The Dangers of Religion - J.S. Brown
For anyone to say I am a little bitter about organized religion is sort of like saying that someone who has their head cut off is "bleeding a little." I'm sure I'm going to piss off a few "true believers" here. Quite possibly I'm going to be accused of being a "godless heathen" or something like that. I don't really care what you think of me, just think without the glaze of religion over your faces for once in your lives! For years I've toed the line of an agnostic: I was unwilling or unable to prove to myself one way or another concerning the existence of any God(s). As I continued my education (such a dangerous thing, education). I came to realize that with very few exception organized religion is one of the primary causes of suffering and cruelty in this world and has been for thousands of years. (Even the "peace-loving" Hindu/Buddhists of India are hypocrites testing nuclear weapons when the rest of the world is trying to outgrow them). When we explore the origins of religion, we see a number of motivations coming together into one neat little package:
The consolidation of power over the masses Creating a common moral code of living The fellowship of human beings in one place The accumulation of wealth which is untaxable Political influence and peddling behind the "scenes" Answering the questions which remain unanswerable while not all of these things are bad, I think it is easy to see that there are just a few problems here.
First of all, the consolidation of power over the masses in Christianity hit its zenith during the Dark Ages, when the church dominated the often ignorant and illiterate commoners. Striking them with the "awe of God" was as easy as building massive churches and filling them with art, plundered treasures, and stained glass. These people were truely "sheep" and the clergy were their willing shepherds. The clergy kept control by calling anyone who dared challenge them "witches," or "heritics," and through torture and execution, they used fear to keep the masses in line, including kings. This eventually led to the Renaissance, Protestant reformation, and the breakup of the Catholic monopoly (it kind of reminds me of the breakup of the Bell System here in America). If you think it couldn't possibly have been that bad, then you need to look seriously at the countries which still run things like most of Europe did during the Dark Ages: just look at the fundamentalist religious dictatorships in the Middle East for inspiration and you will see how much good comes from organized religion when it runs every aspect of a citizen's life.
Creating a common moral code of living is probably one of the more positive ideas to come out of religion, however, who decides what the code shall be? We are not given the choice of making our own code obviously. We are forced into a code that is determined by "God." Not only are there the 10 Commandments to deal with, many of which make little or no sense what-so-ever, but endless, contradicting requirements spread throughout both the Old and New Testaments. When it was the clergy interpreting the scriptures for us, things were so much simpler than today. Now every nut with a cause thinks he or she can look up in the Bible and twist its contradictory meanings and ambiguities to their own needs and desires. As a result, we get pro-lifers gunning down abortion doctors, people saying that Jesus told them to commit acts of atrocities against "sinners" to punish them, and so on.
People are using the Bible to justify denying homosexuals the right to "Life, Liberty, and Property" as defined by the 14th Amendment of the Constitution simply because they think they have a right to judge them...(doesn't Jesus say something to the effect: "Judge not lest ye be judged" ?). Many members of the religious right are calling for a return to “simpler times," and I don't blame them. Now that anyone can carry on a conversation with their "God," all hell has broken loose! And what about those hypocrites who "sin" 6 days a week and then confess their sins and are absolved to run amok all over again? They pay "lip service" to their beliefs and then go and do whatever they want anyway. Tell me that makes sense!
Another decent aspect of many organized religions is the fellowship of human beings in one place. I have been on plenty of church picnics and Methodist corn roasts and found them mostly to be quite fun. I wouldn't wish to trade the experience with family and friends for anything. I have to admit, however, that I've had the same kind of fun at college faculty picnics and gatherings of other groups and organizations without any formal ties to religion, so I suppose it doesn't matter to me.
For all their talk of helping the poor and assisting those less fortunate, the churches of the west sure do hoard their money to build impressive alters to God, fund political campaigns, and televise their message of peace to the world. It seems to me that if they sold off all their real-estate holdings, melted down all their gold and other metals, cut up their precious jewels and vestments, they'd probably have enough money to feed and house the entire third world for some time to come. I'd be really impressed with the organized religions of the world if they gave up all their trappings and gave them to the poor. They don't need all that stuff to preach "the true word of God." They can do it just as easily in the alleys and public parks as they can from their high and mighty pulpits. I challenge the religions of the world to do just that: Throw off your trappings and finery, convert all your assets and holdings into cash and feed the world, if you do that, I will proudly endorse you.
The other wonderful thing these days is that if I wanted to, I could create a religion, begin to take in money, and claim "non-tax" status from the government. What a crock! I think I'll start "The Church of Jeffrey" right now and everyone can give to me so I can sit and "speak with God" all day. I'll tell you what She's saying when I'm ready, in the meantime, just keep those donations rolling in!
For years we've heard the old "Separation of Church and State" argument (a term first coined by a non-christian "Deist" named Thomas Jefferson), but it seems that the "religious right" has a very strong political voice in our government. My guess would be that they have found all sorts of inventive ways to fund the "chosen people" into office to peddle their high and mighty morality.
