Gutting Your Religion

CoexistWalking down the street today, we saw this all too familiar Coexist bumper sticker again.  Versions of it have been around since the very early 2000s.  But before I explain the title of this post, for those who don’t know, let me explain what each letter of this sticker means:

C: Islam’s Crescent Moon
O: Peace Sign
E: Male/Female symbol combined
X: Judaism’s Star of David
I:  Pagan, Wiccan symbol
S: Taoist Ying-Yang Symbol
T: Christian Cross

There are many fun variants of this bumper sticker, of course.  But all of them advocate for the very naive message of: “We should all just get along.”

I’d wager that the people who slap these stickers happily and proudly on their cars don’t realize the futility of this message.  Because, in order for religions to sincerely tolerate each other, those religions would have to severely gut their own theology — something no religion wants to do.

“Gut” in the sense that for a religion to survive, it must tell its believers or followers why it is better than or preferable to other religions.  For a religion to survive, it must also encourage its believers to preferentially pass on their own set of beliefs to their children and/or other people. How can these exclusive systems ever really get along with each other?  How could gutted versions of these faiths even survive for more than two generations? They couldn’t and can’t.  “Exclusivism” is an essential trait of religion. And yet, to have religions that really include each other, you would have to severely gut those religions’ theologies.

Question to readers: Your thoughts?


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

13 responses to “Gutting Your Religion

  1. “Because, in order for religions to sincerely tolerate each other, those religions would have to severely gut their own theology — something no religion wants to do.”

    True. But for religious people to tolerate each other, all they have to do is cling a little less tightly to the strict dogma, and recognize the importance of our shared humanity. For christians, that might mean taking the “love thy neighbor” commandment more seriously than their church tells them to.

  2. @ Ubi Dubium: long time no type! How are your doing?
    Yes, Ubi, you are right, but one of my points is that for a religion to prosper — which means to grow in number and pass on generation to generation, it needs to show its followers why it is better than others. For if they are all the same, peaceful and loving and accepting, there would be no need to join one more than another and the club’s membership would dive. Do you see my point?

  3. I think they all might need to go back to the drawing board. I’m still trying to figure out why we need religion. Couldn’t we use all that energy on something more useful and productive? It all just seems rather pointless to me.

  4. @ Midlred: I tend to agree, but it is a major method (besides sports and nations) for people to gain identity and sense of security. But since I am a former believer, I sort of understand, even if disagreeing because of the many pitfalls.

  5. Big Dummy

    You sound like a recovering conservative/fundamentalist. Broad brush that you’re painting with there. No room for mystics in every tradition that transcend.

    Here’s a story.

    Mohammad brought some Christians in to debate at his new mosque in Mecca. The time came for the Christians to pray (at that time Christians prayed three times a day). The Christians excused themselves to head out to the desert and Mohammad invited them to use the mosque. His followers were very mad.

    Seems like the followers are the exclusive ones. Jesus said, “Whoever is not against us is for us.”

    Non-duality. It’s not how humans think. As evidenced by this post. Gotta be against. Gotta fight. Gotta take down the other. “Gut” the theology. Please.

  6. Dear Big Dummy,
    Mystics are small in number (and my favorites, in all faiths), exactly because they gut their religion — and many do it very well. All power to mystics.
    Maybe you did not understand that part of my post or the natural implications of my words, or you want to believe your divine is still the same divine of all the other in the faith. soooo complex.
    Thanx for your thoughts.

  7. Big Dummy

    Glad we’re fans of the mystics.

    “Maybe you did not understand that part of my post or the natural implications of my words, or you want to believe your divine is still the same divine of all the other in the faith”
    Please see, “Non-duality. It’s not how humans think. As evidenced by this post.” Glad to know you haven’t changed. Right back to the binary. Always leading with the ego.

    I understand your post and you had better hope COEXIST can not only gut current systems, but last generations. If your kids ran blogs, they wouldn’t have to use a pen name or live in fear of retribution, would they?

    You’ve long ago established the tribal mind on this blog. It’s something I’ve come to see as universal. Deeply embedded in the human animal (see this humorous comic: )

    “How could gutted versions of these faiths even survive for more than two generations?”

    Let’s take it secular, shall we?

    American is founded on the overthrow of another government. “All Men Are Created Equal” is a take down of the divine right of kings and the woo-woo thinking of royal blood and the concept of nobility. It’s a gutting of ideology and government up until that point. How long did it survive? Well, jury is still out.

    Fast-forward 200 some years and we are at another gutting. Trump’s administration is the most corrupt in ages and thrives of hatred, binary, and absolutes. To seek the opposite, to COEXIST, think beyond the binary, and compromise is a radical act.

    Black Lives Matter is gutting the racist system of America. It’s a confrontation of a country’s history founded on the exploitation of black and brown bodies, which enshrined this system into law by stating black bodies are 3/5ths that of a white persons. A war was fought over it, a war we still might lose. Let’s hope we can COEXIST and unlearn a lot of racism and dismantle racist systems like redlining (See Netflix Doc 13th or any book on race written in the past 20 years).

