Well, this is one of many reasons really. I wasn’t brought up in any particular religion. My dad is/was an atheist and my mum is very much agnostic though I’m not sure either of them would necessarily use or own the terms. For my last couple of years of high school, I went (by my choice) to a Catholic high school. Around that time and a little bit before and after, I thought about and considered Christianity and if anybody had asked me (they didn’t) I would have said that I believed in god. Like a lot of people I was attracted to certain aspects of organised religion. The belonging to a community aspect and the seeming ‘goodness’ of it all. With school I volunteered at a soup kitchen and that was definitely a positive experience and not something I could ‘knock’ in any way.
And even now, now that I am definitely and unequivocally an atheist, I cannot deny that there are good things done in the name of religion. However, I do believe that all those good things could certainly be done without the religion being involved, are ultimately done by people, and in many cases I even think could, and should, be done better without the religious context.
And I see so many negative and harmful things being done in the name of religion. Not even just the obvious stuff like Muslims flying planes into buildings or Catholic priests molesting children and, even worse, the hierarchy of the church covering it up and doing absolutely nothing to stop it. Of course everyone, well everyone with any sort of conscience, knows that these things are wrong. Even if they try to separate it from the religion itself in order to defend that religion as a positive thing.
This article is the one that has yet again reinforced my thought that religion most certainly causes more harm than good. I originally came across the article due to a twitter posting by Joanna Brooks, who I follow after listening to a Mormon podcast . I originally came across this when searching for podcasts about feminism. That a Mormon podcast would come up in such a search certainly piqued my interest. While all the religious podcasts I had attempted to listen to in the past left me baffled that anyone could take the speakers remotely seriously, and I just couldn’t stand to listen too long, this one actually includes a lot of really interesting conversation and I am currently still subscribed through iTunes. There are times that the religious aspect doesn’t come up for a while and I could almost be listening to one of my other atheist or feminist podcasts. These people are feminists, are generally pro-gay marriage, etc, yet how they reconcile this with their Mormon faith fascinates me. And that they are allowed to have their podcast in the name of the religion provides me with some hope and relief. I am glad there are people such as them on the ‘inside’ speaking up for equality.
But I digress. The point is, that whatever their motives, speaking out so openly and actively against homosexuality and against marriage equality, leads to suicide. Not for everyone, but you say it enough, reinforce it enough, and some of the people who are being slowly broken, will eventually break.
I have always wanted to have an attitude of ‘each to their own’ about religion. But my ‘each to their own’ always has a caveat of ‘providing it doesn’t hurt anybody else’. Well, this stuff fails the test. In the aforementioned Joanna Brooks’ book, The Book of Mormon Girl, she mentions that during the Prop 8 fight in California, where the Mormon Church raised $82million for the yes vote (against gay marriage), there was at least one Mormon gay suicide. As Joanna herself said in her aforementioned tweet, one suicide is too many. Incidentally, Joanna, according to her book, worked on the No on 8 campaign.
I don’t want kids who have been taught in church that homosexuality is unnatural and wrong to be in the schools where there are guaranteed to be kids who are gay. Notwithstanding that there will also be kids within these churches who are gay and that must just be so soul destroying for them. When gay kids are teased and ostracized and bullied at school, where do the bullies get these ideas from? They’re not getting them from the non-religious families I know who bring their kids up to believe in and understand equality. I truly hope that there are more and more kids who are told brought up knowing that everybody is truly equal and that all love is good and that whoever you love is okay and healthy. I really hope that these kids are in big enough numbers and confident enough to stand up for some other kid who is feeling ostracised for being who they are. But this is not what the churches are teaching. Every single time someone tells their kids, their parishioners, etc that homosexuality is ‘an abomination’, unnatural, wrong, etc, that contributes to a society where kids, and let’s face it (see above) adults, feel like it’s not okay to be themselves. And this is not acceptable.
As a mother, the thought of my kid ever being told that who he is is wrong is just heartbreaking, whoever it is he turns out to be. At the moment, the marriage equality question is being addressed by our government here in Australia. Some people here like to think that we don’t have the religious extremists here that ‘they have’ in the US. But we have bishops around the country this weekend encouraging all the Catholic parishioners to speak out against marriage equality. We have had a van spreading the message of hate around Queensland prior to their state election last weekend. The major religions are out their fighting against marriage equality with everything they have. None of their messages are based in actual fact. And the perpetuation of these messages can and absolutely will contribute to young individuals feeling worse about who they are and this, this is absolutely, unequivocally unacceptable.
Allowing marriage equality is absolutely not going to destroy society as we know it or destroy families. I look at all the places around the world where they currently *have* marriage equality, and they are all better off for it. What kind of society to you want your child to grow up in? I want mine to grow up in a society where all love is cherished and considered equal. Where all people are considered equal. Where people are not judged for who they are but for what they do. And please, if you live in Australia, and you’re reading this before April 20, 2012, and you haven’t already done so, complete this survey. You can guarantee the churches are out there in their numbers pushing their message and we need to remind the politicians that the majority of Australians (and even the majority of Christians – this is a FACT) support and want marriage equality. Why people continue to support religions that are against their core morals and values is a post for another day however.