A decade or two back, I penned the following line in response to an online discussion group query concerning opinions on the virtues of the Biblical version of God the Creator. It was, I thought, a fair question that deserved a fair answer, so after a bit of a ponder I came up with this admittedly circumferential response:
“There is one fundamental difference between the worship of a rock, a
golden calf, or any other idol and the worship of a god or gods,
and it’s a simple one: the idol exists.”
Not everyone agreed with me, of course, but not even the evangelicals in the group accused me of blasphemy, or shouted that such blasphemous lingo would bring the justice of god down upon America. One fellow did mention that I’d be going to hell, but he was only a Judge in Virginia so I didn’t pay much attention.
These days, there’s a lot of chit-chat on the topic some like to call “Religious Freedom.” I’ve never been all that certain exactly what those two words are intended to imply, but to me they simply say that everyone has the “freedom” to believe absolutely anything he or she feels like believing when it comes to matters of “religion.” Now, according to Dictionary.reference.com, the first phrase in its definition #1 of the word “religion” reads, “ a premise which, to me, makes complete and total sense. Note the lack of specifics in the def.; there’s no mention of ‘God,’ or ‘Creator,’ or ‘Big Bang,’ or even of the ‘Flying Spaghetti Monster.’ Anything goes, in other words, and the implication is obvious: ‘religious freedom’ does not demand or support any particular viewpoint, it simply means that all viewpoints are equal and the freedom to choose is every individual’s right; nothing more, nothing less. “
Enter politics. AKA enter God; enter the Bible; enter prejudice; enter fear; enter hate; enter blame; money; votes; power; corruption; lies; bias; sex; gender; preference; conception; contraception; abortion. Forget Freedom, because once the concept of ‘religion’ as a politic is allowed to embrace virtually any set of god beliefs, the meaning of ‘religious freedom’ suddenly mutates to become the “Freedom” to impose religious belief on others. Hear the voices: “If we be forced to accept and deal with people who believe in phoney stuff and call it their religion, then our ‘Religious Freedom’ along with OUR TRUE RELIGION is under attack and if that ain’t stopped then God will for sure destroy Amurka and maybe even the whole world!“
The manifestations of such attitudes make the news almost every day. Just within the last week, both Indiana and Arkansas have produced controversial laws which effectively are written so as to give official blessing to discrimination based on ‘religious freedom’ — by maintaining that individuals have the right and the ‘freedom’ to treat LGBT people differently than others, particularly if, because of religious belief, serving the needs of LGBT people means condoning what is, to some, the unforgivable sin of LGBT itself. And it won’t stop there, of course, because once the freedom to discriminate against people who practice (or perhaps even were born with) what is considered by the empowered set of “believers” to be a sin or maybe a racial or ethnic inferiority, a great many doors suddenly pop open and reveal their once secreted nastinesses. Should discrimination be sanctioned if it could be applied to, say, Jews? To Muslims? Or maybe to Catholics? Presbyterians? Lutherans? Wiccans? To Hindus? Buddhists? Atheists? Does ‘religious freedom’ grant each and all ‘believers’ of the PROPER brand the right to automatically toss those who differ into the fiery furnaces? My guess is that some would absolutely agree with so bizarre a premise.
Exempli gratia: here are a handful of some recent ‘religious freedom’ freakouts:
Indiana Law Is An ‘Anti-Discrimination Bill Because It Prohibits Governmental Discrimination Against Christians’
And then there’s this one, apparently an attempt to assure people that there’s nothing to this hate and fear and discrimination stuff:
Yeah. Sure. Of course. OK, I get it. Say no more.
Gathering the above panoply of nonsensical ‘religious freedom’ theses (for lack of a better descriptor) required about a five minute visit to the Right Wing Watch website, and represents but a surface scratch exposure of ‘religious freedom’ content which exposes many of the obvious intentions that underlie and demonstrate conclusively that the “Conservative Christian” view of ‘religious freedom’ is more a license of one sort or another, an official permission to HATE some of the folks that one of their mythical gods created but still wants its minions to despise and trample upon.
Emily Dickinson summed up the vast bulk of that type of believer when she wrote,
He preached upon “Breadth” till it argued him narrow —
The Broad are too broad to define
And of “Truth” until it proclaimed him a Liar —
The Truth never flaunted a Sign —
Simplicity fled from his counterfeit presence
As Gold the Pyrites would shun —
What confusion would cover the innocent Jesus
To meet so enabled a Man!
Indeed. “Enabled.” Enabled this day by various elected officials who see, in the enabling process, such gracious benefits as money, votes, political power — and all it takes are a few lies, a little corruption, and a legal document that describes ‘religious freedom’ as the right to discriminate against others for virtually any Bible-defined reason (for most anything at all, in other words). In that context I am of the firm opinion that any definition of “religious freedom” should most surely contain the word ‘travesty.’
Why is that? Why has ‘religious freedom’ become ‘travesty’? Whatever happened to such honorable Biblical phraseologies as “Love thy neighbor,” or “Judge not,” or . . . ?? (Actually the Bible does seem a bit short on things not considered by its author and readers to be “abominations” of one sort or another).
I’m sorry, but it seems logical to me that the only genuine requirement on this issue is a very simple statement defining ‘religious freedom’ as the freedom to believe or to not believe in any and leave it at that — with the simple proviso that whatever belief one might embrace must remain personal, private, and not worth talking about anywhere beyond conversations with those of similar mind. That of course does not suggest that scientific data and theories of origins and/or the various components thereof are not to be publicly presented and discussed — it is science, after all — but it does mean that those who do accept the Big Bang thesis and its various supporting data do NOT have the legal right to discriminate against any or all of those who don’t. “
I guess if I were asked, I’d say that ‘God’ is the ‘anthropo-mythic’ construction which explains the sum of cosmic mystery not yet revealed or understood by science, that ‘God’ is also a tool of assurance to the uninformed that nothing so magnificent as humankind could possibly be fleeting, that surely it must be eternal AND a reflection of the image of the Creator Itself. I could quite easily imagine that because of such a radical view I might one day find myself a victim of hate, of fear, of discrimination as well — esp. given that I clearly don’t subscribe to the idea of said divine creator sneaking back to Earth a “day” or two after creation in order to pork a human virgin who would then produce His son, the fellow whom God the Father later arranged to have murdered in order to save mankind from its evil self, the image of Him. Self. Something like that.
That’s the same god who these days hates his LGBT creation and is going to destroy America and maybe the world because no discrimination against them is allowed here, mostly. Something like that.
I think I prefer maybe a rock or a golden calf — along with the legal consequences therein prescribed by GOP Amurka. What the
heck hell. Bring ’em on.