Blog Against Theocracy: How religion controls America


I was fortunate enough, in my myriad wanderings through this world wide web, to come across something that’s going on this Easter weekend, which is Blog Against Theocracy.

So, I’m writing an entry for it, because I’m anti-theocracy, which doesn’t necessarily mean anti-religious, but I am also anti-religious.  I am not, however, against believing in God, or being spiritual, but I have a real problem with the political power structure that envelopes most organized religions.

I feel that religions take advantage of people who are at their most vulnerable, people who are scared, lonely, facing death, grieving, or simply at a loss as to the meaning of life.  These are serious, debilitating issues that everyone faces and religion offers an easy fix for them.  “Don’t fear being alone, Jesus loves you; don’t fear death, for you will go to heaven, and so will the loved ones you’ve lost.  Also, could you please donate a tenth of your net worth so that we can proselytize to help other weak and pathetic people in need and use that money to take advantage of politicians and control the government protect your interests.”

It’s incredibly difficult to live in this country without religious support.  Nothing in the country offers anything like the instant support, acceptance, friendship and network that religion does.  Most fraternities and sororities, the boy scouts, 12 step programs, many summer camps, many schools, and the pledge of allegiance (since 1954) all demand your belief in a higher power.  I live alone in Los Angeles, I don’t have a lot of friends, I don’t have a support network.  I am incredibly vulnerable to the appeal of joining a church or synagogue.  I mean, I’m in the entertainment industry, and I’m not Jewish or a Scientologist, how am I ever going to make it?

Religions are a power structure.  They are cults, they offer you the chance to fit in with a group, to be supported by the group, so long as you toe the line.  You get pressured into supporting irrational ideas, financially and politically.  You get put on the ground to do things that no sane person would do on their own.  They are incredibly political groups that are about self-promotion, self-protection, and getting away with as much as they can.

Who, in their right mind, would go to someone’s funeral to say that that person deserved it, were they not egged on by a group of supporters?  Who would refuse their child medical care were they not part of a group that demanded it?  Who would feel obligated to murder people who had harmed no one if it weren’t for religion?  Who would attack or murder a woman seeking an abortion without even asking her why she was doing it?  Who would refuse two people legal protection of the state, if it weren’t for their small-minded, 2000 year old book?  We’re not talking about isolated incidents, we’re talking about things that happen every day, throughout the country, and all over the world.

The founders were incredibly insightful, separating Church from State, but the problem is that churches are allowed to be states of their own.  They are impenetrable, untaxable, untouchable by the state.  Do I think that churches should be run by the state, no, but I also don’t think they should be above and outside the law.  I don’t think they should be allowed to be engaged in politics and spend millions and millions of dollars to get religious legislation passed.  I don’t think they should be allowed to hide their criminals and pedophiles.  I don’t think God’s forgiveness should remove someone from legal justice.

And so I wait for the US, founded on ideals it never quite lives up to but always strives to achieve, I wait for it to look at its Constitution and realize it needs to do something to protect itself and its citizens from the constant onslaught of religious nonsense.  I wait for it to say that I am deserving of equal protection under the law, that I deserve to be protected from mob rule, that other people’s imaginary friends and ancients books of myths are not more important than science and rationality and basic humanity.

Comments

  1. says

    Everything you write is true Ashley!
    Your last blog entry was great! (I agrred with the one about scammy-Eddie to. Even that thing on his head…whatever it is is a scam!)

    Anyhow…I was born and raised A cub fan and a Catholic. I am stiill a cub fan but the religion Brain washing didn’t take…

    Every culture without exception has come up with a form of religion. Religion is the natural but unfortunate net result of the human minds ability to reason. When the human mind cannot make sense of something, religion is the blanket explanation.

    Example: Lightning and thunder. It used to be considered to be angry God’s. Religions are attempted explanations of the unexplainable, which makes all religions senseless from their inceptions.

    All religions are past down from generation to generation. People need to startasking themselves the following question and try to answer it truthfully; am I going to brainwash my kids with antiquated religious rhetoric? Or am I going to speak the truth and promote peace and unity, love and sharing? Condemn war and socialinjustice. If you think that there is a God that wants you to kill in his name, you’ve been lied to, either by yourself or by someone else. It is the common notion of rationalizing the human thought process for ones own betterment for the sake of
    greed.
    Please stop and think of all of the people who have been murdered in the name of God or Allah. The many inquisitions. The Crusades. The Salem witch trials. September the 11th, 2001. (all of these deaths wouldn’t account for one hundredth of all of those killed in a deity’s name.)

