I had earlier blogged how religious zealot Rep. Scott Renfroe of Colorado argued that according to the Bible gays should be executed. Later, in the comments, one reader who identified himself as a ‘Reverend’ applauded Renfroe’s words. I quickly commented that people who worshipped a deity making such demands seemed to worship a demon rather than a God.
Might I have gone overboard? Consider this second example I have just encountered, also from Colorado, a beautiful state which seems to harbor some of the mot benighted people on the continent as a significant part of its population.
State Sen. Dave Schultheis, of Colorado Springs opposed a bill requiring pregnant women to be tested for HIV so that, if infected, their babies can be treated to prevent their getting HIV themselves. The Rocky Mountain Times reported on Feb. 25 that the Senator said in debate
“This [problem of babies with HIV] stems from sexual promiscuity for the most part, and I just can’t go there,” he said.
“We do things continually to remove the consequences of poor behavior, unacceptable behavior, quite frankly. I’m not convinced that part of the role of government should be to protect individuals from the negative consequences of their actions.”
This argument is false. Sponsoring Senator Lois Tochtrop pointed out during the debate that sexual intercourse is not the only way a woman can contract HIVand that treatment of an infected mother can dramatically reduce the likelihood that HIV Is transferred to the developing fetus. I might ad that if a woman is married to a man who sleeps around, she could still get AIDS while being monogamous herself
The vote was 32-1 in favor, and the bill passed, moving on to the Colorado House. But bad as Shultheis’s words and reasoning were, they got far far worse. According to the Times, afterward his vote Shultheis said
What I’m hoping is that yes, that person may have AIDS, have it seriously as a baby and when they grow up, but the mother will begin to feel guilt as a result of that. The family will see the negative consequences of that promiscuity and it may make a number of people over the coming years … begin to realize that there are negative consequences and maybe they should adjust their behavior.
He has since blamed the reporter for accurately reporting words she should have known he did not mean. I, for one, have a hard time imagining such words spewing from a politician’s mouth without his either meaning them, or seeking to pander to a constituency that did, or both. And this bring me to my main point.
Shultheis is a poster boy for why religion should be kept as far from politics as possible, EXCEPT as a personal motivating force for a position that can be advocated on grounds potentially acceptable to any well-meaning citizen. But he represents an even more important point.
As with Renfroe’s bloodthirsty spirit, I think it is pretty clear that
a spirit whose followers advocate babies get AIDS to punish the mother
is more demon than deity, and a person who worships such a spirit is a
Religious people who emphasize values such as compassion, love, forgiveness, and mercy, serve the betterment of humankind and honor to the divine forces that sustain us, regardless of their tradition. From this Pagan’s perspective, there are conservative Christians for whom this is true. Many are wonderful people in their personal lives and their theology is their own business, not mine, so long as they do not seek to use it to impose on others. Theology is not as important as a good heart.
BUT ‘Religious’ people who emphasize instead the supposed anger and wrath of their deity, its threats to annihilate those who differ, along with ‘collateral damage,’ and its hatred of those who are different as one of its defining characteristics, serve neither the sacred nor humankind, but only their warped sense of egoic superiority over people different from themselves. They set up an idol that is in fact a mirror reflecting demonic narcissism.
To fail to distinguish between these two groups is to be spiritually and morally blind. Spiritual traditions will be vulnerable to the less than informed criticism of the Sam Harrises and Richard Dawkins of the world until they speak out strongly against those who mistake the demonic for the sacred.