This past year—2020—my views on religion have changed. I suppose in some respects they’ve long been this way, but with the Trump Presidency and COVID I’ve come to feel more bold in those beliefs. I’ve seen how the world has been effected by superstition and can no longer remain quiet and polite. As I recently told someone, “I don’t know why we’re told to automatically respect all religions. Shouldn’t they have to earn it just like anyone or anything else?”
And like that I woke up.
At last count there are 7.8 billion human beings on the planet. That’s the largest population of any mammal in the history of our small, blue planet. For most of that history we’ve governed ourselves by beliefs that were handed down to us, beliefs that were often not based in reality. We’ve believed in gods plural and singular. We’ve believed that mystical powers control the night and the day, the passing of the seasons, the health of our crops. These beliefs have, to some extent, provided adequate to ensure the human race survived to the next day, but not necessarily better or healthier as a whole. Now, as a globally interconnected species, the application of ancient belief and tradition in key decisions of governance only serves to harm us.
Take for example the obvious: America’s handling of COVID.
Handling a pandemic is straight forward. Prepare. Test, test, test. Contact trace. Wear masks. Social distance. Close down non-essential business. Modify existing business and organizations to ensure the virus doesn’t spread. Devote money towards research and a vaccine. It’s not easy, as we’ve seen, but the steps are made obvious by science.
America has not consistently used science, however, to guide its hand. Both states and the federal government have changed their strategies at the beck and call of political and religious belief (are they not, in many respects, one and the same?). It is not uncommon to hear an individual flaunt restrictions either based on their belief in some undefined “freedom” claimed to be in the ancient text we call the U.S. Constitution or that if it’s time God will decide. These singularly selfish, non-scientific, and frankly superstitious beliefs have resulted in the deaths of millions of people now. It is unconscionable.
So the question is, why should I respect any religious tradition if many of those who are members make decisions based on superstition when those decisions have negative and even deadly impacts on non-believers? Why should I respect a politician or voter who supports legislation that is sexist, agist, racist, or otherwise pushes their own sense of “right” and “wrong” and others? Why should I have anything but disgust for people who quite literally believe in gods and demons, fictions such as “original sin”, or that such anachronisms should be forced on intelligent, critical, free minded people?
To be clear, I have no problem that people are religious anymore than I care what folks eat for dinner. Just don’t eat babies. And don’t force me to eat babies if that’s your thing. To me that’s freedom. It’s starts with believing what you want to believe and doing what you want to do as long as it doesn’t put other people in cages. And that’s, in my humble opinion, the only true sin: to rob someone of the ability to believe and live as they choose. As the core tenant of Wicca teaches, “Do as you will as long as you do no harm.” You’d think if America really were based on the idea of freedom for all we’d follow that path.
I hope I’m able to.