The most fundamental problem with any religion is that it has no evidentiary foundation whatsoever. Were this its only fault, it would hardly be worth anyone's time to critique it. Plenty of people, for example, believe Bigfoot exists or that Elvis is still alive, but the effects of these baseless beliefs are largely benign. However, the effects of religion are often sinister and divisive.
A video posted this week of 20-year-old Daniel Ashley Pierce being subjected to a "gay intervention" by his parents in Georgia dramatically reminds us of the malevolent hold that religion can have on the human mind. In the five minute clip, Pierce is told by his stepmother that because he's gay and because god forbids it, he must move out of the house. Then she physically assaults him as his grandmother encourages her. His father calls him a queer:
Daniel's stepmother begins by telling him she loves him, and says, "I have known that you were gay since you were a tiny little boy." But rather than being one of the heartwarming tales of parents fully accepting their child after coming out to them, the situation spirals totally out of control thanks to the parents' religious beliefs.
In this footage, there are three all-too common malignancies on display that are endemic to religion, especially the monotheistic faiths:
1) A prohibition against acts that do not harm anyone
As far as his parents are concerned, Daniel's homosexuality is wrong because god says so -- malum prohibitum, forever and always. Indeed, the Book of Leviticus is pretty clear on that. But the Bible prohibits many acts that cause no actual harm. For example, wearing clothing woven from multiple materials, making graven images, and working on the Sabbath, are all prohibited in the Old Testament along with homosexuality, but these are benign activities and very few Christians or Jews actually abide by these commandments.
The ban on homosexuality is in no way based on practical or utilitarian considerations. It serves no purpose.
2) An ancient text claiming to be the unerring word of god
The stepmother scolds Daniel for choosing to be gay, and Daniel says that according to science it's not a matter of choice. A case can be made for Daniel's claim, but it hasn't been proven outright. This is beside the point, anyway. Whether someone chooses to be gay or not is immaterial to the question of whether it's acceptable to be gay or if gay people should be given equal rights.
Regardless, the stepmother's reply to Daniel's claim is telling and far too common: "You go by all the scientific stuff you want to. I’m going by the word of God."
This is a total surrender of reason that explains so much of the anti-science bunkum that emanates from religious circles. Any scientific discovery that contradicts the personal religious beliefs of such mentally insular people goes directly into the dustbin without review or thought, as with this pastor from the HBO documentary Questioning Darwin.
3) A resort to shame and violence against those who do not conform
Finally, Daniel's parents rush into the last refuge of a religious scoundrel: violence. When religious extremists are faced with a person unwilling to accept their magical sky god, or at least what the magical sky god has said, there is always intimidation and violence to try to whip them into line. Daniel is punched and slapped, and called a "queer," a "disgrace," and a "little piece of shit."
By his family.
Religion is not based on reality, but faith -- mere belief. It cannot be proved to someone in the same way a scientific discovery can. If it could, this type of barbaric behavior would be wholly unnecessary to convince others of its veracity. Because of this, violence, and not truth, has been the preferred tool of religious extremists for millennia. This is because it's the only thing in their toolbox.
The good news for Daniel is that as of Friday afternoon, a Go Fund Me campaign had raised $80,000 from 3,000 people to help him with his living expenses now that he's been kicked out his parents' house. And although it can be terrible to be disowned by one's own parents, it's easy to imagine that Daniel will be better off without those hateful religious fanatics.
Image credit: Daniel Ashley Pierce's Facebook
h/t: Huffington Post