Politics, meet Religion. Religion, meet the 21st century.
Handshakes and hugs all-around?
I’ll stray from my regular technical writing for a moment, to adress an issue that is very much in the public eye at the moment here in Finland. It all started on a sad and rainy tuesday, the 12th of October. YLE (our state television channel) showed a program called A2: Homoilta (A2: Homonight). No, that’s not a piece of adult entertainment. It was meant to stir discussion on the whole topic of homosexuality and the church. The themes, as listed by YLE were: “Should gay couples be allowed to adopt children? Should gay couples be allowed to get married? How about church weddings?”. An interesting topic, no doubt.
What ensued was an hour of shitslinging on the gay community, or well, you can look at it yourself http://areena.yle.fi/video/1354542 for another 25 days if you are in Finland (i’m sure it’s mirrored, though). Among the commenters was party secretary of the Christian Democrats, Päivi Räsänen. A very religious person, with bright shiny eyes, and some amount of political power.
She argued, among other things, that romantic love can only exist between a man and a woman. Other arguments were that the bible, god’s word handed down to us, opposes homosexuality in all its forms, and is therefore a sin. The same old song and dance. Basically it was very mean and hateful content.
Very soon, in fact already during the program, people were allowed to post commentary on the web. And instantly, the ball started rolling. Räsänen and her hate had started a little avalanche, that is now maybe only gaining speed.
Okay so let’s back up a moment. Finland is a country where most of the 5 million or so residents are christians, and part of the church. The numbers are staggering, if we take into account the current year, 2010. We have about 80% of the entire population that belong to our Lutheran church. This is a declining trend, as we can see in multiple graphics here: http://personal.inet.fi/private/bucket/evl/.
But 80% makes a shitload of people in any case. Now, we also know for a fact (no quotes on this one, just personal experience), that most people beloning to the church are not what we call practicing christians. People who really and truly believe, and take the word of the bible as law. Maybe it’s 10%, 15% out of those.. 4 million people. So why are the numbers so high, in this day and age, where most people have stopped believing in fairytales.
A few reasons. Firstly, getting out of the church only became possible in 1923. Which is a while ago. But take into effect generations of upbringing. If your parents were pious christians, chances are they read the bible to you every damn day of the year. You said your prayers and went to church on sunday. Now, i’m not saying these practices are bad per se, but they are outdated. They teach values (select values, but more on this later), that are not adapted to modern society. Most of these things are nearly 2000 years old (the oldest pieces of biblical text are, i think, from the first or second century), and if they were not filtered out in the great christian meetings in the middle ages (where unsuitable content was filtered out), they are still more or less in the modern bible.
Select values then. This is one of those hard-to-answer questions that you can throw at a Christian. Why do you follow one part of the bible, but not the other? If the bible is god’s word, and is not to be interpreted, why do you leave out the parts about stoning women to death, or sacrificing animals and people? Why do you choose to keep the parts that say gay is bad?
So anyway, upbringing. You can teach a child most anything. Indians probably taught their children that the white man is the devil, and the white man did the same for the indians. See, i didn’t pull the Nazi card!
But if you are a child of very young age, you have very little opinion forming skills. Your brains and cognition simply are not developed enough for you to be able to make up your own mind. So you take what you get, and you add that on. The same reason a child tries to mimic your facial expressions, at only a few weeks old. To this child, you are it.
Later on you can decide to quit church, or become a muslim or Jehovas Witness. But if you have just gone through 15 years of brainwashing, are you likely to do that? Or are you more likely to continue with what you find comfortable, and then, when the time comes and you get children of your own, keep teaching the same stuff. I’ve made up my mind, but i’ll allow my three and a half readers (you know who you are) to make up your own minds.
So if only adults could join the church, how many would? I doubt highly it’d be 4 million people. The church knows this, and anyone with half a brain knows this. But can we legalize this? No. Even though i relish the idea of illegalizing the brainwashing of children with religion until they are old enough to decide for themselves, such a law is simply not possible to monitor.
But what we could do is, make the mandatory age for joining any religious group say.. 15 or 16. No younger members will be admitted. And then see what happens. But we are still unable to regulate (and well so) what people teach their children at home. Let me just add that some people are not suitable parents. This includes people who believe in stories written 1800 years ago by goat-hearders who probably had too much of those mushrooms.
But alas, rationality is far from this entire discussion. It is, mere utopia.
We can still go on, however! A valiant fight against those who would oppose rationality and progress!
So what has happened after “Gaynight”? Well, a lot. In Finland we can (at least right now) leave the Lutheran (or Orthodox) church online, through http://www.eroakirkosta.fi. It’s very easy, and quick, and painless. No trips to the local priest, who will try to talk you down (as it once was). This site is sponsored by the nonprofit organisation called Tampereen Vapaa-ajattelijat (Tampere Free-thinkers). It’s just a lonely Debian box, being hammered all to shit right now, because so many people want to leave!
Since last tuesday, nearly 20 000 people have left the church. This is almost half of the entire collective amount for 2009! If the trend continues (which it will at least for a few more days), we might end up surpassing last years numbers alltogether. The daily numbers today are around 5000-7000 people leaving.
And it’s not just a reaction against the church, refusing to enter the 21st century, or one mad politician spewing out hateful (and sometimes confusing) commentary. It’s also a pain in the ass for the church.
Due to the hateful words said last week, the church has lost an estimated 6 million euro in tax income. You see, in Finland, the Lutheran and Orthodox church are allowed to collect tax, despite the fact that state and church should be separate. If you are a member of the church, 1 % of your annual income will go towards helping the church do.. what it does best. Build expensive buildings, and keep spreading their message of “love” (except for homosexuals, lesbians, transvestites, and other perverse deviants of gods creation!). The average is around 300 euro a year per person in taxes.
Are you ready to pay to keep this hate and frankly, anachronistic asshattery going on? In this day and age? Or are you ready to think for yourself? Give that a thinker.
So as a final word (for now): Now we have a situation where the Arch Bishop has stated that words of party secretary Räsänen do not reflect those of the church. But he did not state either, that he would allow gay couples to get church weddings. He was being a diplomat. But this wasn’t good enough for Räsänen. She lashed out and gave out a statement that said basically “Does the Bishop imply that he feels gay marriage is okay by the church?”.
Which led to one thing, which led to another. Basically what we have now is this political party full of fairytale-fans, lashing out at the church, and the church trying to protect what it does best. I’ll probably write up a followup as things progress. And i will leave you with this last (really) thought:
Do you want to support an organisation that stands for hate and intolerance? 20 000 people (and many more before them) think not. And stopping the support for the church does not mean you have to give up your beliefs.