Religion in 21st Century America

There’s been a lot of religious chit-chat of late, mostly centered around complaints that LGBT people are being granted the right to (horror of horrors) participate in same-sex marriage. The (fundamentalist Christian) OUTRAGE has been, to say the least, extremely vocal and for the most part — to the rational ear, at least — completely irrational. It’s as if allowing others to live their lives in a manner not approved of by those of loud voice and particular “belief” is not only an abrogation of the rights of those who disapprove, but is also an assault on the first amendment’s clause that reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” an assault on the very foundation of the ‘Christian Nation’ aka the United States of America.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve always thought that religion — no matter its name — had as its centerpiece a combination of generosity, of caring, hope, charity, and peacefulness, and that hate, fear, discrimination and their consequences were alien. To Religion. To practitioners thereof.

Pondering that notion reminded me that several years back I found — somewhere, can’t recall where — a brief synopsis of the world’s various religions, taken from appropriate quotes which more or less spell out at least the underlying and driving thesis for each. It’s interesting to read, also to wonder — while listening to today’s highly audible “religious” screamers (i.e. American right wing fundamentalist voices, aka Republicans) — what is it that’s gone so terribly wrong?

Brahmanism: “This is the sum of duty: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you.” ~Mahabharata 5:15-17

Buddhism: “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” ~Udana Varga 5:18

Judaism: “What is hateful to you, do not to your fellowmen. That is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary.” ~Talmud, Shabbat 31:a

Confucianism: “Surely it is the maxim of loving-kindness: Do not unto others that you would not have them do unto you.” ~Analects 15:23

Taoism: “Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.” ~T’ai Shag Kan Ying P’ien

Zoroastrianism: “That nature alone is good which refrains from doing unto another whatsoever is not good: for itself.” ~Dadistan-i-dinik 94:5

Islam: “No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother what which he desires for himself.” ~Sunnah

Christianity: “Reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed. Faith must trample underfoot all reason, sense, and understanding, and whatever it sees must be put out of sight and . . . know nothing but the word of God.” ~Martin Luther

It almost seems as if Martin Luther’s comment has not only caught on, but may even define the attitude of today’s American right wing fundies, especially when viewed in context with most any religious right statement on most any event or policy with which they disagree. Here are just a couple of recent links that point toward their embedded fears and hatreds, as linked to their “fundamentalist” religious dogma.

Janet Porter: Gay Marriage To Blame For Noah’s Flood, Will Usher In End Times

Bryan Fischer: Tell A Gay Couple They Are Going To Hell On Their Wedding Day

Philosopher David Hume seems to have pretty much summed the enduring fundamentalist core dilemma when he noted that “Men dare not avow, even to their own hearts, the doubts which they entertain on such subjects. They make a merit of implicit faith; and disguise to themselves their real infidelity, by the strongest asseverations and the most positive bigotry.” Is that a fair summation of we’re seeing today? Probably not, but at least Hume points toward the “doubts” which must surely drive “faith” in the hate/fear realm. “Bigotry” in Hume’s context.

Abrahamic faiths seem to be most burdened. Judasim, Christianity, Islam — each acknowledges essentially the same God, each is convinced that it is the “true” religion, each is, in result, similarly burdened by the events common to life itself. As David Hume put it, “. . . the first ideas of religion arose not from a contemplation of the works of nature, but from a concern with regard to the events of life, and from the incessant hopes and fears which actuate the human mind.” Or perhaps, as historian Edward Gibbons suggested, “The theologians may indulge the pleasing task of describing religion as she descended from Heaven, arrayed in her native purity. A more melancholy duty is imposed on the historian. He must discover the inevitable mixture of error and corruption which she contracted in a long residence upon earth, among a weak and degenerate race of beings.”

Whatever be the case, the world today is beset by religious irrationality, and ordinary people suffer in result. Why is such nonsense tolerated, much less praised and worshiped by so many? Why can’t we all simply get along? Why does mythology occupy such a prominent pedestal in the human passage?

Gautama Siddharta — Buddha — perhaps spoke the best solution to religious fears when he said,

“Believe nothing just because a so-called wise person said it. Believe nothing just because a belief is generally held. Believe nothing just because it is said in ancient books. Believe nothing just because it is said to be of divine origin. Believe nothing just because someone else believes it. Believe only what you yourself test and judge to be true.”

Imagine what the world could become — if only . . . Meanwhile, ‘Homosexual Armageddon!’ Anti-Gay Activists Decry ‘Satanic’ Gay Rights. The beat goes on but the question remains: whereto from here, America?

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About frugalchariot

How Frugal is the Chariot That bears the Human soul. (Emily Dickinson)
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