Golly-gee, but we like to quibble, don’t we? Just as the gutting of the Voter Rights Act’s oversight-powers was explained with talking points, without any analysis of the true issue, i.e. racial bigotry, so also did the recent ruling in favor of LGBT marriage (and inclusion, by inference) fail to address the true issue—religion.
We have, as a society, matured to the point of being less-than-serious about notions of hellfire, angels, effective prayer, and stoning (as a religious duty). While we remain polite and non-judgmental when confronted with fundamentalists who appear to be truly convinced of the reality of a God with whom all people are in daily contact—and are beholden to, in both deed and intention—we grow more and more to hear them as neurotics who are blind to a particular compulsion towards irrationality—like arachnophobics, you know?
While Faith remains a serious subject, it is nonetheless a good working definition of psychosis—to believe without evidence, to imagine what is not palpable to any of our senses, such as imaginary friends—it is only by the ancient roots of the major faiths and the immediate parental influence to adopt these fantasies that keeps us from laughing at how truly bizarre their cosmologies are, when compared to scientific evidence.
Let me stop here, now that I’ve used the word ‘science’. I can hear all the debating points racing through the heads of any evangelical who might read this. Let me just say that Science is not a religion, it is a tool. We use this tool for many things in our modern lives—we board jetliners; we get boob jobs; we use skin lotion and SPF protection; we make phone calls; we wear polyester blends. Some of us send robots to Mars, some of us dig up evidence of the Earth’s past, and even the evidence of people who lived before monotheism existed. You can quibble about biological points (like evolution) all you want; you can question the wisdom of using science (a far more attractive debate than the present debate—pitting faith and science against each other) but in the end, we use science because it works—and nothing can be done about that. It’s pitiful, really. With the medical advances made since Moses’ day, the infant mortality rate is way, way down—to the point where many of the zealots questioning Science would have died at birth, if not for the usefulness of modern science.
And let me just clean up a few loose ends: yes, no one knows anything about the why and how of Creation—even the Big Bang theory doesn’t explain where ‘everything’ came from, to begin with. So, yes, there was a creator—whether it was a being or a piece of energy—nobody knows; why someone or something would choose to create a universe—nobody knows. But Science gives us a hint.
In its discovery of the nature of our solar system, our cosmos, and all the billions of other galaxies and nebulae, Science shows that the God who supposedly spoke with Abraham, Moses, or Joshua didn’t know any more about Astronomy than those ancient people did. Thus we must entertain the idea that the God that spoke with such prophets was speaking from inside their brains. Science helps us here, as well—the perception of voices and visions is a natural part of the human condition—especially under duress, such as during a long fast, or the prolonged oxygen-deprivation of a smoke-house, or incense smoke.
Thus we find—those of us prepared to be sensible about things—that the science indicates religion was born from one-part magical thinking and one-part manipulation of groups through claiming spiritual authority. That second part was addressed by Karl Marx in his Das Kapital, and produced the phrase ‘Religion is the opium of the masses’. It still works today for many church leaders and hypocritical power-brokers—they perpetuate the myth that there is some sort of reason why the few are wealthy and the rest of us have to live on their leavings, working for their benefit, until we die.
By now, we’ve reached an even deeper level, where our society is a fragile, complex creation that must be lubed and fueled constantly—and any upset to the rich and powerful is seen, locally, as a ruined economy. In other words, we’ve created a civilization that can get by without cooperation from a few malcontents, that can get by while still firing millions of people, for years at a time—all as long as the cowed and silent keep worrying about their kids, about their elders’ medical care, and about keeping their homes.
So, don’t be misled by my jocular tone—these problems are not simple, nor are their solutions clear. Our society’s weaknesses are as much a part of our lives as its strengths—that is why ‘violent overthrow’ never accomplishes anything better than before the old leaders toppled. We cannot say, “This is bad. That is bad. It must stop immediately!” Absolutism is a great way to draw the lines of battle, even if it does cover up the heart of the problem.
We have to look for small incremental changes that trend towards a more perfect society. We have to bring our socio-political involvement up by an exponential rise—the bait-and-switch razzle-dazzle of the Media is trying to entertain us, not inform us—and certainly not educate us. We must take our political involvement away from mass media and network it as individuals, keeping open minds and searching for compromises that we can all live with.
And such an enlightened constituency would be big trouble for the Powers That Be—hence the constant mass media razzle-dazzle. However, an ‘enlightened constituency’ never even pops up, as a subject for discussion—we are all too busy playing the Media game, taking our debating prompts from their sound-bites and photo-ops. They pick sides and we jump to do likewise, approaching each issue from the same perspective we bring to our professional sporting events—when most major issues are more complex than the media ever even hints at.
The far-Right are disputing our society’s inclusion of the LGBT population as equally human, and they always boil down the reasons to Religion. Which is strange, when you think about it—I’ve read the bible—nobody gets stoned by Jesus because they went ‘against God and nature’. The only impetus for making this a religious issue is that homosexuality, as evil, has been in the cannons of the major faiths, put there by church ‘leaders’ with a bit of a self-identity problem. As children, anything of a sexual nature evinces the response ‘eew!’, whether hetero or homo, and these childish reactions have come to be established church dogma without, as I said, any direct instructions in either Bible on the evil of non-hetero impulses.
