Sunday, August 22, 2010

I support the separation of church and hate

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 22 August 2010)

On July 28, famed author Anne Rice, who wrote “Interview With the Vampire” and “The Queen of the Damned,” posted the following on her Facebook page. “For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being ‘Christian’ or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.”

It was in the last line of Anne Rice’s statement that I found camaraderie because my conscience will not allow me to belong to any religion either. In fact, it has been years since I walked away from Christianity. I read her Facebook status only minutes after she posted it and sent it to people immediately because I knew it was going to be big news.

After a Catholic upbringing, Rice became an atheist as a young adult and lived many years as such until a conversion experience restored her faith ten years ago and she became a devout Catholic. Anne Rice has long been one of my favourite authors and I have read all the books in her “Vampire Chronicles” and “Mayfair Witches” series. Coincidentally, when I read them, I was a believer and found her books to be searching and longing for something. She found that for which she had been searching.

After her conversion experience, Rice started writing books with a Christian theme and was very successful. Yet, try as she might, Rice has said she could not reconcile her conscience with the behaviour of her religion. Been there, done that. What is one to do when common sense and your conscience tell you something is wrong, but your religion insists it is right?

For thousands of years, religions have taught that women are to be subjugated to men and that it is moral to kill another person as long as it is done in the name of a God. We now know – many of us, anyhow – these hateful teachings to be evil. However, as long as religion continues to teach any type of evil in the name of their Gods, right thinking humans will continue to reject that evil in the name of their Gods – as Anne Rice has done.

Personally, I quit religion because of the hate it has incessantly dealt to women. In her own words, Anne Rice quit religion because, “In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life.”

Depending on each person’s interpretation of their holy scriptures, one can hold to a belief that is on either side of those issues as scriptures give equal weight to the message of love and the message of hate. Sadly, many religious people side on the side of hate versus love. They choose to judge because their scriptures encourage them to do so, while it is also admonishing them not to judge. They choose to discriminate because their scriptures teaches them to do so, while it is also teaching them that all humans are created by their creator, loved by their creator and cherished by their creator.

I believe that at some point in their lives, all religious people are faced with the decision to side with one aspect of these contradictory teachings or the other. Too often, they choose the path of judgment, hate and intolerance. Those who do not, either choose to walk away from their church while maintaining the “love” aspects of their belief or some, like me, choose to walk away from faith completely.

How can a woman believe there is a God who loves her and has a good plan for her life when scripture teaches that women are cursed (Genesis 3:16), are subjected to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22-24, Colossians 3:18, 1 Peter 3:1), that men should control women (1 Corinthians 11:3), that women are not permitted to speak in church (1 Corinthians 14:34-35), or that we should not fix our hair, wear gold or pearls or costly clothing (1 Timothy 2:9)? Why should I be willing to sacrifice all for a God who permits a husband to scourge or beat his wife (Qur’an 4:34)?

As the group Black Eye Peas sings, “Where is the love?” Many may see their God as love, but it is difficult for countless in society to accept and believe this view. It is difficult for a gay person to see that professed love when they are told they are an “abomination.” It is difficult for women to feel the love when being labelled as second-class citizens disgraces them. It is difficult for certain races to feel the love when, according to scripture, God himself refers to them as “dogs.”

My hope is that more religious people will make a stand like Anne Rice to leave religion and embrace the love teachings of their faith. Perhaps then organized religion would be forced to rid itself of the hate teachings and embrace love, equality and tolerance. In the words of a bumper sticker I glimpsed a few days ago, “I support the separation of church and hate.”

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