The pope and religious freedom
by Edward Thurston — The Global Observer
After days of having a monopoly over the USA and global news media, the pope and Catholic Church have once again passed on their guilt tripping, historically warped global manifesto to the masses. What a coup for fundamentalist religions overall, many of which seem to be supportive of this engorged media circus even if it was sourced Catholic.
While I agree with many positions taken by this newly popular Pope Francis and his efforts to humanize his authoritative position to the masses, I am threatened by the reasons or underlying purposes for which these positions are taken. I also am not taken in by efforts to make moderate the historic views of this religion. Many of today’s religions are trying to re-invent themselves to keep their membership happy (and contributing) versus stay true to the fundamentals of their world order and views.
The US Constitution’s First Amendment states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Modern-day America was built on a strange combination of attributes pertaining to religion. Some of the first immigrants came here escaping the state religion of the crown — both British and Spanish (Protestant AND Catholic). Some groups — many called Pilgrims — came to found their own new fundamentalist religions based on new revelations that were not going over so well in the New World Order of Europe’s Enlightenment. And of course many of the early settlers were poor criminal elements back in Europe and elsewhere who were escaping prison sentences in a new “Free World.”
It should be strongly underlined that these first immigrants to America had little or no respect for the American Indians who inhabited most of the continent. Historical writ is rife with the attitude of early religionists that arrived to the New World toting their Bibles, crosses and guns. If you can’t convert and clothe the savages or keep them from using peyote, put them on reservations or kill them if they won’t submit to our way of life and faith.
When I grew up in the American public school system, we didn’t learn about the Trail of Tears. We didn’t hear about Manifest Destiny until high school (and most kids today have no clue what that means), and even then we were not encouraged to explore the philosophical, legal or rational ramifications of this in American history. It’s as though the killing or subjugation of heathens was God’s will. This is nothing new in the few thousand years of today’s fundamentalist religions and it didn’t start in America.
Now we have a new era of immigrants coming to America. Most of these hordes are NOT white, NOT rich, or NOT Christian. Yet we have an ironic combination of American liberals and the Catholic pope telling us that the USA should be more inclusive of these diverse masses within our borders and our dwindling social resources. Somehow the Statute of Liberty has become the symbol of freedom for every religious zealot from anywhere in the world to come and practice/promote their particular religion in freedom. At the same time, most of these religions enslave the minds of men, women and children (mostly the children) with irrational, patriarchal, mystical philosophies of life based on thousand year old books of questionable origin…and now we have liberals and fundamentalists alike calling for more inclusion of these dividing factions. How absurd.
Unfortunately, the US Constitution has now been bastardized so much by interpretation where its application to a country with the size and diversity of the USA is almost impossible. You have more and more religious divisions taking exception to personal freedoms. You have government and church leaders hand in hand trying to legislate every bit of morality you can imagine. They want to control every aspect of your life. They want to define legal marriage while excluding gays. They want to tell us which organic weeds we can or can’t grow on our back porch. They want to legislate to women what they can/can’t do with their bodies or unborn babies. They want to limit sex to “marriage and procreation” and outlaw the use of contraceptives and abortion, even in the case of rape or endangerment to the mother’s life. They also want their rules and regulations written on every public wall or entrance possible acknowledging their religious origins in this country.
I don’t think I am alone in thinking that this new push for “religious freedom” is blinding the average mind to what this really means. The pope and other religious leaders CLAIM that faith will bind us all together. History has shown the direct opposite. Even in our own families in America, fundamental religion of all types have divided and caused non-acceptance of individualism for centuries now. I am comforted that the fastest growing faith in America is secularism. Secularism in its shortest definition is that one believes in science, reason and the power of humans to advance humanity to a higher consciousness. We do not require holy books, holy men or wasting billions on religious tapestries such as huge cathedrals, golden ornaments, or a Vatican bank that has for decades washed billions of dollars for questionable transactions and sources to give us meaning in life. These religious coffers have come at the cost of the taxpayers in many countries including the USA. Why these religious “kingdom builders” such as we see on TV every day asking for handouts should get tax exempt status is a travesty of the highest order. This is not separation of church and state. This is church and state working together to control our country at many different levels via religion. I, for one, do not want to participate in that or be forced to.
Separation of Church and State should simply be that. There should be no financial support of any government fund to any church institution. The State should tax everyone equally — believers and non-believers alike. And non-taxed money going to political causes? GOODBYE. If churches or religious people want to give to charity and get a write off on taxes, it should be social charities for all, not private religious foundations or political organizations based on promoting mystic leaders or writs, or for political gain.
If religious orders of any kind want to practice some archaic, patriarchal belief systems based on mystic symbols or ancient figureheads who supposedly never died, they should do so in the privacy of their own homes or property. I would limit free speech to that of political or social discourse, not proselytizing pronouncements of hell-fire and damnation in the public square. I would never agree to permit what we see all over Europe of the growing Muslim populations publicly demanding their Sharia law and communities. I should have the freedom to NOT hear these detractors of common sense. Let their good WORKS speak for their beliefs, not tirades among normal citizens.
Oh, and if a child or mother/wife wants to escape a fundamentalist, intolerant male leader in their home or church, they should be allowed and protected by our social order to do so. That should be part of “separation of church and state.” Right now there are millions of “captives” in the USA of various religious orders who do not have the right to live or think freely. Children also should have the right to not participate in fundamental religions, just as we protect them from all other forms of abuse. Mental abuse of children is a huge issue in our society with so many abhorrent sects and cults demanding freedom to exist under special privileges. Keep in mind those who still grow up in systems of child brides and polygamy.
Anyone who wants to be a citizen in a truly free society should not be allowed to duck service to that society. Anyone that cannot agree to our Constitution or Bill of Rights in this country should NOT be allowed citizenship or voting rights. If you will not lift a hand to defend this country and its freedoms, GOODBYE. The immediate inclusion in our country based on birthright or passing a test should not be enough. If you cannot agree to our Constitution and Bill of Rights, you cannot live indefinitely among us. If your religion is more important than these freedoms and rights we are supposed to have in America, then please go elsewhere that respects or agrees with your voodoo religion.
And finally, if you want to come lecture my nation’s leaders and put on a media dog and pony show espousing fundamentalist religious views, you should stand in line or pay for access just like anyone else. We also risk having to allow equal access and time to ALL fundamentalist leaders from the Mohammed clan to the Jewish one. I for one am not interested, and I am appalled by the cost of this pope’s visit which funds COULD have been spent on better things than motorcades, plane fares for thousands, media manipulations and heavy security that was required for this pomp and circumstance. I imagine I am in the minority, but I am sickened by this hypocritical hoopla. This parade could have helped hundreds of thousands of the displaced they were all TALKING about helping!
I am not here saying that our current leaders and systems are working satisfactorily. Obviously they are not. But our future hope does not require MORE tolerance for religion and mysticism. Our hope relies much more on rules and equality under secular laws, technology and scientific advancements that will make life easier and cheaper to live, clean up our environment, and yes, distribute food and sustenance to the poor who have no current ability to move out of the jungles, deserts and flooding river basins they are stuck in under rule of nefarious tyrants of political order. We help the poor because it is the natural, reasonable and HUMANE thing to do, not because a god or the pope demands us to.