As an empiricist, I never cease to be astounded that otherwise intelligent people can believe, literally, in the myths and assumptions of their religions.
This is their privilege. Far be it from me to condemn them for it. But what frustrates and disappoints me is when they feel entitled to dismiss every other similarly embraced faith as untrue and inferior to their own.
Orthodox adherents of various religions often tout their faith as the only “true” one. In doing so they assert, de-facto, that every religion other than theirs is false. Of course, no faith, since all are based on belief alone rather than on demonstrable empirical evidence, can be proven true at all, let alone that it qualifies to be recognized as the one true one. As George Carlin pointed out, the only thing such assertions might prove is that all faiths are “equally invalid.”
When it comes to assertions of being the “one true faith,” here in the USA ultra-orthodox Christianity takes first prize. Rest assured, other than being certain it is not any more or less true than any other faith, I have nothing against Christianity. My concern is that extreme practitioners of it are a negative force in the civic affairs of our pluralistic nation.
If I were a citizen of Israel, I’d be assailing the equally dangerous Hasidim who have succeeded in taking over the government behind a Trump look-alike. This is happening for one reason. It is not for the sake of holiness, though it is couched in it. Their extremist political and racist ideologies stem from their desire to be preeminent in their society for their own worldly benefit. Like Trump, who without doubt has not a spiritual bone in his body, Netanyahu is simply pandering to religious extremist to further his own very worldly ambitions.
Let’s be clear on this: in discussing this issue, what’s important is not the validity or lack thereof of any religious faith, but rather how adherents to a faith affect the social fabric of a nation. Religion has ever been used for the purpose of acquiring and holding on to political power and control. That is the one true thing about most religions, if not all of them.
While individual believers derive much of value from their faith, religious organizations are at risk, like all organizations, of becoming corrupted political entities.
Contrary to the version of the life of Jesus accepted by most Christians, there is good evidence that his intent was to lead the Jews in rebelling against the Roman occupation that they might restore the nation to its independent state and its religion to religion’s higher purposes. At its best, religion provides hope and solace, reminds us of our insignificance in the face of the power of the universe, fosters community and inspires us to behave ethically. Using religion as a tool to gain political power negates every one of those worthy purposes.
During this holiday season, fundamentalist Christians decry an imaginary “war on Christmas.” Their more apparent motivation is to coerce everyone to bend the knee to their faith. That’s bad enough, but underlying it is their desire, as was that of the Roman conquerors in Jesus’ time, for everyone to bend the knee to them as a political group.
As Evangelicals continue to struggle, with much success, to instill Christian theocracy into our system of secular laws, I would ask them to look, as is said during this season, to the East. To Kabul where the Taliban who claim to represent the “one true faith” have banned women from receiving education, to Tehran where the ayatollahs. proclaiming themselves to represent the “one true faith,” cause women to be murdered, tortured and imprisoned simply for asserting their right to be seen and heard and to Jerusalem where misogyny and continued persecution of non-Jews will certainly be instilled in government policy once the unholy alliance between Netanyahu and the extreme right wing nationalist Hasidim is cemented.
Such an imposition of the values of a single group on the rights of all citizens of a nation is a tragedy, a travesty, and is as unforgivable as it is unconscionable. The grab for political power cloaked in holy robes gives the lie to hypocritical claims to moral superiority. It is the furthest thing from what religion should be about but, sadly, given the nature of Man, it is frequently what such religion brings about.
No religion has the right to bill itself as the one true faith. If there were to be one true thing worth believing in, it would embody in philosophy and in action a phrase that is dusted off this time of year before being quickly returned to the back shelf.
“Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward Men.”