Letter to the Editor: Religion can be good and bad

Reader Eugene Clegg explains how people use religion for all sorts of reasons.

I rarely differ with Larry Benson, but I will concerning his letter about religion (“You can’t be religious and reasonable at the same time”, published April 12). I donated a large sum of money to the Ukrainian Church for blankets, food, water and shelter. It was done through their church (not mine, I am agnostic) because I do not trust many charities i.e. they sometimes have administrations that suck up all of the donations leaving nothing for the original cause.

At the same time, my family has had some very bad experiences with religion. My mother’s first husband left her in Idaho with two children to run off with a 16 year old girl. Because it was the Great Depression, the three of them rode box cars via the rails to her parent’s farm in Nebraska. She left the two children with their grandparents and went to work unloading failed cannon shells at the Hornady Powder Works in Grand Island. It was a very dangerous job but paid better and she could support her children.

My father was in transit at Grand Island from the China-Burma-India Theater on the way to attack Japan. Instead, the atomic bombs ended the war and he decided to marry her, two kids and all. His family, evangelicals, rejected him for marrying a fallen woman, a divorcé. They weren’t allowed to marry in either of their religion’s churches for the same reason. It was through no fault of their own, but it didn’t matter. As a result of being rejected by both sides of the family, they moved to California where I was born.

I went to Sunday school in my mother’s religion but I quit at the age of 12. I told my parents the stories we children were told to believe seemed to be made up by old white men in order to put their foot down on women and oppress colored people. My mother, a strong example of a liberated Dane, understood my feelings. As she put it, “the Scandinavian women could vote in 1000 A.D.; they didn’t have to wait until 1920!”

To be an atheist, you have to have faith, just as with religions. Since I’m a retired scientist, I cannot trust something by faith. Being an atheist isn’t something you can prove any more than any of the 364 (IRS) recognized religions can prove.

I respect that many people gain order, meaning, purpose, and a sense of belonging from their religion. Many people suffering from mental health issues find religion a means of conquering their addictions and failings in life. For this reason I believe that when religions are doing good, then they are good. When they are propping up an autocratic dictatorship as we are seeing in Russia, Franco’s Spain, and so many corrupt European regimes over the centuries, they debase their own beliefs.

As always, it’s not religion so much as corrupt leadership. Or as Mark Twain said, “it’s not that Christianity has been tried and failed, it’s that it has yet to be tried.”

Eugene Clegg