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      A religion is an ideology with supernatural elements. We consider it OK to criticize Marxists or capitalists or libertarians or monarchists, but we tend to shy  away from saying that a religion has bad elements. The Hindu caste system is evil. It needs to end, and it needs to end today. If The Laws of […]
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What the church is really worried about: MONEY

I saw this bit on Hullabaloo about Cardinal Dolan going on the O’Reilly factor and making a big to-do about the evils of secularism:

DOLAN: You’re a better historian than I am Bill, you know that every great movement in — in American history has been driven by people of religious conviction. And if we duct tape the churches — I’m just not talking about the Catholic Church — if we duct tape the role of religion and the churches and morally convince people in the marketplace that’s going to lead to a huge deficit a huge void.

And there are many people who want to fill it up, namely a new religion called secularism, ok, which — which would be as doctrinaire and would consider itself as infallible as they caricature the other religions doing.

So to — to see — to see that morally-driven religiously-convinced people want to exercise their political responsibility, I think that is not only at the heart of biblical religion, it is at the heart of American enterprise.

Alright, here it comes.  The Reason Rally seems to have gotten their attention since it was all about secularism.  So now they have to go on the O’Reilly Factor and scare the seniors shitless.  Fear always seems to work with them.  Before you know it, they will start accusing the secularists of granny sacrifices and burying WMDs in the backyard.

I’ve had to tussle with some of you readers about this topic and I just want to say, you guys need to relax.  Religion isn’t going to disappear.  And we secularists aren’t going to make you worship Richard Dawkins.  But evolution can happen to ideas as well as living organisms.  An idea that doesn’t have the right stuff to adapt to its environment will fade away.  I suspect the fading will be gradual but you never know.  There could be a large, precipitous decline followed by a more gentle slope.  I think that’s what going to happen here.  Why a religious person should worry about this is beyond me.  No one is going to tell you to stop going to church.  It’s just that younger people are going to see religion as unnecessary to their lives and morality and maybe even an obstacle to achieving a more equitable society.  Plus, some non-believers are starting to realize that the American secularists might need their own community gathering places.  Sort of like church without God.  That’s coming.  Freethought societies are popping up all over the place, especially in the bible belt.

The internet probably has a lot to do with this.  People can read and when they start to question their faith or think about the logistics of Noah’s Ark, there’s plenty of material out there that will shake them to their core.  More non-believers are made everyday and they are just as moral as any godly person.  Let’s just acknowledge that up front.

But for the church, this is going to be a BIG DEAL.  In Europe, churches already play just a ceremonial role.  People might get their kids baptised there or have their weddings there but they are not regular church goers.  There are also an awful lot of atheists in Europe.  I suspect that’s because if you live where there is a good social safety net, there’s less need to pray for relief.  Also, they’ve been through so many horrific experiences in the 20th century and probably realized that praying was not as effective as the local resistance groups in surviving the worst of them.  So, churches in Europe are getting to be superfluous.  They’re pretty and they’re good tourist attractions but it ain’t like it used to be.

In fact, I would go so far as to draw comparisons between pre-reviolutionary France and 21st century America.  Religious institutions benefit greatly from tax breaks and faith based initiatives.  In the latter case, that’s OUR tax money going into their pockets.  If you’re going to accept help from a church based institution, you’re going to get a sermon.  And some of those sermons have to do with homosexuality, female inferiority and birth control.  Why should we be paying the government to help these churches out?  The first estate has it pretty nice compared to some of the rest of us and they are determined to keep it that way.  The church would very much like to continue to sink its teeth into us.

Trinity Church owns some prime real estate in lower Manhattan worth zillions.  The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (the Jehovah’s Witnesses) owns a good chunk of Brooklyn.  And then there are all the Catholic institutions and hospitals and such.  They have a lot to lose if the country becomes more secular.  And what will happen when Americans finally start demanding that churches stop freeloading on the taxpayer’s largess?  What are their property taxes like?  Hmmmm….

