I think this will be a recurring theme in this journal. Just a head’s up.

A week or so ago a teenage girl ran away from home. She called a few days later from Ohio wanting to come home to California. Authorities (probably her nosy parents) had found evidence on her computer that she had been researching Wicca! and speculated she had gone to meet someone in relation to that. Now, what I thought of this story was that the girl (a student in a Catholic high school) was feeling repressed and confused, not getting adequate attention from parents and teachers, and was looking for alternatives to a life that didn’t make sense to her. No problem there in my eyes. I also assumed that a pedophile found this vulnerable young girl, gained her trust, and lured her away from home. But what did the media think? That she was mixed up in an evil cult of Wiccan brainwashers. Not a single reporter even considered a pedophile, everyone played up the Wiccan thing.

This really bothers me. Many religions have been so demonized in the eyes of the ignorant public that its unthinkable even to learn about them. What a society we live in, when a relatively small group of people can tell the rest of us what our children may and may not learn, and thus think.

I realize that I can’t faithfully cover this topic without addressing my own religious intolerances. I’ve realized of late that I have a lot of trouble tolerating the Judeo-Christian sects. I think it is because I grew up in suburban/rural Kansas: the buckle of the Bible belt. That’s right, the same Kansas that banned evolution from the public schools. Apparently none of them has ever studied Darwin (who was a theologian), or even read The Origin of Species (which never even mentions humans, because of Darwin’s strong Christian beliefs). Anyway, I grew up in a non-Christian family, which made me constantly aware of the religious double standard in this country, at least the parts I’ve lived in. It has always seemed to me that it’s not only okay, but really cool to promote Christian stuff: Jesus fish, What Would Jesus Do bracelets (a beautiful contradiction in itself), shirts, crucifix necklaces, prayer groups, missions, a Bible in every hotel room (I include Mormonism under Christianity, since they do worship Christ), you name it. However, try to promote another religion and you’re suddenly Satan. A friend of mine was ordered by the principal to stop wearing a pentacle. You could never have a meditation club. I’m sure anyone who has been on this side of the fence understands.

I understand what a bigot this makes me. I even have that stupid idea that my friends are some of “the good ones,” but I don’t know how to reconcile my feelings. I think the problem arises from how easy it is for someone to call themselves a Christian. You neither have to read the Bible, nor show signs that you really understand it. Even the leaders of the religion don’t usually agree on what the Bible means. The way I interpret Jesus’ message (and I do believe he existed) was try to love everyone and work things out. I suppose the discrepancy in interpretation is not only understandable, but should have been expected. After all, the King James version (the most common, AFAIK) has been through so many translations, and is still in such a flowery archaic language that it can be interpreted any way you want. The only reason I can see for allowing Christians to use translations is numbers. The more people you can get your message to, the more people will listen.

Perhaps that’s the problem; I have such contempt for the religion because it is nothing but the world’s oldest advertising agency. It seems like the only reason Christianity exists is to spread to as many people as it can. I guess it is better compared to a pyramid scheme: “What if I told you that you could not only live a happy life, but be in eternal bliss after you die? What if I told you that you could achieve this goal just by applying my ten simple steps to success? But wait, there’s more! Act now and for the small price of a life of abstinence you too can spread my plan for fun and profit!”

Let’s face it, throughout history Christianity has evolved like a fruit fly in a nuclear plant. Any time missionaries encountered a reluctant people the religion was quick to adopt the native’s holidays and other necessary customs. Failing that, many leaders resorted to brutal violence to spread their message of love.

I know how hypocritical it is for me to say that I hate them for being intolerant. As I said above, I really don’t know how to reconcile my feelings. I suppose I can say that all I want is people to be equally tolerant of alternatives, but I know that will never happen. It’s human nature to be scared and oppressive of anything different. Or is it? Maybe it’s only American nature. I’ll explore that later.