We tell teenagers not to follow the crowd, and to do the right thing. God needs advice like that. Meanwhile, the logic of witch hunting and of exorcism - which the Pope supports - is identical.

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The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, April 14, 2008. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at PsychologyToday.com.

Message to Pope: God Needs Assertiveness Training

The Pope is visiting the U.S., and I have watched innumerable shows and analysts describe how uplifting this experience is.

I don't see it that way. I would like to ask him how God decided that homosexuality is a mortal sin, and why only men are allowed to lead the church. The pope is sure God thinks that homosexuals and women are inferior, like Southern Baptist ministers claimed African Americans were descendants of Cain and thus deserved to be enslaved and segregated.

Religious advocates endorse racist, sexist, or homophobic policies - then, if these are discarded, they defend their religions by claiming that humans misinterpreted God. God seems like an easily influenced teenager. After a century of minimizing blacks, only in 1978 did God reveal to Mormons that it was okay to ordain black clergy -- AFTER the civil rights movement convinced most Americans that racial prejudice was wrong.

Contrary to the argument that humans corrupt God, it is only when humans' good instincts surface that God decides to relinquish his prejudice and inhumanity. In other words, God is a follower, not a leader! He does not like to get out ahead of the crowd in espousing human rights.

Meanwhile, as the Pope visits, 14-year-old Addie Avery has been leading a campaign for the Connecticut legislature to exonerate her forbearer Mary Sanford, who was hanged as a witch in 1662 (both Protestants and Catholics actively hunted and killed witches in Europe and the United States). She left five children.

Speaking in the name of God, people determined these women were witches (almost no men were executed). Of course, even religious people claim to know now that was crazy. But do you know that the Catholic Church still supports exorcisms? And the same logic - demonic possession - is behind both phenomena. Once your mind is given over to irrationality and superstition, it can be turned in any ugly direction.

Leaders of other religions were disappointed when Pope Benedict reiterated that Catholicism is the one true church. But that is the essence of religion - one group knows the truth, as vouchsafed to their leaders by God. If you disagree you are, at a minimum, wrong or ignorant - at worst, a sinner and miscreant.

Every Jew has to know this about every "true" Christian, for whom it is an article of faith that only those who accept Christ can enter heaven. Presidential contender Mike Huckabee believes that, just as he doesn't believe in evolution. Huckabee and Mitt Romney promoted a Constitutional amendment forbidding gays to marry, and John McCain has announced that he supports that plank in the Republican platform. So much for religious tolerance increasing in America!

Religious people are so sure of the truth that they must shove your head in your failure to believe their craziness. You would be hanged if you said there was no such thing as witches in the 17th Century, and things may not be that different in 21st Century America.