Sixth place: Graduate student college essay contest by Tara Clifford

Religious perversion: Ignoring the violence

FFRF awarded Tara $400.

By Tara Clifford

The claim that there are only a few extremists in the world perverting religion is a very confusing one. Let us be clear on the definition “to pervert.” According to the Oxford Dictionary, it is to “alter (something) from its original course, meaning, or state to a distortion or corruption of what was first intended.” The only people perverting religion are those who look at their holy books and ignore all the violence and senseless murder, and who see only peace and love. These people try to use critical thinking and common sense in an area where it does not fit. To truly follow religion, one cannot pick and choose. The “cafeteria Catholic” is wrong; religion is not a buffet. Religion requires fundamentalism, and this fundamentalism calls for violence. To rationalize religion is to go against one of the main tenets: that of blind, unquestionable faith.

There is an extreme case of Holy Amnesia going around. Coined by Professor Philip Jenkins, Holy Amnesia is when a follower ignores all of the horrendous, cruel and violent texts of their holy scriptures and only sees what they want. God has never condoned the killing of innocent people? All it takes is a quick Internet search on “religion and violence” to have access to hundreds of pages of quotes from all sorts of holy books calling for murder and destruction. Leviticus 20:13 is a trending theme currently, as it states, “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death….” There is a whole other list of people who should be put to death, but this is a fan favorite. Many argue that this was meant for a specific time and place. People will go to great lengths to make excuses and rationalize the issue. Nonetheless, the only real interpretation is if you see a homosexual, kill him.

Christians of the Western world have a special kind of self-centered Holy Amnesia. They are able to forget and ignore all the violence in the bible, but are more than ready to point out the violence in the Quran. However, they are both winners as far as violence goes. The Quran 8.12 says, “so strike [them] upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip.” Just as with Christian apologists, they will argue that you have to look in context of time, claim that it was meant for specific nonbelievers (definitely not for anyone today), or will even fight fire with fire saying, “Well, the bible says bad stuff, too!” As we all know, two wrongs do not make a right, and two holy books calling for death do not make peace.

This reminds me of the Mormons. Like everyone else, they take 15 steps back when the term “fundamentalist” is mentioned, but they are in the same rocky boat as every other religion. Mormonism has a hidden gem in it, opening it to a whole new world of violence and destruction. The Doctrine and Covenants 91-92 state “…the duty of the President of the office of the High Priesthood is to… be a seer, a revelator, a translator, and a prophet…” This means that whoever is in charge can change God’s word on a whim. Did you know that God told Warren Jeffs to rape little boys and marry and then rape little girls? Because he is the mouth of God for his sect, his own brothers did not even question his actions as they held down their 5-year old nephew for Warren Jeffs to rape. Since it was all in his head, there is no existing reference in a holy book about this crime, but it was still God’s will after all.

A possible solution seems simple on paper, but may be next to impossible to accomplish. Religion is a system of brainwashing. It tells you to believe no matter what. One is to abandon reason and critical thinking and just believe in things that do not make sense. So then, how can we expect people to go through their holy book with discernment, deciding they will only follow some of God’s word but not all? The solution is education. At the very least, if people had an education they would develop reason and critical thinking. Then they could pervert their religion and not follow blindly.

To say that religions do not condone violence, terrorism and senseless murder is laughable, at best. All you have to do is pick up one of the holy books and read through their pages. That is why I am proud to be an atheist. I will never have to follow something blindly or try to make excuses for a god and his actions. Instead of destroying this life for a rewarding afterlife, I will make this life better because it is all we have.

Tara Clifford, 30, was born in New Jersey but currenly resides in Olyphant, Penn. She is working toward a graduate degree in mental health counseling from Marywood University, which is where she also got a B.A. in communication arts. She plans to graduate in May 2018 and hopes to be accepted into a doctoral program. She is a 20-year vegetarian who loves reading about religious cults, dreaming about what the country will be like with Bernie Sanders as president, and spending time with her husband and two cats.

Freedom From Religion Foundation