Why Do We Even Bother with Religion?

Religion. Why do we even bother? So much evil has been perpetrated in the name of religion. Humans have an amazing capability of ascribing to God all their worst impulses.

In the Middle East, peace is just a dream as Palestinians and Jews alike use terror, violence, and hate as tools of religion. The so-called Holy Land is become an unholy place of violence, intolerance, and hard-line extremism.

India and Pakistan are two countries who owe their independence and freedom to one of the Twentieth Century’s true saints of non-violence, Mahandas Ghandi. But what have we seen since independence? Indian Hindus and Pakistani Muslims locked in a bitterly violent struggle fueled by religious and ethnic fanaticism.

In Afghanistan, the Muslim government is not content with blowing up Buddhist shrines and temples, they are now prosecuting Christians. Afghan citizens who are found guilty of proselytizing for Christianity face the death penalty.

And lest we smugly think that Christians have escaped faith-based hate, just look at Northern Ireland where a watching world has been treated to the disgusting spectacle of Protestant adults cursing, spitting, throwing stones and bottles, and on Wednesday a bomb at Catholics. And were those attacked Catholic paramilitary troops from the IRA, or even Catholic politicians and leaders, or priests? No. The targets of these sincere, passionate, ‘holy’ Protestants are little girls and their mothers, on their way to a Catholic elementary school.

I have never been so disgusted in my life.

Of course, this is all happening overseas, isn’t it? Americans would never be guilty of this kind of extremism. NOT!!

It was newly arrived American Christians who committed genocide against the native peoples whose only crime was that they were here first. It was good people of faith who brought Africans in chains to this country to live as chattel in slavery. It was American Protestants who put up signs that read ‘Irish and Dogs Forbidden.’ It was good Christian Americans who perpetrated the sin of segregation against African Americans and fought against the Civil Rights Movement, even bombing Black churches. And it is religious people who are in the vanguard of the war against sexual minorities in this country.

Jesus wept!

What is it about religion that brings out the worst in people? Why does belief result in intolerance? Simply because I believe in Jesus Christ, why would I want to kill people who don’t happen to agree with me? Yes, Jesus Saves. But some of Jesus’ followers have been known to kill, if you are not saved.

I am a person of faith. I am a Christian. I am a Protestant. I am a member of Metropolitan Community Church. I am an active member of Holy Redeemer MCC, College Park, Maryland. I am proud of my church and proud of the message of tolerance and love preached there.

But when I read the news from around the world I am dismayed at what people of faith can do in the name of their religion. These atrocities are as far away as Afghanistan, the Indian Subcontinent, and Northern Ireland, but also as close as Fred Phelps’ web site (www.GodHatesFags.com), the Southern Baptist Convention, certain polyester patriarchs among the television evangelists, and the church down the street, the fundamentalist Christian at the office, the bigoted relative.

The God I know and worship is a God of love. Like Queen Victoria, I am sure God is not amused at the religious violence all around the world. My Jesus would truly weep over the spectacle of Protestant Christians throwing epithets and stones at little Catholic girls.

I know, I know. Most Muslims, most Hindus, most Jews, most Christians are good, God-fearing, non-violent people. They are following God in the right way, the way of peace, justice, and love. I am confident I am right about God being a God of love.

But it is difficult to be confident about being right with so many people of faith around the world being so wrong. As for me, give me Jesus Christ. Religion, I am not so sure about.