I have started to see little meaningful difference between a religious believer and a battered woman.
Both have given away their personal sovereignty and subjugated themselves, both believe they do not deserve better treatment and that they may have brought out their lesser than state upon themselves or have done something to deserve the treatment.
Neither think that they deserve better treatment and are afraid to leave said relationship for either fear of eternal hell for the former and being stalked and murdered for the latter. Of course, with some religious sects, being hunted down and killed or sued for leaving, or being shunned by the community and being cast out by family and friends is not that different to the social attitudes towards divorced women only a few decades ago.
The attitude that a woman should be with a man, so that any man, no matter how violent, is better than none – is not at all different from the social attitude that believing in any god is superior to not believing in one.
The only substantive difference is that with the battered woman – or let’s be really honest – battered man because sometimes the woman is the batterer coupled with that battering also occurs in gay and lesbian relationships – we are all people, no better or worse than each other – at least there is an actual person responsible for beating and abusing the battered person. Whereas, for believers, they have to do the beating upon themselves and often the family, and that has lead to a lot of religious psychological kinkiness, self torture and sadly, horrors visited upon children, teens, vulnerable adults and non-believers. Often for non-family, this takes the form of bigotry and discrimination at best and religiously motivate violence at worst.
The battered person can have some private solace that perhaps the abuse isn’t really their fault, it’s down to their abuser – but they remain for a variety of reasons – social pressure, financial, for the children; without any thought to what they are really teaching said children – but perhaps the biggest reason people stay in battering relationships is because as bad as it is, it may well still be better than their previous experiences, there is some comfort in familiarity (as horrifying as that was to write) and the fear that if their partners have all been abusers, the fear that maybe it is them that brings it out in the other person.
Now, there something to be said on that last part – in many workshops that I have attuned about dealing with difficult workplace relationships and conflict management – the so called golden rule of doing unto others is something that falls far short of the mark, because there are people who are okay with being treated badly and this then gives them permission to treat others in the same way.
With believers, they do not have that private solace of maybe there’s a kinder, gentler god out there for them – humans are inferior to a deity by definition and design – human definition and design.
Even though religion is the opiate of the masses and the social mechanism to prevent the poor from slaughtering the rich to take their stuff – it seems that the more awareness we have socially about how to treat and interact with each other – as equal and as equally deserving of compassion, consideration and equality – so too are believers beginning to re-think their relationship with god.
If society says that ever citizen gets to vote and have the expectation of security of person, home, jobs, that discrimination is not acceptable, that hate crimes are not acceptable, that everyone is equal under the law and the law is specifically inclusive of this – gay marriage being the current legal equality battle in many secular countries which proclaim human rights but have not equally extended the same rights to all citizens or would-be citizens; then believers who are told by their religion that they are special and better than everyone else and that others do not deserve the same rights and legal protect – it has to start to seep in that there’s something wrong with the religion and with god.
After all, you don’t keep chasing after a person who makes big promises, and then never calls on your birthday and generally takes your worship and adoration for granted, worse, actually demands said worship or else. A person who demands that you limit your family and friends to a narrow segment of society, which is better than the rest; when in fact and under law, no people are any better than any other. In a global economy, we are all inter-dependent nations and no nation is self-sufficient.
The people in another country who are providing resources and services are not less deserving of livable wages, workplace safety, environmental protections and dignity of their person. If we learn anything from Chernobyl, it is that it doesn’t matter where a disaster event occurs, the wind and water carry the contaminates around the world for all to enjoy and get cancer from.
As social attitudes change, our expectation of how we want to be treated and how we treat others changes. We do not have to put up with abusive treatment – there are options, there are recourse’s, there are equalizers. People in western secular democratic societies don’t want to feel bad about themselves, don’t want to feel unworthy and wretched. What do we want? Happiness! When do we want it? Now!
So in non-fundamental circles, god turns to a quasi Santa Claus and the apologists come out and offer up the deathbed loopholes, you don’t have to be good or do good, you just have to accept the savior, you can do bad, as long as you repent and are really sorry. They whitewash over the bible texts, softening the edges and that Old Time Religion becomes a kinder, gentler – not quite Mr. Rodgers because he accepted everyone exactly as they were and religion isn’t ready to do that, they still like their bigotries because it just won’t be heaven if anyone could get in.
Mega-churches become as malls with chapels, complete with coffee shops, ATMs, bookstores, gym classes – a whole family community centre were religious meetings seem incidental or the value added part rather than the focal point.
Many religions who have been watching their coffers and attendance numbers dropping are embracing the big tent and polishing off the more strident of the religious beliefs, softening the religion to be more inclusive and less damnation, less religious, really.
This will help to prop up the tents for a while, but eventually, people will migrate away, to return only on special days or maybe nostalgia, because it’s okay to feel good about yourself and you don’t need religion to do it, when the purpose of religion, no matter how softened, is to say that you aren’t good enough for god, you’re unworthy which is why you have to give the money, attend the meetings, obey and worship and not use the free will that so many people are talking about.
But you are, you are good enough on your own, good enough to be treated well by everyone in your life, without exception.