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Schubart: Fundamentalism

There are two types of religion in the world today, those inspired by divinities and divinely inspired prophets once living among us such as Christ, Buddha, Mohammed, and Moses and those altered or fabricated by men to their own earthly purposes.

We forget that the religious texts outlining a religious canon for each religion were written by men for the most part and that men have continued through the centuries to interpret these moral codes according to their own biases, self-serving belief systems, and aspirations for wealth and power.

We live today with fundamental sects of some religions that subjugate women, denying them access to education, healthcare, and self-sufficiency. We see non-profit mega-churches, with commercial enterprises offering banking and insurance. Throughout history and even today, many religions have militant wings willing to kill those who don’t believe as they do or to acquire treasure on earth instead of in heaven.

The religions that adhere to original tenets are characterized by their focus on spiritual values rather than earthly ones. The consistency of values among these major religions is surprising – love, forgiveness, empathy, mercy, acceptance, humility, and service.

I’ve lived with this schism in my own Catholic upbringing. I followed the battle between “liberation theology” whose adherents emulated Christ in their devotion to serving the poor and in their battle against church hierarchy supported by wealth and power, and the Holy See in Rome whose insistence on the absolutes of Canon Law and male dominance in religious matters diminished the church’s relevance to many Catholics.

Growing up in Vermont, it was easy to see the impact of small communities of faith on their larger communities, alleviating suffering, advocating for social and economic justice.

Perhaps it’s our fears and budding narcissism that fills the pews of those congregations that judge harshly, create demons and shibboleths where none exist, and cloak their political aims in fake spirituality. I often wonder how the founding divinities and prophets would respond, seeing how many have turned a spiritual path to selfish ends.

Religion’s purpose is to advance the spiritual tenets of the world’s wise men and women, and to connect us with our better angels so we might live out our capacity for justice, love, mercy, and caring for one another. Religions that deny education, equality, and our common humanity rend the very fabric that binds us together.

Bill Schubart lives and writes in Hinesburg. His latest book is Lila & Theron.
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