Bad Religion


I have a love/hate relationship with religion. I grew up reading the Bible and going to church with my family, I took several theology courses in college at Notre Dame, and I met my very first friend in Atlanta at church. (Fun fact: he even officiated our wedding). But I keep having to separate the loving religion I grew up with from the bastardized, hateful version I encounter daily today.

When I was a kid, we looked to church and the Bible to provide a framework for how you’re supposed to live your life. The whole book neatly sums it up in the Ten Commandments, which explicitly state that you’re not supposed to lie, steal, murder, or covet what your neighbor has. To me, the rest of the book was meant to provide examples of how to avoid the pitfalls of others, but ultimately they were simply stories. You weren’t supposed to look at the Bible as an instruction manual, but rather as a helpful FAQ — because at the end of the day, it’s simply a book. But in the years since I was in school, religion has taken on such a different meaning.

I have a hard time understanding how the book that I read as a child — one that preached love of your neighbors and not taking what belongs to them — is also interpreted as a justification for whether certain groups of people deserve basic human rights. The right to get married and the right to give birth, or decide not to give birth, are basic freedoms that I think would align with the Ten Commandments. Whenever someone references religion or the Bible nowadays, it’s used as a way to divide, denigrate, and disparage others. I refuse to believe that this was the original intention of the Bible.

This issue also arises in Islam too, where religion is often used as a tool to control and subjugate women. There are numerous protests currently happening as a result of the death of Mahsa Amini, a woman who died under suspicious circumstances after not wearing a hijab in Tehran, Iran. The Quran doesn’t state that women have to wear face or hair coverings, but only that you should show modesty, privacy, and respect for others, especially non-family members. Somehow this has become conflated with needing to wear a face or hair covering at all times for women, with defiance being met by death in the case of Amini. How can a book that preaches love, acceptance, and forgiveness be also used to justify murder? Again, people are using a religious text to fit a heinous agenda even though that wasn’t the original intention.

It feels cowardly to use religion to cover up your feelings of hatred towards another group of people. It feels even worse to then use these proclaimed beliefs for political gain. When this country began, one of the core tenets of the Constitution was the separation of church and state. This was supposed to ensure both that everyone had the freedom to follow whatever religion they chose, and also to keep religion from interacting or interfering with anyone in public office. Almost 250 years ago, Thomas Jefferson felt the need to protect us from the blurring lines of politics and religion. Today it seems that his worst fears are coming true before our very own eyes.

Because there’s no hate like Christian love.

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