The Theocratic Intolerance of Catholicism
This post is written with a sense of urgency, and will therefore be short. According to A Celebration of Women,
The Honduran Congress is about to vote on a proposal that would send women to jail if they use the morning-after pill — even for victims of sexual assault. But the President of the Congress can stop this. He’s concerned about his international image and his future in politics, so our massive outcry can shame him and stop this attack on women.
Click here to sign the petition: http://www.avaaz.org/en/no_prison_for_contraception_global/?vl
(You should read the whole article, of which this is the opening, and sign the petition.) That this proposal is the result of religious — mainly Roman Catholic — lobbying, there can be little doubt. The Roman Catholic Church has developed, over the last two or three decades, into an increasingly active, militant polticial force, seeking to have its moral prescriptions and prohibitions written into law, or retained in law, if they are already there. The fundamental reason for this, I suspect, is that the church senses that it is losing control of its own members. Involving them in an intolerant stance towards their neighbours may be a risky strategy, but it is one that is written into the title documents of the faith.
This Christian intolerance, typical during almost the entire history of the church, needs to be opposed by all people, whether believers or nonbelievers. But Christians must begin looking more closely at the character of their faith. It seems that there is, written into the founding documents of the Christian faith, an inveterate need to impose upon others their own beliefs and moral imperatives. The role that this plays in religious faith is worthwhile investigating, since it seems likely that it is the primary way in which religions — not only Catholicism or Christianity — hold on to and control their followers.
In a very necessary book, Gerd Lüdemann, the German New Testament scholar, has warned us about Christianity’s tendency towards intolerance. In this book, Intolerance and the Gospel, Lüdemann addresses himself to specific texts spread throughout the New Testament canon which show that intolerance was, as he puts it “a characteristic feature of the church in the New Testament.” (197) I call this feature theocratic intolerance, for reasons that will become clear. He says that
If the polemics, excoriations, and vile slanders against the opponents show us anything, it is that damnations of others constituted a large part of the identity of the proto-orthodox churches of the New Testament. [197; my italics]
And, moreover, Lüdemann alleges,
those under attack seem to have been more inclined to tolerance than the proto-orthodox bishops and church functionaries, particularly in view of their willingness to develop the deposit of faith in order to meet the challenges of changing experience and critical thought. [197-98; my italics]
– a thought which he follows up with the claim that
the almost democratic character of the Gnostic Christian communities aroused suspicion, for the central issue was power and authority, perquisites the bishops were clearly unwilling to share. [198; my italics]
Which is why he asks, at the outset:
Given the intolerant character of the scriptures and creeds on which Christian churches are founded, one is entitled to question what role they can properly play in a pluralistic society. If they are not to die [or, at least, I should add, if they should not be helped to die], must they not undergo a change that will totally transform their biblical foundation? 
It is events like those threatening in Honduras at the moment, or the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ plan to urge Catholics to practice civil disobedience in the two weeks prior to July 4th this year, that make this question a very urgent one indeed. It is high time that Christianity, Islam and other religions be recognised for the intolerant systems of belief and social control that they are, and high time for people to issue their strenuous ”Non placet!” in face of the many repeated and increasingly frequent attempts that are being made to use their power to impose their morality on others who do not share their priorities.