If you like watching Dawkins or Hitchens slap religion around, you’ll love Cathy L Mason’s new book.
In Peddling Servitude, Cathy L Mason slams down on religion with pure logic in her witty, intelligent and unforgiving style. She gives a powerful voice to the many Atheists and Ex-Religionists who would love to speak out for themselves if circumstances would only permit. Her fresh perspective peels back the layers of religious control for all to see, unearthing new insights for all freethinkers to consider. One of Cathy L Mason’s best books yet!
It started with an innocuous comment by an acquaintance we hadn’t seen in a while. While chatting about our families he mentioned the trouble he and his wife were having with a couple of their teenage children. This solid Mormon family is well-known in the area we lived in for a number of years and are regarded as stalwart religious individuals true to their faith in every way. It is no flaw to have difficulty with one’s children, but the casual remark set me thinking about the role of religion in families like this and how it impacts individuals and groups.
In one of my previous books, “The Conservative Atheist: My journey out of Mormonism and into a new life without any gods”, I detailed the 45 years I spent as a member of the LDS church, life crises that propelled me into a journey of exploration and discovery about myself and religious issues, and how leaving the church and, indeed, all religion behind has affected my life. It is a joyous chapter I am in, but I’m mindful that my views are often not popular. The book centered on my own experiences, but, during the writing of that book and subsequent studies, I have realized more and more the incredibly negative toll religion takes on people, families, communities, nations, and the world in general.
At the outset I want to make clear that I never, ever imagined myself in the position I am now. The church was all I knew and, though I knew there were problems and never fully bought into the doctrines taught, it was familiar and comfortable. It would have been far easier to remain a member of the church and go with the proverbial flow, but there came a time in my life when I just couldn’t do that any more. I had to know what was really true and authentic in my life – I couldn’t assume anything any more. What I found turned everything upside down and put me in a really tough spot, especially because I remained solidly conservative in my political views.
When I realized I had to leave the church I rejoiced because what I had learned validated everything I had known all along. What I didn’t see coming was the almost immediate rejection following that of all things religious. I had simply assumed there was a god, though I never felt any connection whatsoever. When the epiphany hit me, that there is no divine being, it was a staggering relief, yet I shied away from the dreaded “a” word. Atheism is viewed very badly and even I do not care for the term. Yet, that is where I find myself – it is a marvelous, authentic place to be. It’s a shame so many people perceive it in such a negative way. Leaving the church was tough, but owning my atheism and retaining my conservatism publicly has been tougher.
The LDS church does not let go of their own easily. Those drifting away or actively attempting to leave the fold are often harassed, visited without notice, sent letters and pamphlets, and manipulated through guilt and anger by ward members, church leaders, and family. It is a daunting prospect, standing firm against the onslaught, and many an ex-Mormon has seen friends and acquaintances turn their back on a formerly congenial relationship. Worse, families are torn apart, with church leaders actively encouraging this in order to put pressure on the wayward soul to return to the flock and submit to church authority.
Other religions vary in their reactions to exiting members. Some regard it as a personal issue and do not interfere, while others react violently and murderously. I have studied other faiths quite a bit and will refer to them, but my experiences with religion are, obviously, centered around the Mormon church. I view this particular church as a perfect way to illustrate the concepts I present in the book, but my examples will not be limited to just that faith. As well, once one leaves their religion it is often expected that liberal views are immediately embraced and espoused – shunning that choice creates just as much anger and turmoil in others.
Many churches are remarkably similar in their foundations, growth, teachings, financial dealings, and member management, which is telling. The faithful among us, no matter the religion, are often incredibly defensive about their churches and have no intention of hearing any other viewpoints whatsoever. They are taught well, i.e. conditioned, to behave and conform. I find this unbearably sad. I used to respect religious people and organizations, or at least tried to – I had been taught all my life that I belonged to the one true church and all others were simply pretenders to the throne, as it were, so I tolerated other faiths, barely, and felt rather virtuous for doing so. Now I realize how well the thought conditioning worked on me too, which is embarrassing.
I have skewed this book more toward the religious side of things because that has been the cause of much of my anger and frustration, but I have attempted to weave the two perspectives together in order to show similarities and parallels that must not be overlooked. So, in taking religions and liberalism to task and attempting to shed light on the overwhelming power and control exerted in the name of faith and big government, I had to decide whether continued respect was warranted or if the gloves should come off. You can probably guess which way I went.
It would seem desirable and admirable to read, in difficult or distressing times, scriptures that calm minds and bring about feelings of love from a divine being, but in reality, those same scriptures advocate brutality beyond comprehension, a vindictive god, opposing accounts of the same events, absurd beliefs about the planet and its inhabitants, and trust in magical animals. We read that we should “Fear not, for I am with thee”, but also see that God, had he existed at all, certainly threw millions, even billions, of people under the proverbial bus by allowing them to die hideous, painful, frightening, inexplicable deaths due to disease, raids, injuries, punishments, abuse, physical processes around the world, and other events they couldn’t possibly understand.
Wise, freethinking citizens should aggressively shuck off the yoke of power holding them firmly in place, realizing that, as always, the more one gets for “free” the more one is enslaved by the giver. Too many individuals fall into the trap of accepting help while not realizing how quickly that very trap will spring shut, cutting off their ability to lead a life guided by conscience and self-motivation. They want the easy way out – if life is difficult, it seems a happy coincidence that the government seems to have plenty of help at hand with no work necessary, or even desired. So it goes with people of various faiths – living lives devoid of a cosmic guarantee that we will be rewarded beyond our wildest dreams for simply living a moral, decent life is incomprehensible and, to many, quite depressing. The very beauty and joy of experiencing life at all is kicked to the curb in favor of demanding far more than we deserve and will ever have. Cannot life itself be enough? Can we not bask in the beauty of a life untold numbers of organisms will never experience, for various reasons, because they are not as lucky as we are? Can this not simply be enough on its own?
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