Part Two of Thirteen

I learned an interesting fact recently. Catholic Canon Law actually considers it blasphemy to abominate or disparage the drinking of alcohol. In other words, if you claim that it is a sin to drink alcohol, you are committing a fairly serious offense against God. Why? Because you are disrespecting something sacred, in this case alcohol, one of God’s good creations. Personally, I too believe alcohol is a pretty darn good creation.

After discovering that fact, I couldn’t wait to tell my trans son. The next time we were in the car together, I casually mentioned, “Hey, funny thing I just learned, did you know it is blasphemy to condemn alcohol, but not to condemn trans kids?”

Though I was hoping for more of a reaction, he simply looked at me straight-faced for a second, and said, “That would be a no,” and turned back to his phone. It wasn’t a total surprise, as he’s more or less immune to the delight I take in sharing these kinds of random observations.

Since it didn’t lead to further discussion, I started wondering what it would be like to have a conversation with Nicolas Copernicus instead. I imagined trying to explain that today’s Church still holds enough authority to defy logic and reason and control the socio-political discourse.

In my mind’s eye, I see Copernicus initially responding with a belly laugh, incredulous that the Church could maintain its grip on power some four centuries after his sun-centric discovery. Then I imagine his smile fading into a look of abject shock and horror as he realizes I wasn’t joking. I don’t even want to think about what a conversation with Eratosthenes would be like, considering flat earthers still abound some two-plus millennia after he scienced-the-heck out of that myth.

The period of time from 1500-1700 is designated the Scientific Revolution, and for good reason. It represented a revolutionary shift in thinking, as long-held beliefs about human anatomy, biology, astronomy, and the natural world were shattered, challenging even the most sacred tenets of Holy scripture. The early scientists who led this revolution sought absolute truth, not by relying on interpretations of Christian doctrine, but by being curious and using that most wonderful of human skills, critical thinking. They established the foundation for what Sir Francis Bacon ultimately synthesized into his scientific methodology.

From the Scientific Revolution to the Age of Enlightenment and into the Modern Era, the scientific method gave humanity a common framework with which to distinguish fact from fiction. It allowed us to characterize the physical laws that describe our natural world, rather than attributing supernatural explanations to things we cannot understand. It allowed us to embrace uncertainty, rather than deny it because we fear the unknown.

But as we know all too well, the empire always strikes back. For every scientific and social development that threatens the Church’s narrative, there is a corresponding backlash, typically wrought with a severity and vindictiveness meant to dissuade any future thoughts of defiance.

This work is my best attempt to sow the seeds of rebellion. And I don’t mean your stodgy garden-variety rebellion. I’m talking about nothing less than ending the weaponization of religion, by finally holding organized religions accountable for their thousand-year-plus reign of terror against critical thinking. A reign of terror punctuated by some of the worst crimes against humanity.

Those religious institutions have enjoyed an almost Teflon-like immunity from facing justice. They continue to exert their influence in every facet of modern society, from what we learn in school, to who we love at home; from the healthcare we need to live, to the suffering we endure till death. Accountability? Nah. We’ve given them a tax break instead.

So we choose rebellion, of the scientific kind. It begins as soon as we acknowledge that faith is not fact. But for it to take hold, our younger generations must vote en masse to ensure that those four words are enshrined and upheld at every level of government and within any institution receiving government funding. The rebellion must continue until all our laws and public policies are based on logic and reason and not supernatural speculation.

As will become clear, scientific rebellion is not a campaign against religious beliefs or believers. To the contrary, those who identify as religious or spiritual are as essential to this rebellion as those who see themselves as agnostic, atheist, or humanist.

The tie that binds us together as rebels is critical thinking. For this reason, I advocate for all organized religions to display a statement, similar to a Surgeon General’s Warning, “While we believe our doctrine to be divinely inspired, we acknowledge these beliefs to be personal and subjective. It is called faith for a reason. Faith is not fact, and our doctrine must never be considered objectively true nor used to condemn or oppress others.”

If every inclusive church that values social justice were to confidently post this statement, I believe they would be the vanguard in the rebellion and their membership numbers may actually improve.

Embracing faith is not fact does not diminish an individual’s religious freedom; it preserves it by ensuring that no religion or supernatural claim can be used to dehumanize and oppress others. It does not claim that any religion is false, for we can no more prove the non-existence of an undefinable deity than we can prove its existence. It does not stop anyone from worshipping as they please, but it does stop them from making false claims and weaponizing those claims to persecute others and to destabilize our government institutions.

The time for half measures is over. Unless we enshrine those four words in our practice of government, we will always be susceptible to the weaponization of religion. We will always be one election cycle away from the rise of some form of Christian nationalism and its paunchy demi-God. We will witness life imitating art, as The Handmaid’s Tale becomes prophecy.

The odds may not be in our favor, but there is power in taking that first step of defiance. It is the power in Rosa Parks saying ‘Nah’ to giving up her seat. It is the power in taking a knee, rising up, and never backing down. It is the power in unleashed rebellion.

Peter Tchoryk

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