A few weeks ago I received this comment from “Becca” in response to a post from a year ago, talking about how Buffy and Harry Potter have reignited (pun intended) interest in paganism:
Just because you do not belong to the church of Satan does not disqualify you from practicing Satanic “practices.”
You may be laughing, but God is not.
Well. Where to begin?
As constant readers of this blog know, there is no more staunch defender of religius liberty and pluralism than me. I am firmly of the belief that every human being has the right to choose to worship God(s), or not, in their own way. Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Pagan, Zoroastrian, Scientologist, whatever. Any approach to God that brings peace, enlightenment or knowledge to a seeker is indubitably a good thing.
At the same time, there is no bigger loather of proselytizing and evangelism of any sort. Your right to worship God as you see fit ends at my epidermis. Feel free to tell me about your faith, but don’t dare try to convert me. I am not swayed by anyone telling me that I will go to Hell if I do not accept Jesus as my personal savior. Telling me that a certain behavior is “un-Christian” or “Satanic” does not move me… why would it? Since I am not a member of that faith, the context of the insults is completely moot. Israeli Jews who try to ban the selling of pork or shrimp in Jerusalem are doing nobody any foavors, and are inflicting their own dietary rules on other religions. They should be ashamed of themselves. Laws against homosexuality because it goes against the Bible/Koran are wrong. Legislatures have no right to concern themselves with enforcing the word of God, at least not in a supposedly free society.
And certainly not least, Muslims who fly planes into buildings and commit other terrorist acts because they are warring with the “infidel”, have no place in this world. I am amazed whenever I see pictures of rallies in Iraq, of Moqtada al-Sadr and his “followers”. “Followers”, for Pete’s sake. I am incredulous that in this day and age, a person can still be induced to commit murder for God on the say-so of someone who claims to have a direct line to Him. How do you know your leader is really talking to Him, and not some schizo voices in his head?
I am mildly amused when proseytizers tell me they are merely doing it out of love and concern for my eternal soul. My soul will be just fine, thank you, without any help from an earthly religion. It is the height of arrogance to think that I, poor lost lamb, need A PERSON (priest, rabbi, lama, mufti) to help me talk with God. Does God not speak English? Is He so lofty and removed from His people that He needs an interpreter? I refuse to believe that.
Not to mention that the track record of organized religion when it comes to “loving thy neighbor” is pretty lousy. Every theocracy in the history of the world has been catastrophic for people who do not adhere to the ruling faith. And people, even highly religious people, are fallible and corruptible. (One might even argue that highly religious people are *especially* corruptible, because they think that they are under God’s personal protection and are thus invulnerable.) Witness the Catholic church pedophilia scandals, the selling of indulgences in the Medieval church, the Hindu caste system and the continuing oppression of women in the orthodox branches of Islam and to a lesser extent, Judaism.
I am of the (small-g) gnostic view that every human has a spark of the divine inside them, and that with time, can be come to truly know God. Note that I specified “gnostic” lowercase. I do not subscribe to the philosophy of the Gnostics, who feel that the material world is a prison preventing us from reuniting with God. I quite like the material world. Bodies, beautiful mountain views, the sound of Mozart, orgasms, the feel of a soft puppy in my arms, the smell of a perfect pink peony. Would God have made all these sensory pleasures if we were not meant to enjoy them? Are they there solely as a temptation for us to avoid, to prove our virtuousness? I don’t think so.
In sum, although my personal faith may be dribs and drabs of various philosophies, I expect people to respect my choices. If your religion makes you happy, good on you. Just don’t condemn me for not being like you.
And as for Becca, may I politely urge you to take two running leaps straight to the Hell of your choice.