splitters are at least 90% of the way to religious belief, so it only takes a gentle push to push to get them that last 10%. But as I said not too long ago, at most I am .01% of the way to religious belief.
Even so, my friend and neighbor Craig (much like the sweet Karen O), takes that as a sign for optimism. He told me, one day (after I irritated my wife by telling Craig and Sharon I am an atheist), “That’s OK. We have atheists in our congregation. In fact, Pastor Jim has a special sermon he delivers at the funerals of atheists.”
Craig even took it amicably when I sardonically responded, “I suppose I appreciate the thought, but after I die, I will not be paying much attention to any sermons delivered on my behalf.”