Monday, September 29, 2008

Martin the Mean

I've come to a place where I don't care much for religion -- in my life at least. That statement might lead people to think that I no longer have a sense of morality or a guide for knowing right and wrong.

Many people think that a person cannot know right from wrong without having God or scripture as a guide.

I beg to differ.

I'm not saying that religion is always bad.

Take Martin Luther King, Jr., for example. He was a clergyman and used his religious (and yes, Christian) perspective to generate leverage against racial discrimination. King also drew from non-Christian figures such as H. D. Thoreau and Gandhi when he masterfully employed the tactics of civil disobedience and non-violent protest. But, King was clearly Christian and his great oratory skills seemed most powerful in a church setting. He used his hope and faith in God and the promise of a better future to inspire and encourage people of color to press forward in the journey for civil rights.

In this case, I'd say religion was a good thing and played a good role in a man's life and in a most important movement within American history.

I also want to say that I consider Martin Luther King, Jr. a great hero and I have great respect for him and his lasting accomplishments.

People have claimed that he kept a dirty little secret, though. He had problems with other women. He had at least one marital affair against his wife, Coretta Scott King. The FBI kept King under surveillance during his leadership of the civil rights movement because they wanted to pin him down as a communist. They couldn't do it . . . but in the process they did get some hard evidence of his adulterous activity.

And King also smoked cigarettes.

(Hey, smoking is a big deal to super conservative Christians. Not to mention, it's bad for your health.)

Nonetheless, none of these flaws keep me from seeing King as a great man. I can overlook these issues for the greater good -- he gave his life for a cause that desperately needed to be realized within the United States. I greatly admire him for that -- flaws and all.

So, like I said . . . religion isn't always bad.

Oh, but when religion does get bad . . . you can't tell the clergy from the devil.

Or, Hitler.

People want to say that Atheism only leads a person to become evil.

Again . . . I beg to differ.

Let's discuss a different Martin -- Martin Luther.

Even after my detachment from my own religious beliefs, I had admiration and respect for Martin Luther. I saw him as a great man who challenged the status quo and won a measure of freedom of religious expression and tolerance for people. He greatly shaped Western Christianity and is among the most influential clergy of all time.

I lost a lot of respect for him . . . and for the notion that religion creates only good in the world, when I learned that Martin Luther has a little secret, too.

But, King's secret is total innocence compared to Martin Luther's secret.

Martin Luther was the father of a wave of antisemitism that rippled so far into the future that ultimately Hitler was inspired by it! Hitler began his assault against the Jewish people in Germany on Martin Luther's birthday!

Martin Luther wanted to convert Jews to Christianity so much that he became embittered at their resistance! He ended up writing a treaties entitled On the Jews and Their Lies.

Luther gets really nasty. But, these ideas aren't just words he writes in a book . . . they turn into action. Luther becomes so angry with the Jewish people for rejecting Christ that he advocates their murder. He preaches it and terrorizes Jews in his community. Martin Luther's words and actions were the prototype to the Holocaust.

I'll be honest . . . I'm not one to think the Jews are God's chosen people and that they deserve special privilege. The political stage of the United States sometimes seems to lean this way.

(I suspect due to Christian influence. Christianity doesn't always turn into antisemitism. Sometimes Christian beliefs put the Jewish community in extremely high regard).

However, no people deserve to be brutally treated as someone tries to erase them from existence through genocide.

Religion can induce that sort of violence.

Many people fear mentioning that they are atheist because certain religious types feel they have a right to show some sort of divine retribution and take God's wrath into their own hands.

God needs your help to cleanse the earth of unbelievers?!

What kind of god do you serve?

First . . . why does he need your help? Second, why does he still insist on smudging people off the face of the earth anyway if he is so "merciful" and "kind"?

What if Thor commanded his followers to slay all Christians?

Don't like the sound of that, huh?

I must admit . . . the Lutheran church acknowledges the statements of Martin Luther and denounce them openly. I'm glad to hear that.

But, that doesn't change the fact that Martin Luther was an evil man . . . made evil by his fervent intolerance towards those "thieves and robbers who daily eat no morsel and wear no thread of clothing which they have not stolen and pilfered from us by means of their accursed usury".

"Martin the Mean".

Bah!

Martin the dirty, rotten miscreant!

So, are we justified in purging the earth of Lutherans now?

You see?

Mindless and fervent religious belief can get really nasty, really quick.
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