Chris Hedges, on religion. A presbyterian Minister. Ordained.
Those who turn to religion seek an expression of the transcendent and the sacred. Few believers care much for dogma. Many religious institutions, such as the Catholic Church, incorporate ideologically diverse movements, from Opus Dei to liberation theology. All Catholics, however, are unified in the liturgy and ritual of the sacraments. The pope can rail against birth control and publish turgid encyclicals, but for most Catholics his theological admonishments go unheeded. The passages of most sacred texts in all religions are of little real importance. Believers pick and choose what fits. They discard the rest. The liberal Presbyterian Church, in which I grew up, ignored the violent, apocalyptic literature in 174 WHEN ATHEISM BECOMES RELIGION Daniel and Revelation, as well as the homophobic and misogynist rants by Paul. They were expunged — along with the calls by God to the Israelites to carry out acts of righteous genocide — from the biblical readings at the lectern. These passages might as well have been cut out of our Bibles. Christian fundamentalists, who seek a justification for their bigotry and hatred, trumpet these passages and rarely speak of the Sermon on the Mount, Christ's calls for vows of poverty and His pacifism. Such selective interpretation is no different for Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and other believers. It is culture, history, circumstance, tradition, economics and the deep self-interest of the tribe or the nation that more powerfully inform belief systems than the contradictory and often impenetrable pages of the Bible, the Koran or any other sacred text. Attempts by these atheists to reduce sacred texts to instruction manuals is not part of the reality of belief. Faith arises out of practice. We find our faith in how we live. The labels we attach to ourselves — Christian, Buddhist, Jew, Muslim or atheist — are a way to tell stories about ourselves, to create coherent narratives. The danger we face does not come from religion. It comes from a growing