Thursday, April 12, 2018

Freedom From Religion


No claimants get me more incensed than religious bigots who insist on imposing their beliefs on everyone else.  Their incessant drumbeat fouls our politics, daily life and international activities.

They range from those elected idiots in Texas trying to pass a law that would ban masturbation on the grounds of “sanctity of life,” which is just code for conservative Christian views.  Or the ignorant, homicidal members of ISIS, who – in various forms, such as Boko Haram – who kill and torture those with different Muslim beliefs or attack Westerners with the same misguided and murderous zeal.  Or the vicious fools in Israel who kill Palestinians and laugh about it; or Palestinians who blow up innocent Israelis with the same twisted sense of humor.

Then there are the incredibly dense Facebook writers who insist Christians are being persecuted.

Message on board
One just posted that the U.S. Air Force should be condemned for objecting to a soldier’s intense Christian message on his personal whiteboard.  It didn’t occur to that mental midget that such beliefs could cause dissension among fellow cadets or interfere with the ability of that cadet to be ecumenical in his approach to his duties – an absolute necessity in any military activity.

In fact, all references to religion should be banned in public life.  Belief is private.  It needs to stay there. 

The alternative has never been pretty.

Historically, religions have caused untold millions (if not billions) of deaths for centuries.  Pope Francis made that same observation this year as well.  Multiple historians have done the same. Blame it on monotheistic faiths and their insistence their one god can’t tolerate rivals.

God's supposed house in ancient Israel
Prior to the introduction of monotheistic Judaism in the 7th century B.C.E., no one went to war to impose beliefs.  People then were sure their god(s) fought with them.  If they won, then the losers adopted the new belief.  War was for power, land and money, not religion. The 10 “lost tribes” weren’t lost; survivors mostly assimilated 

No group at any time has gone to war to convince others to be atheists.  In contrast, untold numbers have died because someone wanted to impose a monotheistic religion on them.  Jews never had enough power to kill gentiles willy-nilly, but, when they could, they did.  Christians carried the evil technique to a whole new level.

Of course, believers deny that.  To do that, they have to ignore well-documented history.

Here’s a partial list of murderous religious rampages:

·         Pagans murdered by Christians after Christianity became the sole religion of the Roman Empire late in the 4th century.  Then they turned on each other.  One Roman philosopher asked if there weren’t enough hills for Christians to commit suicide rather than constantly killing each other.
·         “Heretics” wiped out for more than 1500 years by one dominant Christian group or another.

"Witches" being burned
·         “Witches,” typically inoffensive old women, killed because of pious belief in such hateful nonsense.
    
·         Jews killed throughout the centuries in pogroms and other massacres.  Crusaders warmed up for their murderous task by annihilating Jews in Europe en route to the “holy" land.
·         Residents of the Middle East killed by the Crusaders.
·        Civilians wiped out en masse during the 100 Years War.  Whole sections of Europe were denuded of people as Protestants and Catholics fought each other.
""Bloody" Queen Mary
·         The many killed during the Inquisition because their belief wasn’t pure enough.
·        The masses of Catholics and Protestants who killed each other starting in the 1400s as rulers shifted alliances. “Bloody” Mary in England is a nice example.
·        Muslim conquerors who offered the sword or conversion to millions whose land they seized. Jewish kings in the 1st century B.C.E., who did the same thing to Samaritans, who were not the proper sect of Judaism.
·        Hindus and Muslims killed each other in India, forcing partition and the deaths of many more in both directions.
·         Modern murderers like ISIS and their ilk.

T    That's just scratching the surface.  Think of the many people across 1800 years whose lives have been blighted, shortened or otherwise damaged by religious dictates.  Women have suffered the most, and still endure tremendous hardships because of rules imposed by male-dominated religions
  
      Enough.


Former evangelist Dan Barker – who used to get (and maybe still does) royalties from gospel songs from his earlier incarnation – and his wife Annie started the Freedom from Religion Foundation in the 1970s.  They were once laughed at and scorned, but their Foundation has expanded over the years, augmented by growing disbelief.

Today, more than 23 percent of Americans eschew religion.  They are members of a growing horde worldwide.  In some areas, religion has disappeared completely.

Good riddance.

Believe what you want.  Just keep it to yourself. No one cares.  Just because you believe it doesn’t make it true anyway.  It also doesn’t give you the right to impose a belief on someone else.

