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Another Reason to Go to Washington DC

Atheists are people too.  And citizens.  And while I’m not an atheist (I’m a panentheist), I live with one.  When she told me about her non-belief at the age of 9, I told her to keep it secret from her friends, Girl Scout troop leader and grandmother.  Pretty sick, huh?  I didn’t want her to be treated differently, harrassed or be subjected to a sermon.  The girl scout troop leader was a religious fanatic.  I was so afraid she was going to slip up (and she had a hard enough time fitting in) that eventually I took her out of Girl Scouts.  Better that than send me on one of my crusades against a national organization for imposing on her conscience.

But there is one thing I do not believe in.  I do not believe that a 3000 year old document is the word of God.  No, I do not.  There are sections of the life of Jesus that I love.  I’m a big fan of Psalms, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon, mostly because these books are so dang weird compared to the other books and they have a musicality about them that makes them fun to sing.

But all those stories about miracles and floods and parting of the Red Sea and writing on the wall and the Whore of Babylon riding a Great Beast?  Nope, not into it.  There’s a lot of silly laws and two stories of creation and misogyny for reasons that should not apply to the modern world.  But the biggest problem with The Scriptures is that they were written for a world that doesn’t exist anymore.  Back then, we didn’t know anything about DNA.  Now that we do, there’s no reason to favor any one creation myth over another.  Personally, I like the Tolkien creation as recounted in the Ainuindale.  Why should I prefer Genesis if they’re all just metaphors and myths anyway?  Why can’t I pick the one I like the best?

And the attitude towards women in The Scriptures is barbaric and stupid.  I don’t believe in the God of the Bible but if he did exist, why would he want today’s religions to hold women down?  From what I can tell, God can use all the help she can get.  I was baptized Catholic, loved Catholic mass, loved going to church with my grandparents, loved St. Joe’s Catholic community.  But I could never be a Catholic because of the crazy and stupid attitude modern Catholics have towards birth control and women in general.  In a time when the Catholic church is plagued by priest problems you would think that the Pope would get a clue and say he misunderstood God.  His bad.  Totally need women in the pulpit.  But no, Catholics keep hiring these hard ass guys in red beanies to make rules that only apply to half of the planet’s population.

Women are supposed to live by tribal rules in a modern world.  We’re not supposed to admit we are sexual beings.  We’re not supposed to want autonomy.  When we’re at work, we are counseled to watch what we say for fear that we might offend some guy who thinks we’re too aggressive.  Screw the outcome of the work itself, we have to make sure we don’t get fired for being too ambitious or insufficiently deferential to a guy’s tender ego.  And the religious blame this on The Scriptures.  They can’t help it, they say, that’s what’s written in The Scriptures.  That dusty old book written by the first people who mastered the art of writing and scribbled down all of the collected myths and legends they heard around the campfire.  We’re supposed to live by these scribblings and forget the world in which we actually live.  I’m sorry but that’s just f^&*ing nutz.

Here’s a question that the religious should ponder: why is it that there has been no modern book of scriptures worth following?  Why isn’t there a modern, 21st century person they can consider a new messiah so that we can dump these decrepit, anachronistic, old writings?  How come no modern book meets the criteria for worship?  I happen to like the Silmarillion.  At least Tolkien was no misogynist.  His pantheon consisted of males and females of equal stature and all of his heros married up to stronger, more heroic women.  To Tolkien, resisting temptation in an evil world is more important than the absence of evil altogether.  To be the invisible hand behind unaccountable actions was to exercise the worst kind power and evil.  And Tolkien warned repeatedly that it is not original sin but the fear of death that leads to the fall of mankind.  So, why don’t we all follow Tolkien?

The reason is pretty clear to even the fundies.  We recognize a myth when we see it in its modern form even when that myth reveals profound truths.  We are not expected to take these myths literally.  But for some reason, we are incapable of applying that truth to The Scriptures.  And this is profoundly strange because The Scriptures tell important historical stories as well that are often overlooked.

For example, the oldest section of the Bible is not Genesis.  No, the oldest part of the Bible is in the old testament  book of Judges.  It is a song of victory and revolution after the Prophetess and Judge Deborah lead the Israelites in a triumphant battle.  Yes, one of the first leaders of Israel was a judge and a woman appointed by the people.  And she was good and wise and kicked ass.  Under her leadership, before the line of patriarchal kings, Israel prospered. She was appointed because people under siege by forces foreign and domestic tend to get over their objections about whether a woman should lead them.  They look for the wisest, craftiest, bravest people they can find and sometimes, they are women. There was a time in history when a people realized they had to put aside their tribal rules and regulations in order to survive.  They choose among themselves the person with the characteristics and traits necessary for survival.  It is the essence of the theory of natural selection. Once you wrap your head around that concept, the rest of The Scriptures don’t make any sense until Jesus makes his brief cameo appearance and then disappears behind a veil of first century mythmaking.

So, where am I going with this? This country has been destroyed by politicians repeatedly appealing to the religious.  The religious, in turn, have provided a screen for the real power in this country.  The rich and powerful have used them.  They find out what makes the religious tick and then put those issues front and center in every electoral contest because they know that politicians are terrified to upset religious people.  It looks disrespectful.  They capitulate because it is easier than looking like they are testing God.  That leaves the rest of us who live in the light of reason without political champions, respect or even recognition.  We have to stay in the closet. We aren’t treated like citizens worthy of respect and equality.  We’re treated like children who won’t eat our spinach instead of rational human beings who try to do what is right, not what is written.

We can not continue to govern ourselves in a modern world using the texts of a tribal people from 3000 years ago.  There are a lot of things we don’t do in this country because we recognize them as barbaric and cruel.  We don’t burn witches, beat children in school, own slaves or prevent women from voting.  We figured out that these things were wrong and we civilized ourselves.  It is now time to put The Scriptures in their proper historical context and free ourselves from their ancient rules and regulations that no longer apply to a modern people.  Failure to do so means we will fail to evolve as a civilized society. That doesn’t mean you have to give up your belief in God.  It means your definition of God will get bigger and more awesome.  God stops being irrational, jealous, vengeful, a capricious, mysterious enigma, a fudge factor in the equation of the universe.  Or it may mean that you can navigate through the world using your own resources and with greater attention to the suffering of the men and women around you because their hardships are not always the result of sin or some supernatural plan.  Sometimes, those hardships are the result of injustice, ignorance, cruelty or just a series of unfortunate events.

Let’s put The Scriptures back on the library shelf next to the Thesaurus and stop acting like fools.