Freedom to Lose Your Religion
What a world we are living in. Everything has been disrupted because of a hidden enemy. The devout might call it the Devil’s work; scientists may call it a submicroscopic infectious agent; everyone else calls it a virus. Regardless, it is putting our collective lives on hold. By necessity, we are reduced to surviving so that we may live again later. As God’s flock, responsible citizens, decent human beings . . . whatever motivates you, we must all do our part in defeating COVID-19.
I planned to start this off with a bit of scripture about sacrifice. So, I did an Internet search, “Bible passages with sacrifice.” As with anything related to religion, the results are dissatisfying.
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13.
“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” Luke 9:24
“To do what is right or just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” Proverbs 21:3
I was really hoping to drive the point home about the importance of sacrifice during this time. Doesn’t religion preach just that? Back in the day, the congregation was expected to empty their pockets into the church offertories if they wanted eternal salvation. Their last coins were tithed to the ferryman who would take them to afterlife. Or something. Isn’t that the very definition of sacrifice? Oh wait, no. That’s just stupidity.
Back to the verses. The aforementioned examples and others like them tell completely different stories. The first two, in particular, resonate with current events. Many conservatives are extremely eager to open up the economy. How does one do that in the midst of a pandemic? How about suggesting elderly people leave their homes and sacrifice themselves on the front lines so that the rest of the ‘healthy’ world can get back to normal? If that doesn’t work out, just keep the basket of vulnerables at home while the rest of the world can live their lives again. Never mind that it is not how communicable contagions operate. As John said, “. . . lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” and Luke echoes that sentiment, “. . . whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” Got that, old folks, and immunocompromised, and cancer survivors, and disabled veterans, and those with co-morbidities? You’ll be saved either way! Win-win!
The third example blurs the lines even more of what sacrifice means. To do what is right or just is more acceptable . . . to the Lord. Does that mean it is right and just to congregate, place your spit on the clergyman’s hand while you eat God’s body, and share the same cup of his blood, all while ignoring the social distancing rules and shelter-in-place mandates? Is the chalice AND wine disinfected after each set of lips touches it? The CDC states that COVID-19 can survive and be transmitted for up to three days on metal surfaces. Not to mention, living in an infectious broth of high-viral-loaded sacrament taken directly into one’s unprotected system before even the smallest immunity can be built up from an incremental or peripheral exposure. You know, how the immune system works.
Perhaps God is battling the actual creator of this virus. Who could that be? In this beautiful world our Lord created. Not the sacrilegious Darwin. Not godless China. The Church Lady knows who I mean. Could it be . . . SATAN? While this fight to the death carries on (probably for the next year), does one have to pray in order to avoid becoming infected? If so, God might be a little tied up for a bit while pulling a rope-a-dope on the Devil. What if one becomes infected? Can prayer heal better than a therapeutic vaccine or treatment made and administered by God’s own children, to God’s own children? What happens if one dies? Can one call in a prayer favor, at least to explain why thou hast forsaken me?
This pandemic must be another one of those WWJD tests. What would Jesus do? He did lose his shit on the merchants and moneychangers in the infamous Cleansing of the Temple. He fashioned a whip and went all Indiana Jones on those greedy motherfuckers. How dare they turn a place of worship into a den of iniquitous profit? (That should only be on designated market days to raise money for new stained glass windows, damn it!) There is some “lost” evidence that Jesus got in a few murders in his profligate “Infancy.” Those tales were conveniently omitted in both testaments, but they are important to observe. Because, that little loophole has been coming in handy.
Like flying a plane into a large, occupied building, it is noble to sacrifice others in order to score points with God. The gullible idiot really took a gamble right there. That is a risky bet for some centuries-old text that has been interpreted in various batshit ways. Whatever gets one to achieve the ultimate reward, am I right? I dare anyone covered in Christ’s blood to jump in a pool of sharks in order to save oneself. Go on, I dare you. Where’s your Messiah now, bitches?