    If we can accept these views for what they are and throw the word hieratic out of the dictionary and move on, then religions can be reformed into a mighty and positive entity.
    One child starves to death in this world every five seconds. All of the money pissed into religious collection baskets every Sunday could have a huge impact.

    The Vatican doesn’t need any more money. It makes Bill Gates look like he is running a Kool-Aid stand. Start sending your ten percent to organizations that do socially
    positive empowering acts.

    http://www.foodforthepoor.org can turn a one dollar donation into one hundred protein intensive meals for children who would not eat otherwise.
    By the way…At the time when all of the different cultures were fathoming their idea of what God is? Women were deemed lesser than men and so all Gods were referred to as he. If you think God is gender specific? Boxers or briefs?

  2. says

    ashley –

    great post.

    you write: Religions are a power structure. They are cults, they offer you the chance to fit in with a group, to be supported by the group, so long as you toe the line.

    yep – to the nth degree. while i was brought up jewish and did all the typical things — i didnt take to long to see that religion was stifling and pulling my family apart. my father has 4 sisters – all of them married non-jews and all of them were disowned (emotionally as well as financially) by my grandfather – he wouldnt even talk to the grandchildren.

    i hate what religion has become — while the tenets and beliefs are noble – the reality is nothing short of mostly evil organizations bent on controlling. they are nothing more than dictatorships using god as their justification.

    i find i get along fine without religion – i just keep my mouth shut around people i know would be offended by my belief (or lack thereof). as long as no prostelizing or force feeding isnt going on – everyone is entitled.

    i wish we could live in a normal country that would understand the dangers of giving such groups – such a free reign (like westboro)

  3. says

    Outstanding summary. You couldn’t be more right; faith and religion are NOT the same thing! Faith is a personal matter that can get a person through a lot of troughs, while religion tends to be a cancer that eats away at the very fabric of society.

    It has been my experience that way too many religions consist of a bunch of people who are alike in their hatreds and fears, and preachers willing to pander to those fears and hatreds to keep the money rolling in. After all, our pious churchgoers voted en masse for the moronic monkey in 2000 and 2004 because he talked a lot about Jesus. The monkey obviously holds women, the poor, and minorities in contempt, which he never said-but he never had to, did he? Those pious churchgoers understand just fine what Chimpy’s “Jesus” is all about.

  4. says

    While I am sincere in my belief in multiple Gods, I believe just as sincerely that I would not be nearly so happy to be Pagan if our religions ever became big and powerful enough (again) to assert this much control over their followers’ lives.

  5. grahamfirchlis says

    A noble wish, Ashley, and everything you say in support is true but when it comes to bringing religion fully to heel it is going to be a difficult slog. Throughout all of recorded history there have been only three governmental structures. The oldest, which sometimes were merged, are theocracy and militarism. Both, by their nature, are totalitarian. The third, which emerged when long-distance trade fostered powerful guilds of wealthy merchants, has become economic oligarchy, our form of government and that of most of the world’s nations.

    But the old power centers have not given up. Both religious theocrats and the military-industrial complex continually chip away at our secular wealth-based Constitutional power center, and I am afraid they always will. The best we can probably hope for is to contain them, somewhat better than they currently are. Several other democracies have been successful in at least marginalizing them, so it can be done.

    There is no good reason for enlightened people of good will to do anything other than keep up opposition to authoritarianism, whatever the form. Thank you for your contribution in that regard.

    I hope you find your way to making some friends in LA; it can be a very tough town that way. There are decent people there though, just like everywhere else, so please don’t dispair. :-)

    Whenceforth Progress

  6. ReligiousLiberal says

    So, why is it, that when Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, et al, use eliminationist rhetoric, and compare liberals to Nazis, claim progressives are a cancer, and compare Obama to a mobster, it’s unacceptable rhetoric, and dangerous?

    But when atheists use eliminationist rhetoric, compare churches to Nazis, call religious people lobotomized or brainwashed or all religions dangerous cults, and compare the Pope to a mobster, it’s speaking truth to power?

    How is it that the President, scientists, famous authors, philosophers, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, etc etc can be deeply religious people, but somehow are blind to the fact that they believe in something with no more validity than unicorns and that is used solely to deprive people of freedom and perpetuate misery in the world?

    The arrogance of your view is only exceeded by its shallowness.

