Yesterday, Lisa Costello and I were talking about religion, as we are sometimes wont to do. I am somewhat infamously an atheist, from a Calvinist background. She is a serious Shambhala Buddhist, also from a Protestant background.
What prompted the conversation was this comment on my blog, from Stevo Darkly, partially excerpted here:
I suspect Jay is as “saved” as he needs to be. The Catholic theologian Karl Rahner posits the concept of the “anonymous” Christian. Horrible label, but basically it means if a person lives as Christ would like, they are effectively a Christian. […] Certainly Jay lives a life as loving and tolerant and kind as any sort if Christ or God could want. Better than most self-claimed Christians.
I felt both complimented and amused by Stevo’s remarks, and took them in what I am fairly confident was the spirit intended. As it happens, Lisa and I have an ongoing dispute about whether I’m a good Buddhist or a bad Buddhist. Which is also pretty amusing, given my active commitment to atheism. The serious underpinnings of that dispute parallel the comment above, to the effect that Lisa claims I live my life much the way I would if I were trying to be a good Buddhist.
I observed that in simplistic terms, most constructive religious commandments boil down to Wheaton’s Law: “Don’t be a dick.” I’m not talking about the religious commandments about not eating shrimp, or avoiding cheeseburgers, or hating on gay people, or wearing magic underwear, or whatever. Those are tribal in-group signifiers, not moral guidance. I’m talking about the whole not bearing false witness thing, not coveting your neighbor’s ass in a non-consensual fashion, do as you would be done by, an it harm none, and so forth. Those are affirmative statements of social principle. (Some of which may of course also be tribal in-group signifiers.)
So I suppose if I were to subscribe to a religion, I’d be a Wheatonist. My religion would have one commandment: “Don’t be a dick.” That’s about it. Seems to cover almost everything what needs covering. Living as a Wheatonist, I could be mistaken for an anonymous Christian or a good Buddhist either one.
I think Wil is on to something bigger than he realizes.
Or maybe he already knows it…