Here’s the thing. This is nothing new. Religion is the scourge that keeps on scourging. It oppressively places its thumb on women, sticks it up their vaginas, and fucks them good and hard. Shockingly, it is not until the past decade that we kinda stopped being okay with that. Even then, we can’t get all women on board to fight that madness, much less men. It doesn’t seem like a highly contagious, non-discriminating virus will be a compelling game-changer. Especially considering the chatter from certain religious figures that, yes, they are going to hold public services during sacred holidays.
I write this in the wake of Easter, as there may be more wakes as a result. The reality is that it won’t be just the religious dissenters who sacrifice; they are taking their fellow humans down with them in Biblical fashion. Why? Because, this will give the virus more reasons to stick around and party on our goblet cells. (How many angels can dance on the headstone of a grave?) It also means that not only will there be more people infected, there will be more deaths. That is devastating enough to give a convincing reason to sit this one out and stay home. In addition, our lives will remain on hold much longer than originally forecasted. We don’t even know what is on the other side of this pandemic. It certainly isn’t a fantasyland complete with pearly gates.
Since we’ve politicized and non-secularized an apolitical and secular pathogen, I find myself reaching to the Constitution for guidance.
Laypeople take the First Amendment’s message quite literally by freely interpreting it. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .” I am not a legal scholar, but I believe it is saying that government should keep its nose out of religion. As well, they will not “abridge[ing] the freedom of speech.” Again, we have the freedom to have our voices heard. Religious freedom, yes! Free speech, boo-yah! Does this mean we can practice our religion to our hearts content, and say whatever we want to?
Apparently not, as the Constitution recognizes that rights end at the tips of our noses. Don’t believe me? One of many examples of First Amendment violations is when speech is an immediate threat that breaches peace. If what you say incites violence, then the right is forfeited. Same goes for religion. If a faith ritualizes sacrificing virgins at the altar, or molesting them behind it, don’t we expect the authorities to put the kibosh on that? Rather than practicing religion in a public gathering during a time that the government has temporarily mandated social distancing for the protection of the greater good, maybe the right thing to do is to sacrifice one’s dogma for something that actually serves the whole of humanity.
Again, if you don’t believe me, I invite you to observe two situations that result in widely accepted abridgment of Constitutional rights.
We have this little thing called, “Felony Disenfranchisement”. Quite simply, if one is convicted of a felony that results in incarceration of more than a year and/or a fine of over $1,000, said convicted felon could lose rights to vote in elections, depending on the will of the jurisdiction. There are gray areas regarding the severity of the crime, but I trust we all agree that we don’t want a murderer or violent abuser the opportunity to elect/reelect a candidate or incumbent we find unpalatable. It doesn’t matter that voting rights are covered in at least four Amendments. If you break the societal covenant, you forfeit some rights as a citizen as punishment.
Still not convinced? The 1968 Gun Control Act Title 18 provides for “prohibit[ing] anyone convicted of a felony and anyone subject to a domestic violence protection order from possessing a firearm.” Not only does a murderer, pedophile, and in this case, a domestic abuser, lose a laundry list of Amendment rights while in prison, they lose their Second Amendment rights in perpetuity. This domestic violence is qualified as “a misdemeanor,” by the way. This means that the Felony Disenfranchisement parameters from above don’t even need to be met. The government can take the firearm away while slapping the hand that held it. It seems extreme, but it does mollify those who prefer that the Second Amendment be stricken from the record.
Therein lies the rub. Gun sales, and attempted ones, are through the roof right now. People just don’t feel safe. We fear the invisible enemy that is COVID-19, and all we can do is wash our hands, wear masks, and stay away from each other. We can’t shoot the virus dead, but we have the right to protect ourselves from those who breach the protective barrier and threaten our safety.
Doesn’t that sound like what religious people who just can’t find the will to stay home are doing? They spread the Word along with the virus, and they assume they have the God-given and Constitutional right to do so. Atheists, agnostics, and intelligent religious people be damned.
First Amendment violation, anyone? Abuse your religious freedom, then see if God shows up on your behalf as a character witness in court. Or, maybe those who put others’ lives at risk should—as felons and domestic abusers do—lose the right that they are abusing.