[also posted at The Exponent]
"If you could take the skewers of religion, those that riddle your frame, make you aware every time you move- if you could withdraw the scimitars of religion from your mental and moral systems- could you even stand?"
-Elphaba, The Witch of the West
Wicked. pg 387
"And there was nothing save it was exceeding harshness, preaching and prophesying of wars, and contentions, and destructions, and continually reminding them of death, and the duration of eternity, and the judgments and the power of God, and all these things—stirring them up continually to keep them in the fear of the Lord. I say there was nothing short of these things, and exceedingly great plainness of speech, would keep them from going down speedily to destruction."
As I sit here writing this I am sipping a cup of green tea. Clear in my mind is the very first time I went to the store to buy a box of green tea. I was an adult; a wife and a mother. Standing in the grocery aisle, appraising the vast selection of teas, I literally was shaking in my boots. Every time someone walked by the aisle I jumped guiltily (caught in the act!!) As I put my box of tea on the belt at the check-out line I half way expected the cashier to card me (with a disapproving look upon her face no less) and when I finally got home and made that first cup of tea, fight or flight neurons where firing off in my brain. Big time.
Yes, I just revealed just how sheltered and naive (and goody goody?) I was. But that memory is a vivid one for me and it was simply one of many terrifying steps that was the process of asking questions I had never let myself ask before.
That terror is what I want to talk about. Doesn't that seem just wrong to anyone else??
I just found out about these Hell Houses that certain fundamentalist christian church's use to scare 12 yr olds into obeying God. Now, LDS versions are much more benign (and a lot less theatrical) but I do remember YM/YW activities where rooms in the church were set up to show the various Degrees of Glory and we were shown after-life scenarios based on hypothetical life-styles choices ("Here's what the Telestial Kingdom looks and feels like... The Celestial... The Terrestial... Outer Darkness..." etc.)
On the one hand, there is the pull between denominations as to exactly WHAT will bring salvation/damnation: (ie; my cup of green tea keeps me out of LDS heaven and my temple endowments keep me out of fundy christian heaven) and fear is used by many faiths to both control and grow the membership (anyone else get sappy scare-stories about friends in the here-after who are angry/sad that the gospel was not shared with them?). On a more general scale, the idea is put forth (ad nauseum) that without religion (and it's punishment/reward system) we'd all be running around killing each other (or some similar variant on that theme).
I'm fuzzy on the details, but I know there are belief systems that are NOT based on principles of divine reward and retribution with long lists of do-s and don't-s. And their participants seem to be pretty peaceful fulfilled individuals in spite of the lack.
Hypothetically, what do you think The Church would lose if it lost it's rhetoric of fear? What would it gain?
(Also, because it's sort of related and very funny: a Sugar Beet article about the Man Who Finished Repenting 13 months Ahead of Schedule. Awesome!)