Is Your Religion Unsanitary?

Is God telling you to love war? Loathe gays? Restrict women? Join the godless throngs now!

Friday, February 20, 2004

Is your god really, really angry right now?

Is your god telling you, like it tells G.W. Bush every night, that your unwanted unprovoked ultraviolent war against a nearly defenseless nation is not only justified and righteous, but is His deepest wish?

And does your religion tell you, like it tells so many of the Christian Right, that homosexuals are a dire threat to humankind and should be stopped at all costs before the so-called gay agenda sneaks into the playground and the drinking water and the "Spongebob" scripts and starts covertly converting our blessed innocent hetero children to a life of sin?

Or maybe it instructs that gay people are simply misled, morally derailed by a hunky leather-clad Satan with great hair and Prada sandals, and, despite that sad fact, they are still all God's children and should therefore be pitied and patronized and helped over their "sickness?"

Is your religion telling you that women who dare to control their own bodies and sexual reproductive powers should be shut down and restricted by legislation and deep guilt and electroshock therapy, and the doctors who treat them imprisoned if not beaten with sticks and set on fire?

Or maybe you say no, it's not like that at all, it's much milder and nicer than that. Maybe your religion, like the carefully spoon-fed religion of millions of Americans, is quieter, calmer, a little more numbly sinister. Maybe your religion, like so many modern incarnations of dogma, is telling you simply to have faith. Does this sound familiar?

Maybe it's telling you to not think too much about the horrors and complexities and odd sexual orientations of the world, that they are simply too ugly and debauched and convoluted to really understand for mere mortals, and if you just leave it up to God and let Him sort it all out, everything will be fine. This is the church line. It has worked for centuries. It is still working today.

God has a plan, after all. This is what they say. He has an incredibly obtuse and impossibly dense master blueprint that explains all the war and death and burned babies in Iraq, all the cancer and animal cruelty and Lynne Cheney, and you are just too small and unevolved to possibly understand, or do anything about it. Right? Well, no.

Because if it is, if your religion is telling you any of these things, you might want to reconsider your options. You might want to consider dumping the whole thing and becoming one of the outcasts, one among the godless throngs, one of the spiritually inquisitive, one of the sacredly self-defined.

You might wish to radically change your perspective and your worldview, to forgo the doctrines and the pious gooey safety net of a sanctimonious religion that pretends to know all the answers, and go it alone, figure it out for yourself -- before it's too late and you end up shriveled and miserable and dead. As the saying goes, it's never too late to have a happy karma.

That great genius heretic Joseph Campbell summed it up best when he said, "The wicked thing about both the little and the great 'collective faiths', prehistoric and historic, is that they all, without exception, pretend to hold encompassed in their ritualized mythologies all of the truth ever to be known.

"They are therefore cursed, and they curse all who accept them, with what I shall call the 'error of the found truth,' or, in mythological language, the sin against the Holy Ghost.

"They set up against the revelations of the spirit the barriers of their own petrified belief, and, therefore, within the ban of their control, mythology, as they shape it, serves the end only of binding potential individuals to whatever system of sentiments may have seemed to the shapers of the past (now sanctified as saints, sages, ancestors or even gods) to be appropriate to their concept of a great society."

See? Even according to our finest minds, major religion is just terribly unhealthy, excruciatingly limiting. Causes brain polyps. Perspective warts. Fear blisters. Hate rashes. Sanctimony drip. Chronic nose picking.

Of course, it must be noted that there are millions who believe in a gentle form of organized religion, a tolerant, forgiving Christian God, persons who are warm and open minded and who do not ever attempt to shove their beliefs down anyone's throat. They are kind and selfless and practice their beliefs quietly, tenderly, in their own nontoxic way. This is glorious and good. This is not the slightest problem. This is, in fact, to be encouraged.

But, sadly, these people are strongly overshadowed, publicly overpowered, by the far more outspoken and well-organized religious fire breathers who attempt to set the spiritual agenda for America and delineate what actions we can take and what kind of sex we can have and whom we can and cannot love. It is these karmically scrunched people whom we are now working to save. And it is the call of any true patriotic, open-minded American to come to the aid of the misinformed and the lost. You know who you are.

It is not a pill, this radical change you might now wish to undertake. It is not a program. It is not a series of eight-minute power workouts on VHS or a stack of subliminal meditation CDs you play while napping and dreaming of Donald Rumsfeld baking blueberry pies in a rubber chicken suit.

It is not a class or a book or a series of daily affirmations you stick on the fridge and check off every time you suck down a yogurt drink or sneak a cookie.

It is merely a choice. A decision to drop the dead weight of a dead book from the spinning modern kaleidoscope of your ever-evolving id, and see what happens. Letting go, de-clenching, letting the spiritual blood flow, is half the battle. Dumping stagnant doctrine and tired patriarchal notions does not mean you must immediately pick up another system to replace it. You want a new worldview? You want a fresh, unbounded ideology, as flexible and porous as you are? Simply start looking inward, at the one true god of the self. And what a gift it is.

It is a perspective slap. It is a choke hold on spiritual timidity. It is a radical peeling back, a falling away, an explosion, karmic whiplash, a massive transformational belch. And it is desperately needed right now.

Ask yourself this: What would happen if you suddenly turned around and said you don't believe in that sneering angry God anymore, or in that specific, nasty interpretation of Bible verse?

What would happen if you said, hey you know what? Life is simply way too short to think that this is all there is and that the church has all the answers, or that I can't just read the Bible as this profound curious literary mythological funkarama full of sex and blood and death and random acts of kindness and not take it all so damn seriously or literally, because that's when the trouble starts?

Why, furthermore, must I think that if there is a God he must be, well, a male, and an angry misogynistic homophobic Republican male, at that, one with a thing for guns and trucks and repressed Catholic priests?

Why can I not, say, reignite the feminine divine in this exhausted, macho world? Would that really be so horrible? So confusing? Could it possibly be worse than now, what with all the hate and fear and pious finger pointing? The answer is shockingly clear: You can.

It is not too late. You can heed the call, make the change, intervene today in a hardcore religious person's desperate life, present them with a new way, a fresh path, introduce them to their own personal Jesus: themselves.

You can teach them to be one of the heathen godless throngs of America, the happily self-defined, the spiritually adventurous, unafraid to take on a deeply felt, difficult, messy, gorgeous type of individual spirituality, independent of dogma and screed and a scowling bearded father figure who pulls strings at random and builds monster warehouses of guilt and dread in your heart like some sort of dour Wal-Mart Supercenter.

It is never too late. It is your choice. Won't you join us?