    In a country where all men are created equal, LGBTQ+ folks can be fired or evicted for no good reason. None scientifically at least. And some pretty garbage faith reasons as well. Let us gut those prejudices as well. Let’s hope future generations will have a better understanding of gender and sex than we do.

    This country is going through a radical gutting of its history. How shall we survive? I hope so. But, by all means, take on a bumper sticker from 10 years ago.

  8. @DB: I will leave this rant for now.

  9. At their core religions make truth claims about reality. Truth claims are by definition exclusivist and therefore there will naturally be conflict between truth claims. Sadly too often those have resulted in not just ideological conflict but physical violence. Imho we need religion (I’m rooting for Judeo-Christian) because many of the ideas we take for granted today were not so commonly taken for granted before religious thought took hold. 🙆 Without then we might still be struggling to view all people as equal….just an example 🙏

  10. Oh, Clapham, you are still around. Hello. I often argue against many types of blogging atheists who accuse religions of having bizarre, nonsensical or inconsistent beliefs and feel that wins-the-day. But I think the main functions of religion (except for the very small number of highly conservative literalists in each tradition) is for identity, community and then each “believer” throws in combination of afterlife hopes, magic (health, wealth, safety and/or happiness). For most religious folks really are horrible on their theology and arent’ trying to make “claims about reality at all. They aren’t making truth claims. Which shows because when you show them a problem with a belief, the regroup because the real point is not the cache of beliefs but the functions I mentioned.
    I think the ideas of enlightenment or even prior that you value came prior to religions and got wrapped into religion. Though I am well aware of Jews, Muslims and Christians trying to grab credit for their favorite idea that yields wonderful cultures. So I’d have to disagree. But thanks for stopping in again.

  11. Big Dummy

    Surprisingly, we agree on the first part, Sabio. Main function of religion can often be community, safety, and then some sort of organizing principle. Also, they are largely ignorant of their own hypocrisy and illiterate on their own foundational texts. Hence our shared love for the prophets, I guess.

    However, religion is older than the Enlightenment and many scholars are right to point out that Enlightenment ideals stemmed from a Western Judeo-Christian basis. Science was developed and funded by the Roman Church. See John Polkinghorne, Michael Dowd, Maya Rivera, Francis Collins, Karl Giberson, and Katherine Johnson Also you’ll have to contend with the work of Joseph Campbell before so flippantly dismissing the values of Clapham’s humanistic stance. Makes you sound like a white male boomer possibly with a Midwestern Evangelicalism background for you to be that stuck and ignorant of history. But what do I know? I’m just ranting.

  12. truthseeker

    Greetings, Sabio.

    This is my first visit to your site. I appreciate your style of blogging. There’s a lot to look at here! Where do you find the time? 🙂 I’d like to make a few points in response to some of your comments which I think don’t quite hold up.

    1. You said, “in order for religions to sincerely tolerate each other, those religions would have to severely gut their own theology”. But, to gut one’s theology is not to tolerate another. Rather, it is to capitulate to another.

    Tolerate – allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference.

    Capitulate – cease to resist an opponent or an unwelcome demand; surrender.

    2. I’ll admit my first impression when seeing the COEXIST bumper sticker is similar to yours. However, upon further reflection I would say the sentiment behind the sticker is not necessarily naive. Finding ways to coexist with others while also disagreeing with them is a positive thing in this world. In fact, someone could well read your post and conclude that you believe survival of one’s religion is the ultimate goal. Subsequently, they might interpret your post as preaching intolerance. (!) I don’t believe you are, but it could be interpreted that way.

    3. Even though a religion might survive all others, it doesn’t follow that therefore that religion is true. I don’t think you were trying to argue otherwise about that. I just thought that was worth mentioning.

  13. @ TS:

    Concerning your three point:

    (1) It is not “capitulating to another” since I am saying all religions need to do the same thing — not that they imitate or follow or submit to another.
    I’m telling them ALL to give up their bullshit — to be blunt.

    (2) I totally agree that learning to “coexist” with difference is very important. But that “learning” often involves giving up some very dangerous ideas that make “coexisting” almost impossible. The reason that one must “learn” is that groups which have trouble peacefully coexisting, have policies/tendencies/doctrines or such that are actually counter-productive to co-existing. And in my article , I’m pointing out what that is: “Exclusivism”. So again, you are right, I am doing the opposite of preaching intolerance.

    (3) I don’t understand your third point. But indeed, for example, people have believed in Astrology for a long time, and yet it is hogwash. They have believed in demons and ancestors causing illness for millenium but that is nonsense too. Agreeing with you: Just because an idea is ancient or long-lasting, doesn’t add to its credibility.

    Thanks for visiting.

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