Should religion be above the law?

I warn you now – please don’t read on if you’re religious and/or you’re easily antagonised!

Okay, I know that’s a contentious title for a post.  I’ve been inspired (or should that be infuriated?) by a story in the Independent – Catholic Adoption Charity appeal dismissed.   It’s also dragged up some old feelings that I wanted to get off my chest!

This particular charity wants to ‘opt out’ of the discrimination laws concerning same-sex couples and they’re standing alone on the issue because all the other Catholic adoption groups have either backed down or shut up shop completely, choosing to not help the poor kids just because their religion says it ‘wrong’. That’s  a caring attitude – NOT!

It would be lovely if we could all ‘opt out’ of laws we don’t like – I for one would like to opt out of all the tax laws.  Hmm, maybe I’ll write to the Chancellor when I’ve finished this post! But why do these people think that they should be considered special cases purely because of their religion?  It really gets to me that they think that the law should not apply where religion is concerned.  This isn’t the first case of this type – we recently had the case of the couple who were refused placement as adopters because they said they wouldn’t teach the kids that there was nothing wrong with same-sex relationships on the grounds of their religion.

In the not-so-dim-and-distant past the church did have powers over governments and probably could have fixed this little ‘problem’.  Thankfully, though, that power is no longer prevalent in our society and the courts have ruled that the church cannot be exempt from the law because it’s a public service, funded in part by the local authorities.

Me? No, I’m not religious!

You probably didn’t need the heading to tell you that I’m not religious; not even the slightest bit. Get ready – this is where the rant starts!

There will be those who will feel sorry for me that I don’t ‘have faith’.  Please, don’t bother yourselves.  I really don’t need anyone’s pity, thanks all the same.  I live my life by one rule “live and let live”.  I don’t judge anyone before I know them, I work hard and I’m generally a good person.  The out-dated views, such as those in these news reports, only serve to totally turn me off religion, because all they do is serve to prove that religion is only concerned with one thing – itself!

I have nothing against it per se, but its leaders really need to drag themselves out of their archaic pasts and into the twenty-first century.  For me it’s simple: how can something that portrays itself as being ‘loving’ and ‘caring’ not bring itself to accept the fact that times have changed?  It’s a really sad state-of-affairs when someone chooses religion over common-sense.  Surely there has to be a way of allowing people to practise their faith without forcing (watch out for this word – it comes up a lot!) them to adhere to such uncaring attitudes.

When I was growing up I was told that religion was a thing to be respected and that it was on the side of peace and understanding.  As I’ve got older I’ve found that it’s anything but.

At school I found out about all the wars that have been started as a result of religion, and it’s still going on today.  How can one reconcile that “peace and love” message with something that ends in so much death and destruction?

Despite not being religious I haven’t dismissed it totally out-of-hand.  I have actually done some research in an attempt to understand it and I was surprised (although I probably shouldn’t have been), at how many of the basic stories are very similar between the larger religions.  Stories like the “end of days”  are present in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, albeit with slightly different meanings.

So, why not believe in something?

I have no reason to doubt that Jesus did exist; and I have no doubt that he was one of any number of others all out to promote their teachings to the masses.   He was born into the Jewish faith, disappeared for twenty years  (where to no-one knows – another potential conspiracy theory!), then he resurfaced with a whole load of radical ideas and magic tricks.

From where I sit he seemed to be trying to make his religion more commercially acceptable (and thus reduce the persecution) by introducing elements of other religions.

Something that concerns me about Christianity is the selection of its’ texts.  It’s common knowledge that the stories in the Bible were selected because they were the ones that best conveyed “the message”.  But what of the texts that were omitted? Why were they not included?  Maybe it’s just me (and I’m aware that this will wreak of ‘conspiracy theory’) but I find that deeply suspicious – it’s almost as if there were things in these unknown texts that the church leaders didn’t want us mere mortals to know! And are any of these texts really relevant in our twenty-first century world?  It would seem not, certainly where sex and relationships are concerned – unless it’s a so-called ‘normal’ relationship.

I don’t deny that the message in them is a good one, but nowadays  no-one really ‘lives’ them.  People take specific parts that they feel are more relevant to them and the rest are discarded.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, so long as people live a decent and productive life.

Something that I find almost comical is how church leaders say things like “when Jesus said ‘a certain thing‘, what he meant was …”!  How on earth do they know what a man was thinking over 2000 years ago?  Who are they to presume that they know better than anyone else that’s read the story?  If it was any other situation we’d all be shouting about taking things out of context and twisting them for their own selfish ends?

The Bible is like any other book; it’s open to as many interpretations as there are people that read it, so for them to say such things smacks to me of them trying to tell people what to believe – i.e. it’s about control!

Control and oppression

It can’t be denied that, in the past, religion has been used by unscrupulous people as a form of oppression and control of the masses, which doesn’t help me want to consider practising it  What better way to keep the public under control than to promise them a great after-life providing they stick to the teachings on the Bible?  Not much use to anyone if there isn’t an after-life, though!

For me religion seems intrinsically oppressive in that it doesn’t allow someone to think freely; to consider that, just maybe, there’s another explanation for some of the more fantastic stories. The plagues, just as one example, have been explained quite well by one documentary I saw.

Free thinking certainly seems frowned upon and followers are supposed to treat everything in the Bible as fact.  Take the church’s opposition to science – despite strong evidence to the contrary the church still advocates the biblical story that man descends from Adam!  Anything that doesn’t conform to the views of the church leaders is dismissed as heretical – even today!

Final thought

Despite what some may think, I haven’t written this to cause anyone any offence (although, I have no doubt it will!).  I also have no intention of getting into a debate about any of this – believe me I know all the arguments because I’ve had them with various people over the years and none of them would even entertain the idea that they ‘might’ be wrong.  And, yes, I get that it was because of the strength of their faith. It’s just really frustrating discussing something with someone who has no interest in the other side of the debate, so it just ends up going round in circles and wastes everyone’s time.

I did warn you at the start that it was possibly going to antagonise, so if you carried on reading and got wound up, I can’t help that!  I just needed to vent about all this stuff because it’s been building for a while – it’s my blog and I’ll write what I need to write! It’s called ‘free’ speech for a reason.

I will leave you with one thought: you know the story of Sodom and Gomorrah?  About how God rained down fire and destruction on the cities because they were so corrupt?

So, why did he stop dishing out this sort of treatment?