Secularists!  Ooooo, boogie men.  Scary.  Even the ones that are believers.

Religious institutions don’t have a lot of time.  The young are turning away from the beta version of God and looking for a major upgrade.  That’s either going to be a more abstract version of god without all of the scriptural and institutional baggage that goes with it or it’s going to be no god at all.  Churches are going to crank up the fear factor on the O’Reilly Factor as much as they can.  They are preaching to an ever diminishing choir.

We are approaching a crisis.  It’s not about conservatism or liberalism.  It’s about money and a shrinking share of the market. If the Vatican loses the American market, that is a big deal.  If that means the churches have to crush the oppressed citizens of Paris America to maintain their status and privileges, they’ll do it.

Tuesday: Losing my religion

I’m about to say something offensive.  I usually don’t give warnings when I do this but in this case, it may be necessary.  For any of you out there who are Catholic or fundagelical, you may want to cover your ears.  No, I take that back.  You need to hear this.

It’s time we stopped allowing the Catholic church and other churches from dictating what the natural order of things is supposed to be.  We need to reject it as a legitimate voice in the public sphere. When it says, “Jump!”, we say, “STFU”.

Now, I will admit that the church has done a lot of good things and it serves a purpose at the community level and provides comfort and guidance to people.  But throughout its history, it has also been coercive, manipulative, hard hearted and wrong.  It took 400 years to get around to pardoning Gallileo.  Women may look at that example and think it means that there is hope.  Maybe it will take another 400 years to validate women as human beings with souls but they’ll get around to it someday.  I would like to disabuse you of that notion.  The Catholic church is an entity that is run by men, ruled by men and whose hierarchy does not EVER let a woman in even on the ground floor.  They claim this is dictated by the New Testament itself and it will never change.  Think about that for a moment.  As far as the Catholic church is concerned, the interpretation of Christianity according to Jesus, Paul and the other apostles excludes women from the ranks of power and equality for eternity.  It is absolute.  

Now, I don’t know about you but I’ve always believed, based on my own rejection of an equally fundagelical religion imposed on me at a young age, that God or Goddess can use all of the help she can get.  Ok, to go further than that, I do not accept the traditional concept of a supreme being.  Put me in the Providence, creator, nebulous cosmic energy force category.  My creator does not have a gender and therefore has no reason to discriminate.  My Jesus never put women on a plane lower than men.  My creator is too busy with the universe to be worried about what two men do in the privacy of their bedroom.  And if this is what I believe, why should I ever buy into the anachronistic, unevolved, “women are second class citizens?  How conveeeenient” notions of some organized gang of guys in the Vatican treehouse?

The next time someone brings up the need to cater to the religious crowd, I’m going to say, “And what does that have to do with me?  I don’t care two figs for the religious crowd.  If they want to worship the ultimate employer in gender based discrimination, let them do it on their own dime.”

What I’m saying, people, is that if we want to put women on an equal footing, we have to attack the problem of discrimination at its root- religion.  And the first thing that needs to happen is church and state need to be completely separate.  Completely.  That means no more Office of Faith Based Initiatives, no more Rick Warrens at invocations.   If you want to pray, do it privately.  If you want to get up every morning and praise Yaweh that you were not born a woman, make sure you leave it in your bedroom before you step out that door. 

And if we want Obama to take us seriously, we need to pressure him to distance himself from the church.  Effective immediately.  The church is not my ultimate authority and it doesn’t represent MY values.  I am both offended that it has been allowed to dictate policy with permission of *two* administrations and insistent that it stops using my tax dollars to get even more of a foothold to practice discrimination with the help of government and I want it to stop.  If the stimulus bill has funds allocated to faith based initiatives, I want them stripped out. 

Lather, rinse, repeat until they are gone, baby, gone.

“[I]t is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties….Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? that the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?”

-James Madison, From the “Memorial and Remonstrance,” 1785