Karl Marx once said “Die Religion… ist das Opium des Volkes” which roughly translates into the famous quote “religion is the opiate of the masses,” and that couldn’t be any more true when I see the way religion is used in politics today.
I’m personally indifferent when it comes to religion and consider myself to be an agnostic Jew. However, I have religious friends and family who have bought into the cult that is right-wing politics. Most of them are nice, well-meaning folks who honestly believe that the GOP is the party of all that is good and holy, and liberals are the brainwashed tools of Satan himself. They’re firmly convinced that all we need to do to make the USA the greatest country on the planet is ban all abortions, push gays back in the closet, stop teaching sex education and evolution in schools, and keep cutting taxes for the rich.
When you point out to them that Jesus never said one thing about gay people or abortion and said that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into Heaven, the evil glares and finger-wagging begins.
I’m not one of those people who believes that religion is the cause of all the wrongs in this world, but it is often used to justify those wrongs and to get people to accept poverty as their lot in life or to die in a suicide mission in exchange for riches in Heaven.
These are all things I’m sure you’ve already figured out, so what’s next? Here’s what we need to do, whether you’re a religious person or not—we need to school ourselves on religious teachings and know their texts. Whether it is Christianity, Judaism, Islam or any of the other major religions. You should be able to point out that Jesus never condemned anyone other than the greedy, the self-centered and the religious establishment that worked with the government of his time. Yes, the Pharisees of the first century C.E. were the Jimmy Swaggarts and Pat Robertsons of our time, and he paid the ultimate price for defying them.
Let’s face it, if you’ve read the Bible and have an education that wasn’t from a Christian version of a madrasa, then you should know that Jesus didn’t look like a long-haired Caucasian Abercrombie and Fitch model. You should also know that despite the current “gospel of prosperity” being taught by a lot of churches (and the GOP), Jesus had little use for the religious elite, the rich and politicians.
This article isn’t intended to be a recruitment drive for your local church or synagogue, or mosque. I’m just saying that when people want to quote their twisted narrative of their religion to justify bigotry and exploitation, you should be able to take their own religious text and throw it back at them.
There is one thing I’m sure of from my knowledge of the Bible—if Jesus were alive today, he’d have a serious bone to pick with a lot of the people who claim to represent him and be his “greatest followers.”
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