God is not great when God is used by religious leaders as an excuse to hurt others

Christopher Hitchens writes in his book, God Is Not Great,

"God did not create man in his own image. Evidently, it was the other way about, which is the painless explanantion for the profusion of gods and religions, and the fratricide between and among faiths, that we see all about us and that has so retarded the development of civilization." p. 8

Burning_heretics Of course, each adherent claims that his version of religion is special and that he has been especially ordained to bring enlightenment to the rest of humanity. This kind of malignant narcissism has caused death and destruction which is often justified and explained as the "will of God" as if it excuses the criminal behavior of perpetrators.

Hitchens writes:

"We believe with certainty that an ethical life can be lived without religion. And we know for a fact that the corollary holds true - that religion has caused innumerable people to not just to conduct themselves no better than others, but to award themselves permission to behave in ways that would make a brothel-keeper or an ethnic cleanser raise an eyebrow." p. 6

It would appear that the morality of religions is suspect especially when it trampels on the human rights of others. Bad religion is that religion which is used as an instrument of oppression, subjugation, abuse, and death. The blasphemy of blasphemies is that blasphemy that religious leaders preach when they harm others justifying their behavior by claiming to know What God Wants.

Farewell to Falwell - When religion goes bad

Jerry_falwell On June 7, 2007, The Best Of The Left Podcast broadcast a collage of clips commenting on the death of Jerry Falwell. Falwell has a long history of making rascist and bigotted remarks. He was a divisive figure using the Gospel message of Jesus of Nazareth in judgmental, hurtful, and self serving ways.

Falwell was one of the leaders of the religious right which, unfortuately, has given Christianity a bad name and which promoted policies and beliefs which contradict the teachings of Jesus. Rather than rendering to God the things that are God's, and to Caesar the things that are Caesar's as Jesus taught, the religious right has been pursuing political power to take over the United States and turn it into their brand of theocracy.

This show is worth listening to and you can access it by clicking on the link below.

Link: Best of the Left Podcast.

Living With Saints, the book

Living With Saints by Mary O'Connel was published in 2001. It is a book of short stories based on the lives of saints written in contemporary settings. It is somewhat satirical and portrays a feminist point of view. Each story is stand alone and covers saints such as St. Dymphna, St. Ursula, St. Therese of Lisieux, Saint  Martha, etc.

I enjoyed this book which was described by the Hartford Courant as "Racy and ribald - laugh-out-loud David Sedaris funny. It isn't necessay to be Catholic, religious, or even a woman to enjoy these stories.", but I think it would help.

Quote of the day

"...people think and work together to interpret the signs of the times in light of their faith, to make explicit the epochal thinking which the times demand. The prophetic liberal church is the church in which all members share the common responsibility to attempt to forsee the consequences of human behavior, both individual and institutional, wth the intention of making history instead of merely being pushed around by it. Only through the 'prophethood' of all believers can we forsee doom and mend our common ways."

James Luther Adams

American Fascists: The Christian Right and The War On America, the book

Chris Hedges book, American Fascists: The Christian Right and The War On Terror, is a very important book which every American should read. The fundamental Christians, some of whom are called Dominionists, have infiltrated our government at all levels and intend to turn the United States into a Christian nation. They complain about being persecuted by satanic forces like "liberals", "secularlists", "humanists", "gays", and a population that is "unsaved" and they seek to dominate, to control, to influence the whole society.

These American Fascists have no respect for the separation of church and state, no respect for the rule of law other than what they call "God's law" of which they are the final arbiter. They disparage anyone not like themselves such as Catholics, "liberal protestants", Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, anyone of a different faith. They seek to take over the schools and universities and to gain control over the levers of government at all levels from school boards,to county administrations, to state and federal offices. They lie, coerce, shame, blame, exclude, discriminate, and under the guise of "christian love" spread a message of hate attacking those who do not agree with their own ideology. This may seem like a strong indictment but Chris Hedges is very serious when he ends his book with these sentences:

