(from Oct 7, 2010)
It seems whenever we have the specter of Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church, picketing a military funeral, or Boyd K. Packer, president of the LDS church’s Quorum of Twelve Apostles’, tumultuous headlines in the news, someone invariably points to the track record of cruel injustices historically perpetrated by various sects of the Christian religion – which include the 17th century inquisition’s, torture and burning at the stake of targeted miscreants – all done in the name of God.
One, of course, wonders at how people were ever persuaded to such extreme actions. Or, indeed, how such limited thinking could still exist in the world today.
But since this kind of thinking was, in fact, little different from what is being spewed by some religious leaders and their followers today, it’s not only helpful, but instructive – to those laboring on both sides of the issue – to read and internalize the words of Aldous Huxley, who developed an unusually keen insight and understanding, that culminated in this surprisingly concise explanation for the mental machinations at work here. From his book, The Devils of Loudon:
The idolatrous transformation – of the relative into the absolute and the all-too-human into the divine – makes it possible for man to indulge his ugliest passion, in the firm belief that he is working for the highest good.
Or, the equally concise words of Anne Lamott:
You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image, when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.
The thing to recognize is that both individuals and churches eventually rationalize their thinking – and in fact, adjust their morality – as they come to understand and deal with those new and unique moral dilemmas that simply arise from the exigencies of personal experience and modern life.
And these-days, invoking the name of God in making high-toned moral pronouncements, is simply the modern version of the age old self-serving charlatan’s guise, of cloaking bigotry and hate in the robes of priesthood.
Speaking of which, Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church just recently had their day in court – before the United States Supreme Court – in a bid to overturn a suit awarding 10.9 million dollars in damages, to a victim of his brand of harassment.