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Is It OK To Kill Fundamentalists in Video Games And Other Musings On Religion

By Lord Castleton | Think Pieces | June 2, 2017 |


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The new trailer for Far Cry 5 is out and it’s causing a lot of hubbub. Specifically because for the first time, the focal point of the game is killing Christians. Fundamentalist, wacko-David Koreshian Christians for sure, but Christians nonetheless. American Christians in rural Montana.

What I like about it is that it’s a daring commentary on a country that feels flipped on its ear. A year ago at this time, the United States was at best ‘leader of the free world’ and at worst ‘a democratic nation.’ Now, with Sauron controlling an elderly imbecile through a Russian Palantir, we’ve…slipped a bit.

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In one sense, that makes our inevitable comeback that much better.

But in another sense, it gives us reason to pause, and consider how the fox came to run the hen house in the first place? In answering that, the religious right has to shoulder a percentage of responsibility.

Now, before this descends into chaos, let me couch everything in sanity by saying this: there is absolutely nothing wrong with religion or spirituality in and of itself. In fact, some of the most comforting emotions humans can experience can involve the feeling of being one with a higher entity or being ‘watched over’ by a benevolent deity. No one should ever fault anyone for their faith. It can be a wonderful, wholesome thing. Let me also say that all of my family in every direction is Christian. Some of them are born-again. Some of my close friends are very devout. Many of the best all-around people I have ever known have had a deep connection to religion and they practice what they preach. Religion, as a guide, often provides people with a time-tested road map by which to live their lives. It certainly doesn’t prevent people from being introspective and ‘good.’

Nor does it automatically grant them those qualities.

Where I tend to chafe against organized religions — any organized religion — is when it begins to advance its perceived superiority over people who don’t necessarily subscribe to that particular doctrine. A certain deity is perceived to say X, therefore we will make rules for civilization that say Y.

No, no, no.

We purport to have separation of Church and State here in America, but we still swear our President in on the Bible. That always shocks me. And this past inauguration featured two Bibles! I would bet my bottom dollar that current head of the executive branch has never read any part of the Bible. The two Bible-swear in was the sports car equivalent of tiny-penis compensation. Look how big my Holiness is!

To close the inauguration ceremony, we listened to several prayers by various men of the cloth and it struck me more than ever as an incongruity. How must areligious people feel watching this ceremony? Or how about members of other religious faiths? It’s not notable that, in 2017, people pray for divine guidance for our leaders. What is notable is that we do it in an official government ceremony which purportedly represents all Americans. What does that mean that, as part of our American version of a coronation, that the existence of a higher being is just presumed?

American public school children pledge allegiance to a flag that is Under God. Every bill from the American public mint says “In God We Trust”, which is the official motto of the United States of America. Is it a systemic misinterpretation of separation of Church and State, or possibly, an intentional one?

Either way, some people are tired of the ambiguity around it.

Take the Pope, for example.

I really like this Pope, much more than I have any of his predecessors. Because I think he and I would agree that the worst part of faith-based organizations is not the faith. That’s the best part. It’s the frauds who profess to care about the faith and then live their lives in a completely different fashion.

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I’m with that. I’m with that so hard.

Because I grew up in a very religious household. I went to not one but two churches every Sunday because my dad was Lutheran and my mom was Greek Orthodox. So that’s two Sunday schools and two Holy Communions and I also worked in the Altar at my mom’s church. And what turned me off more than anything over the years was how simple it was for people to pretend to be pillars of the community while acting utterly cruel and petty in their personal lives. I still see it all the time.

And of course, that double standard was brought to a head with the various, stomach-turning breaches of trust in Catholicism.

In my personal case, the two ‘Shepherds’ I admired the most were both drummed out of their respective religions for having affairs. What a pisser. One was this young, handsome Protestant minister who used to preach out of a small church in New Hampshire. He had a knack for public speaking, and every weekend he’d comment on a current social issue and weave it in seamlessly with a Biblical teaching, but not in a preachy way. It was like a friend. It was like, here’s how I think of it. How do you think of it? Is there another way to look at it? He took crusty old parables and made them feel fresh and relevant. And people would bring lawn chairs and sit in the parking lot. They had to spring for these crummy stereo speakers and wire them through open windows just so people could hear the sermon outside. You couldn’t even see him if you didn’t get there early. I never heard a full accounting of the whys, but I gathered that he was having sex with several parishioners and they ran him out of dodge. The other guy was this Orthodox Bishop with these crystal clear eyes. Holy eyes. Angelic. He would sing in Greek with this booming voice and you could almost feel the Holy Spirit in his presence. He didn’t feel completely human. He was more like a warrior priest from a different era. When he looked at you, you felt like he had somehow been on the other side. It was awe-inspiring. I think they found out that he had a second, secret apartment with a woman and that was curtains for him.

