I know I said I was going to post about something else first, but I've been thinking about this topic a lot lately.
As I'm sure most of you know, a few days ago, the Catholic Church offered something of a warped olive branch to the Anglican Church, saying that if any of their members were unsettled by the fact that the Anglicans were (gasp!) allowing women and gays to be ministers, they could simply defect back to the Catholics, where a warm and welcomed seat would be waiting for them.
"Give to me your bigoted, your homophobic, and your misogynistic," seems to be the new rallying cry of the Vatican.
Richard Dawkins gave a nice suggestion for an Anglican rebuttal: ""Send us your women, yearning to be priests, who could make a strong case for being the better-qualified fifty percent of humanity; send us your decent priests, sick of trying to defend the indefensible; send them all, in exchange for our woman-haters and gay-bashers."
That brings up an interesting thought for me: Are the more liberal churches and religions helpful or hurtful? Granted, in the very long run, they're likely just as bad as any other church. But in terms of possibly helping to de-convert, or at least teach people to be better human beings, I think they could serve a very valuable purpose.
Case-in-point: There are now starting to be several, individual Catholic churches which are in full acceptance of gay people. I am 100% in support of these churches, despite the fact that they are churches.
Why? Because they open up people's minds. They show that the world really isn't the way you may have been brought up to believe.
Of course, all of this eventually boils down to the "my church is better than yours" and "you're not a real Christian" arguments, but it's at least a start.
It seems only natural that once you can teach a person that, "Well, that part's metaphorical" you can simply write the whole thing off.
But even if people can't bring themselves to leave their religion, isn't it better to allow them the freedom to be who they want to be, and believe what they think is truly right? If you want to be openly gay, there are churches for that. If you want to embrace evolution, there are churches for that. If you want to be a pastor, and happen to lack any Y-chromosomes, there's a church for that.
It seems there's a church for any way of thinking, including the hurtful ways, as the Vatican clearly shows.
So, the question remains: since you can likely find a church to match your worldview, is it better to go to that church first, and learn to live well with religion, before learning to live well without religion?
Or is it better to just go cold turkey, to just divorce yourself completely from religion and get it over with, like a band-aid?
I've alway believed that if you can't at least moderately defend your beliefs within your religion, how can you ever defend them outside of it? (Obviously there are exceptions to this rule, such as the belief that there is no God.)
So, what do you all think? Is it better to at least go to a more progressive church, or is this just encouraging the bad behavior that is being religious?