Friday, August 17, 2012

The tyranny of religion

I wrote about religion yesterday, but I’m not done talking about it.

I’ve long thought organized religion was one of, if not the most insidious danger facing modern society.

One of my final classes in my Masters program focused on the construction of disability rhetoric. Early writings about blindness and deafness and physical ailments focused on how those impairments prevented the afflicted person from being able to truly understand religion. Most thought inability to physically hear a sermon meant the person could not truly “hear” – as in understand or comprehend - religion. Conversely, disability was a physical manifestation of an absence of religious faith or goodness.  
It was understood that those who were physically or mentally impaired were being punished for some [religious/spiritual] transgression and were therefor less worthy human beings.

Religion formed the basis for determining the morality and worth of a human being, and an absence of religion as a particular group understood it meant non-believers lacked morality and needed to be “saved.” If you’ve listened to any Republican speak over the past few years, you know this idea hasn’t changed.

Though this country was formed by a bunch of Deists seeking to escape the oppressive rule of an intolerant Church, we’re rapidly heading right back where we started. Those who don’t believe, or who believe differently, are godless, religious oppressors.

Several Republican candidates/politicians have been linked to the writings of D. James Kennedy, an evangelist pastor who died in 2007, who wanted to “bring this nation back to God, back to decency, back to morality, back to those things that we wish America was like again.” Ironically, Kennedy often cited the Holocaust as justification for Christian supremacy. A lack of religious morality and a heathenish devotion to Darwinism and progress caused Hitler to exterminate 6 million Jews; no good Christian would have done what he did.

And maybe that’s right, but the religious morality of those who would seek to eliminate access to safe abortion will result in the deaths of thousands of women in the US alone. A genocide in its own right.

The problem with morality is that it’s not absolute, and no one group has ultimate claim to it. Morality is fluid, and personal, and a result of the collective all at once. What is moral in one situation or period of time may not be moral in a different context. And the reason our government is based upon a separation of church and state is to prevent the absolute “morality” of one group from running roughshod over the morality of another group.

Christian extremists say the life of the fetus must be saved at all costs, but Jewish law says it is a mitzvah (a good deed) to save the life of the mother. Why is their morality more valid than mine?

The GOP has had a field day protesting the trampling of their religious rights due to Obamacare and some woman they’ve never met hundreds of miles away who just popped a birth control pill into her mouth. But these poor, beleaguered victims of anti-religious tyranny are the first to fall silent when the religious rights of others are brought into question.

They are the ones who question the religion of the man in the White House. They are the ones eyeing anyone at the airport with a tan suspiciously. They are the ones who shrug indifferently when someone shoots up a Sihk temple.

The current state of religion in the Republican party is a study in hypocrisy. They want to save the lives of fetuses, but advocate cutting off funding for hungry and homeless children. They want to save the lives of women, but close down health care clinics and force women in Texas across the border into Mexico to obtain unsafe abortion drugs. They want their religious rights held sacrosanct, but not the religious rights of any other group.

There is no religious freedom in the religious tyranny of the radical Republican right. Religious freedom must apply to all religions to have any sort of meaning; otherwise it’s just oppression draped in rosary beads. 

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