Novelist Anne Rice, best known for her series of novels about vampires, has some choice words for institutional Christianity:

For those who care, and I understand if you don’t. Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.

Later she added:

As I said below, I quit being a Christian. I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.

Later still she said:

“My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn’t understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me,” Rice wrote. “But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been or might become.”

If more believers talked like that they could probably get me to convert.

What I find interesting is that she does not limit her criticism merely to certain segments of Christianity. She does not say she just needs to find a more liberal church or imply that it is only a tiny fringe element that is making everyone else looks bad. Her condemnation is sweeping.

This, to me, is a useful window into the world of contemporary American Christianity. It would seem that the marriage of Christianity to right-wing ideology is so strong and pervasive that a sincere believer like Rice no longer feels welcome there. We hear a lot about the need to empower moderate Christians in fighting battles over science education, among others. I am all in favor of doing precisely that, but I wonder if there are enough moderates left to make that an effective strategy.

Comments

  1. #1 Orual
    July 30, 2010

    Wow, I think I need have a chat with Anne Rice. I’ve been thisclose to doing something similar myself. The only reason I hang on in the church is that you can’t expect an institution to change if all the people who want change quit. My pastor just looooves my pro-gay, pro-evolution comments at meetings.

  2. #2 Pierce R. Butler
    July 30, 2010

    If only she had accused institutionalized christianism as “blood-sucking” – but after all, Anne Rice may not consider that a bad thing…

  3. #3 Joe Shelby
    July 30, 2010

    I’ve internally gone through exactly this process. If you recall (google search helps), I was pretty adamant about defending “moderate” Christianity, and asserting that some mainstream denominations weren’t as bad as the evangelicals who get all the bad press.

    That was before the Episcopal Church split, right here in my home town, over something as stupid as one man’s sexuality, and before the larger Anglican community decided to not condemn (and thus, implicitly endorse) the anti-gay fever of its African clergy – not as bad as Uganda’s madness, but not exactly condemning it either. Such denial of human rights is one of the main reasons the Church of England is so out of touch with the English people.

    So yeah, I’m done, and I’ve stopped defending moderate Christianity, and a big reason why is that moderate Christians *should* be more active in condemning the anti-human attitudes of their more reactionary fellows, but don’t.

    So for their apathy, I have left them (as a label) as well.

    “Who is my neighbor?”, indeed. Seems almost nobody but atheists (and pagans I know) actually ever know the real answer to that one, though the 2000 year old parable couldn’t have made it more clear.

  4. #4 Scott
    July 30, 2010

    I understand that Jimmy Carter was driven from the Baptist church for similar reasons.

  5. #5 dean
    July 30, 2010

    After Anne’s husband died she seemed to “vanish” for a time. Her return to the church began, if I recall correctly, when she fell under the sway of one of those disgusting folks who claim to allow you to speak with deceased friends and family members. She implied that the messages from her husband convinced her that the afterlife was real and pushed her back into the arms (and, probably, open pocketbooks) of her church.
    Now this – I wonder what caused this rift.

  6. #6 Rich
    July 30, 2010

    How many moderates are there in Christianity? It’s impossible to know. Like the political moderate that have been run out or gone into hiding. There’s a tendency also to lie low unless there is some over-riding reason like Ms. Rice’s love for her son and gay-rights activist, Christopher Rice. I remember a prominent politician talking about Momma Grizzlies. Perhaps she’s right.

    To see what the religious right does to moderates in their midst see this:
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128776382

  7. #7 Bob Carlson
    July 30, 2010

    If more believers talked like that they could probably get me to convert.

    The idea seems unscientific considering the lack of evidence that Christ ever existed.

  8. #8 Lenoxus
    July 31, 2010

    “But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been or might become.”

    Eh… lots and lots of believers talk like that. Ever heard the “It’s a relationship, not a religion” line?

    Some of the most vocal opposition to “religion” I’ve ever heard comes from Protestants for whom “religion” is a weak manmade thing paling in comparison to the True Relationship with Jesus.

    Inter-Christian hairsplitting like this goes all the way to the beginning, possibly even shaping the content of the gospels themselves. It’s kind of funny to see them all try to Out-Subtle one another, or, conversely, Out-Devote one another.

    You’ve got the people for whom it is Obviously Christian that one should never pray for worldly things (like the curing of disease), and the people for whom that seems like a woeful underestimation of Divine power.

    Every half-generation brings Christians who have Finally Figured Out that they need to go Back to the Scriptures (including liberals who believe the scriptures are more in line with their views — “If only Christians listened to Jesus’s real message, about charity and compassion”). Then you always have the counter-argumenters for whom it is Obvious that the Bible is largely symbolic, and that those other guys are really just “Worshiping the Bible” (to which the other guys say Huh? It’s the book the Almighty breathed, so it’s kind of a big deal).

    So, yeah, can’t say I’m impressed.

    For my money, even though I’m left of center, the core frustration and danger of religion is in the faith-minded heuristic in itself, not its conclusions. While I certainly respect and prefer the company of non-homophobic (to pick one example) Christians, I’m still left scratching my head and wondering, Why? (Actually, I know some decent Christian answers to that one specifically, but I’ll use it as an example anyway.)

    If a religion is really true, then its answers to questions should dominate all others, including those from science and secular ethics, because an omniscient being is delivering said answers… right? Therefore, so long as a person identifies as Christian, “fundamentalism” will perpetually threaten to dominate that person’s life, only kept in check by living with minor cognitive dissonance, and, however paradoxically, valuing other things over one’s faith.

