By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Because of religion, more human beings have been murdered, tortured, maimed, denigrated, discriminated against, humiliated, hated and scorned than for any other reason in the totality of the history of man.
Today the only wars under way are religious wars. Arabs are killing Jews and vice versa. Ethnically religious groups are killing ethnically religious groups in the aftermath of the demise of the Soviet Union. Arabs of one religion are killing Arabs of another. Catholics and Protestants are killing each other in Ireland and the British Isles. There is an endless list of clashes in Africa and the emerging nations of Southeast Asia.
Religion, more than politics and economics, kills and cripples humankind. There has never in all known history been a genocide of any kind which was not fueled by religion. Every religious organization on Earth is designed to gain economic and political power for those in the religion. Look at it closely and you will see for yourself.
- Bill Jenkins, former KABC talk show host, from his
introduction to The Book Your Church Does Not Want You
to Read II
Tim Leedom does not look like a warrior, religious or otherwise. He is polite and quick to smile. He campaigned for Robert F. Kennedy and has never stopped promoting world peace. Though he was a college football stud in the 1960s and still appears to be in pretty damn good shape, his blown knee would likely prevent him from blocking you into the azaleas at the local garden center.
But plenty of folks have declared war on the Newport Beach man for revealing the true origins of their religions and religious mythologies. They also don't seem to appreciate Leedom's exposure of the hypocrisies, suffering and deadly crimes against humanity that have been perpetrated in the name of an invisible almighty. Hate mail, angry phone calls and even death threats are their chosen weapons of mass damnation.
So much for turning the other cheek.
Leedom, who edited the 1993 soft-cover The Book Your Church Does Not Want You to Read, has just released a sequel—called The Book Your Church Does Not Want You to Read II—and his co-author is so spooked by the religious nutteratti that she's credited under the pen name Maria Murdy.
Considering everything Leedom went through the first time, for heaven's sake, why antagonize believers again?
"It's the 21st century, and things are a lot worse religiously," says Leedom as he sits across from Murdy in their offices overlooking a posh stretch of Coast Highway in Laguna Beach. "There are things we wanted to clarify about the origins of all religions."
He actually got the bug to expand The Book Your Church Does Not Want You to Read while promoting it. At book-selling events, he'd often be grouped with clerics, priests, rabbis and preachers—and walk away dumbstruck at how little they knew about the Bibles, Korans and Torahs they were thumping.
"The thing is, most people are completely ignorant of the tenants of their own religion, let alone anyone else's," Leedom says. He mostly singles out evangelical Christians, who twist scriptures to their own narrow views about the modern world.
"You owe it to yourself to be educated," he says. "If you are not educated, you can be easily led."
But when Leedom tries to set these saved souls straight, they don't exactly thank him. They turn the title of his book into a self-fulfilling prophesy.
"I learned when the first book came out that you're either a heretic, a pagan or an atheist if you even try to look at the ungodly or man-made origins of religion," Leedom says. "Throughout history, it's been ingrained in people that there is another dimension. These have been boiled down by fundamentalists, who have really hurt mankind a lot more than they have helped it."
Throughout time, religious folks have tended to smite those who have pointed out the errors of conventional wisdom.
"Four hundred years ago, people thought the Earth was the center of the universe," Leedom says. "You were burned at the stake if you said that was not true. Dinosaur bones were thought to be serpents. Anyone who tried to date the bones was killed."
Murdy begins to interject her own observations, but there's no stopping Leedom now. He calls it "ridiculous" that anyone would contend America was founded as a Christian nation since the majority of Founding Fathers were deists, atheists and agnostics who feared religious tyranny. And yet, Leedom notes, the religious right is hellbent on miscasting founders as devout Christians to further a systematic obliteration of the time-honored separation of church and state. Religious faith has transmogrified American politics the way it changes a chip of bread into a communion wafer.
"It goes all the way to the top," Leedom says. "President Bush says he consulted God before attacking Iraq. This is serious. We are in a very difficult situation because he chose to make this a religious war."
Religion. Your reason is now mature enough to examine this object. In the first place, divest yourself of all bias in favor of novelty and singularity of opinion. Indulge them in any other subject rather than that of religion. It is too important and the consequences of error may be too serious. On the other hand, shake off all the fears and servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of God; because, if there be one, he must approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.