Life has come to a sad pass when something we generally think of as good–religion–becomes a force for evil. This has happened regularly throughout history–in fact, organized religion has committed some of the most heinous crimes that could be imagined by the human mind?but we like to think we’ve gotten too wise and civilized to let such atrocities happen again. Then every day we wake up to more news about the religious attacks in places like Israel, Iraq and Afghanistan.

A friend of mine sent me a news article from Aljazeera, saying that Bush and Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may hold a peace conference soon. She wondered if each one was going to bring his religion along with him. She wrote: "Aljazeera could be describing the ultimate nightmare scenario instead of a peace conference, if Bush attends the conference and brings along his ‘God,’ the same one who advised him to invade Iraq and still whispers to him about Iran, and if Mahmoud also brings along his ‘Hidden Imam,’ the same Imam who will annihilate all Infidels upon his return."

It’s sad to realize that if they do bring their gods along, it’s going to mean war, not peace, because that’s what religion has become, in our time.

Personally, I’m at the point in life right now where if someone tells me they’re religious, I turn tail and run! A few years ago, we needed to hire a new accountant, because our old one bought an auto parts company from one of his clients and stopped doing people’s taxes. We sent our information to a woman he recommended, then happened to meet her in a restaurant, having Sunday brunch with a friend of ours.

They invited us to join them and she started to tell us all about how she had just come from church and how important religion was to her. Whitley and I met each other’s eyes during this monologue and I KNEW we were thinking the same thing…NOT THIS ONE! We’ve been personally burned too many times by so-called "religious" people. We called her the next day and asked her to return our paperwork.

A friend once told me that "marriage is a license to fart." I’m not going to comment on that, having been married a very long time, but I do think that religion has become a license to hate.

The other day, I was trying to decide what I would say the next time someone asked me what religion I belong to. The best thing I could come up with was "lapsed Wiccan." Let me hasten to say that I know a lot of Wiccans and admire them tremendously.

If you have a yearning to read something spiritual, pick up "Plan B" by Anne LaMott (it’s now in paperback). You won’t ever forget it. She writes about many of the truly spiritual people she has met on her journey through life. My favorite essay in the book is "Ham of God (that takes away the sins of the world)."

UPDATE: A reader writes: "When asked about my religion, I reply, ‘I’m a Born Again Pagan.’" I couldn’t have said it any better!

UPDATE: Another reader wrote and told me that maybe I should consider myself a Lo hasian, meaning someone leading a Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability. I like this–it reminds me of the extraordinary book The G.O.D. Experiments. It’s also reminiscent of the phrase "secular humanist," which was a synonym for Satanism in the early fundamentalist days. I remember being asked by an aunt at a family gathering if I was a secular humanist. At the time, I was truly innocent and had never even heard the phrase, but it was clear, from her tone of voice, that it was something bad. I said, "It must mean you try to do the right thing, irregardless of which religion you belong to–that sounds pretty good to me." Years later, one of my cousins came up to me and told me he still remembered my reply.

UPDATE: Yet another reader writes, "When people ask about my religious persuasion, I say ‘Ecumenical Heretic." Most of them can’t figure out what it means. I get a secret delight from knowing that the Greek root for ‘heretic’ means ‘to choose.’

NOTE: This Diary entry, previously published on our old site, will have any links removed.

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