About 200 feet from my house, is a bar. A dive, really. Fights most weekends, cops a lot of the time, and a patron recently killed himself by driving into a tree about 150 feet to the other side of my house.
And I’d still rather have that bar there than see it replaced with a church.
The bar pays its own way. Revenues from sales taxes do things for my community. Streets get repaired. Kids get educated. They help pay for the cops who often drop by to visit with them. If a church was there, just the opposite would be happening: there would be no revenue flowing in, and all police protection, street repair, and traffic control would be borne by me and my neighbors, which would be a de facto taxation on us to support a religion. And what would we get, for the money we paid? Increasingly, we get a shrill message of hate and fear, wrapped inside a thin veneer of “love.” This is particularly true of Abrahamic religions, which have probably killed more people than all the diseases and disasters of the world ever managed to do. The fanatics of these religions will “love” you to death, if you don’t agree to see things the way they see them. And what they see if often ugly.
And if you like the wars that religion has inspired, you’ll just love the many other ways they find to waste money. I live not too far from Five Dollar Footlong Jesus. He graces the side of the road now as a replacement to Touchdown Jesus, who met his end due to a lightning strike. Touchdown Jesus cost $250,000.00 to put up. I have no idea how much 5 Dollar cost, but he, at least, has been equipped with a lightning rod on top of his head, which makes him look just a bit like a friendly alien visitor. He stands in front of a “megachurch” that has undoubtedly cost the county plenty of money in terms of road improvements, security necessities, and infrastructure. The statue, like the megachurch, are both enormous drains of resources that could have been put to much better use. Christ himself is said to have warned against idolatry. And yet, everywhere I look these days, I see monolithic structures erected to serve as glorifications not to any Deity, but to the people who had them built. All of it without paying a dime of tax revenue. I understand the separation of church and state just fine, but I’m pretty sure the Founders would have had second thoughts if they could have seen how organized religion would game, and then abuse, the system set up to protect it. Countless billions of dollars now flow into institutions that proselytize, play politics, and erect magnificent palaces, while occasionally flinging a hull or two to the poor among us. And if all of that wasn’t bad enough, religion plays a huge role in maintaining the ignorance of the populace anywhere that any “fundamentalist” strain flourishes. Fundamentalism is all about not asking any questions, and education requires that questions be asked. The two things are as incompatible as oil and water.
What, then, is to be done? Do we outlaw religion? Of course not. We can’t change what someone believes. But we can damn sure insist that religion remove itself from our political and educational discourse. In this country, we are still, to this day, debating questions which have been decisively answered by science, because of religion. Many religious “schools” dismiss evolution, climate change, and even healthcare methodologies because they do not fit into the religious view of things. This is utterly, completely insane. It has to be stopped. Any religious organization that sees fit to try to suppress science is no longer a religion that should be protected. It is now a societal menace that needs to be treated as such. Donations made to organizations that poison the discourse should not be tax exempt, and the organizations accepting those donations should be subjected to a progressive income tax commensurate with their revenues. That way, at least they’d be contributing a tiny bit to the betterment of society, instead of working tirelessly to revert it to the conditions of 2000 years ago. In addition, any “religious” school should be subjected to random classroom testing (proctors paid for by the schools themselves) for grade-level proficiency, and any schools that fail the tests should be shut down. And last but not least, there should be no more vouchering of Government educational funds to religious organizations. This is Government “respecting an establishment of religion” and it needs to be stopped.
These steps would allow religion to remain on the other side of the wall that is supposed to be between them, and would even strengthen that wall. And can anyone argue that the demise of the “megachurch” would be anything but good for society? Let churches get back to what it is their function was seen to be by the Founders, and let us enjoy both freedom of religion, and freedom FROM it. Faith and religion are totally separate things anyway; faith is a personal matter, while religion is all too often about dogma and intolerance of any other point of view. I have no quarrel with any person’s faith. But when your preacher sends you out to dismantle my society, then I do indeed have a problem with it. A big problem.