We could debate at great length about the importance or lack of importance of celibacy in conjunction with ordination, and different religions view it differently, but suffice it to say that the closest people I had to role models were summarily kicked to the curb. So, that wasn’t awesome for me.

One of the reasons I was so shocked about the Republican victory this past November was the very real difference between Trump and Hillary with regard to religion. She was an actual Sunday school teacher. He is the living embodiment of the seven deadly sins: envious, gluttonous, greedy, lustful, proud, lazy and wrathful. And the Pope rightly questioned his sincerity.

In response, Trump called the Pope - The Pope! - disgraceful.

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He’s done, I thought. That’s it. No Christian is going to stand by as the highest profile person in Christianity is maligned. He’s done.

But, no. Not even close. American Evangelicals turned out in force, in record numbers, to vote for Donald Trump.

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And I feel like this really opens them up to some very obvious questions. Like, is it more important to just claim you’re a Christian, or to actually adhere to Christian values? The two aren’t always common bedfellows.

The scope and consistency of their voting resolve is a large part of what turned the election. It wasn’t like they were fractured. The highest percentage of Evangelicals rang the Republican bell ever.

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So is it just the saddest possible by-product of identity politics or is it something more sinister?

The unification of that particular voting block has called some to compare the American Religious Right to the Taliban. Others suggest that our current administration smacks too much of the Christian version of Sharia Law or a thinly-veiled surge toward theocracy, and that it’s not remotely connected to the majority of Americans, among whom atheism is silently growing. Nothing captures the frustrated resentment of people who perceive the 2016 election reflects a certain hypocrisy than this tweet storm:

But it’s the words and deeds of people who consider themselves devout Christians that really do the most damage to their viewpoints. Like the big tough guy who beat up a reporter on the way to becoming a member of congress. He thinks of himself as a religious man.

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Frankly, it’s exhausting, and in my opinion, people like this do a horrible disservice to Christianity as an institution, and reflect the polar opposite of the teachings and kindnesses that the Bible attempts to promote.

But the most egregious and jarring moment in recent memory was during the recent Attorney General confirmation hearings when Jeff Sessions was asked if secular people had as much claim to the truth as religious people and Sessions answers “well, I don’t know.”

That should have immediately been the end of that. That’s insane. Straight up delusional. That’s why so many people are terrified of having what they perceive as a religious zealot as the highest law-enforcement official in the land. It doesn’t help that Mike Pence’s catchphrase is:

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Just because someone is areligious or non-religious it certainly doesn’t mean they are unethical or amoral. Quite the opposite, in fact.

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This chart, for example, shows the results of a recent poll about waterboarding, where you can see that the non-religious respondents came out against torture in significantly higher proportion to their religious counterparts.

But, equally chilling is this new Pew survey where 32% of Americans feel that someone needs to be Christian to be American.

While not surprising, it is conversation-worthy, especially when we have yet to have a serious dialogue about what it truly means to have Christian values in a country that is supposed to, at its very core, separate religion from governance. How would, for example, those same 32% of people feel if the next president decided to swear his oath of office on the Koran? Or the Torah?

Or how would the dollar bill look with the words There is No God stamped across it?

How about all children recite the words “Under Cthulhu” in the pledge of allegiance?

When you put the shoe on the other foot, it looks significantly scarier. And some would say that that’s precisely why religious people in America are digging in so hard, to prevent the shoe from getting anywhere near the other foot.

Incidentally, the only two presidents who refused to swear his oath of office on the Bible were John Adams and later his son, John Quincy Adams. They placed their hands on a book of law.

And isn’t that really the way it should be? Shouldn’t we be moving to create a society of inclusion and grace, where the best values of its citizens, both the religious and those who choose to be unaffiliated with religion, work in symphony to make for a better world for our children and grandchildren? There are amazing people on both sides of the church door. We need to find a way to celebrate both.

Or maybe that’s just the empty propaganda they write in the pamphlets about the USA. Maybe it will always be a rigged game and the best we can do to show our frustration is go to fake Montana on our Xboxes and attack some radicals. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to until Far Cry 5 launches in February of 2018.

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