It wasn’t until the 1960s that we began a conversation about what was okay to ‘talk about’ so, in a way, even heterosexuality was considered ‘evil’ up until that time. It couldn’t be mentioned at a party, it couldn’t be debated by politicians, and it couldn’t be covered in school. The 1960s were the first time Americans recognized that teaching children about the biological facts of reproduction, birth-control, family planning, and disease might be worthwhile. Before then, it was very little different from the 19th century’s Victorian-era hypocrisies and ignorance.
At the same time, those rigid conventions disguised a society of misogyny, domestic child-abuse, racism, and an unstated, classist view of women, poor people, non-white people, non-Christian people, and the rich and powerful. So the LGBT community shouldn’t feel too badly towards their hetero brethren and sistren—we haven’t been out of the closet all that long, ourselves. Thus, that whole ‘spiritual purity’ business is somewhat be-smeared, and that was before all the priests got busted for buggery.
Another problem between the gays and the far-Right is the whole ‘division of church and state’ issue. The Neo-Cons, the Tea Party, whatever you call these yahoos, have actual been bending this rule all along—and recognition of gays is a repair of that leak in our national ideals. The Evangelists don’t disapprove of LGBT citizens as dangerous, they disapprove of LGBT citizens as ‘against God and nature’.
And I’d like to nip that ‘against nature’ business in the bud, right now. Naturalists and zoologists have documented many examples of homosexuality across the entire range of the class mammalia. As with tool-using and intoxication, our animal friends are similar to us in this way as well—so to describe it as ‘against nature’ is ‘against common-sense’.
No, their objections are religious in origin. “It goes against God” is their problem—and an especially knotty one, since there are no ‘Thou shalt not’s in the New Testament specifically against LGBT lifestyles. On the contrary, Jesus, as portrayed in the bible, is all about inclusion, tolerance, and love—the only thing that seems to upset him is money-changers. I wonder why we don’t have long debates about money being evil?—Christ didn’t seem too keen on it—But not a word about persecuting Gay people. I wonder why?
No, the ‘sin of homosexual behavior’ is dogma, not faith. It is something the CEOs of the churches included out of ignorance and fear. They could change their position on it. And they will. Acceptance of gay pastors and priests is already happening, and the new Roman Pope, Francis I, seems to see the writing on the wall, as well—and the Catholics could use all the good press they can manage, right now.
But for the present, that land-that-time-forgot, below the Mason-Dixon line, is still trying to tell folks that both archeology and evolution are delusions of satanic origin, that Science can’t have everything its own way (although it can and does—even against the scientists’ preferences) and that heterosexual, missionary-position-only reproduction is the only acceptable sexual activity. Now, these are wacky positions to take on issues which the vast majority of human beings have already become comfortable with on a secular level.
That vast majority is not atheists, either—it is the vast majority of modern day people who keep their religion for its benefits, not for its intellectual shackles. They believe in love, charity, forgiveness, and mercy—but they don’t believe in fairy tales. They believe that there probably is a life after death, but they don’t believe they will be judged by a St. Peter’s Basilica fresco that Michelangelo painted. They are, bluntly stated, the ones with some common sense.
But our nation’s guarantee of Religious Freedom forbids any attack on the beliefs of the fundamentalists—and I would be the last person to attack them—I envy those simple enough to truly believe the whole story. They know a happiness that is out of reach for atheists like me. And don’t assume I see myself as smarter than the fundamentalists —I am only less credulous. They have obviously used a great deal of brain power to keep alive the tatters of old-time religion—and they shouldn’t be counted out yet, by any stretch. It wasn’t all that long ago that pagans like me were ostracized and persecuted nearly as bad as Jewish people.
Ah, the good old days, when strangely dressed Arabs’ religions were beneath our contempt. Now a small group of them are a threat to world peace and unity. The extremist Muslim suicide-bomber is an iconic image in our current culture. Yet nobody characterizes the shootings of abortion clinic doctors as the acts of extremist Christians—nobody calls the DHS on those people.
The Protestants had a good thing going here in the USA. For most of the last two centuries of our country, while we espoused religious freedom, we actually had persecution of Jews (and Atheists). And our legislation has a particularly Calvinist bent to it—as if Protestants’ religious convictions had somehow innocently crept into the halls of power and leadership. Imagine.
But the civil rights of our LGBT citizens have brought into question a long-established, dogmatic rule—that homosexuality is a mental disease, a perversion of all that is good and sweet. There are still ‘clinics’ that offer a ‘cure’. Ha.
No, the big shots have had their diversion tactics reduced by one—support of LGBT civil rights is nearly unanimous in this country which, in this age, cannot be said about almost anything else! They’ll get by—they still have plenty of paper tigers plastered all over the media—people are still a long way from recognizing how wholly, how boldly they’ve been played. What was that rule-of-thumb? The bigger the lie, the easier to believe—yeah, that’s the one. Hitler’s fav, I believe.
There’s an old bumper sticker that read: Hire a teenager, while they still know everything! —not so funny when you use ‘priest’ instead of ‘teenager’, though, is it? So, next time you’re tempted to watch MSNBC or FOX, or even CNN, when you think the story will support your ‘team’ in the politics-olympics, save yourself the agita, and read a book instead.
(The illustrations for this essay were provided BY: Wikipedia.com and BY:
the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, from their collection of the works of Sir Anthony Van-Dyck (March 22 1599–December 11 1641))
NOTE: The Netherlands’ world-reknowned Rijksmuseum opened a new website, Rijksstudio, which allows downloading of hi-def images of the over 125,000 masterpieces in their museum’s collection–and provides software that allows art students to design their own projects using the museum’s digital-graphics resources. To join the fun, goto : https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en