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The good, bad and ugly of religiosity - Ed Brock

A synchronistic series of events have led me to make a few observations about morality and religion.

Indeed, a belief in synchronicity is my last remaining indulgence in the metaphysical or esoteric. Put simply, it is the belief that certain coincidences are not coincidence at all. In his book "The Celestine Prophecy" James Redfield has a lot to say about synchronicity as an indication that, in a sense, "life is trying to tell you something."

I won't present the events in temporal order, but rather in a range from what I consider good, positive application of religious belief and morality to an example of morality gone horribly wrong.

Perhaps it's a little self indulgent that my first example, the most positive one, comes from my own family. It came in a comment from my aunt during a visit at our house that she made with my parents.

A devout Catholic, she basically said that there are a lot of things about her religion that may not make sense, but she believes them anyway. The context of the comment was a discussion about the Catholic Apostolic Church of North America.

The reason for my parents' and aunt's visit was that they were on their way to attend my uncle's ordination in that relatively new and small faith. The fact that they were doing that is also an example of positive religion.

You see, the Catholic Apostolic Church of North America is a far more liberal splinter of the Catholic Church, and my uncle's decision to leave the traditional church for this new religion was a source of some debate within my mother's very Catholic Irish family. But my mother and aunt, as well as most of their brothers and sisters, accepted his decision because their love for him was more important.

Their religion gives them strength, even though as my aunt said it doesn't always make sense, but they are not slaves to their religion. They retain the spiritual flexibility that allows them to make their own judgment about right and wrong.

My next example is actually the last in that series of synchronistic events. While walking by the capitol in downtown Atlanta I saw a piece of folded paper on the ground and somehow felt inspired to pick it up.

It was a tract published by A Ministry of the Faith Baptist Church in Primrose titled "What God Says About the Sin of Homosexuality." It was a good example of slightly inferior religious thought.

On the good side, the author made sure to point out that he loves homosexuals and wants the best for them, that he is a "hate the sin but love the sinner" kind of Christian. He then goes on to say that the Bible shows that homosexuality is a choice and one that imperils the soul of the homosexual.

The fault I find in this approach is its reliance on one source, the Bible, to determine truth. This is a common flaw of most religions, though there are those, particularly in the Episcopalian Church, who take a different view on this subject and are, again, able to decide for themselves what they believe God wants from them.

Also, the author goes on about AIDS being God's wrath against the homosexuals, a superstitious attitude that actually contributed some to the spread of the disease. But at least the preacher who wrote this tract did so with compassion and an honest belief in what he is saying.

My space is limited, so I'll move on to my second to last example. I received a mass mailing from the so-called Rev. Franklin Graham in which he proclaims that Australia is a "spiritually dark country" full of "un-churched" secularists in need of salvation.

Frankly, I find it interesting that Franklin is looking to take his ministry to such a prime vacation location, but more importantly I consider the track an example of a more disturbing trend in the religious community. It represents the presumption that people can only find true happiness through not just religion, but one particular religion, and that is patently false.

It's that kind of thinking that is causing our society to blur the line between law and religion, but annoying as that is I find my final example even more repulsive.

In a letter to "Dear Abby" a woman in Arizona writes that her granddaughter is living with a man to whom she is not married, a situation the grandmother finds morally reprehensible. That would be quaint, in my opinion, but acceptable, however this nasty little crone went too far.

When her granddaughter and her live-in had a child, they sent a baby announcement to the grandmother. Grandma sent it back with a letter telling the granddaughter "we are ashamed of their conduct and lack of morals" and "there's nothing to celebrate about this birth of an out-of-wedlock child."

Here is the absolute misapplication of morality, a woman so caught up on the rules of her beliefs that she has lost track of the most important teaching of almost all religions, compassion. I have nothing but contempt for that woman and I only hope she manages to somehow read this column so she will know that contempt.

So there it is, my interpretation of what life was trying to tell me over this past week.

Ed Brock covers public safety and municipal governments for the News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753 ext. 254 or at ebrock@news-daily.com .