The Cart and the Horse

Amanda Marcotte makes note of a study that indicates religious homophobia is the primary force driving the young out of the church, with 60% quitting religion when they leave home. The claim, she concludes, that morality comes from religion is precisely backwards:

The church needs people in the pews to survive, and while those people are constantly told their role is to submit and obey, if they just decide they don’t want to, the church is shown to be an emperor with no clothes. Thus, religion throughout history has had plenty of takebacks. The churches that used to preach segregation and white supremacy don’t do so anymore, at least as openly. A lot of churches, especially more mainstream ones, are giving up on the argument that women are just support staff, and many are even letting them be ministers and priests. Either they get with the times on gay marriage, or they find their ability to exert power diminish. Since churches are about power, most of them will adjust over time. That’s why they’re freaking out now; they know what’s coming.

While the “common wisdom” is that the church creates and maintains a moral code, the reality is that the chuch adapts the moral code of the majority in order to maintain the largest cohesive flock (for continual fleecing).

Religious doctrine is simply the encoding of popular morality, both the good, doing unto other an’at; and the stone evil, usually sanctifying existing hierarchies. As Amanda observes:

the historical purpose of religion is not to comfort but to control. Religion’s primary function is, if you look at the whole of history, about creating rationales for unjust power hierarchies. Kings have used “god” as their excuse for absolute power, and religion is the primary reason that men in a diverse array of cultures over cite as the reason they should be the lords of their wives and daughters. Even liberal Christians are tied to the long history of power-grabbing through religion, using the language of submission and calling believers a “kingdom”.

As humanity shakes off the various barbaric hierarchies of our past, religion has had to adopt. It gets dragged kicking and screaming into modernity. In the future, of course, religious adherents will highlight the work that some christians somewhere have probably done to advance gay rights and claim that christianity and its message of all encompassing love lead the way to a more perfect equality.

Most of us–the historically literate anyway–will call bullshit. We can cite the nearly infinite counter-examples where red faced douchebags stomped around waving the bible around and screaming about the evils of homosexuality.

Like the myths that the German catholic church opposed Hitler, or that American churches opposed slavery, only believers will, well, believe.

The timing of this article is interesting. Coming, as it does, the day after Barack Obama publicly supported gay marriage. Government is the other stone-aged human superstition that humanity has dragged along through the centuries. Very much like religion, it has always claimed to be a bringer of order in the midst of chaos.

Rest assured that, like future religious hagiographers, future historians will tell a convincing tale of how the government, with its commitment to civil liberties, boldly legislated marital freedom for everyone–in between pacifying the borders and protecting the world from terrorists. We’re hearing the first draft of the story right now. The one your grandkids learn, should they fall into the hands of government schools, will be far more epic.

Which really is the only difference between the chuch and the state in this regard. I’d wager it’s the only reason there are more atheists than anarchists: the state has 15,000 more hours to propagandize children than the church. The state’s stories aren’t remarkably more believable, and a few hours of research on a particular issue will reveal the nature of both church and state as reactionary anchors against human progress.

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