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Why We Are Not Ecumenical
Almost by default, Rational Religion is pretty open-minded about who can join the congregation, and how they choose to celebrate the faith.
It is not, however, what one would call “ecumenical” - in the sense of all faiths coming together to find common ground.
Persons of good will can certainly agree on a lot of the major points, but there is one humongous stumbling block, and that is the definition of the Rational Religion, itself.
It doesn't mean just commonsensical celebration of one's most cherished beliefs. It means that those beliefs include an awareness and acceptance of the fact that the beliefs themselves exist entirely within the subject individual's wetware. They have no independent reality, and they cannot be shared with any other individual except by hearsay.
No other religion I am aware of so scrupulously excludes the objective reality of at least some element of the supernatural.
In this respect, the Rational Religion is as reactionary as the most rigidly doctrinaire Pentecostal Christian sect; minus of course all the superstitious baggage which makes those people so hard for the rest of us to live with.
But we understand that there is a Universe out there, which we must deal with constantly and which only by accident - and perhaps temporarily - happens to be amenable to our presence.
All of the mental tricks and techniques we have throughout the evolution of our cultures developed to deal with that Universe are valid mechanisms - more or less - depending upon their effectiveness and their effect on their practitioners' and the neighbors' objective welfare.
But their truth depends entirely upon their correlation with the laws of the Universe, not what we - individually and at the moment - believe those laws to be.
Since arriving at truth, in any circumstances, is a difficult and iffy proposition, the Rational Religionist tries to remove as many of the obscuring layers of human misinterpretation as possible. That includes a constant awareness that one's own interpretation of anything is exclusively one's own, and the probability of misinterpretation - given the always uneven quality of information available, plus the constant complications of prejudice and self-interest - is perilously high.
Our frail human intelligence is so easily misled, in the best of circumstances, we don't need any extra red herrings dragged across the trail.
The saving grace of this peculiar kind of tentative absolutism is that no self-respecting Rational Religionist will deny any other person's humanity just because that person happens to have a headfull of conventional metaphysics. Nor should we question anyone else's intelligence, on similar grounds.
What we are talking about is a difference in integrated information, and a philosophy about dealing with that information (perhaps mediated by an underlying genetic predisposition).
But I can't call myself a Christian without believing in Jesus Christ; or a Hindu without believing in reincarnation. I can't be a Rational Religionist and believe in the objective reality of either.
This does not preclude my realizing that both of these viewpoints are demonstrably valid, in strictly human terms; nor from entertaining the possibility that either or both may be objectively true in some context which I am not able to imagine.
Ecumenism, you see, is a piss-poor substitute for genuinely leaving each others' heads the hell alone.
(But, in the cause of Humanity, we can't always do this, can we? Some people's way of doing things - from individuals we define as criminals in our own society to whole societies which seem to be anti-human - is so repellent to us that we feel we have to meddle.
We throw child molesters and meth cookers in jail. We feel justified in overthrowing the Taliban, not only because they harbored international terrorists but because they terrorized their whole sphere of influence including their own people, especially their women.
What it boils down to, for most Rational Religionists, is that we try to leave everybody else alone, EXCEPT for the people who do not share that concept.
That's a hell of a lot of people we might feel justified in messing with. It's probably a good thing they outnumber us so profoundly.)