Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Answering Aunt Bertha by J.A. Steiner

Answering Aunt Bertha...Regarding Her God and Faith, J.A. Steiner. self-published, 2010. ebook, 441 pps.

     J.A. Steiner had an elderly aunt named Bertha [she passed away before he finished the book] who was a sincere Christian woman. He wrote Answering Aunt Bertha in response to her beliefs without any intention of sharing his writing with her. Although my own relatives-- including the elderly ones-- know about my own atheism, I strive to respect my older relatives in particular by not arguing with them. I suspect that perhaps J.A. Steiner is of similar mind.

     The most valuable point that J.A. Steiner made in the e-book is one about control or self-control. From page 219: "Religion imposes rules that may enable you to overcome personal weaknesses and encourage self-control."  I have certainly witnessed evidence of this with people in the throes of active addiction who find peace and a new way of being via a set of ideas related to spiritual practices [including but not limited to the twelve steps as originally written for Alcoholics Anonymous and subsequently altered for other X.A. programs] as well as those who never come to meeting rooms but who seek through their churches or other religious bodies to quit doing what they've been doing. This is the primary reason why I do not seek to argue people out of their belief systems. [There are other reasons also which involve how belief operates as well as basic human respect for others].

     J.A. Steiner goes on to almost condemn this sort of thing by calling those who utilize this tool as weak or lacking willpower or intellectually lazy or suffering from not enough self-determination. That is what I find to be the greatest weakness in Answering Aunt Bertha. Religion has provided many people an impetus to change. While some of those changes may be lethal, other changes are not. To decide that all of the folks who know that they need social supports and find it in religion are somehow lacking is an error in cognitive thinking. Because not all of them are. I suspect that most of them are not lacking.

     While it is true that many horrid acts have been perpetrated in the name of religion, it is also true that religion also motivates people to compassionate and altruistic acts. It is unfortunate that Muslims tend to rely on the "no true Muslim" fallacy when noting that extremists perpetrate acts of terror and also unfortunate that Christians do not recognize folks in the Westboro Baptist Church as being part of what religion can also birth. Although we know today the Vatican's part in covering for the religious who were actively involved in the genocide in Rwanda, the Vatican is reluctant to admit to any wrong-doings on the part of Mother Church [in my opinion] in general until almost forced to.

     No true Scotman or Muslim or Christian or any other word designating a person belonging to a religious sect fails in terms of recognizing the part that religion has played in some of the worst disasters the world has seen. And yet, religion has also done much good. Nothing is all good or all bad. People too. Not one of us is all good or all bad. Even Hitler loved his dog.

sapphoq reviews says: I do applaud the efforts of J.A. Steiner to put forth his thoughts on atheism versus Christianity. Answering Aunt Bertha is not scholarly, thus it is accessible to the average reader. Even so, I hesitate to fully endorse this book. Christians may find it rambling. Atheists will be familiar with much of what it contains. Yet, we need more books for and by the common atheist. Recommended for atheists who are not wanting to be persuaded by the standard attempts to "debunk" Christianity.

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