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How many Christians are just going through the motions? Their public  prayers, the pious look in church, the blessings that they ask their god to bestow on others, and all the rest of the piety performance package are part of their way of life, inculcated into them at an early age. It dominates their worldview, and dictates many of their actions…especially when others are looking. But deep down in the darkest recesses of their heart (mind), what do they really believe?

There is no way to know, of course. Medical science has not progressed to the point where we can read minds. If that ever becomes possible, I doubt if most people would allow that ultimate invasion of their personal privacy.

Catholics go even further, with their fasting at Lent. Talk about conspicuous performative piety! And they eat those awful crackers and drink that cheap red wine at Communion…terrible sacrifices too, but they do it all to demonstrate their piety…to whom? To themselves? To God? Or to others?

Sometimes, though, we can get clues about the sincerity of their piety. For example, those who demand to be allowed to meet in large groups for religious services. Be thy brother’s keeper, and love thy neighbor are fundamental tenets of their faith. That appears to be too much of a sacrifice for them. Preventing the spread of the virus is not important enough to keep them from displaying their religiosity. They claim that if “essential services” like grocery stores remain open, then limiting the size of gatherings at church services is discrimination against their religion. Sadly, the far-right and mostly Catholic Supreme Court agreed with them, claiming that even during a pandemic, the Constitution still applies. According to the unsigned 5-4 majority opinion the “free exercise” of religion takes precedence over public safety. Outrageous!

This is an example of what the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her replacement by Amy Coney Barrett have done to the SCOTUS. Even Chief Justice Roberts dissented, but the Gang of Four is now a Gang of Five. We will continue to see damage to our secular society caused by these five far-right wingers.

Back to pietism: It’s evident from observation that the sacrifices pietists are willing to make are inconsequential to them personally. Any real sacrifices, ones that would indicate the sincerity of their faith, are dismissed, apparently without a pang of conscience. How about the many commands in the Bible to help the poor, even to impoverish themselves in the process? The Religious Right has always been an opponent of government programs to help the poor. Their own charitable donations are mostly to their church. Very little of that trickles down to the needy, and any that does is heavily laced with religious doctrine.

But that’s understandable when you really think about it. Who would see their generosity? Who would admire their sacrifices?

Bert Bigelow is a trained engineer who pursued a career in software design. Now retired, he enjoys writing short essays on many subjects but mainly focuses on politics and religion and the intersection...

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