“Conservative” Religion

Senator McCarthy once told world-renowned British author and journalist, Christopher Hitchens that he had asked Senator Pat Robinson why he wouldn’t support some moderate civil rights legislation. Robertson replied…

“I’d love to help the colored people, but the bible won’t let me.”

When I point facts like this out to conservative Christians, my aim is not to be arbitrarily hostile to their faith, but to help them see what many moral-minded and well-meaning people-journalists, scholars, activists, and others including Christians, are trying to say about the nature of conservative religious traditions, usually Christian ones; that they often are havens for concealed racism, political totalitarianism, male chauvinism, xenophobia, corruption, abuse of women, and gross ignorance….

What I am hoping is that people can have wonderfully spiritual experiences in or out of religious traditions without all this detritus of the primitive human mind. Why? It retards humanity, creating, destruction and pain; extending from the small, as in personal relationships-like mine: my being rejected by Amber’s family for my spirituality and intelligence (in lieu of blind, fundamentalist obsession) -to the large: environmental degradation and war on a planet-wide scale.

The problem is that a lot of the prejudices inherent in the conservatively religious, stem from one or another bible interpretation, as shown by Senator Pat Robinson’s statement above. This means that as long as people do not find the divine in their hearts, but they find it in this or that church, or the millions of variations of the church; interpreted for them by misleading preachers and clerics-or they find it in the bible alone, mistrusting their own hearts, the ignorance will continue along with the debasement of humanity as it has for centuries.

Einstein spoke of conscience. He thought it was the faculty to use to build one moral base; the way to go in deciding how to believe and live. But, he himself was attacked because his views of the universe did not coincide with those of the conservative faithful. Imagine that; one of the human race’s most compassionate and intelligent members being attacked for his honest, heartfelt, and harmless views. Who is the dangerous entity here?

I, myself, stopped going to church because I could no longer justify communing with fellow Christians who reflected these deleterious and cruel states of mind and supported conservative politicians like Nixon, Reagan, and Bush. These “Christian” politicians and those that supported them were either mean-spirited, or their policies were, and many (certainly not all) of the Christian people I have known have-in many cases and quite often- been politically and sentimentally hostile toward the poor, the addicted, people of color, “the third world”, and social-welfare and educational programs that were designed to help the working class. Another reason was, I realized that the god in the bible was far less compassionate than I am, a thought that I am still afraid to utter, but which is true. And finally, even after trying several times recently to find a spiritual home in the Christian faith, I found myself repeatedly disappointed by things the preachers said which betrayed a lack of spiritual depth, gross ignorance, a lack of compassion, and even a recklessness in what they didn’t realize was dangerous leadership in words-which I knew was going to cause fanatic neurosis among the weak-minded where blame for the Jews is concerned as well as in seeing demons where mental retardation was probably the actual phenomenon in evidence.

What really bothered me when I stopped going to church at eighteen, was that the church-goers almost always supported every corrupt war my government was involved in, and they supported the death penalty. My belief is no Christian can support anything like these travesties, if for no other reason than Jesus certainly would not have. After-all, he is the poster-child for the executed, with Christians wearing the device that supposedly took his life-round their necks. That was always another thing that haunted me(There is scholarly historical concern he may have survived the crucifixion-not to mention the story sensationalized by the Da Vinci Code about the line of royalty in France claiming his lineage-based on the duration he was hanging, the fact that his legs were not broken, and his body is said to have issued forth fluids when impaled, which doesn’t happen in the deceased in such cases, according to medical science).

I still retain my heartfelt beliefs that come from the teachings of Jesus (as I understand them, for I know we did not get the whole story in “The Bible”, and what we got is fraught with error that anyone can see if he cares and knows where and how to look). Love, forgiveness, compassion, and kindness are the chief legacies of the teachings of Jesus that we feel we can prove he stood for and which really matter; the rest is a matter of faith, but where faith causes us to go against what he taught in principle, I feel we must discard. Saying “it’s in the bible” or “it isn’t in the bible” is simply not a worthwhile excuse for racism, hatred of homosexuals, the second-class status of women and the abuse of them, ethnic cleansing, slavery, military interventionism, and refuting scientific laws that bring us closer to understanding the real nature of the universe.

And in the long run-though I am first and foremost concerned with compassion-the elimination of cruelty and suffering, and the saving of human and animal life, the last point-about religion often being an obstacle to science-is perhaps the most egregious crime committed by the faithful against humankind, the other species, and the planet. For in committing it, they block our growing knowledge of how to save ourselves; when they do as the church did in the time of Galileo and Copernicus, and in the modern era, where the indisputable scientific facts of evolution are so often fought by people of faith-who are by the way, not qualified to be tearing apart the intricacies of painstakingly honest and important scientific research.In some parts of Africa, women are being raped to ‘rid them of homosexuality’. In parts of the Arab world-Islam coming largely from The old books of the bible-one can still be sentenced to death for changing religions, women can be “honor killed” for having brought shame to their husbands or his family that ‘abuses’ them, and they can have their noses and ears cut off. Who can deny this comes from conservative religion?

The Reverand Pat Robinson said the terror attacks of September 11th, 2001, were God’s punishment for America having embraced the liberal lifestyle and homosexuality. If that is not a thumbs-up for conservative religion, inhumanity, and plain stupidity-and a thumbs-down for reason, compassion, and everything post-dark ages, then I must be blind, stupid and cruel.

Of course I know there are sensible, original thinking, and compassionate Christians and Muslims. Not all from these faiths are fundamentalist and non-thinking. But in other spiritual traditions, I found a much higher level of humanity, from person to person. I cannot remember ever coming across one politically rigid or conservative Zennist or Buddhist-ever. It is virtually a contradiction in terms.

Yet in the ranks of the theists, every other person has rigid, inhumane and unforgiving views, and in Korea, where Christianity is in its infancy and psychology is still running a distant third behind it and Korean Confucianism, not only Buddhism (a deep part of all Koreans), but other forms of Christianity-are bad mouthed and attacked by radical Christians. It is a divisive tool breaking up lovers of different faiths, too-by obsessive parents.

How can a sincerely loving person reconcile this, and the fact that the theist faiths have the greatest history of bloodshed, cruelty, and corruption? My final word on this is, a religion must transform its people, part and parcel, man to man, woman to woman, child to child, person to person, generation to generation-across the board; toward greater love, compassion, forgiveness, kindness, and benevolence-otherwise, it is nothing divine, and everything deleteriously greedy and maligned.

Love, peace, and Joy to You,

Carlo Atteniese

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