What Will It Take For Christians to Speak Out Against The Leaders Of Their Faith?
One of my favorite blogs (www.atheistrevolution.com) had a great post yesterday. The post was called “As Catholic Child Rape Details Emerge in Court, What Are Catholics Waiting For? I strongly urge you read it. This got me to thinking…what will it take for Christians to say that they have had enough? When will they speak out against the leaders of their faiths? I realize this is a complicated question. Each denomination of Christianity is different and each person will have to weigh the benefits they receive from religion against their repulsion towards actions some religious leaders have taken. These are two sides of the same “coin”. This is without a doubt a complicated process. It is worth looking at in a bit more detail.
As a former Catholic, I am well aware of many thoughts and struggles that occur when one is considering criticizing their faith, never mind leaving a faith and the move to atheism. Religion provides comfort to many people. It grounds them and helps to ease many of people’s largest stresses. I recognize the fact that many people feel they need religion in their lives; even though I disagree with the idea of seeking comfort in something I believe to be false. Take all of the “good” that people perceive religion does for them and that is part of one side of the “coin”. For this post, it is not relevant to discuss whether the “good” that religion offers is “real” or just “perceived”…what matters is that theists believe it is “real”. I do not mean that in a mocking manner. Whether I or other atheists reject the idea is not relevant to the beliefs theists hold in their hearts and minds when they consider objections to their faiths.
The other part of the same side of the “coin” is a belief in god. (We are talking Yahweh/Jesus here). (While atheists would argue that there is a mountain of evidence that should lead people to the conclusion that a deity is highly unlikely, that is not relevant to my point today and I want to quash comments related to the existence of god for this post). What matters is that theists’ belief in god is not only a very strong bond, but is often a large part of how they identify themselves. It is often central to their whole existence. Many Christians believe that god plays an active role in their life. He is looking out for them and their loved ones, he answers prayers, he is waiting to welcome them when they die, etc. To complicate matters, many of Christians believe that their leaders are preaching the word of god. To further complicate matters, most branches of Christianity actively discourage questions related to the “faith” as a “sin”. It is not easy to start questioning religious leaders when god has specifically asked us to not do so. In summary, the rejection of the concept of god is not a prerequisite for a theist to criticize the leaders of their faith, but a belief in god may be something that they struggle with when considering if they should or can criticize their religious leaders.
(Most atheists who were brought up religious realize making the leap from believing in god and Christianity to being able to criticize religion and moving to atheism is not always easy. The moment we realized that we could criticize religion, that it was okay and/or realized “there is no god” is a monumental one in many of our lives, and can come with some heavy emotion. As atheists, we should be best prepared to realize these transitions are not easy for everyone—for a whole host of reasons).
On this side of the “coin” we have a religion and a god that are not easy to criticize or leave. We also have a genuine love for god/Jesus. As an atheist, I can recognize that. I also do not ask the question “what will it take for Christians to say that they have had enough?” in a cheeky manner. I mean the question sincerely.
The other side of the “coin” is pretty dark. On the dark side of the “coin” we have numerous atrocities being committed in the name of religion—forget the past for now and focus on the present era. We have the Catholic sex abuse scandal. I have not written much about this topic. It, honestly, is too easy a target. That does not mean that it should be excused. It is a huge deal; and not solely because it happened. Perhaps the vilest part of this story is not the abuse, but the cover up, shaming of victims and witness, and general conduct of Church leadership in the face of this struggle. What will it take for Christians to say they have had enough? When will they speak out against the leaders of their faith?
We have the “war on women”. I am stating that as a fact. I am tired of arguing that it exists. I will say that if someone needs to be convinced that this is a reality, they are not being honest with themselves. Just last week the Church announced it is going after nuns for “radical feminism”. I find it hard to buy into the fact that single, celibate women, who have devoted themselves to the Church are radical feminists. Birth control is a women’s rights issue. A woman should have the right to decide if she wants to be pregnant or not. The idea that very religious folks like Santorum posit that women should stay home and raise kids is outrageous. A woman should have the choice to decide if she wants to stay home and raise kids or if she wants a career and no kids, or if she wants a career and kids. Any choice on this topic should be made by women and deserves respect. Abortion is another similar topic. Let’s put aside the conversation of “when does life start?” There are many atheists who are pro life. That fight is not relevant to my argument today. There is a clear women’s rights issue when it comes to this topic. There are numerous laws being passed around the country that are designed to “shame” women who want an abortion—think Virginia transvaginal ultrasound. Those policies are being propagated by people on the religious right. The list goes on, but you get the gist. What will it take for Christians to say they have had enough? When will they speak out against the leaders of their faith?
What about hate speech? How many pastors and priests preach hate towards groups like homosexuals? How many pastors preach hate against atheists and other non-Christians? It is a daily occurrence. (Yes, damning us to “hell” and calling us immoral is hateful, whether you plan to convert us or not). Many religious leaders do this all the time. How many Pat Robertsons, Jerry Fallwells, the numerous other pastors who do the same thing, Pope Benedicts (who preaches against homosexuals and actually said that “not all religions are equal”, Cardinal Dolans will it take before they have had enough? When will they stand up against the nonsense, hate, and bigotry these people promote daily?
How many Pastors and Priests need to get in trouble with the law before they have had enough? How many criminal pastors must be paraded on the news before they realize that these religious leaders are no better than me, you, or anyone else? They have the same faults as the rest of humanity. Some are “good”, and some are just as “bad” as the worst criminals. Just because someone has a religious title before their name does not make them worth of respect and certainly does not qualify them to tell people how to run your life. How many “bad” apples will it take before they have had enough? When will they speak out against the leaders of their faith?
In closing, I am asking because I am truly curious. I am not trying to be flippant or insulting. I believe that most Christians in this country are decent people who have many of the same values that I (and other atheists) hold. I also realize that not all pastors/priests act in the manners I described. However, a significant number do act and speak that way, and they are often the loudest. With that in mind, “what will it take for Christians to say they have had enough? When will they speak out against the leaders of their faith? ”
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