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In which Lil has a revelation about why she is angry about some organised religions

I've just had a sort of self-revelation.

I was asked why I hated Christianity and particularly Catholicism. (My response at that point was very much, "You should hear what I think about Islam.") However, what threw me was the following accusation that Christianity must have hurt me personally.

Setting aside the fact that I am not, on the whole, angry at ordinary individual members of any religion, and that some religions, which I also consider to be ... er... mistaken about their belief in the supernatural, I actually wish I could believe were true, and wish them well, none of them have hurt me personally. I admire some religious people, even a few who are religious leaders - though not many - enormously.


My rage -- and it is sometimes just that -- is on behalf of others.

I hate the unreason, the blind faith, the privilege by which so many of said religions assume that their morality is unquestioned and should be everyone else's. That it is their right, because it is a matter of faith, to break the law of the land, and to protect the criminals -- yes, criminals -- in their ranks.

Most of all, though, I hate the fact -- and it is a fact -- that so many of these religious leaders are bullies. Currently, the leaders of the normally moderate Church of England are lying about the consequences of the bill to allow civil marriages between members of the same sex. They are lying about the legal and political consequences and about the history of marriage - it's been a bloody commercial contract for far, far longer than its been about love or even procreation, damn it. And why are they lying? Because the churches in the UK are emptying and the so-called Anglican communion is dependent on the African churches which they are desperate to keep on-side. The Catholic church is also lying and trying to bully our elected government on this issue. They do not speak for all their members, as they claim - and they claim numbers who are no longer religious; I know both for a fact.

In Ireland the Catholic church is trying, desperately, to cling onto political power which it is losing as a consequence of protecting criminal priests at the expense of innocent children. History tells us that ideologues are the worst people to let have power, and that, of necessity, includes the ideology of religion.

If you want to see what Islam does when it is unchecked by civil society you only need to look at Iran (which had a highly-educated and liberal section of its original population), at Saudi Arabia, at the Taliban in Afghanistan. Religion divides people. Don't tell me it is just culture - religion is part of culture -- and sharia law comes from the Koran.

I see religion trying to kill people (anything from massacres in Nigeria to the Catholic church trying to stop abortions which are necessary to save the mother's life.) I see it silencing even the mildest dissent. (A highly respected academic nun under investigation because her theological book does not agree with the Vatican line.) I see corruption everywhere (but particularly in the Vatican.)

And, damn it, I get angry. In this country I still have that right.

Edit: The warning in the cut is there for a reason, people. If you are going to be upset by my occasional ranting or the rough and tumble of my atheist, agnostic and pagan friends, please don't click through. I was very careful not to identify the person who triggered the mental jump that led to this post, but they came in and identified themselves anyway, which has led to them leaving. That's a pity. I am not going to take these posts to a custom flist so think before you click.

For all that I know individuals who get a lot of comfort from their faith ...

Hear, hear.

That people find comfort in their faith is undeniable.

It is more worrying if they find comfort in the pronouncements of their leaders and follow them blindly.

Yes, absolutely. I'm a woolly agnostic, but it is precisely this aspect -- the righteousness, the bullying -- that disturbs and angers me, too.
You are one of the most rational atheists I know, which is one of the many ways you're awesome. That response -- that you must be speaking out of hurt, not informed thought -- is patronising and ridiculous.

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Oh yes, THIS!

I was furious about the self-serving bigots in the CofE showing themselves in their true colours yesterday.

Their toadying up to the even viler (if possible) African Church is sickening.

My view is that if an organiasation offers something that has a significance in English law then it must be offered to all without discrimination. If they won't do that then religious marriage must be stripped of its legal signifance and so reduced to the dress-up and play-act status.

If that means people have to have a civil ceremony to accord the legal status then fine.

Churches that don't discriminate could still offer a ceremony with legal significance. Simplz.

If it undermines what they see as the insitution of marriage then great, it clearly needs undermining.

I have reached the stage that I pretty much loathe all organised religions. And yes, don't even get me started on Islam!

I would be extremely happy to see the church disestablished, the bishops out of the Lords, and religious schools abolished.

