Religion and Politics

It’s always sad to see a country sliding back from Science, Justice and Democracy, towards Religion, Corruption and Kleptocracy. Russia made that rapid turn when reforms failed in the aftermath of the Soviet Union; the US began that slow turn under Ronald Reagan, leading to the corruption of Donald Trump and the packing of the Supreme Court with justices hostile to the will of the American public.

The huge irony with the “religious right” taking away the right to abortion in the US after 50 years is that it is unjustified by the Bible that they are always quoting. Life, in the Bible, begins with the first breath. Abortion is used by priests as a test of marriage infidelity (Numbers 5:11–28). Jesus makes no mention of abortion other than to implicitly agree with the above passage, in saying that not one word of the Old Testament Law can be changed. (Because Jesus was a fundamentalist Jew, not a Christian, of course.)

The “cafeteria Christians“, on the other hand, decide that “Thou shalt not kill” applies to the unborn (ignoring the fact that priests are told in the Bible to cause an abortion when appropriate, and how to do it), while deciding to ignore a host of things that are termed “an abomination”, including:

Crucifixes… Deuteronomy 27:15 – “‘Cursed be the man who makes a carved or cast metal image, an abomination to the Lord, a thing made by the hands of a craftsman, and sets it up in secret.’ And all the people shall answer and say, ‘Amen.’

Bacon… Isaiah 66:17 – “Those who sanctify and purify themselves to go into the gardens, following one in the midst, eating pig’s flesh and the abomination and mice, shall come to an end together, declares the Lord.”

Statues of saints… Deuteronomy 29:17 – “And you have seen their detestable things, their idols of wood and stone, of silver and gold, which were among them.”

Shrimp and lobster… Leviticus 11:10-13 – “But anything in the seas or the rivers that has not fins and scales, of the swarming creatures in the waters and of the living creatures that are in the waters, is detestable to you. You shall regard them as detestable; you shall not eat any of their flesh, and you shall detest their carcasses. Everything in the waters that has not fins and scales is detestable to you.

Clothing of mixed fabrics… Leviticus 19:19 – “Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.”

Tattoos… Leviticus 19:28 – “And a cutting for the dead you will not make in your flesh, and writing marks you will not make on you; I am the Lord.”

All Christians are “Cafeteria Christians”, because Paul, abandoning strict Judaism in the name of a “new testament”, commands them to do things that Jesus implicitly forbids.

The US Supreme Court would be better off without any Christians on it, and a full separation of Church and State.

Poem by Marcus Bales: ‘Perhaps’

When Christians started out they had to find a place to hide,
For Romans were not pleasant to the Christians found outside;
They taxed the Christian buildings, and their jokes were rather snide
About the rude productions when the Passion Plays were plied.
But Christians turned the other cheek and counted up to ten —
Perhaps we ought to persecute the Christians once again.

The Romans built in marble and they carved in alabaster,
The Christians built in wood and lath, and covered it in plaster.
The Romans mocked inversion of the humble with the master,
And laughed at how the Christians stole their Christ from Zoroaster.
But through it all the Christians acted virtuously then —
Perhaps we ought to persecute the Christians once again.

But once the Christians got on top they went on the attack,
So long abused they thought they’d do their own abusing back.
Mean-spirited and mean, it’s Christian charity they lack,
And ever since they’ve warped their woof by talking trash and smack,
They’ve sought out cheats and pedophiles to be their clergymen.
Perhaps we ought to persecute the Christians once again.

L’envoi
The worse the Christians have it, why, the better they behave:
They’re rotten as the boss, but they are brilliant as the slave.
They ought to be reminded of their teachings now and then;
Perhaps we ought to persecute the Christians once again.

*****

Marcus Bales is one of the leading formalist poets writing today – he is a master of poetic form, from parodies of Kipling and Poe to the creation of his purely original work as in ‘Perhaps’. His collection “51 Poems” is available from Amazon.

Credit: The inside of a jail of the Spanish Inquisition, with a priest supervising his scribe while men and women are suspended from pulleys, tortured on the rack or burnt with torches. Etching.
Wellcome Collection.

