Interfaith Services Are Stupid

ted-rall-aaron-la-timesdsc_02661Skewed News  This morning at Ground Zero in lower Manhattan, Pope Francis led an interfaith service.

As The Washington Post reports, “the Catholic Church set off massive changes 50 years ago this fall with the Second Vatican Council document called Nostra aetate. That opened in a dramatic way Catholics to other faiths. Because of the size of the church, that was the first domino for many other faith groups to begin dialogue and study together that before had been seen by many as forbidden.” The interfaith (or multifaith) movement has gathered momentum since.

“To be able, on that spot, to have a service with interfaith leaders, and this pope, to try and figure out: How do we craft a world where religion is the glue that holds our moral fiber together — not this battering ram of ideology and ethnocentrism and hatred” Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Jewish Reform movement, told the Post.

Sounds neat.

Peace, love, kumbaya.

But that doesn’t make the idea of interfaith anything less stupid.

I grew up Catholic. Now I don’t believe in God. When my mom asks me why I don’t believe in God, I list the things that don’t make sense about Catholicism.

“You’re a fanatic!” she says. “More Catholic than the pope! You can believe in a religion without believing all of its tenets, you know.”

Actually, you can’t. Roman Catholicism a belief system. If you don’t believe in the holy trinity, or papal infallibility, or the immaculate conception of Jesus by Mary, you can be many things — but you’re not Catholic. (You can, interestingly, be Catholic yet not believe in God. It’s called a crisis of faith, and it can last a lifetime.)   It’s the same with other belief systems. Despite what some people say, you can’t believe in science and religion at the same time. If you think capitalism can get out of hands sometimes and ought be controlled, you’re at least part socialist.

Whether in religion or in politics, you can’t take one from Column A and another from Column B.

Watching this morning’s service at Ground Zero brought home the opposite of the intended point: that the world’s great religions have more in common than not. Monotheism? No, there were Hindus and Buddhists there.

Basic beliefs? The pope believes that we go to heaven, hell or purgatory after we die. The imam leaves out the third option. The rabbi believes everything fades to black — the void.

To me, interfaith services come as close as it is possible to proving that religion is bullshit. It isn’t possible, after all, for all of these belief systems — so many in conflict with each other in fundamental ways — to be true. At best, one is true; the others false. At bare minimum, it is obvious that 80-plus percent of the 84% of humanity that claims to have faith is worshiping at the wrong altar.

Then there’s the not-insignificant exclusion factor.

Where were the Zoroastrians, the world’s first monotheists, and their 2.6 million adherents? Not at Ground Zero. What about the Satanists, Wiccans and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster? Not PC enough to warrant an invite, but who is the pope to decide that?

I’m not calling for a return to the wars of religion. But let’s be honest: different religions believe different things. Like fusion food, they don’t make sense when mixed together.

For Skewed News, I’m Ted Rall.

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