Is Christianity really a religion of peace, love and tolerance? Or does its doctrine poison it with intolerance and hared?
I listened to a old Catholic Priest lecture the Commissioners on how terrible it is that the youth are leaving the church. Not even his own grandchildren were taking up the faith. He could feel the undercurrent of hostility to his message that only God can decide when we die, and that those tortured by terminal illness should not have the right to choose to end their suffering. Anything else is a moral sin in his view. Exactly what moral weight should we give to an institution which systematically protected child rapists?
Later I sat through the laments of several church organisations presenting their case to Auckland City Council in relation to the Council cracking down on commercial use of Church grounds attracting rates. Religious organisations are exempt from paying either taxes or rates simply because they promote their religion. While there are many laudable programs that provide genuine social services run by religious charities that deserve such benefits there is a wider question about the value of giving an organisation exemptions simply because the members believe in the supernatural. Non religious organisations receive no such benefit.
Religious organisations have also campaigned against abortion on the basis of the sanctity of life. I can’t pretend this subject is easy, after all nobody actively seeks to see more abortions. However, there is a certain hypocrisy to see religious organisations who have opposed education about effective birth control which would prevent unwanted pregnancy also oppose the option of last resort. As a humanist I feel it is a deeply anti-women position that robs them of choice and autonomy.
The Bible is of course quite clear on the status of women, treating them as property and making it clear that they should obey their husbands and be silent in church. “Wives obey your husband” is the commandment. Does this sound like equality to you? Now you might object that not every Church takes this to heart the same way the Catholic Church does, but if so it is not on the basis of scripture.
The treatment of homosexuals is somewhat more severe. Religious organisations have opposed homosexual law reform at every opportunity. This is hardly consistent with a philosophy of love and tolerance. Again, there are Christians who stand against intolerance, but the orthodox Christian position has been outright hostility and rejection of homosexuals. Let us remember that the legal system itself discriminated against homosexuals, with one of the greatest mathematicians of all time, Allan Turing, being a victim. I’m tired of hearing “hate the sin, love the sinner” when the reality is that homosexuals are actively discriminated against by religious organisations.
As of 2013 around 40% of New Zealand schools had religious instruction where volunteers from local churches would come into schools to teach their religious values. As is clear from the above litany of intolerance we really need to question whether this is a good plan if we want to raise tolerant loving adults who don’t discriminate against people. All schools should be a welcoming and safe place for children to come.
The entitlement of Christians was all too evident recently after Trevor Mallard removed mention of Jesus in the opening prayer of Parliament. This decision resulted in protest action outside Parliament because they wanted to retain the special status of Christianity in New Zealand and continue to make those that do not share their religion feel marginalised.
Some Christians asked whether the New Zealand National Anthem would be next, to which I say yes, it is about time we have a national anthem which celebrates New Zealanders rather than prostrating ourselves before an imaginary deity begging for his protection. If there is protecting to do it is up to us, not some invisible sky warrior.
None of this is to say Christians are bad people. If they were to take the message of love and tolerance that many Christians claim as a central tenant of their belief and drop the supernatural deity and ancient doctrine we would perhaps arrive at Secular Humanism, where the well being of humanity is central to our ethics. Is it any surprise that we are seeing these ancient religions melt like ice in the summer?