Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither, and lose both.
-- Benjamin Franklin

Beware. Religious content

I am going to allow myself a brief foray into a discussion of religion. If you feel this may offend you, read no further.

I read today on on CNN :

“BRIELLE, New Jersey (AP) — An 8-year-old girl who suffers from a rare digestive disorder and cannot eat wheat has had her first Holy Communion declared invalid because the wafer contained no wheat, violating Roman Catholic doctrine.

Church doctrine holds that Communion wafers, like the bread served at the Last Supper, must have at least some unleavened wheat. Church leaders are reluctant to change anything about the sacrament.”

Now, some of the greatest thinkers in the last 2000 years have been catholic, not only in the field of theology, but in science, politics, arts, and everything else. I have tremendous respect for the Jesuit scholars who taught me in graduate school at Fordham. Doesn’t the above, though, indicate a religion turned upside down, where the forms of the ritual “magic” completely override the inward spiritual truth?

Even the catholic church defines a sacrament as an outward expression of an inward reality. Since when did the form of the ritual become important enough to jeopardize the health, and potentially the life, of a person undergoing the ritual magic? I am truly disgusted that any religious body would take a stand like this.

In this morning’s paper, I read a “vent” where another catholic took exception with the statement that someone made about a pilgrimage that they “adore” Mary the mother of Jesus. They don’t “adore”, she said, they love her and pray for her intervention with her son. That seems like splitting hairs, to me. More importantly, praying for help to dead people who are not God seems simply like ancestor worship, no matter how you define it.

It troubles me greatly that those who call themselves Christian can wrap themselves in so many rituals, traditions, and beliefs that Christ never espoused, and ignore the simple lessons He taught. What is the greatest commandment? “To love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind” “And a second is like it: You shall love your Neighbor like yourself.” (Mat 22:36-40). How many people, not only catholic but in any denomination, will happily take communion, but still sanction the killing of thousands upon thousands of innocent Iraqis in an unnecessary war? How does that fulfill the commandment to love your neighbor? How would the prophet of Isaiah 1:10-17 feel about the question of wheat in wafer, or the murder of Iraqis?

There is an old joke: “I belong to no organized religion, I am a Quaker.” I am grateful for discovering the Quakers, and realizing that it is possible to fulfill those two commandments without special magic, or worship of a book, or ancestors, in place of God.

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