13 September 2008

Dark Ages, anyone?

Bumper sticker, courtesy Lance Mannion's Uncle Merlin:

" When religion ruled the world, it was called the Dark Ages."

As anyone who's read this blog for very long knows, I'm not religious. I'm not a believer. And for the last 35 or so years, that's worked out just fine for me.

Yet I teeter right on the edge of atheism. I'm unwilling to take that final step into total disbelief in any possibility of an "other" greater than myself. How should I know? There's a lot in this world I'm ignorant about, a lot I can't explain. And I haven't attained that personal level of chutzpah that allows me to believe that there's really nothing, nothing at all, out there in the universe that could be considered a "creator" or "god."

Still, when it comes to religion, I'm a happy pagan. I'd rather worship a tree than "Allah" or "God." The tree, at least, is real and it isn't concerned in the least about my "salvation." Nor does the tree want to curtail my rights as a woman and a human being. It doesn't bother condemning me for drinking or dancing or lusting in my heart. It isn't interested in compelling me to be like itself. It may not even have any awareness of me at all, but there again, who knows? That tree just is, a beautiful thing of stunning complexity, filled with wonders, living and growing and changing season by season, year by year. A miracle.

I went through a short period of Jesus Freakism when I was a teen. For a bookish, artistic, shy young woman without much self-esteem, the Presbyterian church was a haven, a place where I could be accepted for myself rather than how I looked or what my grades were or how athletic I was, or wasn't. Youth groups were coming into their own, and my church had a truly fine youth choir of well over 100 members. I joined it. I had a good time at rehearsals and adding my so-so (but at least in tune) voice to the rest on Sundays.

But it wasn't long before I realized that being "saved" meant toeing the line on lots of worldly things. Like rejecting evolution. Like believing in Satan. Like believing that everything the church said was the only truth, and the rest of the world was wrong and condemned to burn in hell. And finally, it meant that I was expected to try to "save" others, to bring them around to my (the church's) point of view. To collect souls for Jesus.

Well, one junior college anthropology course, coupled with the growing realization that the church had cliques too – and I wasn't any more welcome in them than I had been in school – put an end to all that. I stopped going to church that year and started finding myself.

I've never looked back, and I've never regretted it.

The one thing that I've never been able to do, however, is condemn others for believing. I'm a very Golden Rule type of person, and I'm real big on "live and let live," too. My short stint as Jesus Freak taught me a lot about Jesus himself, too. I don't believe he was God made incarnate, but I do believe he probably existed, a sort of early charismatic, genius teacher with some rather radical ideas. Like not judging others. Like appreciating the peacemakers, and the meek. Like giving to the poor, and not being greedy because yep, you can't take it with you. I liked that aspect of Christianity. I came away from my religious experience with a great foundation of basic goodness and gentleness. And nothing Jesus said in the Bible restricted me from being curious about the world, or living my life to the fullest, or refusing to learn astonishing things. A little Christian training and indoctrination did nothing but enhance my secularism. As I said, I don't regret having learned.

But one of the things I learned during those years were the Ten Commandments. And one of them was "Thou shalt not lie."

So you can imagine my disgust with our current leadership in America. For years now, this pious group of "Christians" has been lying to all of us while systematically stealing from the poor to give to the rich, waging violent, bloody wars of greed and opportunity, and working hard to force all of us to "believe" as they do. They would replace the America I know – a country of freedom for all, without the strictures of the church as law – with a sort of theocracy that claims to worship "God" but really worships money, taking away our rights and freedoms as they do it.

And they're liars.

George W. Bush has been telling whoppers since he ran for president in 2000, and probably for a long time before that. I mean, he's got lying down to a fine art. Claims to be a Christian and "guided by God." God has spoken to him, you know? He knows God's Voice in his ear. George has made a fortune for himself and his cronies off his "God" without doing anything more than giving him (it?) some frequent, pious lip-service. He's done terrible things to America, and the world at large, in the name of God. War, anyone? How about a little torture? Kidnapping? Let's have us a little indefinite detainment and spying on anyone who doesn't toe the Christianist line. And let's lie, lie, and lie some more, and deny we're doing any of it for any reason other than our "good" God's will.

It's enough to make this old pagan puke.

And now … now we have John McCain and Sarah Palin. McCain isn't really a believer in anything, but he's fine with the bible-thumpers if going along with them will win him power over all of us. Palin is a holy-roller, and believe me, they do want to force you to be like them. McCain's is a cynical Christianity; Palin's is both radical and frightening.

