A universal religion must do whatever it can for the sake of life. It must be a religion committed not only to the “Calling of the Circle,” the Circle of Connection, but to the sacred work of religious tikkun as well. A universal religion must pursue a radical deconstruction of traditional practice and doctrine, one that reveals, uproots and casts aside the sexism, triumphalism, misogyny, homophobia and hatred of the body which poisons the tree of faith. It must be a religion composed of people who will form a “circle of connection” not only around the names of God, but around the woman about to be stoned or burned alive for committing the “crime” of adultery, even if that is the law of the land and the tradition of the culture in which she lives. It must be a religion composed of people who will form a circle around a teenage girl about to have her clitoris amputated, even though in some places, such acts of barbarism are ancient custom. It must be a religion composed of people who will form a circle of love and protection, of universal family around a child even if they live in a “modern” Western place like Massachusetts where a two year old boy died because his Christian Scientist parents sought to treat his bowel obstruction through “spiritual” means. Indeed, the perversion of God’s Word in the examples mentioned here bestows a special responsibility on people of faith, on people who care about the integrity of religion, to confront in no uncertain terms the usurpation of the holy on behalf of the unholy or the merely ignorant. A universal religion must be a religion that recognizes the pitfalls and limitations of moral judgment, yet dares to take a moral stand. That forms a circle of love and truth wherever life cries out for it. Thus, in answer to the question, “In formulating the structure of a new religion, how important is it to define the concepts of good and evil and how important is it to agree on what these concepts mean?” In those countries where culture and tradition define adultery on the part of a woman as a sin punishable by death, defining the concepts of good and evil and agreeing on what those concepts mean, is as important as saving that woman’s life. In those countries where culture and tradition regard the normal sexual capacity of a female as an unacceptable threat to the security of her preselected mate, it is as important as the well-being on every level, of a teenage girl threatened with the fate of ritual circumcision. It is as important as the freedom to love who you want to love regardless of race, religion or gender... as the freedom to worship where, who or what you choose, or to reject worship altogether ... As the freedom to express your thoughts, emotions and values through the vehicle of language, art and political choice. And to the person who says, “But it is wrong to impose our standards on someone else. What is important is that we not betray our personal ideas of good and evil ...” We who are of the House of We assert that our “standards” include standing up to tyrants and bullies. Our “personal idea of good and evil” includes not standing by while homosexuals are thrown from rooftops; adulterous or unmarried women are stoned to death; children are forced into sexual slavery; “apostates” are crucified and beheaded; prisoners are burned alive among other abominations considered by some moral practice. To the person who says, “But it is wrong to impose our standards on someone else. What is important is that we not betray our personal ideas of good and evil ...” we who are of the House of We reply, moral relativism is by and large the prerogative of the privileged, the powerful and the protected. Only a person who has never faced the prospect of losing his or her basic human rights, of being physically tortured or abused by those who are charged with carrying out the law of the land, would suggest that we are not under a moral imperative requiring us to intervene whenever and wherever possible for the purpose of preventing such atrocities and infringements from occurring ... Or that we cannot know beyond a reasonable doubt that it is wrong for anyone to do these things to another human being. Any presumptive new religion which lacks the courage to take a stand on moral issues derived from convictions concerning the definition of absolute evil is not a religion at all, it is an exercise in philosophical detachment. To the person who says, “...it is wrong to impose our standards on someone else. What is important is that we not betray our personal ideas of good and evil ...” we who are of the House of We reply, in order for me not to betray my “personal ideas of good and evil,” I am called to know that I am indeed my brother’s and my sister’s keeper. When uncharged detainees are tortured in secret prisons, in the cell-blocks and interrogation camps of military installations, when young girls are mutilated to control their sexuality, when people of color are discriminated against or murdered without legal consequence by those we entrust to enforce the law, when women are denied the right to own property, dress as they please, divorce, vote or even to drive, when virgins are “sacrificed to appease the gods,” I am called to offer judgment, voice my condemnation and pursue redress on the part of the perpetrator no matter how culturally, religiously or legally legitimate in their own societal group they are. And if the group in which such things occur is my own, if it is my country or my religion that has been corrupted, though I be one voice against a thousand, that call is even deeper. We who are of the House of We believe that there is a higher authority than the human and it is the responsibility of every individual to seek it out, to recognize its purpose and to do its will as best they are able. We must not allow our sensitivities regarding the rights of others to paralyze us in the face of absolute evil.
Two of Six