Lettor to the Editor: 4.13.12

Rory Goggins
assistant professor of philosophy

In “Religion is not the Answer to our problems,” Dr. Zingrone discusses a speech recently given by Pastor Dennis Terry of Greenwell Springs Baptist Church. According to Zingrone, Terry stated in this speech that those who do not share his political and religious views should leave the country.

My initial reaction to Zingrone’s letter is one of partial agreement. St. John says in his first letter that God is love, and as St. Augustine explains in De trinitate 8.8, in being commanded to love God, Christians are commanded to love love. If we do so, furthermore, we love everyone: those near to or far from us, friends or enemies. We love each of them because we love loving them.

As St. Augustine concludes, “We, therefore, love God and our neighbor from one and the same love.” (trans. Matthews)

While I certainly would not tell Terry to go to hell, I will say that telling those with whom we disagree to leave the country is inconsistent with placing a high value on love. Zingrone is right to point to our country’s diversity and the fact that all of us have a place here.

I’ll add that the views ostensibly held by Pastor Terry target persons we ought to love. Whatever our disagreements with others, we should keep in mind St. Aquinas’ words in his Commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics: “We should love both: those whose opinion we follow, and those whose opinion we reject. For both have applied themselves to the quest for the truth, and both have helped us in it.” (XII.9, trans. Rosemann)

On the basis of this case (and other relevantly similar ones Zingrone could present), Zingrone states further that “This is the sort of arrogance that religious thought sanctions,” and “Only the blindness of religious thought can compel a person to spew such idiocy,” and finally, “The arrogance of religious thought has no bounds.” Zingrone’s statements, construed, as they are, as universal claims, are patently false. How it is that all religious thought would be guilty of arrogance and blindness in virtue of those vices being possessed by parts of it is a mystery? The inference made from a nominal association (e.g., Pastor Terry and I are both religious) to a shared responsibility (my thinking is arrogant and blind just as Terry’s is) is faulty. Note also that just as I would not tell Terry to go to hell, so too I would not call him arrogant and blind, though I would say this way of thinking is inconsistent with the message of love.

To suggest, as Zingrone does, that all religious thinking is arrogant and blind is to ignore differences between religious believers.

Nonetheless, Zingrone’s comments do raise an important issue. The conscription of religious language, beliefs and virtually any aspect of religious life into the service of purposes that are contrary to the values of the religion from which they come is a serious problem for religious thinkers to confront. Paradoxically, I do think Zingrone gives good advice near the end of his letter: “Religious thinking is what we all must question.” Christians ought to question whether the statements our leaders make are consistent with the values of Christianity. We ought also to question assertions of shared guilt between persons whose actions, beliefs, and attitudes are not shared.



1 Comment on "Lettor to the Editor: 4.13.12"

  1. Phineas Iskendarian | April 16, 2012 at 2:27 pm |

    We’ve been punked! The ‘Opinion’ section of the April 6th issue of “THE NEWS” contains what could be construed as a feature rant against all religion. I suppose the reason it even got past the editors was it was branded as a treatise by an “assistant professor of psychology,” Bill Zingrone. The title given to this piece was “Religion is not the answer to our problems.”

    I immediately scanned the posting for a solution to such a negative premise set up by the header. Not surprisingly, there was none. Bill Zingrone probably didn’t further his career or marketability by attaching his name and ‘credentials’ to this piece. Screed-writers aren’t known for offering solutions to their own rants.

    The first take-away for college students is that you can always tell the difference between a well written article from an incoherent screed by finding the premise or problem and then finding the solution put forth by its author. It is a test to tell you if you are looking at something valuable, or just wasting your time.

    What apparently teed the author off was a talk given by an obscure Baptist preacher and his shared forum with Republican candidate Rick Santorum. Bill seeths with rage and emergent hatred directed at these two men. Their crime was apparently having an opinion that didn’t match his own.

    Bill states that there are 310 million people in this counter now, which is fairly close and probably based on the results of the past US census. He goes on that “we are all Americans.” After going on and on about the diversity in careers, “ethnicities, politics, faiths or lack thereof” then poses a venom filled question: How dare you demand anyone to leave if they don’t live up to your rather peculial and repressive minority version of Christianity. (? sic )

    While I am not defending Dennis Terry in any way, we must realize that Mr. Terry doesn’t speak for all of Christianity. The other side of the coin is this: If by diversity, you mean sedition, insurgency, anarchy, and revolution, then you don’t represent what this country was founded on and are fighting against it as an enemy within. If you are fighting against the democratic representative form of government this nation was founded on, you perhaps should consider leaving. Thousands of our citizens have died defending our country over its history, and if you don’t respect that or the opinions of the majority of this country’s citizens or its laws, the justice system can offer you ‘alternative life styles’ in special facilities.

    Bill isn’t apparently aware that “independent” “free willing” Baptist churches don’t speak for mainstream Christianity? In fact, if Bill Zingrone sees himself as a free thinker, isn’t his criticism of the ‘free thinking Baptists’ somewhat hypocritical in nature?

    Bill holds a special rage for Rick Santorum and criticizes a grieving process the Santorum family went through upon the loss of a baby in the family some years ago. Bill, you are “over the top” too.

    In attempting to pursue the roaming rambling of “Religion is not the answer to our problems” I must ask the question Bill does not; Then what is the answer to our problems? One must draw some patterns of history which were, I’m quite sure nothing but coincidince; As religion was pushed out of public schools and prayer was oppressed from public functions, crime mushroomed. Respect for life evaporated. Hope disappeared. Prayer groups were replaced by gangs. Laws based on the laws of God and natural law were replaced by liberalism. Many abominations are now legal.

    In the center of Bill’s piece is a large iconogram which slashes through a symbol of several religions all lumped together as though they were all the same. That portrays a level of contempt and ambivalence that betrays the fact that the author just doesn’t get it. I hope some day he does.

    Bill closes with “The arrogance of religious thought has no bounds. We must promote the tolerance and reason the New Enlightenment.” Bill, we aren’t ‘feelin’ the love’ from you.

    For Bill, the so called “Age of Enlightenment” in Europe was insufficient. We aren’t given a definition of what his brand of enightened enlightenment entails, but it smells like it may be atheism. But if atheism knows no God, and lacks the authority to set any standards, then what solution could it ever put forth?

    The truth is this: “Religious thought” is based on the authority of our creator. Some, like Bill, may think our creator is arrogant, but when you are the creator, you get to set the rules. Weare fortunate in having a creator that loves us and exhorts us to love one another. Bill could learn something from it if he would study Christianity. If Bill doesn’t like the Baptists, he could start at another Christian denomination. If Bill doesn’t like the minor brands of Christianity start at the original.

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