I have always wondered why people's IQ's drop the minute somebody takes out a book and claims: "God says..." and "God hates..."
I mean, HOW does ANYBODY know? How can anybody CLAIM to know? How can THEY claim to know? And yet they stake their own and other people's lives on this magical certainty... They judge and condemn other people (who generally are just minding their own business) out of some warm fuzzy feeling and go forth to beat them over the head with it like a weapon.
What it comes down to is this: Organized religion was and always will be about POWER and CONTROL.
In my time as a human rights activist have found it near impossible to engage persecutors without involving religion for the following reasons:
1) Most of the hate/persecution directed at GLBT comes from a religious perspective (ie, it is already a religious argument to begin with.)
2) Persecutors invariably resort to religious rhetoric to justify their hateful actions (and one cannot stand up to their attacks without having to counter their biblicly inspired hatred or intolerance or both.)
This proves my point - these people just use God as a justification for their persecution - and people too ignorant to know better simply agree and follow them.
The Bible is very vague in many areas - especially in matters of sexuality and gender. Let us take the subject of eunuchs as an example - modern interpretation of the word 'eunuch' is as the ancient equivalent of gay and transgender people. We know ancient Hebrew and Greek did not have an equivalent word for gay or homosexuality or transgender. In some areas the bible contradicts itself royally on eunuchs - condemning eunuchs to death for example in a few verses - while praising and affirming them in others. This incongruency leads to misinterpretation and also free interpretation, leading to persecution on shaky foundations. Selective reading is also one root of persection - as these people clearly do not have the whole picture. While we are on that subject, WHO DOES? Not even a priest or a minister can have all the answers or completely comprehend it all. I mean, you might as well ask them for the meaning of life, the universe and everything - and expect them to actually answer it with anything other than the symbolic equivalent of "42"!
The simple truth is, that THEY don't really know much about God either - they are just afraid to admit it.
Because of this simple realization, I can partly agree with the traditional Catholic concept that ordinary folk cannot and should not try to understand and interpret the Bible - because they inevitibly get it all wrong - just as they do. Even the pope screws up (very noticibly) on a regular basis and embarasses his entire legion of blindly loyal followers. However, the original 'Church fathers' (note PATRIARCHY) intended this for the purposes of control, with medieval folk not having been literate and also not being able to speak or read Latin - and thus incapable of arguing with the Church or resisting their control or their claim to it. This began about 200 years after the death of Christ, with the compilation of the hundred or more seperate books of the Bible we know today into one book. Many books were left out altogether, for a start - and thereafter this ONE BOOK was forced down on all known churches, giving rise to what was thereafter the Roman Catholic Church. The printing press was only invented in late medieval times, so most Bibles were copied by hand and thus quite rare.
Even when people first started trying to translate the bible into English they were persecuted by the Catholic Church - because while working with the original Hebrew and Greek texts, they discovered the inaccuracies, mistranslations and blatant changes in the Latin Vulgate. No wonder they were murdered to silence them. Since the Reformation we think things changed for the better - but this is not so. Even today there is a vocal movement to oppose the correction of the abundance of errors in translation and censorship prevalent in the modern Bible by "Protestant" church groups - particularly in the USA, where the majority of today's Bibles are produced. In some strange sense these groups view and champion the modern corrupted versions as the "true inerrant word of God" - and stifle attempts to market and distribute versions which reflect the correctness of the original texts. How weird is that? Perhaps this is because the newer versions condemn gay people and turn women into virtual slaves not even entitled to own property or act as independent entities - wheras the original versions DO NOT. Let me use this example to emphasize once again that organized religion is, was and always will be about CONTROL.
However, I feel that if you are religious, you should always learn as much as you can about what you are getting yourself into - and make sure you are not being conned into something - or out of something as the case may be.
This is one reason why religion must be kept out of the State - and especially out of the SA Constitution, because the moment we mix religion and politics, it affects everything from the legal system to civil rights - who makes laws and who is a criminal, who should have civil rights - and who should not.
Only a secular state with secular laws can give all people - and all their beliefs - equal protection and dignity. To my mind any relgion opposing this does not like the idea of being merely equal, but seeks to institute a theocracy.
Curiously enough, there are several parties in SA running for this next election who oppose secularism and by their own words and policies clearly intend on building their own religions into the Constitution and the State - and funny enough to also change a few key laws here and there in order to strip certain portions of the population of their civil rights and settle a few grudges in the process.
Nobody is stopping Christians, Jews or Muslims etc to believe what they like, to run their affairs as they see fit - but when one group decides to act against another it becomes a problem. How would these Christian fundamentalist folk like it if a Hindu or Muslim Party came to power and changed the law and constitution to suit themselves? I am sure they would object pretty darn quick if they put "In humble submission to almighty Allah" in the Consititution and instituted Muslim prayers at schools for their children and forced all men to grow beards and women to wear hijab? In fact I'm pretty sure they would long for the good old protections and guarantees of equality under a secular state!
I find it rather odd that some folk who attack people's sexuality often misquote and use scriptures out of their original context in order to do so - and then criticize other people for doing the exact opposite. (i.e. using them by placing them IN context to dispell misconceptions about certain matters.)
I find it curious that people can place a document written by unknown people thousands of years before their birth, changed and edited by many others to suit their own purposes, mistranslated and even censored in the distant past, which talks about a God they have never heard nor seen - above common sense, logic and compassion - and then also follow it blindly and literally word for word and use it as a tool to hate and persecute other people.
It is simply staggering.