Ridiculous Religion

“Religion declined not because it was refuted, but because it became irrelevant, dull, oppressive, insipid.” wrote Rabbi Abraham Heschel decades ago.Today he would surely add the word stupid and anti-intellectual.In Pope John Paul ll’s encyclical Fides et Ratio and Benedict XV’s clumsy attempt to chide Islam about its putative disconnect between faith and reason, both of these smart popes made valiant attempts to link faith and reason.Neither can come close to John Spong when it comes to speaking plainly about the absolute bizarre and grave damage fundamentalism is doing to Christianity today. This is Spong’s latest and as we used to say in Latin ad rem (“right to the point”)

“Anderson Cooper of CNN was hosting a series of telecasts on the subject, “What is a Christian?” Evangelical clergy were interviewed who believed that the Book of Revelation both predicted and justified the war in the Middle East. They read this late 1st century book as their guide to contemporary history. They also stated that the Bible was quite clear in its condemnation of homosexuality. These were men, well dressed, apparently well educated, not confined to a mental hospital, being interviewed on national television by a mainstream network. Viewers were presumably accepting these comments as rational, even worthy of serious attention. There was something about these two scenes: President Bush talking about the war and these preachers talking about the Bible that seemed to be eerily reminiscent of each other. Both cited their authority in such a way as to imply that it was not capable of being challenged. The President followed his own intuition, informed by his interpretation of God’s will. These clergy followed their own intuitions, informed by their interpretation of the Bible as an expression of God’s will. Perhaps 500 years ago these attitudes would not have seemed strange, but in a post-Freudian world, people do not dismiss the inability to make different decisions on the basis of new data as “stubbornness,” they recognize it as delusional. In a world where critical biblical scholarship is more than 200 years old, no rational person would treat a book written between 1000 BCE and 135 CE by a wide variety of individuals as if it contained the secrets of the end of the world, a blueprint for the human disaster that is called the Iraq War and no one, except a mad man, would accept the idea that this ancient book, devoid of the medical and scientific data developed in the past hundred years, actually prescribed divine rejection of homosexuality.

Because someone perfumes both ignorance and prejudice in religious jargon does not make it less ignorant or less prejudicial. To claim authority for either a failed war or an oppressive religion is a sign of serious mental illness. To have minds closed to any possibilities save those within the comfort zone of a certainty-creating religious or political wisdom is to be incapable of living in the real world. “

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