Religion or Rights,
That Is The Question
I suspect life would be easier for me if I was a believer – a believer of anything. But that is not and has not ever been the case. I was alienated from religion as a small child, observing its divisive nature, and have considered myself blessed to be a free spirit. Rather than believe in anything, what is important to me is what I know. I live by what I know and devote my life to embodying what I know.
I have no priest, minister, rabbi, or monk to tell me what is true. I trust my inner wisdom instead. I follow no doctrines, no gospels. I was born in love rather than sin. I’m not headed for hell or any of its townships and when I function in any way that is lesser than I am able, I forgive myself because I am the only one who can.
As for God, that force is ever present and we are the collective manifestation of that power. Each of us is a cell in the body of what religions call God. Both good and evil, the ever present polarities, are of light, are of the God-force. This, I know.
Religion Offends Me
I’ve been around the block a few times, as the expression goes, and I know that it is sometimes dangerous to talk about religion, especially if I am planning on taking it to task. It’s too easy to offend people who are believers and who hold their religion dear. Therefore, I am always respectful, and often even careful in choosing my remarks. I wonder, however, speaking of offending people, what to do when religion offends me! That is what I wish to address here.
Marriage is the big topic of the day and religion is interfering with civil rights, big time. Every time there is an issue, believers of every stripe drag out their bibles and holy books to defend their stances of exclusivity. This time they say “God” has determined that marriage is reserved for a man and a woman. They quote passage and verse (carefully selected while completely bypassing other passages they do not uphold) and they cry that THE FAMILY will collapse if same-sex couples are permitted to partake of the institution of marriage.
Their concern is not for those who wish to unite, those who are discriminated against, those who are being denied basic rights. Their concern is for themselves and for the narrow reality in which they live. And these religious and moral people have on their side none other than Bill Clinton who, as President (according to my newspaper) in 1996, signed a federal law designating marriage as between a man and a woman.
The objections to same-sex marriage are strongly shouted on a daily basis. One would think the entire society would crumble if this was allowed. The objectors are the children of ancestors who, in the 1800’s supported a United States law that denied marriage to any people of color! Now, of course, people of color are allowed to marry and lo, the nation didn’t come to an end as a result.
And did you know that it wasn’t until 1967 (I was already 28 years of age) that mixed color marriages were permitted in this great and progressive country of ours. I haven’t done the research but I suspect that in both cases it was people of religion who so restricted people of color through their influence on lawmakers. Has the family fallen apart because people of color can now marry? I think not. The spouses love each other and their mixed color children love their parents and life goes on.
There has, as we all know, been an increase of divorce in any color marriage and any mix. The family is falling apart all by itself, not because people of color could marry or could marry other colors, or lack of colors. Is this beginning to sound absurd to you? I hope so because that is how absurd it sounds to me when those on their righteous horses ride all over the lives of other citizens.
Reason Will Intervene
The day will come when this fracas will be behind us. The federal law limiting marriage to a man and a woman will change and our constitution will not be amended even though championed by our born-again President. And the reason is Reason. Reason will have to intervene because civil rights are being denied and that is unconstitutional. Even if same-sex couples gave up wanting marriage and went instead for civil unions, if they had to be “married” to get the same benefits awarded to man-woman marriages, they would be denied their rights.
I wrote about all of this once before and spoke about medical benefits, hospital visitation, making medical choices for partners, inheritance, and joint ownership complications, etc.
Mariamne and I have been together for over 32 years. We never had any intentions of “getting married” or “joining in a civil union.” To protect our interests we set up two trusts (you can’t have a joint trust unless you are a legal couple) so that we could be there for each other in all the ways necessary, and we felt covered. But as the Gay/Lesbian same-sex uproar has continued, we have, thanks to their efforts, discovered two other very significant areas where we, as two who have made a life together, are incredibly discriminated against.
In man-woman marriages, when one partner dies the other is allowed to collect the partner’s Social Security instead of their own if the partner’s is higher. Were civil union available and the two of us decided to do it for expediency in all areas, this distribution would not be available to us as two women. When Mari starts collecting her own Social Security (she collects her former husband’s now), she will earn about $500 more than I receive. That is $6,000 a year which, to us, represents a significant amount of money. It pays for groceries for two for a year.
Secondly, in man-woman marriages, when one partner dies and the other inherits 401K retirement funds, the inheritor is allowed to draw the money in the same small percentages as the one would have who held the funds. This helps tremendously with taxes. Without benefit of “marriage” as defined by Bill Clinton’s federal law, if I died before Mariamne, she would be required to draw my entire 401K, which is a substantial, all at one time and she would have to pay taxes on it all at once, thus losing about half of it.
When I discovered these two facts, I hit the roof. I am being denied my civil rights and discriminated against and treated unequally because religion rules our nation rather than justice.
Church Interfering With State
As if all this isn’t enough, we now have the Catholic Bishop of Colorado Springs, Michael Sheridan, telling Catholics for whom they can vote. He is not just pitching his preference, he is threatening Catholics with hell if they vote for candidates who support such things as abortion. He proclaims that they will not be able to receive communion. If this is not church interfering with state I don’t know what is.
But this is not new. The history of the Catholic Church is one of church-state intervention. The suppressive tactics of the Catholic Church date back to its beginnings. It is a history of inquisitions, of papal bulls (1555, Paul IV, Cum Nimis Absurdum) which proclaimed that “God had condemned Jews to eternal slavery because of their guilt,” and thereby denied them the right to own real estate, to attend Christian universities, and forced them to live on a single street or segregated quarter with only one entrance, and ordered them to wear distinctive clothing and badges [from Constantine’s Sword: The Church and The Jews, by James Carroll]. “…The ghetto which came into being in 1555 with a papal bull, became in Nazi Germany the antechamber of the extermination.” [Cardinal Edward Cassidy, 1998].
The Catholic Church proclaims there is a vast difference between good and evil. It has practically designated itself as the gatekeeper of “heaven.” Yet, politically, it seems to side more with those they would say are going to hell. By 1937 Cardinal Michael Faulhaber of Munich was declaring concordance between Hitler and the Nazis and the Catholic Church, which he called the greatest moral power on earth. “Thus,” writes James Carroll, “right at the outset of the Nazi regime, and after its savage anti-Jewish intentions were indicated, the Catholic Church at it highest level sent a signal both to Hitler and to the German Catholic Church that the Jews, ’facing a wretched fate,’ were on their own.” As if this is not enough, early, in 1929, the Vatican achieved rapprochement with fascist Italy.
With this very brief sampling of its history, the Catholic Church today seeks to control how Catholics will vote in a free election in a democracy and the current Pope proclaims that “Christian marriage is between a man and a woman,” and all manner of scientific advances are called into question as not-of-God.
And that’s just the Catholic Church. What about all the other denominations of all the other religions that go beyond telling their parishioners what to believe and what to do to telling the whole country what is right and what is wrong, seeking to force their beliefs on everyone.
In June of 2004 the President of the United States asked the Pope in Rome to encourage his bishops and cardinals in the United States to speak out more publicly about issues such as abortion. Hey! I’m offended!
If people want to believe, I say, yes. Believe whatever you want. But believe it for you and leave the rest of us alone. You live in our country, we don’t live in your religion. Your religion is free to exist in our country; our country is not a slave to your religion.