    Here’s my three-question quiz to which “moderates” tend to feel compelled to give the same answers as literalists: Is the Bible at least partly inspired by an omniscient being called God? (Even, somehow, the parts promoting hellfire, genocide, slavery, etc.) Are there at least some people (such as children) we can safely expect will go to a paradise when they die? (Giving us, if we choose to face it and not waffle about it, the seriously vexing question of whether to favor such people’s deaths.) Is prayer truly effective, beyond the benefits of meditation, placebo, etc? (This one, these days, irritates me the most — everyone from every religion feels compelled to pay lip service to the non-existent “power of prayer”, then shove it under the rug when it’s actually put to the test.)

    In my opinion, “Christ” is never a reason to do anything or take any particular position, any more than “Gandhi” or “Einstein” is. What Anne Rice is really doing is taking some of her perfectly valid and valuable positions, and applying the “Christ” label, because that is what Christians have felt obligated to do for hundreds of years, and that makes me kind of sad.

  9. #9 Nathan
    July 31, 2010

    Odd, how God seems to reveal different and contradictory truth to his followers. It’s almost as if these revelations were less truth and more wishful thinking and projection.

    If only there was some explanation for this baffling, puzzling mystery! In the meantime, I’m just going to delight in knowing I’m right and every other so-called Christian is deluded. If only they’d listen to me, they too could know God exactly the way I know Him and be saved instead of burning forever in eternal agony for their foolish rejection of God’s perfect and obvious truth.

    How sad that God and I will be lonely, so lonely …

  10. #10 JonJ
    July 31, 2010

    I’m waiting for the day when all the Christians decide that it’s all really mythology, which to some folks means absolutely nothing, so they’re fine with no religion at all, but which is quite meaningful to other folks, but means all sorts of things to the various individuals and grouplets among them, so why quarrel about it? That would make everything quite simple and pacific for everyone, and we could all settle down and get to work on important things, like climate change, global poverty, etc. But then no one would have anything to fight about, and where’s the fun in that?

  11. #11 Ewan
    August 1, 2010

    The arrogance of theists never ceases to amaze me. Rice, when faced with a billion plus of the world’s Christians, screams “YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG”. Says who?

  12. #12 Marshall
    August 1, 2010

    “Moderate Christianity” can’t be defended: probably true. What is needed is Radical Christianity. Just as “Liberal Politics” turns out to be worthless in the face of contemporary conservatism and other ubiquitous social problems: we need a Radical Politic.

    A Radical Christianity would start with the realization that Religion’s proper place is as a social interpretation of individual experience, which latter properly understood is tautologically incapable of contradicting “empirical reality”. One can be mistaken, and one can tell lies, but one’s experience Is What It Is. Some would say such an interpretation of the trinity, the bible, and so on can’t be done; I think it’s mostly that most haven’t tried. Certainly it’s hard to find people who are interested in entering into the question.

    A Radical Christianity would end in a Radical Politic, which would be why the existing Body Politic will never tolerate it. Moderate Christianity can only be self-contradictory and self-serving.

    I don’t assert that any Radical Religion is necessary to a Radical Politic. Probably for some (such as myself) it is, for others eschatological questions aren’t interesting. Like Martial Arts, which have no purpose in truly peaceful people.

  13. #13 GravityIsJustATheory
    August 2, 2010

    …Religion’s proper place is as a social interpretation of individual experience…

    Why?

    How do you know that?

    What makes you think that you have worked out the One True Purpose of religion, in the face of millenia of other people believing and arguing otherwise?

  14. #14 Wes
    August 2, 2010

    My guess is that she saw what the Twilight series did to vampire mythology and realized that a loving God would never allow that to happen. Sparkly Vampires = No God.

  15. #15 James Sweet
    August 2, 2010

    Re: the sloppy thinking in Rice’s continued “commitment to Christ” that others have pointed out. Yeah, I agree… BUT, I’m not inclined to crow about it. Obviously it would be even better if Rice was like, “Woah, not only has Christianity been taken over by a bunch of reactionary right wing bigots, but also I just realized this whole religion thing is epistemologically bankrupt to begin with. Screw it!” But this is such a firm step in the right direction, I’m not inclined to complain.

    FWIW, I feel the same way about all the churchies that march in the Gay Pride parade. Their presence is annoying to me, but I’m also glad they are there. If that makes any sense…

  16. #16 rob
    August 3, 2010

    bah, religion.

    ultimate scapegoat.

    you can use it to justify any deed. good or bad.

  17. #17 Spanky
    August 3, 2010

    Was anybody else annoyed by Rice’e connection between pessimism and atheism? A lot of misinformed folks seem to assume that being an atheist is a wretched experience. I, for one, am quite happy with it!

    I like cats too.

  18. #18 Jolo5309
    August 5, 2010

    The arrogance of theists never ceases to amaze me. Rice, when faced with a billion plus of the world’s Christians, screams “YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG”. Says who?

    It is those darned ‘New Theists” again. They are so arrogant when they state that they are correct.

  19. #19 Sojourner
    August 10, 2010

    “The idea seems unscientific considering the lack of evidence that Christ ever existed.”

    Posted by: Bob Carlson | July 30, 2010 9:17 PM”

    That’s an easy throw-away line. You should do some some historical research, Bob, and you’d find that most historians agree that Jewish, Roman and New Testament sources show that the man Jesus lived in Palestine from a few years BC to about 33 AD.

The site is undergoing maintenance presently. Commenting has been disabled. Please check back later!