Let's see how long they survive without the government propping them up. And that's both Labour and Tories.

The change Cameron proposes is pretty much a matter of vocabulary. If you ask me, it does not go far enough.

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I agree.

For myself, I make a distinction between what I call 'faith' (whatever gives one grounding, sanity, a sense of place in the universe, ethics, perspective and purpose - and many folk have all of that with no professed faith at all and that's just fine) and 'religion', which is when I start telling you what your faith should be, that it should be like mine, and that you're wrong to believe otherwise. In other words, imposing my faith on others makes it a religion, and religions tend to bully.

I don't like religion. I approve of faith - if the results are positive.

I have a good deal of sympathy with this, but not time to write the thoughtful comment it deserves.

But arrogance and cruelty are not confined to religious organisations; and nor are kindness and gentleness for others of the same faith, different faith, or none.

Have I said otherwise?

Apart from political parties, about which the same could be said as religion (but at least there is a semblance of accountability in representative democracy) and a few other things like the Masons and News International, good or bad individuals don't have their claims to speak for others believed.

Though I am more agnostic than atheistic, I completely agree with you about organised religions. Some of them seem to be actually working on behalf of the side they claim to oppose. Shame on them!

Ah, but are you an agnostic atheist or an agnostic theist or an agnostic deist, because all 'agnostic' really means is that you claim you can't and never will be 100% sure about whether a god or gods exist.

In that regard, I am an agnostic atheist, and so is Richard Dawkins.

Absolutely agree. It's not simply that you've been badly affected a religion and don't like it anymore. It's that you couldn't in good conscience join with an organisation which causes so much harm.

Naturally many Catholic Christians are withdrawing their support from their Church, but also the assertion that Rowan Williams is a "liberal" leader for the Anglican Church is proving falser and falser every year.

Eric MacDonald often has things to say about Rowan Williams' 'thinking', and, as an ex-Anglican priest, he should know...

I'd have said that I have been hurt personally by Christianity, and that the fact that it hurts people is a valid argument against it.

Specifically, Christianity ties salvation to belief and gives moral status to feelings. Jesus said (in the seldom-quoted follower to John 3:16) that anyone who doesn't believe in him is condemned, and he equated lustful thoughts with adultery. If you believe these things and accept the claim that God is all-knowing, then it inevitably gives the feeling that He's constantly spying on the inside of your head, noting every "sinful" thought and potentially sentencing you to Hell for not having the right beliefs. This was a frightening thing for me as a child.

Any kind of institution can become corrupt, but these doctrines make Christianity harmful at its root.


See, they never dwelt on stuff like that at Anglican Sunday School (and I quit that at age 7 by simply refusing to go) or in the readings at school assembly or in Religious Studies lessons (which were mandated by the government at state schools - though it had to be said that the Religious Studies teacher we had when I was 17 gave up on her class of agnostic and atheistic science students - we questioned everything.)

When it came to the point I found no reason to believe that any of this stuff was true and declared myself an atheist. I learned all that later. So while I agree with you how much harm this can do - and I'm desperately sorry it harmed you - I can't say that it harmed me, because by the time I came across it it just seemed nonsense.

Given that I agree with just about everything you've said in this post, there's one thing which I wonder about: what should someone who does believe in one of the religions you mention DO? Just because there are unethical and just plain unpleasant people at the top and often all the way through does not necessarily make the religion itself invalid, certainly on a personal level.

It's difficult for someone just to change their religion because there are nasty people in charge; more difficult, for example, than changing political affiliations especially if you honestly believe that the faith is True. (I've never been that certain about anything and tend to find people who are 100% certain about things a bit scary, but... well, I find most people scary for one reason or another.)

Of course, this is totally not your problem and is theirs: you are not obliged to sort out people's ethical issues within their religions and you have absolutely EVERY RIGHT to not only have strong opinions but to voice them. I think it's more that I tend to want to 'fix' things and suggest an answer. I need to get used to the fact that there aren't always answers....

