Here in the religion-besotted South the victims of ancient, primitive voodoo are often children. Tennessee’s largest Christian sects can be wildly intolerant and regularly condemn non-heterosexuals to the flames and suffering of an “eternal hell” unless they “repent.”
Since the election of Pope Francis, an archconservative in matters of theology, there has been talk of Catholic churches banning gays from taking communion. But according to Roman Catholic dogma, the church’s sacraments are required for salvation. Thus, to deny people communion is to condemn them to hell. The Mormon Church also denies its salvific sacraments to gays. And other Protestant churches routinely deny membership to “unrepentant” gays. Of course it makes no sense for imperfect earthly churches to deny membership to people God will welcome in heaven, so the message is startlingly, shockingly clear: “If you are gay, hell awaits you when you die, unless our religion curses you of your terrible disease.”
But of course human sexuality is not a “disease” and none of us have ever been “cured” of our “lusts” despite the wild claims of Christian theologians (not to mention religion-addled presidential candidates like Michelle Bachmann).
Just imagine the fear and despair this crystal-clear message creates in the hearts, minds and sinking guts of gay children who can’t help being the way God made them, if there is a God. I speak from experience, as my lovely, compassionate wife Beth once became a second mother to two young Jewish boys, identical twins, who lived down the street. When they were six, she told me in confidence that she was sure they were gay. When they “came out” to her later as teenagers, she just smiled, told them that she had always known, and of course still loved them, with no unnecessary drama. (One has to wonder why the allegedly loving, compassionate, wise, just God of Christianity can’t do the same.)
According to every Christian church that I have attended here in Nashville, those boys — now fine young men — are doubly damned. First, for being gay and not “repenting.” And second, for not “believing in Christ.” But why should they believe in Christ, if he’s so petty and intolerant that he sends billions of human beings to hell for not “believing” that he could be so petty and intolerant? Ironically, most atheists, agnostics and Muslims have higher opinions of Jesus than his most fervent disciples, who make him seem like the Devil.
How did Christianity come to be one of the last relics of Dark Age intolerance? Follow the money. Prostitution has been called “the oldest profession,” but there is a far richer, much less-honest profession that may well be its elder sister: religion. For millennia religion’s witchdoctors (today euphemistically called popes, priests, pastors, ministers, evangelists, missionaries, etc.) have been peddling “influence with the gods” to the gullible. Mark Twain, perhaps America’s foremost critic of the Bible and Christianity, once said: “I found out that I was a Christian for revenue only and I could not bear the thought of that, it was so ignoble.”
Unfortunately, the majority of Americans seem to lack Twain’s intellectual capability to be embarrassed about being so unjustly fleeced. Prostitutes are honest about what they’re selling and generally deliver “the goods.” The same cannot be said about Christianity’s glorified witchdoctors who create an imaginary “hell,” then claim to be able to offer “salvation” from it. But the Hebrew prophets who claimed to speak for God, and whose visions appear in the Bible, never mentioned a place called “hell,” or any possibility of suffering after death. They spoke of Sheol (the grave) being the ultimate penalty, and of everyone being resurrected together into what sounds like a universal heaven. No one can honestly claim to “know” the source of their visions, or if they will be fulfilled, but it is hard to understand why most Christian churches ignore the best and most glorious verses in the Bible, to focus on a handful of hellish verses that popped up without any explanation whatsoever, thousands of years later.
Judaism never had a dogma of hell. Indeed, the ancient Hebrew language doesn’t even have a word that means “hell” (a very curious omission if an all-wise God was communicating with Moses and the other Hebrew prophets). And ironically we know from the Jewish historian Josephus, a contemporary of the apostles and student of Judaism, that the only first-century Jews who believed in hell were the sworn enemies of Jesus, the Pharisees!
But in any case, we don’t allow Christian adults to use their religious freedom to molest, rape or otherwise physically abuse children. So why is it “legal” for Christian adults to torture innocent children emotionally, psychologically and spiritually with the infernal dogma of “hell”? How can the South ever become enlightened when its children are terrorized and brainwashed by the witchdoctors of such a primitive, barbaric religion?
Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!
Michael R. Burch is a Nashville-based editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry and other “things literary” at www.thehypertexts.com.