  7. ashleyfmiller says

    I can only assume you’re talking about something a commenter said, as I’m pretty sure I never said religious people were all lobotomized or that the Pope is a mobster or even that I thought anyone should make an effort to eliminate religion. I do think it shouldn’t be involved in politics, and I do think that many religions are engaged in dangerous rhetoric that leads to violence and hate crimes. I also think that religion should not be above criticism, and people who are deeply defensive of it have an inability to look at the situation rationally.

    That being said, the current Pope was a Hitler Youth and hid pedophiles from justice.

    Criticizing a religion that is trying to insight violence, intolerance, and oppression is important. I don’t see anyone here saying that we should in any way hurt religious people or take away their rights, we’re saying that organizations that take advantage of people should be examined with a skeptical eye. And when those organizations call for oppression or violence for an irrational belief, someone needs to be aware of what’s happening. When a right wing talking head calls for violence, or encourages intolerance and oppression, that is deserving of the same criticism.

    I think the government and liberals are absolutely deserving of criticism, but it should be based on the ideas, not personal attacks. Calling Chelsea Clinton ugly, or Hillary a bitch is not discussion, it’s simply a personal attack. Saying the Church hid pedophiles and has a lot of money it spends on political causes to take away rights, is simply fact.

    Your second argument is a logical fallacy. “MLK Jr was religious, therefore religion is good” is no more valid than me saying “MLK Jr liked to sleep around, therefore all religious people are adulterers”. It’s just completely unsound.

    People who are religious aren’t necessarily stupid people, they are people who want to believe in something good. As I said, there is much about religion that is to be desired, it wouldn’t be so popular were that not the case. I don’t have a problem with people who believe in God, or even in a particular faith, I have a problem with people who think their beliefs are the only ones and they should dictate how others live. I have a problem with religious abuse of children. I think adults should be allowed to live their lives how they see fit, so long as it doesn’t harm or take away the rights of others. Go to church all you want, but when that church spends money to say I can’t marry whomever I like, I’m going to speak out.

  8. says

    Who, in their right mind…

    Good post. While there are good people who are religious, Steven Weinberg made a strong point when he said: “Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it, you’d have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, it takes religion.”

    “Religious Liberal” seems to be making the same key mistake on social tolerance that many social conservatives make. It comes down to power dynamics. A tolerant person says, “I’ll live the way I want, and you can live the way you want.” The theocrat (or other authoritarian) says, “I will live the way I want, but you must also live the way I dictate.” These are not equivalent. On the religious front, atheists mainly want to be left alone, while theocrats (who already have freedom of religion) seek power and privilege based on their religious beliefs, which they seek to impose on others. Not all religious people are authoritarians, though, which is why Americans United for the Separation of Church and State includes a fair percentage of religious people. MLK quoted scripture all the time, but he was not a theocrat. Invoking a principle, such as helping the poor, is one thing – insisting that we must do something merely because a supposedly holy book says so is authoritarian, and quite another. If you want to complain that liberals insult conservatives, fine. But the vast majority of liberals do not engage in the eliminationist rhetoric common on the right. Nor are they running around incorrectly calling centrist Republican ideas from a decade ago dangerous socialism!!!! Glenn Beck has been criticized for being a dolt and a demagogue, and he’s both – but has anyone prominent said he should be jailed for his views? Tolerance means letting him have his say; it doesn’t mean forsaking all critical judgment, historical knowledge and common sense to ignore his falsehoods and McCarthyist rhetoric. (It also doesn’t mean the man deserves a TV show, but people with money want him to have one.) On the Pope – the Catholic Church has perpetuated a system that raped and tortured children, and worked for decades to cover it up. It’s unconscionable. You can say it’s not nice to say so – but it happens to be the truth. Reality matters.

  9. ashleyfmiller says

    “Reality matters.”

    It really does, and I think religious people, or people who are extremely devoted to any ideology, really lose sight of that. It’s easier to believe in an ideology that offers you all the answers than to deal with a complex and changing world, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.

  10. CC says

    I agree with most of what you have written…I was raised in a catholic family…a liberal black one at that. Religion and I were not made for each other. I learned to distinguish between it and faith in my late 20s.

    I was agnostic for most of my childhood and young adult life citing many of the reasons you discuss (along with racism). I still believe what I believed then. My faith only strengthens my belief in what a mess mankind can make of things, whether it be through religion, secular politics, or junk science. We will make a religion out of everything and anything…whether it be atheism, belief in a higher power, or any other point of view shared by a significant amount of people.

    There will always be extremist in these “religions” causing enough damage to spur on extremist in other groups to label the lot of them as “bad”…or the “religion” as bad.