"But I do believe that the radical Christian Right is a sworn and potent enemy of the open society. Its ideology bears within it the tenets of a Christian fascism. In the event of a crisis, in the event of another catastrophic terrorist attack, an economic meltdown or huge environmental disaster, the movement stands poised to manipulate fear and chaos ruthlessly and reshape America in ways that have not been seen since the nation's founding. All Americans - not only those of faith - who care about our open society must learn to speak about this movement with a new vocalulary, to give up  passivity, to challenge aggressively this movement's deluded appropriation of Christriantity and to do everthing posssible to defend tolerance. The attacks by this movement on the rights and beliefs of Muslims, Jews, immigrants, gays, lesbians, women, scholars, scientists, those they dismiss as "nominal Christans," and those they brand with the curse of "secular humanist" are an attack on all of us, on our values, our freedoms and ultimately our democracy. Tolerance is a vitrue, but tolerance coupled with passivity is a vice."

If these warnings seem over the top consider the statements made by Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell that the cause of 9/11 was the secularization of the United States as evidenced by providing gays with rights, and women with the reproductive right of abortion. Consider the situation in Dover Pennsylvannia where the school board mandated that Creationism be taught in the schools instead of the evolution. Consider the disregard for science in regards to climate change, making available the morning after pill, stem cell research, and the fiasco of the Terri Shiavo case. Consider the unbelievable control and power given to Monica Goodling, a graduate from Pat Robertson's Regent University in her 30s, to create a litmus test for U.S. Attorneys which she admitted under oath to a Senate Judiciary committee went "over the line." Consider the appointment of numerous judges to federal courts, and even the United States Supreme Court, whose main qualification is not their jurisprudence, but their compliance with a religious standard which was a main bargaining chip for support of the Bush administration by the religious right in the 2000 and 2004 election.

Chris Hedges discusses this and much more in his book. I highly recommend it, and would even say that it should be required reading for every American voter.

A Chosen Faith: An Introduction to Unitarian Unversalism, the book

A Chosen Faith: An Introduction to Unitarian Universalism by John Buehrens and Forrest Church was first published in 1989 and then updated in 1998. Each author writes a chapter describing from his point of view each of the six sources of the Unitarian Universalist faith. The six sources are direct experience, words and deeds of prophetic men and women, wisdom from the world's religions, Jewish and Christian teachings, humanist teachings, and the spiritual teachings of the Earth Centered traditions.

The book is written in a very informal and personal style which makes it interesting to read. Both authors share some of their personal experiences in their faith development to exemplify how the sources might inform one's own religious theology.

This book should be high on the reading list of anyone interested in religion and especially in the history and modern practice of Unitarian Universalism. It is an interesting and enjoyable read and I recommend it.

Rites of funerals - The Wisdom of Thomas Lynch

"A funeral is the way we get through a death. It has not changed fundamentally since the species began doing it forty thousand years ago. The fashions have changed, but the fundamental obligation of the funeral is to bear witness to a death in the family and to initiate remembrance - that's pretty much the same."

Thomas Lynch, "Limning the Rites of Death" in The Life Of Meaning, eds. Bob Abernethy, William Bole, p. 9

"I keep telling them that for every dead guy, there are 150 or 200 people to whom that death matters."

Ibid., p.9

"We have, in some ways, the women of the baby-boom generation to thank for the hospice movement. They refused to see their parents die surrounded by the machinery of intensive care and said that the would, as an alternative, bring their people home where they could really take care of them. Even though the medicine had to be downsized, humanity was upsized in that transaction, and I think all to the good."

Ibid., p. 10

"And funerals operate in the same way that poems do. They operate by metaphor and icon and liturgy and symbol."

Ibid., p. 11

Mr. Lynch offers his opinions of pre-sold funerals which tend to be negative. He argues that funerals are for the living not for the dead, and the living should not try to control the preferences of the survivors by pre-planning their own funerals. He tells the story of one man who left his son an extensive letter outlining his ideas of his funeral but then at the end of the letter the man has a disclaimer. Here is what Lynch says in part in the telling of this story.

