Right-Wing Religions of the World Unite to Oppress Women and Gays More Ruthlessly
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Even though evangelicals typically don't oppose contraception as fervently as the Catholic hierarchy, they too want the ability to cite their religion as a way of opting out of any social-justice law they dislike. Again, what these interfaith efforts are all seeking is religion as an excuse for discrimination -- a license to hate and to treat people unequally.
These troubling interfaith efforts don't just happen within Christianity; they span national boundaries and bring together completely different religions. Take, for example, the well-known alliance between right-wing evangelical Christians in the U.S. and right-wing Jewish settlers in Israel. It's a bizarre marriage of convenience; many of the settlers believe that Israel should rightfully possess all the land that, according to the Bible, God promised to the Jewish people. The evangelicals believe this as well, but add the idea that Jewish possession of the promised land is a necessary precondition for the return of Jesus and the apocalyptic war predicted by Revelation, at which time all Jews will either be converted to Christianity or slaughtered.
Despite their very different motivations, these two groups have forged an effective alliance. The religious nationalists in Israel have had more or less free rein, and they're increasingly allied with ultra-Orthodox Jews in expanding illegal settlements. Meanwhile, the evangelicals have pressured American governments to shield Israel from international criticism and to take a hands-off policy toward the settlements. The evangelicals have even raised money to help build more of them.
There's one more example of interfaith discrimination, possibly the most bizarre of all. As Michelle Goldberg writes in her book The Means of Reproduction, the United Nations has done far more good than many Americans give it credit for. The resolutions and treaties so often disparaged as useless symbolism in the West have had major, concrete effects in the developing world, especially when it comes to the rights of women, children and disenfranchised minorities.
This has led to something once unimaginable: at the United Nations, the Roman Catholic church -- the only religious denomination with official U.N. observer status -- and a coalition of conservative Islamic-majority nations have often allied to battle resolutions relating to women's rights and family planning. For example, at the 1994 Cairo Conference on Population and Development, the Vatican marshaled a coalition of Islamic countries, including Libya and Iran, to lobby against language on reproductive rights. They've also fought against mentioning reproductive choice at the more recent Rio+20 conference.
This historically unprecedented alliance of fundamentalisms, as ominous as it appears for friends of liberty and secularism, may be an alliance of necessity or even of desperation. The Western world is becoming more secular and more atheist. Despite the lavish cathedrals that dot the landscape and the cultural and historical resonances it possesses, organized religion in Europe in particular is in the terminal phase of a long decline.
This year, Norway officially disestablished its state church, to little protest or notice. In the UK, a conservative government recently announced plans for full marriage equality, despite the outrage it drew from the church. (Yes, the Anglican church, that bastion of liberal Protestantism and British politeness, is opposed to same-sex marriage.) I just came back from a trip to Scotland, where I saw for myself all the magnificent, empty church buildings in Edinburgh that have been transformed into bars, restaurants or clubs.
Even in some of the church's traditional cultural strongholds, religion is fading like the tide going out. In Italy, the birthrate has dropped to the point where the previous pope demanded that Italians have more children. In Spain, the current pope histronically compared the expansion of gay rights and abortion rights to genocide. In Ireland, after a series of devastating reports on the priestly child-abuse scandal in that country, the prime minister delivered a searing rebuke to the Vatican's ambassador, and a recent survey shows that the Irish people are leaving Catholicism at an astounding rate. There's unprecedented resistance and protest popping up even in even in the one-time Catholic stronghold of Poland.