Project Wonderful

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Separation of Church and Hate

I believe in God. It's not just that I'm culturally Jewish nor simply that I think there is some higher universal cosmic force. I unequivocally, balls out, believe in God.

I'm struggling as I write this, not because I am unsure of my faith, but because I believe religion is deeply personal. As a Field Organizer, I always marveled at the voters who refused to tell me whom they were voting for, but sent me off with a "God Bless You" or had Jesus Fish on their cars. In my mind this was irony exemplified. I couldn't care less what they did with their Sunday mornings, whereas their vote actually affected me.

Of all the tenets I hold, my belief in God feels the most controversial.
My favorite comedians always seem to be those who poke fun at religion in a "How-could-you-rationally-believe-that?" sort of way. David Cross and Myq Kaplan come to mind.

I am huge fan of Dan Savage.
I listen to his podcast and read his blog religiously and the thing that makes me squirm is not discussion of felching or sounding, but the way he talks about religion. He even has a segment O They Will Know We Are Christians where he highlights religious personnel who have been caught engaging in extremely amoral acts. This week he and guest co-host Jen McCreight went off on organized religion calling all religion "silliness" and equating leaving a religious community to "escape." (Click to listen.)

Although ninety percent of Americans say they believe in God, the East Coast liberal elite circles in which I travel do not reflect this statistic. The vast majority of my friends are atheist and some are fairly anti-religious. Once I was staying with a friend and was on my way to services when I casually mentioned I would put in a good word for him to which he replied "I will put in a word with the flying spaghetti monster for you." Between the ipso facto leap in logic that it takes to have faith and the anti-gay, anti-sex, anti-woman, anti-decency attitude espoused by many in the name of religion, when I tell people that I believe in God or that I participate in organized religion, I either get an incredulous or disgusted "How can you?"

I hate that the people I love and respect can't love and respect something so important to me, but on the other hand, I don't really blame them.

When somebody tells me s/he's a Republican "because I believe in small government," I basically react the same way. I probably wouldn't vote Republican even if we voted on espoused economic platform alone, but as it is, I can't even stomach the thought. "How," I ask my hypothetical friend, "can you align yourself with a party that encourages ignorance, that wants to treat gays and lesbians as second class citizens, that wants to deny access to sexual education and birth control while making abortion illegal even in cases of rape and incest?" You know what else is famous for these very same things? Organized religion.

There are of course Republicans who don't hate gay people or sex or birth control. And to them I say "Where the hell are you? If you're so concerned about the negative image your party has, why don't you change it? Why don't you vote in primaries against extremists and refuse to support them in general elections?"

I'm a Jew for the same reasons I'm a Democrat. Both groups have a strong belief in advocacy, in alleviating suffering, and in social justice. I'm not recommending it for everyone, but it works for me. But more often when people think of the intersection of religion and politics they think of this.

So, my faithful friends,where the hell are we? As people of faith, Jewish, Christian, etc, alike, it is our responsibility to take back our own communities, and not allow hateful, bigoted people to speak for us. I wrote this post because I want you to know that Michelle Bachmann, Fred Phelps and their ilk don't speak for me.

We need to take action. When a politician comes along and tries some bullshit in the name of religion, we need to stand up and say "that's not my God!" We need to work doubly hard on the side of sanity and we need to write those politicians and tell them that by misrepresenting us, they've lost our votes. We need to hold our religious leaders accountable too. (And it can be done. Just recently Jewish Theological Seminary ordained its first openly lesbian rabbi.)Sure, religion still won't make sense to atheists, but I guarantee when it stops interfering with their sex, work, and love lives, they'll stop caring.

Look forward to updates on where to write and how to get involved on my blog. And in the mean time, Reform Jews, check out the Religious Action Center.

So Jewish I ate a BLT last night,

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