Thursday, May 9, 2013

Power at the Root of Gay Marriage Opposition

Archbishop Cordileone
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco’s attack on Rhode Island’s recent decision to legalize gay marriage – Delaware has since become the 11th state to legalize gay marriage  – contained the usual claptrap about how approval violated religious teachings.

Bishop Tobin
He was echoed by Bishop of Providence Thomas Tobin, the Roman Catholic leader of Rhode Island,  who said, “At this moment of cultural change, it is important to affirm the teaching of the Church, based on God’s word, that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered and always sinful.’”

Despite the pious comments, the concerns of religious leaders have nothing to do with belief or even whether or not gays get married. After all, all Catholic leaders are celibate.  Marriage to them is a chimera.  Instead, they are focused on something else far more significant to them -- power.

If public decisions go against religious teachings, then they have no power.  They are simply old men in funny clothes saying ridiculous things.  Being exposed that way can be embarrassing for both them and their religion.

It’s the same need to retain power that causes conservative Protestant groups to lash out at against science.  If evolution is correct, for example, then the Bible cannot be.  In turn, neither can their belief and their status as the arbiters of that belief.  Therefore, evolution must be wrong so their power can be preserved.   Proof be damned.

At the same time, astronomy, anthropology, archaeology, geology and any other annoying science that has demonstrated repeatedly the inaccuracy of the Bible must be wrong.  Their power rests on the Scripture.  If it’s wrong, they are wrong, and their power base dissolves.

That’s why disciples of religious leaders attacked as charlatans continue to espouse beliefs they are sure cannot be true.  Take the followers of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Latter Day Saints who died in a meaningless confrontation with Illinois residents.  

Several of his closest intimates quit.  In fact, many of Smith’s closest disciples left the fledgling faith either because of excommunication or to join other cults.  Many were openly critical of Smith and his successor Brigham Young.   For example, in an 1838 affidavit, former disciple Thomas B. Marsh accused Smith of planning "to take the State, & he professes to his people to intend taking the U.S. & ultimately the whole world.”  Marsh was excommunicated in 1839.

Then, in 1857, he begged Smith's successor Brigham Young to be allowed back and recanted his affidavit.  Why?  His status   As a Mormon, he was an original member and real disciple.  As a private citizen, he was nothing.  His entire status depended on his connection with Smith.

That same human desire for power lies behind cultural attacks on women.  Men want power – in and out of religion.  Women are a threat to that power. 

In societies dominated by faith, such as Saudi Arabia, secular leaders cannot make final decisions without input from imams.  That’s power, pure and simple.

The Roman Catholic Church knows all about that.  When in control of the Western World centuries ago, the Church did more than humble kings, it dictated the minutiae of daily life, including even when a husband and wife could have sex.  That’s not religion.  That’s power.

The pope is infallible, not because he really is, but to maintain the illusion of power.  If the pope can be contradicted, then power evaporates.  

Racism is an effort to be more powerful than someone else.  So is anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry.

Human behavior is often predicted on the need for power.  Psychiatrists, for example, point out that rape is not a crime of sex, but of power, an effort to control another person.

Cordileone and his ilk can bleat about gay relationships somehow being against religion – despite their own scripture’s call to “love thy neighbor as thyself” – but they are simply trying to retain their status as the powerful dictators of human behavior.

In fact, all they have done is expose how weak they really are.

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His books are available on, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.

You can enroll in his on-line class, Comparative Religion for Dummies, at

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