Adamantly spouting nonsense or ignoring history doesn’t change a thing.

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history with an occasional foray into American culture.  He holds an ABD in American Studies from Case Western Reserve University.   He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at woplazarus@aol.com.  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.












Saturday, March 24, 2018

Religious Distinctions Damage Society


Shari Lewis
A dear friend who is also on Facebook recently shared a post celebrating the life of entertainer extraordinaire Shari Lewis, who died 20 years ago.  My friend did so, not to highlight Lewis’ life as a ventriloquist, author and TV performer, but because Lewis was Jewish.

In doing so, unintentionally, my friend continued the undermining of society.

Lewis’ religion was not what made her either successful or famous.  That was talent.  She was not talented because she was Jewish.  Her religion, in fact, was completely irrelevant to her ability to manipulate her famed puppet Lamb Chop or to conduct a symphony orchestra.

If religion mattered, then Jews would all be successful.  In reality, they constitute 0.2 percent of the world’s population.  Those who have been successful can thank DNA and ethnicity, not religion.
Jewish ghetto in Russia

Long kept outside Christian society, Jews developed their own culture, including humor, while emphasizing education.  They needed literacy to scour their holy books to find the “reason” why they were being mistreated.  Because the Second Commandment banned graven images, they eschewed art and opted for music.

As a result, Jews have achieved success principally in the liberal arts and science.  They have won more Nobel Prizes than their small numbers might imply.  However, religion had nothing to do with it.  They have succeeded in entertainment, with such figures as Jack Benny, Sid Caesar, Barbra Streisand, Billy Crystal, Jerry Seinfeld and so many more.

Freud
However, not one achieved fame because of religion. 

In fact, most have little to nothing to do with their birth religion.  That’s true regardless of the area of success. Jews assimilate and, as a result, often shed trappings of the ancient belief.  Such world-renowned scholars like Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx – whose ideas dominated the last century – were Jewish in name only.  They did not practice.  Indeed, the religion meant nothing to them.  They were products of genetics and culture.

In fact, if Jewish religious leaders had their way, Jews would spend their days in the synagogue, as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof notes in the song “If I were a Rich Man.”  To them, success has always been counted in prayers, not in popularity.

Reles
Besides, what’s success?  Shari Lewis was heralded, but so was Arthur Flegenheimer, who is better known as the vicious bootlegger Dutch Schultz, the subject of books and movies.  Abe “Kid Twist” Reles was feted, too, all based on his active role in organized crime's Murder Inc.  during the 1930s and 1940s.  His death really garnered attention: he was tossed out a hotel window prior to testifying. Meyer Lansky was portrayed in The Godfather.  The only time he recognized his birth religion was when he tried to escape U.S. law by seeking citizenship in Israel.  Authorities there denied his request.  And don’t overlook Bernie Madoff, Ivan Boesky and other financial felons.

Judaism didn’t make them criminals any more than it made Lewis a star on children’s programming or Sandy Koufax a great baseball pitcher.

Most significantly, touting the religion of any successful person isn’t just wrong, it undermines society.

We all belong to the only surviving species of humans.  There are two genders: male and female.  That’s it.  Everything else serves only to separate and divide.  As long as people point at irrelevant distinctions like someone’s beliefs, we will continue to pretend such differences matter. In reality, they only serve as badges for elitists and bigots of all types, who gleefully divide everyone into “we” and “they.” While everyone seemingly offers lip service to the ideas of equality, the concept vanishes as soon as a distinction is made, to the detriment of all of us.

Eastern Orthodox Patriarch
In truth, we are all the same, regardless of religion, skin complexion, ethnic origin, politics, disability and anything else someone can conjure up. 

Religion exists totally to provide absurd answers for unanswerable questions.  It creates imaginary deities to “solve” insolvable concerns.  Success in religion involves becoming part of the hierarchy of the faith, such as a head rabbi, pope, patriarch and the like.  It never made anyone successful in a secular field.

That requires talent combined with timing, regardless of faith.

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history with an occasional foray into American culture.  He holds an ABD in American Studies from Case Western Reserve University.   He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at www.williamplazarus.net.  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  A recent book, Passover in Prison, which details abuse of Jewish inmates in American prisons.  His books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.