Easter and April Fools: religion and discrimination

I think it’s great that Easter Monday has fallen on April Fools’ Day. My usual (internal) reaction to hearing about religions I don’t know much about (i.e. most of them) is “So, which groups of people do you have to hate?”. Because while whatever Holy Communion is remains a mystery to me, the hate and divisiveness spread by some religions permeates everything from our politics to bullying in schools.

And the answer to the question “which groups of people do I have to hate if I want to join this religion?” is (in the case of the three Abrahamic religions) LGBTQ people, people of different religions, single mothers, sex workers, people who challenge the status quo (heretics) and sluts. Basically, the most marginalized and discriminated people in our society (excluding the poor and disabled). There’s really no need to stigmatise people who are already stigmatised. People who belong to different religions (in contemporary Britain) tend to also belong to non-white ethnic groups and are subject to racist discrimination. So they’ve got enough problems without being subjected to religious discrimination too. LGBTQ people are hated enough by the non-religious without religious people geting in on it.

It’s pathetically easy to obey the three Abrahamic religions and discriminate these groups, because they’re already discriminated. I’d be more impressed with a religion that discriminates against rich and powerful people. (Though it’s worth noting that the New Testament does say that it is very difficult for rich people to get into heaven.)

But perhaps it’s not surprising that religions tell us to discriminate against these groups. Because it’s because of religion that these groups ended up being stigmatised in the first place. I’m not trying to suggest that homophobia or slut-shaming or whorephobia woiuldn’t exist without Christianity or Islam. But it’s impossible to dispute that these religions (or, rather, how these religions were used by those in power) didn’t exacerbate the problems.

As someone who believes in God, I can’t help feeling that religion can sometimes be a good thing. Religion can inspire morality and charity. But religion based on an “us and them” mentality or religion which affects politics or regulates families and sex lives, or destroys those freedoms entirely, has already been tested in Britain and failed. We’ve tried it, it hasn’t worked and we don’t need it any more.

But seeing as we now have a Pope who would’ve been a teenage dad if his 12 year old girlfriend hadn’t rejected his offer of marriage, perhaps the Catholic Church will be more tolerant of teen parents. Maybe Catholics can teach the media a thing or two about stereotyping teen parents and their families.

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