Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Start Your Own Church!

If you disagree with the teachings of your religion - find a new one.   Can't find one?  Start your own!  How do you think all the world's religions were created in the first place?

In the news another article about the Catholic church. This time around, two teachers were fired or asked to resign when they got gay-married. Students were outraged!  Parents were up in arms!   This was totally unexpected from the Catholic church!  After all, it goes against the very teachings of the church!

Oh wait.

Yea, that's right.  The Catholic church is what it is, and even the Pope can't change it much.   The latest Pope has tried to make noises about liberalizing the church and is getting a lot of push-back.  He was all set to allow for some priests to marry, when the retired Nazi Pope weighed in, and well, that was the end of that sort of talk!

The last time the church tried to liberalize, was Vatican II, which introduced such radical changes as saying mass in English.   And yet, even those minor changes faced a lot of headwinds and continue to do so, even today.   There are many on the far-right of the Church who would like to see all of Vatican II go in the dumpster.

So, as a Catholic, what are you to do - if your beliefs don't jibe with church teachings?   Well, you could leave, for starters.   A lot of people are doing just that - which is why attendance is way down these days.  If enough people left, either the church would change its policies, or a new church would take its place.

Funny thing, too, there is precedent for this. This Martin Luther fellow didn't like what the Catholic church was doing, way back in 1517.  He founded a religion that still exists today - which in turn has spawned a number of spin-offs.  Rather than try to change the Catholic church (well, he tried at first) he gave up and started his own.  And throughout the world, throughout history, people have done similar things.  Even among the major religions (especially among the major religions) there are offshoots.

And even within these, there are schisms. The Lutheran church (named after you-know-who) has famously split in half, as the conservative Missouri Synod wasn't going to go along with some of the more liberal tenets of their brethren.  Methodists are up in arms about ordaining women.  And some congregations have been split apart over issues such as celibacy, ordination of women, gay marriage, abortion, birth control - just to name a few.

I noted before that I was handed some books about Unitarianism when we held some GLSA events at the Unitarian church in Syracuse.  I had attended a Unitarian church when I was a kid - in Illinois. When we moved back to New York, we joined the Presbyterian church - a fairly liberal one that handed out "Good News for Modern Man" instead of the Bible.  My parents went to whichever church they felt got them in with good society - they were social climbers.  They selected churches the way most people select gas stations - and changed about as often.

(My Father, in fact, switched from Catholic to Protestant, and from Irish to Scottish as it was a lot easier in the 1940's to get ahead in business if you were Protestant - and easier to get into the country club!   Sounds pretty crass, but then again, he is the guy who euthanized my cat when I went away to college).

Others are brand-loyal to the day they die - and never question the church's teachings.  They were raised snake-handling Baptists, and will die that way - probably from a snake bite.   And if that's their thing, I can't really say whether it is right or wrong, only that they aren't really analyzing this sort of thing very much - particularly if they are tithing 10% of their pre-tax income, while struggling with credit card debt.

Getting back to Unitarians, the term "Unitarian" literally means "one God" and the books given to me were almost racist in their denunciation of the Catholic Church, Trinitarinism, and Papism.  Sure, today, Unitarians seem all laid-back, liberal, and cool, but the church was founded on a white-hot fountain of Pope-hate.

That kind of turned me off to Unitarianism.  That and the obvious posing by most of the members - the sort of upper-middle-class white liberalism, where people wear their political views on their sleeve, and on the back bumper of their Volvo or Subaru (the parking lot is full of 'em, on Sunday!).  It just struck me as a lot of posing.  Well, that and the name tags turned me off.

Of course, that is always your other option - no church at all.  Organized religion is an interesting beast.  It is partly a social club, and as such, can bind a community together.  In an era before television, radio, and even regular newspapers, the community church was a way of bringing people together, as well as controlling them.   And yes, in the old days, the church was often the de facto government, or at least had great sway over government.   And that is still true today in many Islamic countries.

Starting your own religion is always another option.  But that seems like an awful lot of work, and the guy starting the religion never benefits from it as much as the next guy who comes after him.  Christianity didn't work out so well for Jesus, but church leaders who took up his banner certainly had a lot of church bling.  It was a good ride for Saul.  L. Ron Hubbard might have had a good time in his Winnebago with all those young women, or on his boat as part of the "Sea Org"-y.   But the real money wasn't made until after he died - when they gave up on panhandling hippies and went for the celebrities who had real money.

The problem I have with religions is that they are predicated on a false idea - that another human being, with about as much experience in the world as you have - has some sort of special insight into humanity and spirituality.  You go to the church or synagogue or temple or mosque and you listen to some dude (and it usually is a dude - most religions are pretty misogynistic, too) who may be younger than you try to provide you some insights into life or the afterlife.  Maybe he has some insights into life - but the afterlife, if it exists at all, he really hasn't more of a clue that you do, other than some stuff he read out of a book.   And you read the same stuff out of the same book, probably before he was born.

But that's why religions use these dramatic ceremonies and hoo-doo voo-doo when you attend the services.  That's why they build cathedrals and have these powerful church organs and boys choirs with angelic voices.  You can only imagine how some serf felt attending mass - he literally had the fear of God instilled into him, particularly when that organ started hitting those low notes.  He toils in the mud all day long, and then goes to this place that is clean, where people are wearing white robes that don't have shit all over them.   It even smells nice in there!

Today, it is a lot harder to get that level of thrill out of the plebes - we are desensitized to awe, after seeing so many explosion movies on I-Max 3D.  So you have a stained-glass window and an organ. Big freaking deal!   And maybe that is why these "new" mega-churches have moved on to plan-B - using cult-like techniques to ensnare new members, and rely on a constant turnover of members to pay the mortgage. Of course, it all comes crumbling down when they find out the "holier than thou" charismatic church leader has been banging his secretary in his private jet.

Oh, yea, that.  The money that is.  Churches quickly become all about the money, in a very short period of time, because they need money to survive, even if they are tax-free. Church buildings don't build themselves.  Cathedrals can take a century to complete - at least back in the day.  Salaries have to be paid, retired ministers and priests cared for.  And of course, the more money the church has, the more likely it will survive and grow and accumulate power.

Back in the day, people used to joke about the local parson showing up at your house right around suppertime - knowing full well he'd be asked to join them for dinner, as it would be impolite not to do so. The parson, of course, wasn't paid very much, and as a result, he had to resort to such sponging techniques. Maybe that was true in turn-of-the-century frontier America, today it is a paid position, sometimes a very well-paid position.

I noted before that one reason drug dealing was profitable at all was that it was tax-free. As many legal pot companies are finding out - in both the US and Canada - the business is pretty cutthroat, and the biggest competition is the illegal market, which continues to thrive, as their prices are sometimes half what the "legit" marijuana store is charging.   Tax-free businesses are hugely profitable businesses.

And churches are largely tax-free. So yea, it can be a helluva business, if you run it right, provided you can keep 'em coming in and keep 'em tithing.

But perhaps there is another way.   Maybe you don't need to hand over your money to God - in fact, he has little use for it.  Maybe you don't need to listen to someone else's interpretation of what God wants, particularly when that interpretation is "hate yourself, hate your neighbor, and hand over the cash!"

Just a crazy thought.  I suspect a lot of these holy men will end up in Hell, if such a place exists.