    The best we can hope for, as individuals, is not to enforce our views on others, and to (first) politely ask for them to stop discussing what we don’t want to hear. If they do not, then we can protest or choose to leave them flappin’ in the wind…

    “Free speech” says we have the right to annoy the hell out of one another. Only folks who respect others (be they atheist, Christian, Muslim, democrat, libertarian, republican, Hollywood actors, etc.), will have the decency to know when to shut up.

    Many may claim God as their inspiration, but I believe it is simply human greed for money and power. Religions that believe in a god have been used as a means to an end. I do not think that people who believe in a higher power and make a religion of it are any more as self-righteous as the atheists who claim to know all of the answers or the gay person who insist that I am nothing if I do not agree with their life choice when it comes to how I live. I believe people are free to do what they want as long as they are not harming the rights of others, and they shut up when I say I do not want to hear it…We all are accountable for whatever choices we make.

  11. says

    Ashley…
    I’d like to chat with you off of the air and that means out of the internet…where most people are wierder than most people.
    Google me when you have a chance because I would like to pitch a work offer to you because we seem to think a bit a like a lot.
    RKP
    PS~ Is it just me or does anyone else find it strange that sports figures tend to think that God is a fan, one way or an other…

  12. CC says

    “…extremely devoted to any ideology…”

    Are you not expressing your ideology (or a portion of it)? You also appear very devoted to it.

    Who should define what another’s ideology should be? Laws control it to some extent, but they do not change what is in people’s hearts and minds. There are many people who believe that their intelligence qualifies them. The physicist/atheist quoted in another response, Weinberg, is an example. His views show no tolerance for the beliefs of those who disagree…His rule would definitely be totalitarian.

    Ideologies are determined by a combination of one’s circumstances and belief structures. This combination causes people to interpret things differently.

    Where our realities or ideologies collide or overlap can lead to interaction, discussion, debates, prison, and even war. So be it.

    A theocracy (or any rule that is not inclusive) is a bad idea for this very reason…whether your god be yourself, another person, a tree, science, a higher power, etc.

  13. Ohg Rea Tone says

    The problem with the ‘easy fix’ of religion is that it is no fix at all.

  14. says

    Like libel or slander, the truth is a perfect defense. O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh knowingly lie, deceive in support of their overall goal.

    The Pope on the other hand has a direct hand in covering up and denying the prosecution of child molesters in the Catholic Church. He has threatened governments and used his illegal influence to shut down investigations. He is the rot at the center of the Catholic church. Unless I see another schism such as the protestant reformation, yes I absolutely disdain members of the Catholic Church. It is evil and it’s evil does out weigh whatever good it claims to do. Don’t get me started on the greed situation within the Catholic Church as well.

    The rest of your argument is typical. You say for religion to be a negative force in America that ALL religious people have to be either evil, brainwashed or lobotomized. So one exception proves your point. I reject your fallacious claim.

    Christianity in general and the Catholic Church, the Mormon Church (whether you consider it Christian or not), Southern Baptists and the mass of random evangelical cults in the US are acting against the good of society, the good of their members and against the tenants they claim their faith represents.
    * Covering up felonies
    * Denying Woman’s rights
    * Denying LBGT rights.
    * Advocating war
    * Actively denying science in hope of triggering the events leading to the rapture.
    * organizing and sheltering murderers of doctors and caretakers.

    Do you think these things haven’t happened? Can you point to preeminent religious organizations that are calling out their peers and working to discredit and eliminate this evil?

    MLK, Nelson Mandela, etc, all are notable in that they are renowned for their philosophies and their actions in support of that philosophy. Their religion was part of how they expressed their good works. But you might note they believe in a merciful and just deity. That is sadly lacking in mainstream religion. Additionally both of your examples MLK, and Nelson Mandela were voices speaking out in spite of their religion as a whole. Neither one got the support of any sect as a whole.

    One of the big problems with Christianity is that it has throughout history tried to deny science and reality. And it has used its power over secular leaders to enforce that. It is built into to Christianity to stick its head in the sand. Without protest and public attacks on positions these religions won’t change.

    So in conclusion, it is not my fault your religion performs evil acts in direct opposition to its stated beliefs. There is nothing wrong with me stating facts that are uncomfortable for faithful believers to hear. The bulk of Christianity in the US has been subverted and it is nothing new that religious power is often used to commit evil actions with dire consequences.

  15. Brooke says

    Thank you for writing this. You captured everything I think. You are 100% correct. If only….

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