If the Religious Right had their way:
* they would turn our nation into a "Christians only" theocracy everyone would pay tithes in addition to taxes
* they'd take away the freedom of speech
* they'd remove a woman's right to choose to have an abortion
* they'd make it difficult to obtain reliable birth control
* they'd attempt to frighten children with inaccuracies about sex, disease, and pregnancy
* they'd take away the right to bear arms because too many "sinners" would have guns
* they'd bring religion into schools and teach it openly
* they'd denounce evolution and return us to a point where nobody challenged "creation science"
* Fear and paranoia would reign supreme
* Anyone who didn't "toe the line" would be suspect and probably ostracized from society
* Atheism, paganism, and even agnosticism would be deemed illegal
* All forms of art, pornography, and free expression would be struck down
* You'd be told what you could see on television and movies, what you could read, what you could do with your life, and how you would live
Sounds extremist, even down right fascist, doesn't it? Yet these are the things you hear the Religious Right denouncing and attacking every day. What they really want is control and power over everything we see, hear, do, and think. They pass it off as "protecting children," or "keeping us morally upright," or some other nonsense. They actually believe that we already are a Christian nation, when in fact we are supposed to be a secular one. The thing they all seem to forget is this country was founded by secularists: The first 6 Presidents of the United States weren't even Christians, they were Diests. One of our most beloved Presidents, Abraham Lincoln, didn't believe in the Christian God at all, he merely paid lip service to it because he had to as President, but his private papers and eyewitnesses peg him as an outright Atheist! So many famous Americans were non-believers it is funny that these aspects are simply "whitewashed" by the so-called "moral majority". Today it is still somewhat dangerous to voice one's non-belief because the old 19th century religious hysteria has been stirred up once again in our country. I think it's time we pulled the curtain down and exposed the "wizard" behind it. Smoke and mirrors don't hide the fact that "organized religion" is up to its ears in politics regardless of any high and mighty speeches about the "Separation of Church and State." Get the hell out of politics! All organized religion does is add fuel to the fire of an already corrupt and damaged system.
Finally, Western religion gives people comfort. In the old days, when cave man Zok couldn't explain why his buddy Vek got crushed by a falling rock, he decided the "God of the Falling Rocks must have been angry with him." As we evolved, we began to realize that gravity and being in the wrong place at the wrong time had more to do with it than anything else. Every age has its mysteries, and every age has its Gods and Goddesses to control those mysteries. As we became more and more enlightened by science and reason, we found we didn't need that many deities to explain the universe away. So like every civilization which survived, we gradually moved from many gods (polytheism) to one god (monotheism). Now when someone we care for dies unexpectedly, it's "God's Will." When a 6 month old baby chokes on a piece of pretzel and dies in his grandmother's arms, this must be "God's Will." When a fanatic blows up a Federal Building killing over a hundred innocent people, this too is "God's Will." As a matter of fact, if you believe God to be omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent, and immortal, then everything is Her will. She already knows how the whole thing is going to go down anyway, so you may as well just let the autopilot run your life, you never have to worry about a thing. She already knows you will either go to heaven or hell, will or will not sin, will or will not marry, have children, live to see grandchildren, or die tomorrow. There is no reason to live. Oh don't try to sell me that bologna about the tree of knowledge of good and evil. If eating the apple was all that powerful then Adam and Eve wouldn't have needed any more instruction. Tell me why this is so? Why is it that eating this apple didn't remove Adam and Eve's need to know any more about God and religion? It seems to me that it wasn't all that great after all. At any rate, one of the last great questions of the universe is where we go when we die. Religion lets us believe that our dearly departed loved ones are "up there watching" us even now (perhaps some of them are "down there roasting" too). What a tremendous relief it must be to know that when we die we don't simply cease to exist! We can prance about with our immortal souls and go to heaven like good little children of God. Hogwash! If you bought the whole bit about God being omniscient, omnipresent, omnibenevolent, and immortal, and you believe you have an immortal soul as well, I have a bridge I'd love to sell you. Cash only, and in small bills. Give it up folks, why is it so hard to face that chances are just as even that when we die, we die, that's it, game over, no refund, no deposit, no return. Face your mortality and get on with living. You'll be happier, trust me.
In conclusion, I believe that religion is nothing more than superstitious bunk. People choose to believe in order to gain power and peddle influence, seek comfort from death, and cultivate wealth. Some sick individuals use religion as an excuse to do unspeakable horror and cruelty to their fellow man. In the end religion is simply another human tool or ploy to bilk people of their money and control them. Snake oil salesmen were much more honest than most religious organizations. I believe that if you live your life as good as you can and try not to hurt anyone, and spread love wherever possible, you can do greater good than most organized religions ever manage to accomplish. Use your own mind. When you let anyone else do your thinking for you, whether it be religion or something else, you are just acting lazy.
Original Author: J.S. Brown
Edited by Rational Response Squad in knowledge that author would have liked the piece reworked
The Enlightenment wounded the beast, but the killing blow has yet to land...