What message are we receiving when religious leaders consciously undermine and criticize human rights protections and equality laws?
This question presented itself to me when I read of the Pope's planned visit to the UK - upon which he has immediately criticized existing UK laws which protect the lives, equality, humanity and dignity of certain groups of people as violating "natural law" and is viewed as an attack on the legal rights granted to women and gay people. It is a de facto defence of faith-based discrimination. Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has said that Benedict "objects to the fact that religious institutions in the UK can no longer lawfully discriminate at will on the grounds of gender and sexual orientation".
Are we to understand that the Pope feels that women, gay and transgender people should not have rights at all?
Does this example not attempt to completely redefine what it means to be Christian, godly, civilized or human? Does it not paint religion with a fresh coat of hypocrisy, tears and bloodshed?
Does this man feel that having such equalities is "unnatural"? Perhaps they are, but humans are far removed from the stone-age societal structures of the great apes - at least, I thought they were. Is homo sapiens not above this level of paternalism and primitive thinking? And yet, even the great apes do not engage in enforcing persecution. Even those we consider animals do not behave as badly as humans do to each other - and humans look down upon them?
Are we to believe that he thinks persecution and prejudice are in line with "the order of nature"? Is bigotry and oppression and injustice more "natural" than love - which is the one constant in a book they call the Word of God? As the head of the Roman Catholic Church, a rather sizable body - and as a supposed representative of Almighty God on Earth, be it self-appointed or no - does he think his narrow-minded, simplistic views match those of a God that created us all - including those same gay and transgender people? Does it not call into question the will of this God for creating people as He or She sees fit? Is he not in effect accusing the Potter of having a limp wrist?
Do his words not encourage those who hate easily and act rashly without thought or care? Do his sentiments not pour fuel onto the fires of bigotry and injustice? Does his influence not amount to spiritual violence?
One would think that such a man with such a burden of responsibility - and for responsible behavior - would act less recklessly. One would think he would try to measure up to the expectations set to him - by his fans and by the all-inclusive loving God whom he claims to represent.
This form of hypocrisy is not limited to the Pope - high ranking officials in various churches around the world are equally guilty - and few more so than those in Uganda, where they have been protesting in the streets of Kampala to have gay people executed for the "crime" of being born gay. In the USA for example, some religious figures have been showing support to the proposed law in Uganda which will further ruin the lives of millions of people whom they simply choose not to like.
I find it maddeningly ironic when these people claim that how people are born is a "sinful lifestyle choice" when their own behavior is far more indicative and symptomatic of such a state.
All this hatred, intolerance and marked hypocrisy tell me a few important things about some people who claim to follow God - and about the organized religion and the people that lead them. Chiefly of these things is the realization that it is far more honest or noble to be inhuman than human, to be agnostic or even atheist than to be one of "the faithful". That it is far better to be counted "out" than "in" - and far worse to be without sin than without conscience.