No One Cares About Your Damn Religion

Was the Christian God cool with slavery? Slave owners sure thought so -- and had plenty of Biblical canon to support it. Abolitionists disagreed. Did God want women to vote? Not according to anti-suffragists. Suffragists were convinced otherwise.
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Have you ever noticed how God always agrees with you? Not as often with your neighbor, your congressman, your family or even the pope. But he (or she, or it,) definitely agrees with you. Other people just aren't enlightened enough to realize that. Yet.

Funny how that works.

Was the Christian God cool with slavery? Slave owners sure thought so -- and had plenty of Biblical canon to support it. Abolitionists disagreed. Did God want women to vote? Not according to anti-suffragists. Suffragists were convinced otherwise. If society continues this descent into level-headed compassion, fifty years from now people will be claiming that God is pro-fur and factory farming. When one cannot defend a belief in the current context, moving the framework back a few thousand years and putting the blame on God is a pretty good fallback strategy.

I know, I know. There's only one God and he is not at all ambiguous: he agrees with you. It's all right there in the Bible or whatever holy book you believe in, as you have decided to interpret it. It's perfectly clear, right?

Except to all the people it isn't. Assume that you are a member of (depending on your definition) the largest religious denomination in the world, the Latin Catholic Church. Around 1.15 of the world's 7 billion people share your belief system, if we assume (very wrongly) that local churches are uniform throughout the system. The rest of the world thinks that you're crazy -- or at least misguided on some pretty key points.

And even among that portion of the population that does think that you and God are on the same verse, individual political beliefs are still divided. George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton are both Methodists, and both will tell you with complete sincerity that their religious beliefs reaffirm their political ones. Bush was raised in his more-liberal father's more-conservative Episcopalian church, but converted when he married Laura.

Our personal cosmologies change to suit to our needs all the time. That is, if we're lucky enough to live somewhere that's legal. Our religious views, both as cultures and individuals, are sought and chosen to reinforce, justify and lend meaning to our pre-existing beliefs, not to alter them.

So why do people think that they will accomplish anything in the political sphere by blaming often abhorrent beliefs, actions and statements on the Almighty?

Because, in a small but important way, they do. Oh, they won't win any adult political converts (religious maybe,) but when the scales are balanced just right, religion can provide a certain degree of cover, absolving people from or mitigating the reaction to their behavior. The shield of religion is excellent for rationalizing prejudices that we logically and empathically know are wrong.

The good people at the Creation Museum call the observable universe "man's word," and a book written, compiled, edited and translated many times by humans "God's word" without any sense of irony. And people walk by that display every day without falling down laughing. It sure as Hell-for-heathens isn't that it has convinced anyone. It's because the average visitor is already so predisposed to accepting its conclusion that any statement in support is seen as inherently legitimate. It isn't convincing; it is comforting. Religion, as a larger phenomenon, works much the same way.

Right to discriminate bills are all the rage lately. If the concept of discrimination appeals but also seems inherently un-democratic to you, let religion "make up your mind" for you. When Jesus tells you not to serve cripples, it's freedom!

Remember that big who-cares recently when Duck Dynasty's chief mouth-breather Phil Robertson indicated that black people were happier under Jim Crow, literally working in fields? "They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues." (Except, you know, for the people who literally invented, sang and made famous the blues.)

And of gays, Phil told an audience in 2010:

"They're full of murder, envy, strife, hatred. They are insolent, arrogant God haters. They are heartless. They are faithless. They are senseless. They are ruthless. They invent ways of doing evil."

The conservative defense for all of this, of course, is that he was just expressing his Bible-based religious beliefs. Actually, that was the fallback defense, after, "He called 'free speech, no free speech back!'"

Of course, at no point does the Bible call gays "full of murder" or say that darkies were better off toilin' in dem ol' fields. That's pretty remarkable, since the Bible says so much batshit crazy stuff. We just ignore most of it, because it doesn't fit our current Judeo-Christian view of God.

Taken in its entirety, it is completely outlandish that we ever allow anyone to use any small portion of The Bible as an excuse for anything -- or that we ever have. The Bible says that we should execute rape victims, girls who lie about their virginity and adulterers. It says we're not allowed to eat fat, rare meat, cheeseburgers, pork, leftovers, calamari or practically any other delicious thing. It says that touching a football is wrong. It says that wearing fabric blends is wrong. It says that shaving is wrong. It forbids women from speaking in church. It demands the death penalty for disobedient children, fortune tellers and people working on the Sabbath. It says that slaves should obey their masters "according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ." The Bible even calls for the execution of animals that are raped. While it was probably a leap forward in terms of overall human morality, it is still the product of an environment that was far from enlightened and in many ways simply does not fit the modern view of God, Jewish, Christian or other. And don't give me that Old Testament / New Testament nonsense -- if I wanted to justify slavery with religious text, the New Testament would be my very best friend.

But when it comes to stuff they don't like, people read the Bible like it's a book of law. (And say things like, "It is! It's God's law!") The New Testament gospels take place at a time when Tiberius was emperor and abortion was common. In the Christian holy canon, homosexuality ranks right up there with eating leavened bread during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. (And, if we are to be honest, some of the Bible's heroes come across as pretty freakin' gay to someone not indoctrinated to view them through a certain lens.) But, for 35 years, the basis of the American conservative Christian movement has been a focus on two to three clear admonitions against homosexuality and zero admonitions against abortion.

This was exactly the defense offered by Michigan State GOP Committeeman Dave Agema, when he said that gays, "want free medical because they're dying [of AIDS] between 38 and 44 years old. It's a biggie. So, to me, it's a moral issue. It's a biblical issue." To Agema, the Christian Bible is against access to health care because it is against helping sick people, especially if they happen to be the kind he doesn't like.

If Agema called for laws against cotton blends, he would be dismissed as a crazy. But spewing vile hatred about homosexuality is just "sharing his Bible-based beliefs." The reason, pure and simple, is that too many people want an excuse to hold that belief.

The horrible irony is that in order to devote more attention to this bizarre, narrow interpretation of their holy canon, people like Agema have come to align themselves against politicians and programs (like expanded access to health care) that help alleviate poverty, by far the greatest concern of the Bible as a whole. Their sick rationalizations are revolting. (Liberal Christians take heart: the second greatest, without doing a verse-by-verse count, appears to be hypocrisy.)

And this is the political movement that America has allowed to claim Christianity in the public sphere? What the hell, America?

I say this knowing it won't convince any conservative Christians. My very point is that their holy canon itself won't. Religious arguments do not persuade thinking adults. It's long past time to stop pretending that they do.

Just to be perfectly clear: I am not saying that religion should not be used to find meaning in doing good. Or in life. If your belief system helps you get through the day, I'm happy for you.

But, at some point (usually when we have children,) rationalization becomes social and political indoctrination. When a predisposed society tells someone from an early age that God believes people should be hated or knowledge should be avoided, that seed is going to haunt them their entire life. Black people should be separated from white people because God. Global warming isn't real because God. Gay people are wicked because God. Infidels must die because God. Except, really, it's because people long ago discovered that religion is great for passing one's will off as universal morality. It is a self-perpetuating, horrible cycle.

But it is not endless. If every time someone said, "because God," everyone else said, "nobody cares," eventually, they'd stop doing it.

I'm not the first and I won't be the last, but please allow me to tell you: nobody cares. Your religious rationalization does not allow you to dictate government policy or social mores. It does not make you right. It does not allow you to be wrong, but for the right reasons. The only people who think otherwise agree with you, already.

Everyone else either thinks you're crazy or has a God of their own -- and He probably thinks that you're a jerk.

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