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fuck starbuck’s holiday cup, this is what religious people should really be up in arms over

November 10, 2015

I just watched this clip from the Rachel Maddow Show:

Three Republican candidates speak at anti-gay pastor’s rally

Holy fuck. This is some seriously messed up and disturbing shit. I don’t even know what to say. Part of my thinks, “These people are just a tiny, crazy minority. Nothing to worry about.” But then I think about the fact that three presidential nominees were there, which in and of itself illustrates the influence these growing number of voters have, and gives this insanity some sense of legitimacy. And then I think about how religious nutjobs in the US like Kevin Swanson have already helped to pass anti-gay legislation in places like Uganda and Nigeria, making homosexuality a crime punishable by lengthy jail sentences. And I think about how, even though being gay is no longer criminalized here, violence against the LGBTQ community is still frightfully common, which makes me worry even more for my LGBTQ friends.

I consider myself a spiritual person, but I absolutely agree with everyone who says religion is dangerous because it makes hating and oppressing others so easy when you’re 100% sure God is on your side. I love aspects of religion and philosophy. But historically, religious people seem obligated to push their beliefs and values onto the rest of society, ideas that tend to oppress and discriminate against segments of society in the name of love and acceptance. Moreover, religion as a broader social phenomenon has been more about constructing moral absolutes than personal transformation and enlightenment. In this sense, religion, as opposed to personal faith, has primarily been about control over the hearts and minds of people via dictating and then enforcing societal norms that, because of their ‘divine’ origins, are notoriously difficult to challenge, let alone amend, becoming immune to things like compassion and reason.

As sympathetic towards religion as I am, I’m also aware of religion’s proclivity to fall into absolutism and dogmatism, as well as its historical reliance on things like authority and tradition over evidence and rationality. Religion may be “the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions”; but it’s also the impetus for a great deal of intolerance and oppression. It’s a double-edged sword that, like the personification of wisdom, Manjushri, has the potential to cut through our greed, aversion, and delusion; but which more often than not seems to be used to oppress and kill those who are different and/or don’t hold the same beliefs and values. And this kind of thing makes me embarrassed to have religious and spiritual interests. I don’t want to be associated with such people.

We absolutely can’t let this kind of misguided bigotry go unchallenged, even when they cry out that they’re being persecuted for their beliefs. We can’t let people like this hide behind the banner of religion, as if that somehow makes their ideas immune to criticism and justifies their threats of violence against others. We must continue to stand up against homophobia, as well as against racism, sexism, and all other forms of discrimination. To quote an apt line from John Stuart Mills, “Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing. He is not a good man who, without a protest, allows wrong to be committed in his name, and with the means which he helps to supply, because he will not trouble himself to use his mind on the subject.”

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