Dear Francis: we need to talk…
You’re getting fantastic press from all your new fans on social media. But we can’t be Facebook friends, unless you make some radical changes—because it’s religions that undermine economies …and almost everything else we value.
For centuries, the Church has preached penance, subservience and self-rejection, causing more carnage, abuse, dysfunction and despair than anything else in our history. On a worldwide scale, it has instilled in the human psyche a deep unworthiness, a belief in our innate sinfulness and a desperate need for acceptance and approval from a higher authority outside of ourselves (even if we’re not religious). Of course, it preaches forgiveness, too, but there’d be a whole lot less to forgive if we believed in our innate goodness—and acted accordingly.
We can’t undo the damage done by the brutal enforcement of early Christianity, but we can see its ongoing impact on almost every aspect of our society—including our economies. Yet these are just the symptoms of a much deeper problem: the religious programming that has undermined our autonomy. So, although you’ve spoken compellingly on the need for change, the Church itself has directly or indirectly generated much of the dysfunction you’re denouncing—and continues to do so.
Let me count the ways…
10 ways religion has created hell on Earth
- It has disempowered humanity by teaching us that we’re unworthy, sinful, in need of redemption, and heading straight for hell unless we repent—crushing our innate spirituality, severing our own direct hotline to God, diminishing our sense of self, distorting our sexuality and stripping us of our entitlement to unconditional acceptance.
- By diminishing our self-worth, it has undermined our ability to thrive, to powerfully orchestrate our lives, to create healthy, loving relationships, to express our innate creativity, to trust ourselves, and to fulfill our unique potential. This creates neediness, self-doubt and insecurity, which creates fear, jealousy and greed, which promotes manipulation, conflict, crime and unhealthy international relations.
- Abuse by priests/nuns has violated the most basic human rights of countless individuals, stripping them of their dignity, their right to personal freedom, and their right to exist, generating rage, impotence, shame, trauma and a legacy of untold pain.
- It has wreaked havoc with religious wars, resulting in genocide, terror, hatred, torture and the collapse of basic infrastructures—all in the name of some man-made construct of God, hijacked as a weapon to serve wholly human agendas. This religious divisiveness separates us not only from our own divinity but also from non-believers, promoting judgement, prejudice and violence.
- Religious racism has created conflict, bitterness and generational chasms between communities that would otherwise have everything to gain from working together in harmony and healthy collaboration.
- Religious righteousness has been used to justify bigotry, persecution and other reprehensible acts that violate human rights. The Church introduced this kind of masterful manipulation with the concepts of blasphemy and heresy, to scare, control and subvert, while ensuring the continued subservience of the masses.
- The suppression of female sexuality and human rights, by certain religions, has deprived countless women of the right to be seen, to express themselves, to speak out or even to work, preventing them from engaging with others, having a positive impact on their community, applying their skills, and finding healthy fulfillment.
- Religious ‘education’ has distorted young minds, imposing prescribed religious constructs rather than teaching them to think for themselves, to question everything and to discover their own truth. In Canada, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission only recently acknowledged the cultural genocide suffered by the 150,000 aboriginal peoples who were forced into residential schools (up to 60% of which were operated by the Roman Catholic Church)1. Between 1870 and 1996, over 6,000 aboriginal students died in those schools, due to neglect, abuse, lack of food, and isolation from family. Those who survived were stripped of their heritage, traditions and land, as well as the sustainable earth-friendly practices so sorely needed now on our planet.
- Nationwide religious oppression, such as in Ireland, has promoted a ‘make do’ mentality, rather than the ‘can do’ culture of the New World. When crisis strikes (as when the Irish economy crashed in 2008, following the boom of the 1990s), there’s a sense of futility and defeat: We should have known… it was too good to last. Ah, well. We’ll just have to make the best of it. If you don’t feel worthy or deserving, you don’t expect good things to happen or to last. Without a healthy sense of entitlement or a history of financial abundance, you can’t sustain a thriving economy.
- The self-rejection preached by many world religions has damaged our planet, too. While you might expect religious devotion to translate into a reverence for our Earth (supposedly God’s creation), self-rejection breeds self-destruction, resulting in addictions, self-harm, teen suicides and suicide-bombing, as well as the desecration of our natural resources and of life itself. Without a viable planet, we won’t have to worry about the economy—or anything else.
Anything that distorts or diminishes our viability as human beings is going to affect our economies, as well as our values, laws, politics, performance, health, relationships, self-worth and fulfillment. Economists might argue otherwise, but the prevailing psyche of a nation will always win out over other seemingly legitimate factors. The economy is not just at the effect of this phenomenon; it’s the most reliable indicator of it.
But I’d prefer to focus on how we can become more empowered to address our current challenges. So here’s an idea: since the Catholic Church is reputedly the wealthiest institution in the world, managing over $7 billion in assets and $800 million in equity, while receiving an estimated $13 billion per year from its 85 million American Catholics alone2, perhaps you’d like to divert some of that wealth into resolving the problems you’ve flagged—and maybe even establish schools that teach empowerment and healthy self-acceptance.
We can all pontificate about what’s wrong in our world, but understanding why things are the way they are—and why we are the way we are—is the only way we can hope to address the root causes of our dysfunction. If our minds are negatively programmed, we stay stuck in a cycle, with nothing fundamentally changing. New president, new pope, same old pyjamas. New policies, new words, same old dynamic. Changing our minds, though, changes everything. It’s the collective mindset of a nation that determines its ability to prosper in healthy, sustainable ways. Unless we address that, we’ll continue down the same self-destructive path. So, if you backed up your words with the funds required for meaningful action, I’d say amen to that—and this could become a whole new papal ballgame.
Ciao for now!
PS: I’d be happy to hop on the Alitalia ‘Shepherd One’ so we can chat about empowerment, spirituality, worthiness and all the other good stuff that enables humans to thrive. I used to think that POPE stood for ‘prevention of personal empowerment’, but I’m seeing some greater possibilities, now that you’re embracing your humanity—and ours.