The Bible says abortion is OK

Jesus never mentioned abortion, and the Bible never condemns it. That’s because according to the Bible, life doesn’t begin until the first breath is taken (Genesis 2:7).

Causing a pregnant woman to miscarry so that she loses the child is not considered an injury (Exodus 21:22-25).

If a pregnant woman is accused of adultery, the recommended way to seek proof is for a priest to abort the fetus (Numbers 5:11-31).

And God is constantly threatening to kill unborn fetuses (2 Kings 8:12, 2 Kings 15:16, Isaiah 13:18, Hosea 9:10-16, Hosea 13:16).

This puts anti-abortion activists in the same category as fundamentalists who wear clothing of mixed fibers, or eat shrimp, or eat bacon, or plant different types of seed in the same field, or a man who fails to marry his brother’s widow (and the Bible allows polygamy). They are all hypocritical, irreligious “cafeteria Christians”, picking and choosing what to accept and what to ignore.

Anti-abortion activists are anti-Bible. Life begins with the first breath. American “fundamentalists”, so-called Christians who don’t know what is in the Bible that they claim is God’s unchanging word, are linked to the Republican Party whose symbol, an elephant, can be appropriately modeled with a coat hanger…

Social Warfare and Religious Genocide

From Gombe’s chimps to interstellar space
We will have war. Sanctioned by the Divine,
Moses first led the Jews to Palestine
Telling his tribesmen not just to displace
But to kill all, and wipe out without trace
Each adult, child, animal, tree, vine.
Genocide’s justified, cleansed ethics fine,
To get resources for your tribe and race.

Believers justify war’s bloody courses:
We’re right, they’re wrong, so therefore they’re to blame.
Conquer through war to grab and keep resources,
Aztecs or Spaniards, everyone’s the same –
Victory to the best guns, swords or horses,
And put defeated scriptures in the flame.

I’m pessimistic about the chances of humans being able to stop warfare. It seems built into the nature of social creatures – when you define your group, you are defining everyone else as not in your group. Then, when it’s a question of who gets limited resources, groups compete and the most ruthless groups tend to do the best.

The sonnet highlights one of my personal religious irritations, that people can walk into a neighbouring territory, wipe out the inhabitants, and create a justifying fairytale of how the destroyers are the persecuted victims. Think of the Pilgrims and other British immigrants in America… think of the Jewish tribes coming into the Promised Land: when they captured a city outside the core area,

“when the Lord thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword:
But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the Lord thy God hath given thee.” (Deuteronomy 20:13-14)

But when they captured a city in the heart of the Promised Land,

“of the cities of these people, which the Lord thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth:
But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee:
That they teach you not to do after all their abominations.” (Deuteronomy 20:16-18)

It is hard to see a future without warfare, when even the most revered “holy books” teach genocide and justify it as doing God’s will.

Burqa Pride Confusion

Burqa Pride

Burqa Pride???

The Dutch have managed to create a political statement that is confusing everyone on both the right and the left. A Labour party councillor in Amsterdam dressed up in a yellow niqab for recent LGBTQ Pride celebrations, because the Dutch government has banned face-covering garments in government buildings and on public transport.

Burqas and niqabs are not required in the Quran, but they are symptomatic of the repressed role of women in old-fashioned versions of Islam (and Judaism, and Christianity). The freedom to do whatever you like because of your religious misapprehensions is a dangerous position to support; it leads to all kinds of antisocial behaviour, including genocide, female genital mutilation, and waving a live chicken over your head to cure disease.

But Jesus, being gay and an otherwise fundamentalist Jew, would probably have approved…

 

Anti-Gay Referendum in Romania Fails

Religious groups are often (usually? nearly always?) behind homophobic legislation and similar initiatives. They certainly were in Romania’s referendum this weekend, which was intended to exclude same-sex couples from the definition of marriage. Despite poll forecasts of 90% support for the initiative, and the support of the powerful Orthodox church, and the unusual step by the government of extending the vote to two days instead of one… it failed.

