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Leefstyl | Lifestyle > Gay > Rubrieke | Columns > Christina Engela: Fundamentally Speaking

Bed-knobs and broomsticks


Christina Engela - 2011-06-02

Untitled Document

If people today think of anyone who is sexual, or who enjoys sex, as "immoral", "deviant" or "undesirable", it is because of religious indoctrination. If we think of people who abstain from all sexual activity, and those who remain virginal through their lives, living by a code that sex is for procreation and not enjoyment, it is because of the puritan hangover left us by folks who were too afraid to see themselves naked lest it caused them to think sinful thoughts – and with an obsession about the afterlife and where they would spend it – instead of enjoying and celebrating the life they had.

Older civilisations did not suffer this affliction. Historians can bear me out when I say that the Roman, Egyptian and Greek civilisations did not fall because they were sexually wanton by today's "Christian" standards, or because they were "morally corrupt" or "sinful". In fact, Rome fell because it had become militarily weak, and ironically enough, at this time the state religion was Catholicism. Hmm.

Many people today spend a great deal of time meddling in the lives of others, working to limit their options, delineate their freedoms, and suspend their liberties – and they do so from a blatant and overt hyper-religious angle, attempting to force other people to embrace the same litany and adhere to the same liturgy as they hold to themselves. Of course, we all should know that not everyone is the same, looks the same or feels the same about everything, so why should people all be forced to think, feel, believe and speak or act the same way? And how can one group, in all fairness, decide that it should be the model which all others should adopt and be held accountable to?

If Christians today are so truly confident in the ability of their God to protect their interests, then why do they persist in taking matters into their own hands and working to destroy the lives and happiness of others? Is this not an admission of their fear and paranoia? Is it not a manifest denial of their own faith? Is this desire to act in the stead of their god not a denial of the very will of this deity?

By this I mean: if this deity really wanted something bad to happen to people who they feel do not keep their commandments, then surely this god is big enough and almighty enough to sort them out on its own without their getting involved and getting a thrill out of dipping their hands in the blood of innocents – and then afterwards crying that it was "God's will". Many of the tragedies of the past can be traced to this sort of vanity and hubris, including all the Crusades, and the Spanish/Catholic conquest/genocide of the South American continent. All of this was aside from the pretext of nationalistic expansion, an exercise in Christianism – the desire of Christians to conquer non-Christian people and force them into subjective slavery and to convert them to Christianity, to force people to believe the way they do. It was nothing more than a bad game of "my god is better than your god", but with sharp spikes – and I dare you to tell me different.

Broadly speaking, most average Christians today still know nothing at all about other religions, which makes it that much easier for those who know only slightly more than them about other faith groups to manufacture and spread propaganda and falsehood about them, causing polarisation, even more ignorance and enmity. And the vicious circle just gets bigger and bigger.

In most South African schools today children are not being encouraged to think, and to think independently. Instead they have religion – and mostly one specific religion, Christianity – and conservative thoughts drummed into them to conform, conform, conform. They are not being educated, but indoctrinated.

A friend wrote to me just last week about his views on schooling in South Africa, and on its effects on the youth leaving school today. We have children able to work in an office, or in many cases, barely capable of entering university or of qualifying in their fields of study without the benefit of huge concessions for being "previously disadvantaged" – while perfectly capable high-scoring students are prevented from entering university because they happen to be the “currently disadvantaged”. Surprisingly, some people actually believe that racism is dead in South Africa, but I have no idea why. Be that as it may, we have kids hitting the job market who know how to read, write or type in MXit language, but who cannot spell, use correct grammar, or understand or explain what they have just read. We have loads of new voters who join the mass of constituents each year who have no clue how a democratic process is supposed to work, and will fall for any load of twaddle, including threats that if they do not vote for party X, then they will come and burn their house down. This is what my friend wrote:

Mentality! It serves a purpose you know, for those in power. "We want the people to get an education" – but not too much. Just enough to get them working and in a job where we can make even more money from their taxes. But not so much that they wake up and embrace a truly multicultural society free from oppression in any form. Because that’s when they stop voting ANC. They might think they are free because they voted right? Sorry – not so.

I agree completely with this assessment – it's not in the interests of the government to educate the masses to the point where they are smart enough to see through the BS – because then people will be too smart to vote for them again.

That's exactly why subjects like history and philosophy have been downplayed in recent years – and also why there is little attention given to the study of human rights and the mechanics of democracy. School leavers in most cases today are people who leave school able to work, not think – and certainly not capable of making informed decisions of their own.

These children grow up, and they take the misconceptions they learn in school into the world outside it, into the workplace, and their new homes when they leave the nest, and into their social circles when they form new friendships – and they take with them the bigoted misconceptions they are taught in some schools.

Back when I was at high school I can remember the rumour going round of "the Rapture" being imminent, and the reaction of the hyper-religious kids who were at school with me. Of course, the appointed day and time came and went, and we were all still here. Just last week much was made of yet another date with destiny that failed to materialise, leaving a generous helping of pie on the faces of many fundamentalist Christians. Apparently they have moved the next appointment to 21 October now. Surely by now they should realise that the business of predicting the end of days is a bust?

I wonder, are these people in such a hurry for the end of the world that they keep pinning these dates on their calendar like a game ofpin the tail on the donkey? Are their lives so empty, pointless and hopeless that they long to be taken away from it all? Most of them would deny this, I'm sure – but I think the facts speak otherwise.

