Friday, August 6, 2010

Religion, religion, religion...

"We have just enough religion to make us hate
but not enough to make us love one another."
Jonathan Swift

The first time I heard this phrase was about 18 years ago. It was when I first watched the movie "Angel Heart." In it, Robert DeNiro played a character named "Louis Cypher" (get it?), and he tells this phrase to the main character, played by a younger, better looking Mickey Rourke.

I grew up surrounded by religion. All kinds of it. I attended a Catholic school my whole life. Many of my relatives were very devout. Our neighbors were Pentecostals and held revivals in their living room and the front yard. And of course, all of those people who practiced the Yoruba religion sincretized in Catholicism...what we call "Santeria" in our little corner of the world.

So, hearing that phrase was sort of a knock on the side of the head. Never had I thought of that. I know some people would say, "That was Satan using a movie to shake your beliefs." Well, duh! The guy playing Satan was who said it! But, no, my beliefs were not shaken. If anything, they were deepened. Why? Because it made me realize that, yes, this phrase is right. Still, I don't think it is the religion that causes the hate, but the people who use the religion AS AN EXCUSE to hate, even when they don't realize it.

Now, I am no theologian or scholar. Yes, I did have religion class every day of every school year for 12+ years. Yes, I did attend Biblical studies and college level theology courses. Yes, I have read the Bible from beginning to end, have studied passages and what is believed to be the translation to the oldest Bible scripts in existence. I have studied different religions, within and outside Christianity, and have compared beliefs, dogmas, superstitions. But I am no expert. If anything, I could probably win some trivia games on religion.

But, even though I am no expert, I know enough to know this: just as extremists flew into the World Trade Center almost 9 years ago in the name of their religion, so Christianity has its fair share of extremists: people who think they are holier, and everyone else who does not share their beliefs will burn in hell. We have seen it all through history. Crusades. Inquisition. Witch Hunts. KKK...should I go on? Each and every group, using God, the Bible, their beliefs, to terrorize, to mutilate, to kill, to control and rise to power.

These are the ones who create the hate, not Christianity itself. Not Islam, Not Judaism. Not Buddhism. Not any other religion. It is the people who manipulate and twist their credos to favor their own agendas.

Earlier today, a friend of mine posted on Facebook an open letter allegedly written to Dr. Laura (yes, the one with the show), in response to a comment she made about how it says in the Bible that homosexuality is an abomination. This probably came up in response of Prop 8 being overruled as unconstitutional. The open letter was awesome! It has not been determined that it was truly written by a professor from the University of Virginia. But really, the list in the letter is what is truly precious.

You can find the letter here:

So, if we all wanted to, we could really do atrocious, barbaric acts and back them up with Scripture. Couldn't we? And some people still do!

So, let's stop the hate. But more importantly, let's stop using religion as an excuse to hate. I think the mainstay, most powerful and yet, simplest teaching of Jesus is "love one another" does not give conditions. Only love.

Love, me.

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