Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Deference Due Religion? I Think Not

Owing to the bad behavior of The Truly Religious, they are frequently the topic of derision on Joe My God (joemygod.blogspot.com).  I've been reading a lot of books lately on the topic of god, morality, religion, and such.  I have not practiced a religion for decades.  As Del Shores wrote in Southern Baptist Sissies, "How can I embrace a religion that doesn't embrace me?"  Even my time at a Unitarian Universalist church was due to being choir director, not for spiritual guidance.  Nevertheless, there was a lingering something or other that kept me from completely writing off the haters, the baiters, and the fear mongers.  I didn't like how they used religion to beat me up and make money off me at the same time.  This is something I didn't start but find myself very much a part of.

I've read Richard Dawkins' 2006 The God Delusion and Christopher Hitchens' 2007 God is not Great.  Currently, I'm reading Sam Harris' 2010 The Moral Landscape.and his 2006 Letter to a Christian Nation.  They have clarified some ideas, challenged me, and I feel free to disagree.  However, what stands out to me is the permission not just to question religion but to question why a religious person is treated with deference.  Just because a person is religious doesn't give that person a free pass.

Another "religious" person did something despicable the other day and it was reported on JMG.  Many people rightfully piled on him, but for whatever reason the "religious" person's stupidity crystallized the deference argument.

Me:  One of the most freeing things I've experienced is realizing that I was, in fact,
giving deference to religious people simply because it was expected.  Richard
Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have disabused me of the feeling that
deference was due, that someone had to be tolerated because of their religion.
That was very fucked up thinking on my part, and understanding why I was
holding back is both embarrassing and enlightening. Deference is due to no
one and respect must be earned, not demanded.

Another commenter:  I would like to get to where you are. I constantly hold back, in person, on social media, etc., because I have religious friends and family. I don't want to "offend" them, but find myself offended by them regularly.

Me:  It's not the easiest thing, believe me. I still have no idea what I believe and what I don't, but I DO know that no one should be given a pass just because s/he is religious. I haven't been invited to a family gathering in years, and that's OK. Except for my sister, I've had it with them.  When my father died, we were not speaking and I don't regret that.  I'm ignored because not only am I gay but I've had a partner for coming up on 37 years. I got tired of, as you say, being "offended by them regularly." Why should I bother being offended by them at all? Their choice of religion in no way trumps the way I was born. One day I realized what it meant that I have more days behind me than before me.  It dawned on me that I am responsible for my life, including the happiness and pain associated with it.  I respect and enjoy the people who deserve it.  Life is just too fucking short to put up with their bullshit. People don't deserve deference just because of the religion they choose.  People do not gain respect because of their title or because they assume they should be respected.  As Aunt Eller sings in Oklahoma, "I ain't sayin' I'm better than anybody else, but I'll be damned if I ain't jest as good."

My second paragraph has been edited, but it remains pretty much the same.  And it's kind of embarrassing that I so frequently quote a song lyric, especially a Broadway song lyric, to make a point.  It's the Broadway gene.  Nonetheless, Hammerstein got it right, just as he did in South Pacific with "You've got to be taught to be afraid of people whose eyes are oddly made and people whose skin is a different shade.  You've got to be carefully taught."  And people who love differently than you, too.

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