When I look at the churches, synagogues and mosques surrounding my home and flooding my community with information about faith, I see that religion gives people hope, assurance and support and is seen as vital to their lives. I see no malicious intent, no determination to misinform others, but a pure and loving wish to include us outsiders in the loving embrace of their God, whom they see as having blessed them beyond measure and having filled their lives with love and warmth. Outside this loving acceptance may seem a bit cold, sterile, and risky.
But neither view from this protected embrace is reality. The church isn’t necessarily safe, as numerous lawsuits against clergy molesting children and mistreating women have shown. And outside the church isn’t necessarily hostile as the successful prosecution of these lawsuits start, for the first time, to lift the veil of secrecy and deceit.
Furthermore, these religions have, throughout their long existence, been something of a plague on the rest of humanity and the female half of their own congregations. They are generally male-dominated with texts and belief systems (held by both women and men) that demean and downgrade girls and women to the extent that, while we supposedly had a government “of the people, by the people and for the people,” women were systematically excluded from participating in this “democracy” until 1920 and were kept sequestered from academic leadership from the fifth century (when Hypatia was stoned by a Christian mob) to well into the nineteenth. These religions hold ancient and proselytized beliefs to be obvious and true and, for the most part, see their beliefs as justified and vindicated, even when they rely on irrational thinking and create intractable situations.
Shall we take a few examples?
The Catholic Church and birth control: The world has too many humans to sustain harmony with each other or the rest of our natural world. And many Catholic families in the Third World are faced with immense hardship by following the Popes’ demands for either celibacy or families too large to support adequately. Had an authority tasked with sustaining an ecosystem such as ours been given authority over this situation, they might have long ago urged us to stop procreating beyond our ability to sustain ourselves. Certainly, they would have allowed people without the ability to adequately maintain their current family to stop enlarging it. A wise, loving, thoughtful God or His true representatives might have culled the herds or urged us toward smaller families long before we got this far.
As the top predator, we should be few in number and widespread, but we are nested in multi-million-person hives which crowd out and pour waste into the rest of the ecosystem at unsustainable rates. Had the Catholic Church encouraged birth control, this problem would have been smaller and easier to deal with. This roadblock to progress was and continues to be a bedrock belief of international Catholicism. It even constrains political solutions within the U.S.
The Baptist Church and women’s rights: My mother had a master’s degree from USC and was a founding member of a Baptist church for which she tithed, created a first-rate Christian library and taught women’s Bible study. Yet she had no voice in the all-male group which ran her organization. And, because she was divorced, she was periodically made to be wrong for situations which had been out of her control. Battered women with alcoholic husbands or disloyal husbands were chastised regularly for not being submissive enough. The truth was that no amount of submission could alter the behavior of an abusive husband, a disloyal husband, or an alcoholic husband, but in that church and many like it, the husband was always right!
Shiite Islam, a direct descendant of the Christianity around during its founding, incorporated this misogyny and spread it far and wide!
I see this view emanating from Saul of Tarsus, “Saint Paul,” self-described “Apostle of Christ” who founded hundreds of churches and urged them to this point in theses such as Galatians, which contain his views with unsubstantiated claims of divine authority with which he damns and demeans all other views. The derogatory opinions of this one uncompromising, inconsiderate, unloving, woman-hating individual have poisoned many wells of knowledge for two millennia and counting. Isn’t it time someone called out Saul of Tarsus for his disdain for the distaff side of humanity as well as anyone who disagreed with his narrow opinions? And what prohibits this? Translations of ancient “prophetic” (but wrong) words and a steadfast dedication to studying them as if they had divine inspiration.
How about the Zionism that both Christianity and Judaism conspired to inflict on the Islamic world? Shall we try to see some divine inspiration in the hostile takeover of Palestine which is now at its centennial? What is prudent or kind or thoughtful about the Middle East mess that the US and England created in this part of the world? Wouldn’t those refugee Jews – as well as Mid East Arabs – have been far better off had we given them refuge in our own nations around the world rather than ceding a mixed Arab (92.6%) and Jewish (7.4%) land living peacefully to the hostility and distrust that now consumes the hearts of both sides?
How about “Jesus Christ” which is two divergent concepts woven together into a single but irrational concept in and of itself. To accept these two concepts as one, just by itself, puts our logical brains on hold. Jesus of Nazareth was, at the very least, a kind and gentle human who preached about the brotherhood of man and wanted peace on Earth. I believe he welcomed all comers, talked about being kind to each other, and made sure nobody went hungry. Christ, on the other hand, emerged in literature centuries earlier and described a role Jesus of Nazareth didn’t take during his real first life as described in the literature or his short, controversial second life but was expected (by “prophets” and soothsayers) to assume some time in the future. Jesus declined the role “Christ, King of the Jews” in the tales of both his lives. Given his gentle nature, would he change his mind if given a third?
But Christianity puts Jesus and Christ together as if they are proven to be the same and they create, just by themselves, a logical dissonance. If you then add Jehovah and the Holy Ghost to this set of incompatible concepts and call them “Father” and “Merciful” and “All-Powerful”; if you give them a single place together in your love and loyalty and pray to them and expect mercy and justice from them as inseparable, you prevent your brain from working properly, no matter how effective or informed it might otherwise be!
I think these ideas rate a few minutes of your attention, since they explain how and why religions have been so successful but also prone to running amok, even splintering into strongly, sometimes violently, opposed groups.
At least think about it … please?….