Image result for www.bbc.com romania referendum

A combination of a boycott by gay rights groups, plus general anti-government feeling (the ruling Social Democrats had strongly supported the referendum; their leader, Liviu Dragnea, was due in court this week to appeal against a jail sentence of 3½ years for his involvement in a fake jobs scandal), plus apathy, kept the turnout to 20.4% – and 30% turnout was required for any result to be valid.

(However, in practice not much will change: Romania does not recognize gay marriage or civil unions.)

The religious rejection of gay marriage amuses me because two of the most revered figures in the monotheistic world had gay relationships: King David, whose love for Jonathan “was beyond the love of women”, and the unmarried Jesus, whose youngest disciple John was “the disciple whom Jesus loved”, i.e. in a category fundamentally different from his love for the other disciples.

jesus-with-sinners

But I guess there has always been an underground awareness of this…

Pity the Suicide Bomber

Suicide bomber

Pity the suicide bomber
Who will never see Heaven
Neither the Heaven of lover and spouse, children, grandchildren,
The Heaven of here and now, of sunrises, sunsets,
Nor the Heaven of Afterlife, if it exists.
Bitter, despairing, the suicide bomber consigns herself to hell.

Pity the coward who shoots up the outdoor cafe,
Who has no combat skills,
No worthy adversary,
No genuine enemy,
But kills only the unarmed, defenceless and innocent.
Confused and deluded, used and betrayed, he consigns himself to hell.

But have no pity for the preachers of hate,
The preachers in churches and mosques,
The preachers in Parliament and Congress,
The preachers on TV and talk radio,
The preachers of hate who profit from fear,
The preachers of death who profit from strife,
The preachers of war who don’t go to war,
The dog-shit on the walk of life.

Published online in Rat’s Ass Review – Such an Ugly Time, April 2017

David and Jonathan… Jesus and John…

Hey North Carolina! (My home for 20 years, if Chapel Hill counts as part of NC…)

David and Jonathan... Jesus and John...

David and Jonathan… Jesus and John…

What about the love between David and Jonathan, “surpassing the love of women”? God still made David King of Israel, didn’t he?

What about the unmarried Jesus (not kosher for a rabbi), and John “the disciple whom Jesus loved”? Didn’t Jesus love the other disciples? But just not in the same way, right?

So you can be gay and have pride of place in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, get it?

Repeal Amendment One, for the love of God!

God *requires* abortions and sterilization for infidelity. (Applies to females only)

The Book of Numbers, chapter 5 verse 11, starts a section out with the inescapable fact that this passage is not just some prophet or opinionated preacher or whatever, this is GOD speaking: “Then the LORD said to Moses:”

God laying down the Law. It tends to favor men over women. Because Moses made God in his own image.

Numbers 5: 12-19 sets the stage: if a man knows or suspects that his wife has been sleeping with someone else, then he has to take her to the priest with a “grain offering of jealousy”. The priest takes the woman to “stand before the LORD”. He unloosens her hair. He puts the jealousy offering of grain into her hands. He takes some “holy water”, and sprinkles into it some dust from the temple floor. Then he puts her under oath and says “If you’re innocent, may this bitter water not harm you.”

But if she is guilty, it is God’s command that the priest ask God to curse her and cause her to have an abortion and have her uterus collapse, as a warning to others and as a way of making sure that the husband is only raising his own children.

Numbers 5: 20-22 (from the GOD’S WORD translation, 1995)-

20 If, in fact, you have been unfaithful and have had sexual intercourse with another man,

21 may the LORD make you an example for your people to see what happens when the curse of this oath comes true: The LORD will make your uterus drop and your stomach swell.’ “Then the priest will administer the oath and the curse by saying:

22 ‘May this water that can bring a curse go into your body and make your stomach swell and your uterus drop!’ “Then the woman will say, ‘Amen, amen!’

And the priest writes the curse on a scroll, and washes the words off into the bitter “holy water”, and makes the woman drink the water, which is designed to make her abort if she is guilty and to “cause her bitter pain” and to prevent her having any further children;

28 but if the woman is not unclean and is pure, she is not guilty and will be able to have children

… but only by her loving husband, of course.

Gotta love those primitive tribes and their old time religion!