And – heh, no surprise – they're both shameless, despicable liars. What about that commandment? What about Jesus' teachings regarding love of neighbors and doing unto others? What about not judging others? What about giving to, helping and uplifting the most needy among us? What about all that?

Well, McCain and Palin are just hypocrites. They're no different than the people I got to know, way back in that suburban church all those decades ago, people who call themselves "Christians" but are only in it for themselves. They spout the words but don't practice what they preach. They have no sincere compassion for others. They're simply greedy, hypocritical human beings.

As a different kind of human being, one who doesn't worship their "God" but believes in compassion and brotherly love, they make me sick. And they scare me.

I've read two wonderful works of fiction that dealt with these themes. Well, more than that, but these two stand out in my memory in a way that none of the others have. One of them is "A Gift Upon the Shore," by M.K. Wren. The other is "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood. Both books examine what happens when religion holds sway over secularism. Both will make your hair stand on end. I heartily recommend them.

Well, unless you're one of those Christians who'd like to see McCain and Palin take over America. Then I imagine you'd like to have both of those books banned and burned. And not only those – they'd just hit the flames first, before all the other books written in this wonderful, miraculous, beautiful world by centuries of great thinkers, including those from other cultures and religions.

Only one book would survive: The bible. And access to it would be restricted to the leaders, who would "bless" the rest of us with the official interpretation of what it says. Ignorance, violence, torture, greed, and avarice will prevail, because that's just human nature. There is no God, but we are sure good at making one up.

I don't know about you, but I just won't vote for a couple of bald-faced, publicly pious liars. We've already had nearly eight long years of seeing what happens when liars like G.W. Bush gain power. McCain and Palin make him look like a piker in comparison.

Yes, Barack Obama has also told us that he's a Christian. But Obama doesn't lie, and he "walks the walk," not just "talks the talk." He isn't committed to forcing anyone else to believe like he does, and shares a more rational "live and let live" philosophy, which is clear when he writes and speaks, and also in his party platform. Finally, if the radical Christian right hadn't forced religion to be a part of a candidate's campaign, it's doubtful that Obama would have ever even mentioned his religious beliefs, except in passing. And that is how it should be.

If McCain and Palin win this election, welcome to the new and improved Dark Ages. Excuse me. I think I'll go worship a tree and pray for salvation.


The News Writer said...

Very nice post. Sadly, Barack Obama also falls into the lying politician category (I barely knew Tony Rezko, Austan Goolsbee doesn't speak for me), but he certainly isn't one of those who seeks to make everyone believe as he does -- and that's what's very frightening about Republicans as they've "evolved" in the present times. I suppose I should actually say not evolved -- perhaps their fear of acknowledging evolution has inhibited their own growth as a people. They fear allowing differing ideas, differing perspectives, and frankly, when that's what one's fear is, it really means a deep insecurity about one's own place in the world. It's a pity, too, because as you said, most of us on this side of the craziness could care less what you believe, just so long as your beliefs don't start infringing on my right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

But then, the Republicans have altered that document too -- life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as long as you agree with us. But that's just plain wrong.

I, too, fear another four years of Republicanism, and fear that this president-vice president combo might be worse than our current one. And even more I fear that the president might not be long for this world, and that would leave us in dire straits indeed.

Bill Stankus said...

Strange isn't it? The worst of us are the Repug choices for the presidency.

Then again, perhaps they've recognized something about who and what America is trending towards.

If our educational system is broken, or at least bent, and our traditional voting apathy has also become fully entrenched ... couple those with the fact that our best and brightest are not interested in politics or working for social concern reasons ... then the fault is not the Palin-McCain ticket - but America itself is to blame.

We are our own worst enemy.

Bubs said...

Well stated!

I was having a discussion last night with a co-worker who is a McCain voter. I asked him if he liked his booze, and his internet porn, and his gambling, and he answered an enthusiastic "yes". And I asked him how he felt about supporting someone like Palin who was against all those things, as were all the other bible thumpers that McCain is sucking up to now.

He had no answer.

Lucy said...

I remember how much The Handmaid's Tale scared the hell out of me when I first read it. That was in 1993. Imagine how much more frightened I am now.

You've crafted a post here that is in turns personal, political, and reflective. Great stuff. It seems too simple to me that none of this is that my Jesus (and I'm a Unitarian, so my Jesus is an entirely different historical figure than Palin's) didn't mean any of this. I laughed along with all of my liberal friends at the Jesus was a community organizer/Pontious Pilate was a governor jokes, but there was this little voice in my head saying "but it's true, you know." I just don't get it, and it's all too sad to bear.