2011 in Review: Religion

As WC did in 2009 and 2010, WC will undertake a brief review of religion in 2011 before we mercifully leave the poor, maimed calendar year behind.

Reverend Harold Camping predicted the world would end on May 21, 2011. Oops. Oh, a math mistake. Reverend Camping predicted the world would end October 16, 2011. Oops again. Is it fair to ask why these folks are so eager to have their End Times?

God and Hate - Westboro Baptist Church members picket outside the Oscars (Photo by SnapShot Boy, used with permission)

God and Hate - Westboro Baptist Church members picket outside the Oscars (Photo by SnapShot Boy, used with permission)

The Westboro Baptist Church – which seems to be mostly members of Fred Phelps’ extended family – in its desperate attempts to gain public exposure, continues to act out hate speech at funerals for slain service members, celebrity events and any other occasion where they can show their hate. The U.S. Supreme Court conlcuded in 2011 that their activities were protected speech. Hateful speech, but protected.

Over 250,000 good Christians signed a petition to boycott “Homo Depot” stores. Of course, Home Depot wasn’t exactly singled out. The same group had pledged to boycott 7-Eleven, Abercrombie & Fitch, American Airlines, American Girl, Blockbuster Video, Burger King, Calvin Klein, Carl’s Jr., Clorox, Comcast, Crest, Ford, Hallmark Cards, Kmart, Kraft Foods, S. C. Johnson & Son, Movie Gallery, Microsoft, MTV, Mary Kay, NutriSystem, Old Navy, IKEA, Pampers, Procter & Gamble, Target, Tide, Walt Disney Company and PepsiCo.

A Gallup Poll conducted May 5-8, 2011 revealed that 30% of Americans interpret the Bible literally, saying it is the actual word of God. The good news (note the lower case) is that the numbers are actually down from the last decade. The bad news is that leaves nearly a third of Americans denying evolution, physics, geology and astronomy.

Muslims killed Christians. Christians killed Muslims. Muslims killed Hindus. Hindus killed Muslims. Catholics killed Protestants. Protestants killed Catholics. It’s a special kind of ecumenicalism, WC supposes. Oddly, all of these religions forbid killing.

WC is making his slow way through the first volume of Mark Twain’s autobiography – it’s not as much fun as you might expect – but came across this quote, which will serve as a coda for this post:

So much blood has been shed by the Church because of an omission from the Gospel: “Ye shall be indifferent as to what your neighbor’s religion is.” Not merely tolerant of it, but indifferent to it. Divinity is claimed for many religions; but no religion is great enough or divine enough to add that new law to its code.



2 thoughts on “2011 in Review: Religion

  1. Twain might have considered this an omission, but I think Jesus covered it when he advised people to love not only their neighbors, but their enemies, and to do good to those who persecute (hate) them. Later, the energetic Paul co-opted the religion of Jesus and replaced it with a religion about Jesus. The strength and simplicity of the original message was corrupted. We now have numbers of pious self-described Christians who select small portions of the Old Testament, impose a narrow literal meaning in spite of all the evidence, and use those texts to actively persecute others. All the while, they claim the high religious ground.

    There are Christians who still get the original message and try to follow it. Typically, they’re dismissed as mystics or worse by the louder-mouthed fundamentalists. As a result, Gandhi’s comment about liking Christ but not liking Christians makes a lot of sense.

  2. Dear WC, please note that while Christians killed Muslims in 2011, e.g., American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, few if any Muslims were killed by Christians because they were Muslims. On the other hand, numerous Christians were killed by Muslims because they were Christians. Check out the Christmas attack in Nigeria, for example. There are more and less tolerant varieties of both Islam and Christianity. Intolerant Christianity is a nuisance, but it isn’t killing people today; intolerant Islam is.

    Also, please note that Judaism comes about as close to indifference to other peoples’ religions as one can get, or expect. Judaism is different from the other major religions because it is tribal; Jews think of other Jews as part of an extended family, so a preference or prejudice in favor of other Jews should be understood as more ethnic than religious — just as Irish Chicagoans vote predictably and depressingly for Irish names on the ballot. Jews don’t try to convert non-Jews, and aren’t supposed to seek converts. True, there is a Jewish preference for monotheism — believe it or not, historically Islam was preferred to Christianity because of Jewish doubts about the Trinity — but it is pretty much undisputed among rabbis that, as stated in the Talmud, “the righteous among the nations (i.e., non-Jews) have a place in the world-to-come (i.e., heaven).” Check it out. In the mid-20th century, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (died 1972), who had both an encyclopedic knowledge of traditional Judaism as well as an urgent concern for the future of mankind, said something like, God is greater than all human religions, and none can claim to fully express the whole truth about God. And yes, I am a Jew — and a convert.

    Kevin in Chicago

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