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It’s time to make extreme religion a campaign issue

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There are religions, and then there are religions; some are better than others. But the religious writer, Abiya Ahmed, a Muslim, isn’t troubled by this obvious distinction. In her opinion piece, “We mustn’t forget value of religious people in society,” which was published locally over the weekend, she argues that the great thing about religion is that it enables Americans to be more tolerant of each other. “This is because most religions have a social justice and service mission that serious adherents take, well, seriously.”

Okay, I get her point, insofar as she’s talking about all those religious missions that help the poor, the homeless, the hungry, and so on, which is, after all, a nice part of organized religion. What I’m talking about here is the not nice part, which I’ll get to in a moment.

There’s a serious flaw in Ahmed’s theory, of which she is disingenuously unaware, and it’s this: we have, here in America, some religions that are very far from being tolerant—religions that, in fact, exist to promote distilled intolerance in its most divisive form. Her own Islam is virulently homophobic, as are the Roman Catholic Church, evangelical and Pentecostal Christianity, and Orthodox Judaism. No matter how much time and money these religions contribute to charitable causes, they have discredited themselves and their followers by effectively declaring that nearly ten million Americans—those who identify as LGBTQ—are irredeemable, “morally disordered,” sick, not entitled to their inalienable rights, and, according to the most extreme and hateful of their preachers, deserving of imprisonment or death.

Ahmed is aware of this glaring contradiction: she asks a rhetorical question. “But doesn’t a fervent belief in one’s own religious truth make one hostile to others who believe differently or don’t believe at all?” She answers her own question: “Not necessarily, because being religious often entails being tolerant.”

Really? What planet does Ahmed live on? Has she been listening to rightwing religious bigots for the last forty years? From Jerry Falwell to Franklin Graham, from Pope Francis (who still insists homosexuality is disordered, and that transgendered people have no rights) to the allegedly “Christian” President of the United States, and from the ultra-Orthodox Jews whom Jared Kushner represents, LGBTQ rights are under assault by religionists as they haven’t been in decades.

Ahmed’s reasoning is so sloppy as to stun anyone who’s open-minded and attends to history. She recognizes that “violence [is] committed in the name of religions”—indeed, given that every day brings news of attacks on LGBTQ people, she has to admit the obvious—but she dismisses it as a “human tendency, not necessarily a religious one.”

This is a WTF moment. Ahmed is trying to convince us that the homophobic rhetoric that routinely spouts from the pulpits of rightwing religions has nothing to do with attacks upon and murders of LGBTQ people and attempts to take away their civil rights. No, she claims, attacks on gays represent a “human tendency.” When the insidious Franklin Graham—still scamming his flock, as his father did before him, as virtually all evangelical leaders do—says “LGBT agenda wants to force everyone to accept and condone their lifestyle which God’s Word defines as sin…LGBT activists are trying to hook their caboose to the freedom train and drag an immoral agenda into our communities..people of North Carolina will be exposed to pedophiles and sexually perverted men in women’s public restrooms” due to laws for gender-neutral facilities…Ahmed would have us believe that these horrifying words have no impact on unstable, violent young men.

Please. This is unadulterated drivel from Ahmed. It’s complete nonsense, a lie, a rationalization from someone trying to let her religion (and others) off the hook for hate speech and incitement to violence. As I’ve said often, extreme religions are one of the gravest threats to American liberty and freedom, if not the gravest threat. This truth must be spoken. These cults (for that is what they are) cloak their hatred of gay people (and of other groups) under a mask of religiosity. They’re about as religious as Hitler and the Nazis who proclaimed that God wanted Germany to be racially pure. Believe them not!

The bottom line is that America was founded in order to get away from the heavy, dead hand of religious extremism. But the sad historical fact is that these Talibanesque theocrats have never stopped fighting against our Founding Fathers and the secular-humanist Constitution they wrote. And they never will. They cannot be reasoned with, for their peculiar ideologies don’t allow for reason and common sense, but only unwavering belief in the inerrant word of the Bible’s fairy tales. These people can only be beaten—and extreme religion should become a major issue in the 2020 presidential campaign.

  1. Bob Rossi says:

    ” extreme religions are one of the gravest threats to American liberty and freedom”
    And have been a major threat for thousands of years.

  2. It’s sad that something in the human psyche, unable to cope with the uncertainties of existence, has to turn to superstition and make-believe in order to find peace of mind. It’s even sadder that many of these so-called religions are so intolerant and hateful of other human beings. Like John Lennon sang, “Imagine there’s no heaven, It’s easy if you try, No hell below us, Above us only sky…”.

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