Interesting discussion. And, unusually for this subject, a polite, well-reasoned one. Well done everyone. (Sorry, that sounds a bit patronising on re-reading. I didn't mean it to be.)

I'm as atheist as you are, but probably less angry about it (although the current Archbishop of Canterbury can make me grind my teeth somewhat). And I was also going to post something here about much of what you say also potentially applying to non-religious bodies - except that smallship1 beat me to it. Your phrase "their morality is unquestioned and should be everyone else's" could easily apply to (for example) the BBC, pretty much any online discussion forum where like-minded people gather, most bodies of students, the "metropolitan elite", city-dwellers, country-dwellers etc.

As for the whole gay / equal marriage thing, it seems to me that there's a perfectly sensible compromise that would leave everyone happy except for perhaps the CofE hierarchy. As you might expect from me, it's a libertarian compromise. This is it:

The state should have no involvement whatsoever in the living arrangements of individuals.

Or for that matter, what they do with their genitalia in respect of like-minded individuals.

There would be no state-sanctioned 'marriages' or 'civil partnerships'. You could still let individuals nominate another person to inherit their estate when they die in the way a spouse does currently for inheritance tax purposes and looking after children etc. If two people were members of an organised religion that featured marriage only between two people of different genders, then fair enough, they can have a religious ceremony, and that same religion would be free to say to a same-sex couple that they can't. But that same-sex couple would be free to find a different religion, or just have whatever ceremony they wanted to mark their commitment to each other (without that ceremony having to be sanctioned by the state).

And to extend this further, if someone wanted to 'marry' two people, or 'marry' their horse, or their goat or their toothbrush, they could. And other people would be free to consider those 'marriages' to be 'not _real_ marriages' because they worshipped the Great Green Arkleseizure and the Church of the Great Green Arkleseizure only considers three people to be properly married to each other if the ceremony involved the ritual consumption of an entire packet of spearmint flavour Tic Tacs as a sign of each spouse's commitment to fresh breath.

Edited at 2012-06-14 02:26 pm (UTC)

I sort of agree with you (though the horse or the goat ought, you know, to have a say in this!)

(I have no horse in this race. I am not married and am not in a civil partnership or unofficial sexual liaison though I have shared a house with my best friend for longer than most marriages last.)

But baby steps, I think.

I have had a long and trying day dealing with blithering idiots, so allow me to wave my arms feebly and squawk "this, this!"

And to lower the tone of the debate, I am reminded of a pic I saw on Facebook the other day; "Religion is like a penis. It's OK to have one. It's OK to be proud of it. It is not OK to whip it out, wave it around and shove it in people's faces."

You win the internets.


Ina says, "The proselytizing religions don't believe that - they think it's their right to screw with everybody."

For me, thinking is the key. Religions which promote thinking, promote questioning are rare. Part of their attraction (the non-thinking ones) is that they shut down choice.

I love your morning meditations.

I'm very disappointed in the CofE. Really they peaked with Peter Sellers in Heavens Above and it's all been downhill from there. Our school chaplain read Botany at Durham under David Bellamy and was very well-respected, not least because the last mandatory year always got to discuss the morality of sex, drugs and rock 'n roll in class. His replacement decided we needed more studies of comparative religions - just as we got to that level. :(

The thing about the CofE is this: the house of laity is modern and forward thinking and liberal; the house of clergy is less so, but still reasonable - the House of Bishops is running bloody scared and far more interested in personal advancement and in political power than anything else. If the congregations were running the church we'd have a lot fewer problems.

Eric MacDonald and Richard Dawkins on Rowan Williams are most informative.

Ah well, anyone who *wants* the job should immediately be discounted. Any position of power should be subject to the draft and for a limited time. I'm sure Sir John Harvey-Jones could have managed 4 years out of his busy career to sort out the country. ;)

I think it was Arthur C Clarke who pronounced that that no-one should be placed in a position of power unless they had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the job. And, as you know, I have wrtten several hundred thousand words about a world based on that premise.

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Re: Christianum ad leonem

Do you want me to put this as an announcement on my LJ. I am perfectly willing to do so.

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