#144 Religious Organizations and Leaders (2005)

All Rights Reserved © 2005 Thomas W. Day

"Oxymoron: A rhetorical figure in which incongruous or contradictory terms are combined, as in a deafening silence and a mournful optimist."

  • "Religious: Having or showing belief in and reverence for God or a deity."
  • "Organized: Functioning within a formal structure, as in the coordination and direction of activities."
  • "Leader: One who is in charge or in command of others."

Good 'ole boy, Reverend Pat Robertson, is a leader of modern organized religion.  I have to suspect that claim contains a pair of oxymoronic phrases.  The folks Robertson leads are as scary as the followers that Hitler led into Hell. 

This week, Robertson condemned the citizens of Dover, PA for having the audacity to vote to oppose the insertion of creationist dogma in their local public school science programs (by replacing 8 Creationist school board members with folks who picked science over myth).  Robertson ranted, "I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God. You just rejected him from your city."  Florida, Louisiana, and most of the deep South are hotbeds of superstitious belief and I haven't noticed any god-given relief provided to those places.  I suspect that Dover won't be any less protected than any other area of the world.  God is spectacularly consistent in his absence in times of natural or unnatural disaster, political upheaval, and personal loss. 

Not content to prove himself mostly arrogant and stupid, Robertson went on to rant, "God is tolerant and loving, but we can't keep sticking our finger in his eye forever.  If they have future problems in Dover, I recommend they call on Charles Darwin. Maybe he can help them." 

Calling on Darwin will be at least as effective as would be a prayer to Robertson's god.  Both efforts are a waste of time and energy, but superstitious people never run out of time to waste.  At least, if they pay attention to insane freaks and charlatans like Robertson, that would be my best guess.  The lil' fella' has a lot of followers and, based on his fine collection of expensive suits and jewelry and mansions and palaces, I suspect he has collected a bunch of money from those fools with excess time on their hands. 

By the time he was finished with Dover, Robertson had moved himself into the rare territory of the completely arrogant and stupid.  If Robertson is a "religious leader" in "organized religion" he is doing his best to prove that organization and religion and leadership don't mix.  At it's best, religion is a spiritual foundation that provides moral guidance and strength to a believer.

Religion doesn't often function at an optimal level, though.  Most folks inclined toward organized religion are there for the money and/or power.  Folks like Robertson get off on inventing gods and forcing others to bow to their inventions.  This is an ancient, primitive crowd control tactic that has been practiced ever since humans began to hang out in groups.  Some dickwad invents a god or ten, pretends to be in communication with powerful supernatural voices, and comes up with a fanciful list of behaviors that everyone else is forced to imitate or be doomed to eternal discomfort and bad luck.  If Robertson wore a bone in his nose, waved bags of sticks and chicken bits, and painted himself to look like a nasty Bozo the clown, he wouldn't be any less modern than he is today. 

Minnesota's ex-Governor, Jesse Ventura, created a smoke storm of superstitious frenzy during his term in office by stating that "organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers."  He recanted that statement, but he should have simply defined it.  There is no shortage of weak-minded religious people; "weak" as in uneducated, cowardly, crazy, and gullible.  That's all Jesse needed to say. 

Whenever this fact is pointed out, the crutch-leaners always pull up Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, and the short list of brave souls who fairly justify the existence of religious faith.  The short list of equally brave souls who did not invoke divine authority for their acts of humanity and courage is rarely considered in the argument. 

Humans, by definition, are a faulty animal.  Society at its best, whether religious or secular, attempts to guide human activity toward what we call "civilized behavior."  Robertson and the Religious Right are not examples of people or organizations with moral or sincere intentions.  Robertson is simply another of a long line of witch doctors acting in his own interests while doing as much damage to his culture as he can manage with his limited abilities. 

What Robertson does represent is the contradiction between the best meaning of "religion" and the reality of either "organized" or "leader."  Spirituality is so individual that intrusion by someone claiming to be "a leader" turns internal spirituality to mere imitation, which removes the possibility of "reverence for God or a deity."  Instead, the hoard are simply revering the human representative of a fanciful idol.  Manipulators like Robertson represent themselves as the "voice of God," which reduces that supernatural being to something easily interpreted, grossly fallible, and an embarrassing mockery of the high standards humans are capable of aspiring.  Instead of rousing heroism and moral behavior, religious leaders lower their followers to "monkey see, monkey do" ritual and cowardly conservatism. 

Organizations, by their nature, repress the creativity and sacrifice required by the very same brave souls those institutions refer to when they attempt to justify their existence.  Every one of our spiritual heroes (secular and non-secular) claimed by religious organizations had to work far outside of religious tradition to accomplish their goals.  Not a one of those organizations claimed a relationship with their own heroes when it would have been useful to those champions.  God's guidance appears to only have hindsight, when it comes to religious organizations.  With that in mind, I suspect the citizens of Dover will do just fine, regardless of Robertson's feeble curses.  At least, they won't do any worse than cities that suffer Robertson's blessing. 

October 2005

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