How Politics Divide Us, Part 3: Bundled Belief Systems

We continue with our diametrically opposed duo, Jake and Mary.  The first semester at XYZ University is picking up and both students are settling into their respective places.  They found the dorms lacking and opted for small apartment units near the school. Utilities have been included with their rents except for cable and internet.  They decide to head down to the Comspaz office (the local cable and internet provider).  Jake is a big sports fan.  He played on the high school football team and is an overall athletic person.  He also enjoys having friends over to watch the game.  Comspaz offers a premium package that includes ESPN, ESPN2, etc.  However there’s content that Jake knows he’ll never see.  There’s a cooking channel, a reality TV channel, etc.  The package is expensive for a college student but it’s the only way he’ll be able to watch what he wants.  He inquires “why cant I just get the sports channels I need?”  The salesperson apologizes and tells him “unfortunately, that’s the only package that offers that content.”  Jake begrudgingly signs the one year contract and a tech is dispatched to get his service up and running.  Mary shows up an hour later.  She doesn’t watch television as her parents never had a set at the house.  Her only need is fast, reliable internet.  The Comspaz employee tells her that she’ll get internet at a lower price by bundling it with the premium package that Jake has.  Her apartment doesn’t even have a TV but she also begrudgingly signs the one year agreement.  When she gets her fist bill, she’s upset that she has a “sports broadcasting fee” and other taxes.  She grills the Comspaz employee by asking “why do I have to pay for something I have no interest in?”

Nobody likes these types of combined products/services.  I’ve worked in sales positions in different industries and everyone (save the impulsive shopper) just wants to buy exactly what they need/want and nothing more.  When it comes to the beliefs that form the foundation of our lives however, we gladly accept any bundle.  Jake is a Christian as I mentioned in part one.  The Baptist church he attends now offers what he’s looking for.  He wants a place of community with like minded individuals.  He also wants an outlet where he can help poor children in the city.  He joins a ministry where he helps the homeless attain employment.  Unlike his church back home, this one is well funded and organized.  If you’re familiar with religion then you know it isn’t all love and compassion though.  Jake sits through sermons condemning the LGBT community for example.  The pastor also breaks into “fire and brimstone” warnings for the unbeliever.  He’s also forced to listen to anti-science diatribe on a regular basis.  Sometimes, the message is about theological issues that have no relevance to daily life whatsoever.  This is the “bundle” he must accept if he is wants to be a part of the congregation.  Jake might be a loving person but these ideas slowly poison his mind.  He begins to see the LGBT community on campus with a sense of disgust.  He looks at students of other faith with suspicion and/or targets of conversion.  He becomes weary of scientific discoveries if they so much as slightly contradict scripture.  I’ve publicly acknowledge that religion has the potential to create changes for the better (to an extent), even as an atheist.  However, this type of toxicity will be always be there in one form or another.

Mary’s story is different but also veering off course.  She’s in an atheist, pro social justice, pro feminist group on campus.  The group has programs that encourage young girls to take interest in science.  They also help with a woman’s shelter and empower victims of abuse to confront their abusers. They bring awareness these types of issues on a local, national, and international level.  The organization branches off into other areas such as environmentalism.  Their activism has managed to get the city to reconsider selling the nearby nature preserve to the school for development among other things.  Furthermore, they also address income inequality and childhood poverty (what initially drew Mary in the first place).  From the outside, everything looks positive (much like the work of Jake’s church).  However, even here a “bundle” also exists.  Mary’s group has become more and more radical in recent years.  Many of the leaders believe that men are the problem in society, that we actively oppress women, that we’re all potential rapists.  The organization has also taken inequality too far and have adopted outright communists ideas.  They also see everyone who subscribes to religion as the enemy since it’s typically been used to justify oppression.  These ideas also poison Mary’s mind and she starts seeing every man with suspicion.  She walks past the campus ministry booth by the student union area and looks with utter disgust.  Jake happens to be there and recognizes her from the protest in part one.  He looks back at her with equal disgust as he sees her as a wayward heathen.

I cannot ignore the countless individuals who’ve been hurt deeply by religion.  I cannot ignore my own experiences in this area.  I won’t turn a blind eye to the abusers in this world either or the injustices many face.  I can understand the reasons why people gravitate towards such extremes.  Like part one, the scenario presented here is worst case.  Everyone will fall somewhere along the spectrum between neutral and Jake’s/Mary’s mentality.  Bundled ideologies can often introduce people to new concepts.  Jake after all did learn about helping others through Christianity and Mary through activism.  The problem is, there are also vile, poisonous details tossed in there.  It’s like ingesting 99.9% food and 0.1% pure rat poison, you still die.  The same applies to what we are taught, it doesn’t take much to kill your mind.  No sane, respectful man wants to see a woman abused or oppressed.  Many of us have or will put ourselves in physical danger to protect them from psychopathic males.  Jake would likely do this for Mary if it wasn’t for the hysteria, rage, and lack restraint the protest in part one brought on both sides (everyone was launching projectiles at everyone else).  Most feminists don’t hate men and will often reach out to us as allies.  In fact, this a positive trend that I’ve been noticing.  Extremists get all the attention these days but more and more people are rejecting the bundle.  I’m seeing Christians who outright reject the condemnations LGBT, atheists, or other traditionally reviled groups.  I know believers who take very progressive stances.  I’m seeing some liberals acknowledge that capitalism has problems but it’s better than the alternative.  Conservative atheists also exist, they just focus on the role of government and don’t give a damn about your personal life.  People are starting to wake up to the fact that just because you accept idea A, doesn’t mean you have to go with B, C, and D.  I can only hope this trend continues.  The solution is readily available information and freedom of choice.  Will this concept dawn on Jake and Mary?  We shall see…

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