The shooting in Orlando of people in a gay night club (50 dead, 53 wounded) is yet another example of religion as the antithesis of human flourishing. Not Christianity this time, of course, but that other ‘great’ religion, Islam, the religion of peace. But Christians cannot distance themselves from atrocities like this, carried out in the name of God, when the influence of even moderate religion is a pervasive, unhealthy presence in our society.
It’s true that Christians don’t, as rule, rampage in the streets or fly planes into buildings but they do contribute to the medium in which more extreme forms of religion grow:
Westboro Baptist Church, for example, with its own peculiar brand of Bible-based homophobia – ‘God hates fags’ and all the rest – is, like it or not, an expression of Christianity;
Right-wing evangelicals who interfere in the churches and governments of Africa and South America, actively encouraging them to take a homophobic stance and to pass anti-LGBT laws, are equally culpable; Scott Lively, Pat Robertson, Sharon Slater, you too are people filled with hate;
Likewise, those Catholic bishops who use their influence to denounce gay and transgendered folk as ‘mentally disordered’;
Christian bloggers who trot out the old, ‘Woe to those who call evil good and good evil’ (Isaiah 5.20) and misapply it to homosexuality, together with those who quote Leviticus 18.22 (‘abominations!’) and Romans 1.26-27 (‘unnatural and indecent!’)…
All of these contribute to the animus directed towards fellow human beings whose ‘sin’ is merely to be different. Religions, or more specifically their adherents, contribute significantly to the levels of misery in the world today, though Christians will cry ‘foul’ here (or ‘persecution’ even, because how they love claiming they’re being persecuted when asked to demonstrate some empathy and a little love.) After all, it wasn’t a Christian who gunned down the people in the Pulse nightclub this weekend. No it wasn’t. But every time religious bigots –
tell others what despicable sinners they are,
misrepresent and denigrate minorities,
promote ‘gay cures’,
attack same-sex marriage,
add quotation marks around the words gay and gay marriage, as if they’re somehow not real,
assert homosexuality and transgenderism are synonymous with ‘moral decay’,
claim natural disasters are God’s response to gay people’s very existence,
boycott businesses that support equality,
‘take a stand’ against transgendered people using the appropriate restroom and
refuse to serve gay couples –
every time, in short, they say LGBT people are evil, sick or worthless, the self-righteous prepare the ground for individuals like Omar Mateen to do what he did in Florida on Sunday. Religious leaders condemning such atrocities after the event is too little, too late, when they’ve failed to take charge of their acolytes and do nothing to stem the tide of hatred flowing from their churches, mosques and temples.
To those of us on the outside, religions are all of a kind; harmful superstitions. If a ‘faith’ entails belief in supernatural beings and puts allegiance to such imaginary figures above fellow human beings, it is without merit. It is the evil among us.