On a recent episode of Marc Maron's WTF podcast, comedian Kurt Metzger explains how he evaluates a religion by asking three questions:
- How much does it cost?
- Does God do the killing or will I be required to kill on his behalf?
- Do I need to stay in the religion for Mom or Dad, and what penalties (if any) will I suffer if I choose to exit the religion?
I think it's an excellent list. All three questions are extremely important. The answers to his three questions should be:
- Contributions to churches and other religious institutions should always be voluntary and anonymous.
- Religions should not ask its members to kill, which sounds both obvious and ridiculous but sadly is not.
- Members should be able to exit the religion without any repercussions from family or community. Faith is an individual decision. Coercion should never play a role in a person's decisions regarding faith or the lack thereof.
To Metzger's list, I'd like to add two more questions:
- Do women enjoy full and absolute equality within the religion?
- Is the church open to all people, regardless of race, nationality, marital status, sexual preference, criminal history, occupation, etc.?
I am a reluctant atheist, but if I were to ever fortunate enough to find faith, I would only join a church that could answer an unequivocal yes to both of these questions, and I would encourage people to severe tires with any religious institution that cannot answer an absolute and unequivocal yes to these two questions.
Not an easy thing to do, of course, but the right thing. As I have said before, the easy thing and the right thing are rarely the same thing. But is has been done.
For example, my latest hero, Jimmy Carter, severed ties with the Southern Baptists in 2000. Carter was a third generation Southern Baptist for more than 70 years, but after they refused to allow women to serve as pastors in the church, he left the church.
A difficult decision to say the least, but absolutely the right decision, and one to which I admire him immensely.