"On and on he went in this letter. And at the bottom of the letter was a paragraph that I've always thought of as a kind of coupon. It was a disclaimer, and it said, 'I've felt, furthmore, that all this is done for the living. So do whatever you want. It won't bother me one bit.'"

Ibid., p. 13

Link: Thomas Lynch - Poet, Writer, Essayist and Funeral Director - Milford, Michigan.

Jerry Falwell - Good and bad religion

The North Coast Cafe has an excellent post on May 15, 2007 on Jerry Falwell. I recommend it.

I have been thinking lately about what criteria we might use to distinguish good from bad religion. I think that there is much religion being preached and promoted these days which is dysfunctional, destructive, and unholy. I am thinking about this more from a sociological perspective than a theological perspective, and I am thinking about it more from the point of view of values rather than beliefs.

It is not that beliefs are not important because they get acted upon sometimes which is a manifestation of values, so sometimes what a person values is influenced by their beliefs, but this is not always so.

Jerry Falwell behaved like a bigot. He engaged in hate speech against segments of our society which has continued attitudes of oppression, subjugation, and discrimination. He claimed to speak for God and to know what God wants, but I have compared his behavior to Jesus as described inthe New Testament, and I find very little similar.

Jerry Falwell was a colorful character, and I am sure that some of his family and followers are saddened by his death. I offer my condolences to those who are mourning. At the same time, it is my fervent hope that some of Jerry's ideas and values die with him, and that his followers and supporters rethink some of the beliefs which he promoted and some of the destructive values which he acted upon.

Mr. Falwell's hate speech against gays, against women, against Jews, against non fundamentalist Christians, against science, against liberals, againt peacemakers, against environmentalists has done this country a real disservice. I think Mr. Falwell's brand of religion has given religion a bad name, and with his death perhaps there is hope that this country will have one less obtacle to getting itself on a better track.

Link: North Coast Cafe: Jerry Falwell R.I.P..

Birth Control is Wonderful!

Teen_sexuality The Reverend Marlin Lavanhar, the senior pastor at All Soul's Unitarian Church in Tulsa, OK, gave a wonderful sermon on April 29, 2007 entitled, "Birth Control Is Wonderful." He describes the relationship of religion and sexuality and gives a very wise view on how sexuality should be dealt with in our contemporary culture. This sermon should be listened to by every human being aged 13 and older. I highly recommend it to parents of pre-adolescent and adolescent children who have the primary responsibility of helping their children learn how to manage their developing sexual impulses. Click on the link below to go to the Digg web site where you can listen to the sermon.

Driving around Tulsa we can see huge billboards that read, "Birth Control is Harmful." These are countered by other billboards that say, "Birth Control is Easy." The first slogan and its implications are much more harmful than birth control itself. The second slogan is inadequate in its response to the first. There are enormous moral issues at stake in this debate and they require more than a billboard campaign. Sex is not a sin. However, religious dogmas that lead to overpopulation, increased poverty and the spread of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (such as a ban on birth control) is a sin of deadly proportions. Religions that promote ideologies that inadvertently lead to suffering and death are much more harmful than religions that advocate for responsible sexual behavior. You may hear more about sex this Sunday than you have ever heard in church before. Well, at least more positive comments about sex.

Link: Digg - Birth Control is Wonderful! (All Souls Unitarian Church, Tulsa, OK).

Bankruptcy Under Way for San Diego Diocese

NPR Religion program had an interesting program on March 11, 2007 describing the bankruptcy underway in the Catholic diocese of San Diego. There have been so many pedophile law suit settlements that they have bankrupted another Catholic diocese.

This news has me wondering where the Catholic dioceses get their money to begin with? It is from their parishioners of course. And that has me wondering why parishioners would be financially supporting an institution which harbors, enables, and abets sex abusers and then hypocritically purports to teach people about morality?

The God which the Catholic church claims to represent must have one heck of a sense of humor. Either you laugh or cry.

Is this an example of bad faith described in the post below?

To listen to the show click on the link below.

Link: NPR : Bankruptcy Under Way for San Diego Diocese.