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Blood And Sacrifice
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Religion – A Tool For Human Suffering

By James Donahue

The religious extremists have been taking a lot of the heat as Christians, Moslems and Jews continue to pare off in military and social conflict. While the foundations of all of these belief systems teach love and compassion, an examination of religious doctrines exposes not only a tolerance but a deep-rooted demand for human suffering.

Soldiers that go to war always do so believing the God is on their side of the conflict. Islamic extremists strap bombs to their bodies and blow themselves up in crowded buildings and markets, believing that they will be rewarded for such an extreme personal sacrifice in the name of Allah. Radical Christians that stand opposed to abortion have been willing to murder practicing medical doctors that offer this service, believing they are doing “God’s will.”

The Old Testament God demanded blood sacrifices of animals on stone altars, which Christians believe were a prelude to the ultimate blood sacrifice, the killing of their messiah Jesus Christ, who supposedly died for the salvation of all that believed he was the Son of God. This same God allegedly ordered the Hebrew army under Joshua to attack the Canaanite city of Jericho and murder all of its citizens.

This was the God that tested the faith of Job in a strange spiritual duel with Satan. Job experienced extreme suffering, losing his family, his wealth and his health before his ordeal came to an end.

This kind of thinking . . . that faith requires suffering and sacrifice during our life on Earth . . . is still influencing human behavior today. In many cases, however, the definitions of those who suffer and those who decide which group suffers and how they suffer, are straying even from the harsh rules established by the Old Testament books.

The wealthy create suffering among the poor. The soldiers that win in battle rape and pillage the victims of defeat. The police and courts inflict creative punishments and sometimes death on those charged and convicted of crimes. People shun and sometimes use malicious tactics to drive people deemed undesirable from their neighborhoods. Where is the love?

The religious effect on societies everywhere has promoted largely the suffering of women and children. Women appear to be regarded as second class citizens throughout the Middle East and much of the Christian world. Moslems require women to always have their heads if not their entire bodies covered when appearing in public. Many Christian churches still expect women to have their heads covered when attending church services. This practice stems from various Hebrew traditions expressed in the Old Testament. Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians that “every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoreth her head for that is even all one as if she were shaven.”

Women are not allowed to rise to positions of leadership in most religious political structures. It has only been in recent years that women have been ordained into the ministry in some Christian denominations.

In Middle Eastern countries women are not allowed to drive a car. An Iranian woman accused of adultery made international news when she was sentenced to be stoned to death. Her fate remains unclear even as this is being written.

The children within many strict Christian homes may suffer harsh punishments for misbehavior if parents abide by the Old Testament order: “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” Indeed the Book of Proverbs instructs: “Withhold not correction from a child: for it thou strike him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod and deliver his soul from hell.” (Proverbs 23:13-14)

In America the suffering brought on by religious/social belief systems has become so interwoven in our society that they creep in and out of our laws. The 1973 Supreme Court decision on the infamous case of Roe vs. Wade failed to resolve the abortion issue that has divided the nation for a very long time. Some extreme religious groups would force women to carry pregnancies to term even though the child is the result of rape or incest, or medical tests reveal that the fetus is in some way mentally or physically impaired. In some cases completion of the pregnancy puts the mother’s life or health at risk.

There are still archaic laws on the books in many American communities that make it illegal for consenting but unmarried adults to fornicate. Legally the act is called “lewd and lascivious behavior.”

The nation’s anti-drug laws can be linked to the religious zeal for human suffering. A recent study showed that the use of marijuana and certain other drugs like amphetamines are on the rise during these uncertain times of high unemployment and poverty. The need for escape from reality is high and the fact that more people are turning to such drugs, including alcohol for temporary relief is understandable. Yet the nation’s unwinnable and costly War on Drugs rages on, with the police and the courts actively doing all they can to obstruct, punish and force the offenders into even more intense suffering.

Even though marijuana has been shown to have a variety of medical benefits, including pain relief and relief of the violent effects of radiation therapy, and voters in many states have approved its sale as a medical treatment, it remains classified as a controlled substance under federal law. Local pot growers are in constant conflict with federal authorities because of conflicting laws.

There has been a ridiculous political and religious-driven movement in the country to stop doctors from writing prescriptions for pain medications because of a growing misuse of such drugs by others seeking alternative ways to “get high.” Consequently those who really suffer from the intense pains of arthritis, back and neck injuries, cancer and a long list of other afflictions are often under medicated. Doctors fear writing prescriptions for effective pain relief for fear of attracting the attention of federal authorities and consequently losing their licenses to practice medicine.

Indeed, the world is suffering and in great pain just now and all of it is unnecessary. The religious dogma plants a fear of death in the hearts of both believers and non-believers that have grown up in our society. People are dying in slow and painful agony in our hospitals because they fear death unnecessarily. Many give doctors the authority to use all of the modern tools at their disposal to keep their bodies alive by mechanical means rather than cross over into the void that they fear. Insurance companies are picking up the tab for these long and agonizing deaths.

Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who attempted to offer a painless and dignified alternative way for people with terminal illnesses to check out, was sentenced to prison on murder charges. The Christian-driven agenda maintains that doctor assisted suicides are sinful and therefore illegal. How insane is that?

The Christian Faith web site offers the following explanation for believing that God wants people to suffer and experience pain. The writer of the article said experiencing pain is the body’s natural way of telling us that something is wrong.

“If it wasn’t for the fact that we suffer and experience pain, we might become totally detached and say that all is well,” the writer argued. And to this we ask what could be wrong with perceiving a perfect environment where all is, indeed, well?

But the writer goes on with the following argument: “We will never be able to escape from pain even by means of drugs or suicide. The reason for this is that there is an afterlife. This world is only a test to see who will ultimately choose to love and worship the only one worthy of our total love and affection – God himself.”

And in that paragraph we find the great flaws in the Christian philosophy. The church argues that pain is required, as in the case of Job, to test true believers of their love of God. It assures that there is an afterlife, but that only those who remain strong in their love and worship of God, in spite of the suffering that comes their way, will make it into Heaven to be with Jesus in the afterlife. Everybody else is doomed to an eternity of even more intense suffering in a pit of fire and brimstone.

Does that sound like a world created by a loving God? We would argue that all of the world religious systems are out of touch with reality. It was never intended for humans to suffer, but rather that we live a life of love and joy. Unfortunately we took a wrong path some thousands of years in the past and humans have been living in pain and inflicting wounds on themselves ever since.