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The Evil in Religion
My wife, a psychiatric nurse, and I usually watch ER on Thursday nights. Recently, the plot involved a meeting between Laura Innes' character, Dr. Kerry Weaver, and her mother, Helen Kingsley, played by Frances Fisher. [Trivia: The role was wrongly billed to Sissy Spacek who had to drop out.] The two had never seen each other since Kerry's birth when she was given up for adoption. When Helen, an evangelical Christian, discovers that her long-lost daughter is a lesbian, she makes it clear that Kerry's lifestyle is an abomination to God and to herself. Meanwhile, in the background is heard the music of the touring choir of which Helen is a part - "Just As I Am."

This got me thinking. As a minister who served the church for almost half a century, I find it painful to say what is becoming ever more clear - much of what religion does and teaches can only be characterized as evil. This is a frightening conclusion because, of course, it makes religion guilty of the very thing which it claims to oppose.

Most religions seem to have become more political in recent years. And with that development comes a decline in true spirituality and an increase in violence against the children of God. Some examples are obvious:

  • religion which sanctified murder through Crusade and Inquisition;
  • religion which burned people as witches in the name of Jesus;
  • religion which stated that it is acceptable to own slaves, as my former denomination did in 1845;
  • religion that supports suicide bombers who destroy innocent people because they are seen as enemies of God;
  • religion which makes it possible for priests to abuse children, and which protects the criminals rather than defending the victims.

How can these abuses be tolerated by civilized peoples? How can they be perpetrated by those who claim to be motivated by the love of God? It is because of fundamental teachings which are still part of religious belief systems today:

  • everyone who does not believe as I do is an infidel, an enemy of God;
  • women are second class citizens who do not qualify in God's sight for ordination;
  • gays have chosen to be that way and God will punish them for their lifestyle;
  • God sees all people as worthless sinners deserving damnation;
  • it is appropriate for the church to enrich itself while people starve.

These teachings are wrong. They qualify as evil because of the evil consequences they produce. They are wrong by the Bible's own standards. In Acts 10:15 we read, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." Yet we insist on calling women or blacks or gays or those in other faiths unclean, and it is our smug assurance that those who disagree with us are enemies of God which culminates in religious violence and murder.

Germans, after the war, claimed to be innocent of the Holocaust. "We didn't know what was happening -- the atrocities were performed by those in power." But they were part of a system which made those horrors possible. Religious people must stop shutting their eyes to the abuses caused by their negative belief systems. They must rise up against the leadership and demand dramatic changes. Otherwise, we will all be responsible for the destructive consequences of outmoded religious teachings. Religion is definitely part of the problem. In the 21st century, we must make it part of the solution.

Posted 2-15-05

Copyright: John W. Sloat 2005