Spiritual practice provides us fulfillment in a world of chaos and sadness. Like an intimate relationship with a partner, spiritual practice connects us deeply with the awe and mystery of existence. Whether you pray, meditate, worship, study, create or provide service, your spiritual practice protects you and fosters within you joy and love.
All too frequently, however, intimate partners become abusive. We suffer from an epidemic of domestic abuse and violence no less harmful than a divine plague. We suffer from abuse not only within our homes, but in our society as well. Just as an abusive partner uses coercion, intimidation, and threats to control another, some people seek to coerce, intimidate, and threaten others with their religious beliefs.
This religious intolerance represents a particularly insidious evil. By robbing us of a pure source of joy and enlightenment, these zealots seek to control our actions, our choices, even our thoughts. Through physical, emotional, and economic routes, religious bullies seek the power to limit our freedoms and cancel our basic human rights.
Beyond the obvious reasons, this behavior is immoral because it chases people away from religion entirely. As fundamentalists seek to increasingly tighten their grip on our laws and our freedoms, more people leave organized religion to carve their own moral code in the secular world. This saddens me because there are religious communities that do not preach hate and intolerance. There are religious communities that welcome everyone as they are and that help people along their spiritual path.
If you are the victim of religious abuse, look for the welcoming congregations. Whatever your reason for being battered by theocrats — different theology, sexual orientation, attitudes regarding women’s health, climate change, gun violence, etc. — there are religious communities that accept you as you are.