A house divided against itself shall not stand. These words, spoken by Abraham Lincoln in one of his most well-known speeches, was used to describe the disunion of the slave-owning and free states of the union. They can equally well be used to describe other groups.
To me, they can aptly be used to describe the philosophy of the Church, or Mosque or temple. Being of human conception, these institutions often embrace hypocrisy while shaking their fists at apostates, heretics or infidels.
I have indicated in other posts my fascination with religious architecture, art and music, but I am not overly enthralled with the all too flawed institutions themselves. I believe that all religious organisations should have as their guiding principle the improvement of the human condition.
While I do not like pinning specific characteristics to myself, since it can limit a person’s thought processes, if anything, I would consider humanism one of our most important attributes. Many of the world’s truly great spiritual and secular leaders have been those that embrace humanism first. Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King and others fought for civil liberties, a free people, or works of charity. Often their spirituality was of secondary consideration.
The Catholic Church, and I single them out only because of their size and ubiquity, is a maze of contradiction. Starting with John XXIII, who convened the Second Vatican Council, there are many issues with which I must agree. For instance, John gave more freedom to women in the Church. The Church was opposed to the death penalty, something about which I feel strongly.
On the other hand, the Church is opposed to abortion, and even more irrationally, birth control. A well-subsidised program of birth control would go a long way to controlling population growth, poverty, environmental destruction, and death in childbirth. These are all things that the Church should find it easy to support.
A population that is out of control does nothing to control environmental degradation or reduce poverty. While poverty may be conducive to a more powerful Church, it does nothing to improve the human condition. If, as the Church advocates, the Creator left this world for us to enjoy, should we not conserve its resources, and protect all that created life? Did He really intend that we should do our utmost to destroy life on this planet?
Church support of social programs that reduce poverty ought to be their top priority rather than railing against abortion or birth control. A woman should have the right to life that exceeds that of a foetus, certainly up to the point of viability, as pronounced by the Supreme Court in the Roe v Wade decision.
Wanton destruction of the environment also does not accord well with the idea of a created world. Who would mock the creation of life in this way, and yet many Churches seem to openly advocate for environmental destruction, or at the very least do little to prevent it.
A recent case in a Catholic Hospital brought home the essential hypocrisy of many within the Church hierarchy. A woman with two fetuses within her body was allowed to die. Lawyers for the hospital argued that her death was not preventable.
In addition, when questioned about whether the two healthy fetuses could have been delivered, they claimed that since the fetuses are not considered human, the question was irrelevant. The Catholic Church claims that human life begins at conception, for them to now claim that under the law fetuses are not human demonstrates the length to which the Church will go to prevent losing lawsuits.
If the Church were being honest, they would take responsibility for what they consider human life and make sure that all possible avenues are explored in saving that life. To do what they did reeks of theosophical fraud. A fetus is either human at conception or it is not. Just because you are about to lose a lawsuit, does not mean you can change your position as you please.
The Churches irrevocable position on abortion is also hypocritical. In a recent case in which an Indian woman, someone not even of Catholic faith, was allowed to die because the Catholic hospital refused to remove the dying fetus with her, the Church again showed its unremitting duplicity.
The fetus was dying, but the Church refused to operate until the heartbeat could no longer be heard, at which time the woman was beyond help. The religious authorities could have saved this woman’s life, that they did not is an indictment against Church philosophy.
Protestant churches have a similar hard-line approach to abortion, which will not countenance any abortion under any circumstance, which flies in the face of their “pro-life” stance. It is as though the woman is only a vessel whose entire purpose is to breed and nothing else.
The woman’s life is irrelevant to the Church, only that of the fetus appears to matter. Surely, if you are pro-life, that should extend to all life, not exclusively a blastocyst or fetus? This is an example of the sanctimonious piety that infests much of the Church hierarchy.
Another of the Church’s insincere approaches is that related to sexuality. They roundly condemn homosexuality and gay marriage, calling it a blasphemy, and unnatural act. Yet they countenance the sexual abuse of children by many in the priesthood. despite evidence against their own priests, they move accused priests out of state and warn them not to return, as well as hiding examples of priestly misconduct from law enforcement.
They also claim First Amendment rights to the free exercise of religion when their conduct is questioned by the media, or by government agents. How they can condemn sexual behaviour by their parishioners, and yet claim free speech rights on the other again illustrates their essential moral turpitude and self-righteousness.
Freedom of religion comes with responsibilities, as does any liberty, and for the Church to hide behind the First Amendment is disgraceful. It does nothing to advance the position of the Church as a moral leader.
In many cases of sexual molestation against the priesthood, the Church aggressively attacks the victims in the press and in court, by claiming to be inviolable based on their free exercise of religion. By doing so they violate their own position on sexuality.
It is ironic that they can attempt to govern the sex lives of their parishioners by insisting on sex being used purely for procreation, while many of their own number are using their positions of power to abuse and molest children.
The Church needs to learn that, being a human institution, they are subject to the same standards of morality and ethics that they insist on for parishioners, and even for those over whom they have no control.
They cannot hide behind the law,or disobey the law because they claim freedom of religion. We all need to adhere to the same law. In this country, it is secular, not religious law by which we live. Still less can they hide behind the tenets of their own religious beliefs because they claim to be the Creators spokesman.
Equally, their free exercise of religion does not extend the right to inject their philosophy into the secular world through political lobbying activities. By doing so they violate the religious rights of countless others who may have alternative positions. In the secular world we ought to judge any position on its merits in this world, not the next.
There is much to admire in many religious faiths, and much to criticise, just as in any human endeavor. Many secularists want to see religious faith abolished, just as many in the religious world want the absence of faith abolished.
Perhaps it is time for each to respect the other and the advantages each brings to the table. For me, it is only when we acknowledge our essential humanity that we can see each other as human, as worthy of respect in our own right.
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