So, I’ve found myself thinking about religion of late. Not in terms of getting me some, just in general. Which is to say I’m not exactly sure where these thoughts are taking me, but bear with me and we’ll muddle through together, okay?
Now, I was pretty much raised in the protestant tradition, at least to the extent that my grandmother dutifully took us to Sunday school every week. I even played steel guitar in a little church band that toured the western states when I was 12. At around 15 or 16 though I entered my rebellious phase and pretty much came to the conclusion that organized religion was all bullshit. I certainly want no part of the Old Testament vengeful and jealous God, nor do I believe the stories of the virgin birth and resurrection. Which I guess means that I ain’t much of a Christian.
Having said that, I do try very hard to be respectful of the religious beliefs of others. I have a couple of Facebook “friends” (meaning people I’ve never actually met in real life) who constantly mock people of faith (usually Christians since they don’t have the balls to publicly criticize Muslims). They are as strident in their atheist beliefs as any other religious zealot I have encountered. In fact, I find their rants every bit as irritating as a knock on the door from a Jehovah’s Witness.
My second ex-wife was a Baptist (the other two ex’s were Catholic and the current wife is Buddhist) and I didn’t object to her taking my young children to church every Sunday. For awhile I attended with them, but damn, I rarely left church feeling uplifted. The sermons tended to piss me off as much as anything. The final straw for me was the Sunday school session where we talked about “free will”. Which was immediately followed by an entreaty to join in a planned march on the state house in favor of anti-abortion legislation. I asked the Sunday school teacher how it could be that God gave mankind free will, but the Baptist church wanted to pass laws restricting choice? I got the old standard reply that it was “a matter of faith”. Whatever the hell that means. The epilog to that incident came when the leader of the anti-abortion contingent got pregnant and was told the fetus did not a brain stem. Yep, she aborted.
So, if I have a problem with religion it’s with the hypocrisy of the adherents. The stuff people do in the name of God makes me want no part of the God they profess to believe in. Oddly enough though, I don’t think of myself as an atheist. I can accept the concept of some intelligence or power manifested in nature and the universe. It’s just not the God you read about in earthly religious texts. The closest I ever felt to this “God” was the night I had an epiphany after making love to my Mormon girlfriend. “God is love” is what I felt in that blessed moment of understanding. The very next day this woman whom I loved like I’ve loved no other broke up with me. Which proves I guess that my God has a whacky sense of humor. Still, I will confess that in times of crisis throughout my life I have found some comfort in prayer. If that makes me a hypocrite too, so be it.
What prompted me to write about religion now I guess is current events. Jews killing Palestinians in retaliation of Palestinians killing Jews. Muslims killing Christians and everyone else who doesn’t adhere to the dogma of that particular sect. All in the name of the same God of course. But that is where any moral equivalence ends. Israel has the right to defend herself. If Hamas doesn’t like civilian casualties, they should stop trying to kill Israeli civilians. And what ISIS is currently doing in Iraq (and the Taliban in Afghanistan) is an affront to all humanity. So, when my liberal friends lament the “war on women” as evidenced by Hobby Lobby not wanting to pay for birth control on religious grounds, I share this photo:
“We have established the brigade to raise awareness of our religion among women, and to punish women who do not abide by the law” –ISIS commander
Now, I want to accept as fact that of the billion or so Muslims in the world, only a relatively small percentage are of the radical Islamist variety that engages in head chopping, stoning, honor killing, and flying passenger planes into buildings. But here’s the thing–I never see protests or outrage from these “moderates” regarding the atrocities being done in the name of Allah. In fact, what I have witnessed is quite the opposite.
I have a couple of Pakistani Muslim friends in Itaewon. Both are smart, kind, and generous. They own a bar I regularly frequent. Both drink, smoke, and have married outside the faith. I guess it doesn’t get any more moderate than that, right? Except they have gone ballistic (no pun intended) over the current conflict in Gaza. I finally had to block one of them on Facebook because I grew weary of the anti-Israel and anti-American (like it’s our fault!) rants. I could match ten photos of some outrageous act being perpetuated in Pakistan for every Israeli impropriety. And at least Israel is acting in self-defense, not out of some misguided belief in religious justification (what, she was raped? We must stone her for being a whore!).
Anyway, I posted the picture above on my Facebook in the context of American politics (the so-called war on women). And my Muslim friend responded that it was “anti-Muslim propaganda”. One of the commenters asked if he was denying the existence of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS) and the murderous acts in which they are currently engaged. He responded:
yes ISIS exist and they have broken Syria and Iraq in to parts. They are trying to create a divide in Sunni’s and Shiites. Rumor has it that the leader of ISIS Abu Bakr Baghdadi was trained by CIA and mosad to create chaos in middle east so that the idea of greater Israel can be achieved. I came across a world map issued by the US think tanks in which they have shown 5 middle eastern countries dividing into 15 smaller countries. If u Google it you can find it and then you search for greater Israel map and you will know a secret.
So much for moderate Islam, eh? Suffice to say, I no longer feel comfortable patronizing their bar these days. I have taken an oath to avoid drama in Itaewon and I fear that drinking there may lead me to say some things that will lead to dramatic consequences. And to what end? Clearly, no minds will be changed.
Of course, America’s feckless foreign policy has played a part in what is taking place in the Middle East. Can’t blame God for that, although I can and do blame Obama.
Sorry for the rant. I’m just thinking things are gonna get a whole lot worse before they get any better.
God help us all.