Just last week I wrote about the whole Rapture racket, and about the total fabrication it is – and it was mostly argument on the topic supplied by Christian theologians that I referred to. I spoke about how the radicals and fundamentalists have spent centuries separating themselves and their flocks from the rest of us dirty sinners, and about how the hyper-religious elevate themselves above others, tarring and feathering those who don't carry the same club cards as deviants, threatening, dangerous, and also quite often as "devil-worshippers". LOL.

Coming from a portion of the community that likes to exclude others from it, separate itself from others, the "Rapture" is naturally the ultimate exclusion.

Of course, being equated with other folks who don't carry the same cards they do just pisses them off. How dare we dirty gay or trans peoplebe made equal with them? We're not – they're God's chosen people and we're dirt. The fundies don't like the fact that people point out the instances when they overstep the boundaries of fair play and the constitutional guarantees which grant freedom of religion – they take issue with everything not of their own interpretation of a religion, or which doesn't share their values – failing to realise the harm they do to others in doing so, and failing to understand that they do not own the world, nor do they have the right to talk down to others simply because they believe they have a right to trample every other group into the earth.

Where does this delusion of "divine right" come from? The truth? They call it the "Great Commission", which is where the "Commissionist" and "Dominionist" movements came from. These two movements today form the spine of the modern evangelical movements – and you won't catch them speaking about it blatantly or openly too often, because they don't want ordinary Christians to realise what they are or what they are goading them into doing – playing a game of Pinky and the Brain.

The simple truth is, folks, Christians have had control of the world for so long that today they have forgotten what it’s really like to be victimised, persecuted and to be a second-class citizen because of their religion or spirituality, and they view any other group coming up to the same level as them as a threat and a challenge to their supremacy. That's why some of them can whine and moan like old women with wet knickers about "the persecuted church" every time a store stops selling their propaganda, a TV station says something they don't like, a gay couple gets married, or a transgender person gets treated like a human being instead of getting kerb-stomped. Please, spare me.

Having a gay person or a Muslim being treated equal to them is taken as a threat and an insult. In the workplace Christian prayers are encouraged or approved, but what would happen should they be expected to tolerate the same standard for their co-workers of other faiths? I have to say that I have a great respect for many Muslim people who sit through such things with good grace – and I have to ask myself if some of my Christian friends would do the same.

Don't get me wrong: every religious group has its fundamentalists, the ugly face of any religion that foams at the mouth at the mere thought of diversity and the freedom to disagree. To many of them true equality is a threat and an enemy, because being equal robs them of their power and the feeling of being part of an elite group. It seems to me that modern Christian thought is all about separation and the creation of an elite. And in doing so, there is an increasing focus on "us" and "them", polarisation and the creation of scapegoats for all the world's ills. The "us" portion of the equation is almost always a very narrow definition – quite ironic, don't you agree?

And if – like me – you happen to fall within that very broad definition of "them", then the world looks like a very bleak place indeed.

Fundamentalists view all non-Christian faiths as being false, misled and focusing on the Devil, Satan or whatever form they choose to call their deepest fears – and thus every other religion is painted not as simply another equal religion that deserves as much tolerance and respect within the law of the land as their own, but as a threat, a vile perversion, and simply another face of "satanism" that should be discouraged, denied, and stamped out. The line-crossing, of course, comes in where certain groups cease to grumble, plot and conspire, and instead begin to act on these impulses to destroy and suppress free thought, freedom and independence of their view of the world.

Normally I take the view that my religion is nobody's business – especially when I feel that someone else's belief system is being forced on me. Currently some of my Christian "friends" have serious issues with me for being Pagan, and even more so for not being ashamed of it. How dare I be happy for not being Christian – or even proud of my spiritual beliefs? How dare I disagree with them? How dare I not share in their mindset and not just rubber-stamp everything arbitrarily as "good" and "right" simply because they agree with it? Oh, it's a futile argument, I know – because I realise they are incapable of thinking for themselves.

A little while ago I changed my religious affiliation from agnostic to Pagan. "Agnostic" had been just fine apparently – but the new change certainly rubbed a few people up the wrong way. It's amazing. Over the past few months things have steadily degraded to the point where people who used to associate closely with me now ignore me, won't greet me – and get up and leave when I enter a room. There is an atmosphere, for certain, and I haven't felt so much love since I came out as transgender a decade ago. I have often said I can be friends with anybody, regardless of their race, language, culture, whether they like Star Wars or Star Trek, or of their religion. I am not intimidated by the beliefs of others, and I am secure in my own spirituality to not be "converted" by others just by hanging around with them. I certainly don't get a chip on my shoulder if I find out one of my Hindu friends has suddenly become a devout Roman Catholic or married a Jehovah's Witness (although if I see them coming with a stack of magazines under one arm, you can bet I will bolt myself in the ladies room for a while).

Of course, I have to note quite clearly that this is not all of the religious people I associate with – and certainly not all the Christians I associate with – but just a very few. I have to wonder that, had I announced my religion as "Wicca", how they would have reacted then? I could imagine. As usual, I treat everything with a touch of humour, because the alternatives to laughing at such childishness are not nearly as funny.

I'm not sure what to expect this week, but in the meantime I have bought a new, completely black coffee mug to take to the office – just to mess with them ...