July 12, 2007

The Poison of Religion

Not very often do I find something worthwhile to read while sitting in a doctor's office. On most occasions I have a book tucked in my back pocket, but today I left Jack Kerouac's On The Road beside the door. So, while Dear Wifey had her pregnant tummy poked and prodded by the doctor, I sat nearby in a chair, reading a very interesting article by Brian Bethune in Maclean's magazine. The article, aptly titled Is God Poison? gives a brief but thorough overview of the rising atheistic movement in North America. And while it is unclear as to whether Bethune is a supporter or not, the movement, aided (though not necessarily in a collaborative sense) by bestselling authors like Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris, is pushing to reveal all monotheistic religions for what they believe they are: corrupt, archaic, processes, steeped in violence, that do far more to impede progress and society than they do to help it. While the indictments lie heavily with American Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Catholicism among others, all fall under the same criticism. And rightly so, I say.

The debate over God's existence, influence, ability, and attributes is centuries old. I'd be a fool to imply that I'm some sort of expert on the subject, too. But there is a distinction between the existence of God and the religions created around his existence. And while one can remain agnostic about the former, the latter is, and should be, a necessary topic of continual debate. Regardless of where you sit on the spectrum of theism, you'd have to be completely blind not to see the historic and current negative effects of religion on society.

I grew up surrounded by particular religious opinions, many of which I find no longer workable in my worldview. Where many see religion as the solution to the world's problems, I see it as the root cause. I see sexual obsession, war, prejudice, hatred, and worst of all, a clear and intentional lack of caring for human beings around the world. Of course there are plenty of moderates, people with human conviction and passion and a desire to see change and progress, yet still rallying around their God. But there is a disconcerting fundamentalist side as well (as the article points out), a side that waits with open arms and eager smiles for death. And isn't this the real issue with all monotheistic religions? A fear of death? And a supposed requital of that fear? Interestingly enough, some atheists suggest that it is the moderates who are the most dangerous, for they never truly condemn fundamentalism, allowing it some rightful place on the spectrum of faith. And this is proving to be costly.

When you have religions speaking out against the encouragement of condom usage in Africa to stem the tide of AIDS or when you have religions claiming AIDS is a direct judgment of some Old Testament God, something is amuck. When religions hide pedophiles by moving them from parish to parish without punishment, when they murder Dutch filmmakers on the street for speaking out against their bullshit or hold mass outcries when Danish cartoonists call their irrationality into question, something is really wrong. How about the scare tactics of running "hell-houses" where people are paraded through various rooms to see reenactments of abortions, homosexual intimacy, and then the supposed literal hell and torment that awaits? Or church websites that extol hatred as a virtue (type "God Hates Fags" into Google sometime, and you'll see)?

And my largest concern, how about those that wave a flag and a cross side by side, claiming that their God has given them the right to blow the living shit out of countries somewhere else in the world? A pissing contest for deities, carried out by slack-jawed, pretentious minions. And to do it with such swagger and arrogance. Is no one frightened about the notion of a nuclear-capable, fundamentalist Christian state? Why do we allow them so much power? Why do people refuse to revolt? I think it's because collectively, people wallow in intellectual apathy. To question or seriously debate pushes them out of their comfort zone. There is minimal comfort in blind faith, no matter how absurd. It is always easier to say "oh, it's just God's will" then it is to sit down and talk about change. This article suggests that religion wants death, religion is eagerly awaiting for it because it means the vindication of its beliefs.

And you wonder why peace is so difficult to attain?

Anyways, read the article, Is God Poison? and tell me what you think. None of us are going to be one hundred percent in agreement. But the very nature of debating issues like this is at least a step in the right direction. At least we're not standing on a street corner reciting the four spiritual laws to pedestrians walking by.

The end is near. But likely not in the way you think.


Glenn said...

God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.

Just kidding.

I think that the biggest difficulty that any religion faces is the people that practice it. Pick a diety, and they seem pretty okay, but fill in the worshiping masses, and somehow the message of the diety get's corrupted.

Too much evil has been done in the name of any diety to really be able to stand up for any organized religion. Again, I would credit this to the ability for us mere mortals to corrupt any message from a higher power.

I wonder how much of the argument for or against religions comes down to the core question of "Are we as humans intrinsically good or bad?" If we are basically good at the get go, then it's likely that religion corrupts the people. If we are naturally bad, then it's us that corrupts any sort of religion.

On the whole, I'm fed up with organized religion. The thought of having to do some sort of ritual because that's how it's been done in the past annoys me. If there is meaning in an action, let's continue the action or routine for that reason, and that reason alone. If that's why we do something, then we should be open to refining that action as well.

Arg, sorry for the long post. The article was very thought provoking, and as you say, any discussion is better than ignoring the problem.

Harry Tournemille said...

Thanks for posting, Glenn. And no worries about the length of the post. Brevity is not always necessary.

There is merit to some of your commnents. Clearly human nature reduces any of the idealistic qualities of religion into a muddled mix of pantomime and manifest destiny. I share your frustration re: organized religion as a whole.

But at some point we need to take a much close look at the diety we are trying to worship, their involvement in any religion (if there is actually any), and what exactly this deity is. If religion is man made, then all ascriptions of any diety must be too. Our entire knowledge of God stems from human collaboration...and agenda. The way we describe God, the anthropomorphisms, the qualities we give him. It's all based on human rationale, and need, and I find a lot of it bogus. Mostly because it is left as a bumper sticker tag than a concrete comment. I mean try to define some them, for the sake of Pete.

Of course, you're right about the "starting point" of people's beliefs. Whether or not humans start off good or bad (The Fall idea). I take great contention with some of these notions, the guilt attachments, the pressure to be something you may very well not be. But I guess that should be left for another time.

Thanks for posting.

paul said...

hey dude, floated over here and read, interesting stuff.

I kind of came to my own finality before my kid was born, and getting sick of my urge to punch people who say "dude, I'm not religious, I'm like, spiritual though". Argh.

For me, I don't want to teach my kid what to think, but how to think. I think it'll bring her to a good place in the end.

Harry Tournemille said...

Yes, I can relate to that "spiritual comment". So superficial.
I'm not sure if I've reached some sort of finality myself. Still working through so much in my mind. Sometimes I feel like an atheistic approach is a little to convenient, too easy, but that's mostly due to my own upbringing and whatever attachments I still have with it.
I'm certainly done with the bullshit of religion, though. And I feel frustrated about the notion of a God that is not accountable to anyone or anything. Carte blanche to wreak whatever mayhem He wants and his pesky minions scurry around his toes waving their hands saying thank you.