The religion lie and its consequences

More recent readers don’t remember that the genesis of this column was a highly publicized conflict I had with local ministers and members of their flocks a decade ago. The issues in question (police brutality and merger of city and county governments) were not fundamentally religious, but political. It didn’t matter. My inevitable interaction with local black church folk turned my stomach.

By far, the nastiest, most closed-minded people I’ve dealt with since I moved to this city have been church folks. I don’t think this is because they are necessarily bad people. They simply adhere to a terribly flawed system of thought — religion — and it has very real consequences.

Though most local Bible-beaters don’t see it, they come out of the same trick-bag as wingnut Florida preacher Terry Jones, who recently caused international concern when he threatened to burn copies of the Koran on Sept. 11. Jones is an idiot who masks his xenophobia with “God spoke to me” rhetoric. Jones says he and his massive flock of 50 were going to burn the Koran because, according to God, the book is “evil.” If Jones actually read the Koran, he would know that most holy books (including the Bible) are more alike than different. So, maybe his God is misinformed.

Meanwhile, others are in a tizzy about a potential Islamic mosque/community center being built near Ground Zero in New York. In fact, Jones (he should be stripped of that name, by the way) opined that he backed off of burning Korans because the New York imam in charge of the mosque/community center project, Feisal Abdul Rauf, had submitted to move the location of the mosque. Abdul Rauf immediately refuted this claim, and Jones said his bonfire was again being “contemplated,” although ultimately, it did not occur.

So, let’s get this straight — the Christians are mad, the Muslims are mad, everybody is pissed … in the name of God. From where I’m sitting, even though these groups are at one another’s throats (as religious factions have been since the inception of religion), they are all in the same, sick boat. Both sides push the tired rap that God tells them this and that. Both sides seem to think they have some corner on righteousness. Both think they’re going to heaven because of their unquestioning adherence to often silly dogma. Both, along with narcissists from other religions, are probably wrong.

People of their ilk are dangerous across the board, and they come in many forms. Take Glenn Beck for example. He totally disrespects and skews the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and the American civil rights movement with his “8/28” event on the anniversary of the March on Washington and cloaks it in spirituality. Beck said he and his followers were going to Washington to take the civil rights movement back (no kidding, he said that) and that his gathering was not about politics at all — it was about spirit and “divine destiny.” So God is speaking to Beck, too.

Either people like Beck and Jones (and most folks who stand up in church and give testimonials that invariably begin with “I woke up this morning and the Lord told me …”) are liars, or people with one iota of sense need to be leery of this God fellow.

I just finished Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy. Many of you know of this work because of the cinematic adaptation of the first novel — “The Golden Compass.” The movie trilogy was never completed partially because of protests by the Catholic Church. Why would the church protest books? It happens all the time: control.

If you read Pullman’s work, you’ll know why he’s on the Vatican’s blacklist. His central thesis is that from the beginning there has been a war between two factions — one that advocates knowledge and progress and another that pushes ignorance, anti-intellectualism and dogmatic repression of human advancement. Guess which camp religion falls into? The character Mary Malone probably sums it up best when she opines, “Religion is a very powerful and convincing mistake … that’s all.”

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a missive against God … but it damn sure is one against religion. Admit it or not, all you fanatics out there who think everybody who doesn’t believe exactly what you believe is doomed are all the same. I don’t care if it’s Terry Jones, Glenn Beck, a Tea-Partier, Osama bin Laden, Reverend Thingamagigit, the parishioner sitting next to you … or you.