Thursday, November 13, 2008

the death of us all

It's been my opinion for a very long time that religion will be the tool humans use to kill us all.

My mom had an unsettling dream the other night. She was walking through the city, and there was debris and carnage everywhere. She went to her father's house, and he opened the door holding a book with no pages. That book was the Bible before the pages were all ripped out. He told her that they were going around ripping out the pages - that no one could have the Bible anymore - that people had to pray in hiding. As she told me, it all sounded very much like 1984. It reminded me of what the nuns in school told us about special rosaries invented because of Catholic persecution. My mom told me that she couldn't imagine why she might have had this dream. But I knew why.

She had that dream so that she could tell me about it, and put an emphatic punctuation mark on the end of the thoughts I've been having lately about religion in our society and the failures of tolerance.

I discussed with my mother that I've been noticing intolerance towards people of faith much more often lately. I told her about how I'm ashamed of people like the ones who planned to boycott the president-elect's grandmother's funeral since she raised him, and he is pro-choice. I told her that people like that makes it harder for people of faith everywhere. It's hard to respect people like that, which might be why there seems to be a growing contingent of non-religious people who speak about people of faith and about faith itself with no respect.

I am feeling a tension that scares me. Forget red states and blue states. It's all about Team Faith and Team Faithless. There are extremists on each team, and it seems moderates like myself are either being overlooked or are too silent.

Team Faith's extremists think that their religion gives them a mandate to impose their beliefs on everyone else, regardless of whether everyone else has Constitutional rights to believe or not believe what they want. Some even think that everyone who doesn't believe what they believe has rejected their God and deserves no respect now, in addition the damnation that will surely follow their deaths.

Team Faithless' extremists think Team Faith is a bunch of weak-minded nut jobs who use their superstitions as a crutch. Religion is for the mental midgets so far as they see it. And according to them, the fantasies of religion do way more harm than good because they defy and belittle reason, giving license to the faithful to suspend reality in their own minds. A suspension of reality that serves mainly to self-righteously bully and impose upon the faithless.

Others, the reasonable among both the faithful and the faithless, just want to respectfully live and let live. Good fences, good neighbors, celebrate diversity type stuff. I'd hope most people fit in this category. But it sounds like only the intolerant extremists have anything to say lately. And as long as those extremists continue to go at each other, my mommy's nightmare is sure to come. In one moment, intolerant bigots lobby to keep civil rights from others based on an agenda to make others adhere to their faith. In its counterpoint, intolerant bigots make expressions of faith subject to ridicule in the popular culture in such a way that society becomes hostile to the faithful. Team Faith and Team Faithless will keep tussling until the mushroom cloud goes up.

And what neither side will realize is that the problem isn't that people are brainwashed by antiquated texts or that people are evil because they lack faith in a higher power. The problem is that people on both sides refuse to respect and be tolerant towards the other side.