Love thy religious neighbour

I’m getting more and more intolerant of people who hide an agenda of hate and discrimination behind their religion. If you’re a bigot, I think you should own up to it instead of hiding behind your religion.

I’m always hearing of religious people who don’t want to register civil partnerships, don’t want to deal with gay people or even have them sleep in their B&B and hide behind what their religion tells them to do. In fact the media focus so much on these people that, as a consequence, the LGBT community direct their opposition at the religion itself when religions are rarely evil. It’s all about how people interpret them.

Don’t be fooled by the fact that I’m choosing to defend religion today. I am not a religious person. I like to respect people’s right to a spiritual life but as far as I’m concerned it’s not at all a dimension that I have. In fact, I think I’m spiritually challenged. I don’t get how people can believe that stuff about god but I think it’s cool if you do.

I also think that god is really a side issue when it comes to religion. What it’s really about is a system of beliefs: a philosophy of life. The fact that it centres around the existence of a divine being is incidental.

Personally, I grew up in Italy and was raised Catholic and although my family was never one to attend mass with great frequency and I don’t think anyone ever used the word ‘sin’, I had my Catholic education as a kid like all other kids my age.

Now, maybe I wasn’t paying too much attention — that’s very possible, I always had a tendency to get distracted easily — but the message I got out of it was really not that negative. It was really all about love, love thy neighbour, love those who are different, don’t judge others (that business about looking at the splinter in your brother’s eye when you have a beam in your own… I never got how you could even see your brother, surely when you turn around to look at him you’re going to knock him clear off his feet with that big beam sticking out of your eye which, by the way, must be really uncomfortable).

I’ll even add that I had a lovely priest who was really warm and intelligent and never did that thing that today we think all priests do.

I mean, the man himself, Mr J Christ, hung out with whores and diseased folks. Hardly the cool kids. He was all about going against the mainstream. Not a football jock, more a glee club kind of guy. With this background, I think we all have to stop and recognise the effort it must have gone into turning this message into what we hear spewing from the mouths of those rich bureaucrats who run the vatican machine. They have made this religion so mainstream that they’ve forgotten all about its original inclusiveness of those who were not.

So all I’m saying to you secular folks out there is not to hate the religion itself or think that all religious people are evil bigots. I think going down this path is taking us to an overly polarised society where we can’t live with each other any more.

I’ll finish telling you about my lovely nonagenarian grandma who’s very religious, goes to church every sunday and has never once uttered a non-supportive comment about my homosexuality, even before it became cool to be pro-gay. In fact she was the first person I came out to in my family. One Christmas eve many years ago, aged 16, I told her about the boy who wouldn’t love me back and, in turn, she told me the story of how she was desperately in love with Greta Garbo when she was a young woman.

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