Identity Politics: Humanists and Cultural Christians: In Keeping with the Policy of the Humanist to Accommodate the Diverse Cultural, Political, and Philosophical Viewpoints of Its Readers, This Occasional Feature Allows for the Expression of Alternative or Opposing Views on Issues of Importance to Humanists

By Niose, David A. | The Humanist, November-December 2006 | Go to article overview

Identity Politics: Humanists and Cultural Christians: In Keeping with the Policy of the Humanist to Accommodate the Diverse Cultural, Political, and Philosophical Viewpoints of Its Readers, This Occasional Feature Allows for the Expression of Alternative or Opposing Views on Issues of Importance to Humanists


Niose, David A., The Humanist


WE ALL DESCRIBE ourselves in numerous ways--by ethnicity, gender, education, career, worldview, and countless other factors. Using a variety of modifiers, we define our identity to the outside world and, importantly, to ourselves.

For many of us, certain aspects of identity are simply taken for granted. For example, if asked for religious identification, almost 90 percent of people in the United States will identify themselves as some type of Christian, usually either Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or of a Protestant denomination.

Nevertheless, there can be little doubt that some who identify themselves as Christian do so mainly out of tradition, without any strong belief in underlying Christian doctrine. Many of these "Christians" have serious doubts about such basic Christian notions as the validity of claimed prophecy, the resurrection, and the divinity of Jesus.

In fact, since only about half the U.S. population attends religious services on any regular basis, we can infer that many of those who don't attend services harbor a certain ambivalence to Christian doctrine. This demographic category can accurately be called "cultural Christian" characterizing those who maintain Christian identity and acknowledge Christianity's major cultural traditions (usually holidays), but who don't necessarily accept Christian beliefs and creeds.

If cultural Christians were deciding their religious identity in a vacuum, it seems doubtful that many would select the Christian identity. But since heritage weighs so heavily, most would rather maintain a superficial connection with the religion of their ancestors than venture into the intellectual wilderness to find an honest religious-philosophical identity. The strong psychological and social tendency to maintain the religious identity of one's family often results in an unwillingness to abandon Christian identity, even when belief in the underlying religious doctrine is weak or nonexistent.

This continued adherence to Christian identity isn't without ramifications. If nearly all Americans, from all parts of the political spectrum, attach themselves to Christianity as a key public identity, then public debates and public policy will inevitably give great weight to Christian rhetoric. If virtually all sides agree, as a foundational matter, that Christianity is a common, almost universal national view, then arguments will often be given a degree of legitimacy simply because they claim a Christian foundation.

This poses a particularly difficult problem for those cultural Christians who also define themselves as liberals or progressives. By utilizing the Christian identity (and rarely acknowledging that views outside the realm of traditional religion are acceptable), liberal cultural Christians ensure that religious conservatives will often be taken seriously when claiming moral righteousness. Moreover, these liberals, because they share the Christian identity with religious conservatives, are in a position where they must give conservative Christian arguments--on school prayer, intelligent design, and a host of other issues--more serious consideration than they would otherwise deserve.

Biblical interpretation becomes another sticking point for cultural Christians and religious conservatives coexisting under the same Christian umbrella. For example, in debate with the religious right, cultural Christians will point to the ethical teachings of the compassionate and tolerant Jesus as an alternative to the harsh rhetoric of the Old Testament, Paul of Tarsus, and the Book of Revelation. This situation--arguing over the modern application of ancient texts--is hardly one that is ripe for a rational discussion of public policy, and cultural Christians should realize the futility of engaging in such a debate.

The debate is futile not only because it gives legitimacy to the conservative Christian position, but also because the religious right has unfortunately succeeded in associating the term "Christian" with conservatism in the national psyche. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Identity Politics: Humanists and Cultural Christians: In Keeping with the Policy of the Humanist to Accommodate the Diverse Cultural, Political, and Philosophical Viewpoints of Its Readers, This Occasional Feature Allows for the Expression of Alternative or Opposing Views on Issues of Importance to Humanists
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.