"God didn't do that! You did!"-Hunter S. Thompson
I was thinking, which I do frequently, and realized I focus a lot, at least on here, on what I don't like (it even says that on the sidebar). So I thought I'd write about some of what I do and don't believe and why. I'm starting with what I don't believe and why, and the follow-up will, hopefully, focus on the many nice, warm, fuzzy things I do believe in. Like kittens. I'm fucking crazy about kittens. First, though, is some very unpleasant shit.
I've already explained my views on god, religion and the supernatural: they aren't. If by some chance they are, then they have such a negligible impact on the human experience that they can be happily ignored. Prayer is nothing more than a psychological placebo that tricks a person into finding patterns where none exist, or as a coping mechanism for adults that never truly outgrew the imaginary friend phase of psychological development. For all practical purposes it is no different than visiting a psychic or having a Tarot card reading, but without the expense. What cannot be ignored, however, are the agents of irrationality.
Anyone that knows anything about cold reading, or has read a book or watched a video on how to pick up women (I totally have,) or even watched a few episodes of Mythbusters realizes that some people have a knack for picking up on character traits, extrapolating plausible conclusions, and regurgitating them back in a way that can almost appear supernatural. Similarly, spiritual con-men like astrologists or prophets make their living by making claims so broad that they could apply to anyone, yet so seemingly specific that the person buying into it will fill in the details themselves. For example, yesterday a random online horoscope search returned this result for me:
"Your ability to concentrate and focus on your work is very good now."
I slacked the fuck off yesterday. I had schoolwork to attend to, songs to learn and a population to subjugate and oppress, and I said "I'm not in the mood. Fuck you, personal responsibility, I'm playing Dark Souls until my Playstation's Blu-ray drive freezes up again."
However, if I was the gullible type, I might read that and say "well, I did come up with a list of songs for band practice, and band practice was really productive, and since I list my occupation as either 'slacker' or 'vampire hunter,' by that definition I was focused on work," then suddenly this random bullshit generator we call astrology is magically right.
In the religious world, this has led to a multi-gazillion dollar, untaxed and mostly unregulated industry based on confidence trickery (intentional or not,) and the exploitation of human emotion and frailty (again, whether or not the evangelical's intention was to take emotional advantage of the bereaved or psychologically imbalanced, of the natural trust children have in adults, or of the easily manipulated is a post facto defense of an indefensible and objectively reprehensible act).
Two inches of dick at a hundred miles an hour is a LOT of dick. There, let it never be said I lost my sense of humor.
Slowly getting to my first point; I not only don't believe in the supernatural; I believe that the encouragement, indoctrination and assumption of such beliefs by the majority of the American populace is an actively destructive force in society. Now, that is only my opinion, based on subjective experience. The majority of Believers are not themselves destructive, of course. Quite a few are unequivocally good people, despite the crazy-ass, contradictory shit they're expected to believe unquestioningly. But I can not say I have no problem with them. I do.
Much has been written on religious insanity. I would like to focus on the more insidious aspects, as opposed to the witch hunts and crusades and jihads that usually get carted out at this point. I speak of the Christian that is truly horrified by the atrocities committed in the name of god. The one who believes in faith through works, unselfish charity, etc.
How could I have a problem with this person?
This is the person that condones and advocates an ideology that is nothing less than a breeding ground for atrocity. By siding with a belief system on faith that offers absolution of wrongdoing, that allows one, through simple ritual, to option off one's sense of personal responsibility for transgressions, large and small, to an invisible, intangible entity, one gives pardon to all others of that same faith. By endorsing a religious system, one endorses by default the most vile and inhumane aspects of that system, for unlike a system of political, philosophical or rational belief, religion defines itself as infallible and inarguable. Further, that its followers are exclusively god's chosen people, be they Jewish, Muslim or Christian. Religion demands a person aspire to inhuman and unnatural standards and unquestioning obedience to divine writ. Religion encourages the unstable to act on emotion and self-justifies any action: faith calls an evil thing good.
The religious mindset is the perfect unwinnable internet troll argument: "I'm right because I Believe and I Believe because I'm right."
Religion is narcotic. It engenders serfdom and encourages the acceptance of same. Man or woman, old or young, all humans deserve a sense of accomplishment for that which is accomplished. Similarly, if a person is unjust, his accountability, his absolution and atonement should not be shifted to the shoulders of a dead man. There is no evidence that some invisible Santa Claus lives beyond the clouds rewarding the righteous and punishing the nefarious. To claim that he/she/it does is to commit treason against ones own humanity. To accept ignorance as divine will, to surrender ones ability to strive, to grow, to learn, to think, to act, to do, to evolve, in favor of the warm apathy of a church pew, a hymn, an offering plate and a puerile promise of immortality is a cowardly act of betrayal to one's contract with the fellowship of man. To give away the free will that makes one human is to give away one's humanity itself.
Christianity (well, most religions, but this is the one I have the most experience with,) functions at best as a symbiotic psychological crutch, but most often it behaves as a mental illness that spreads virally. Unlike other viruses, however, the religious person desires (and in fact, is commanded by his god,) to spread it to his loved ones, neighbors and complete strangers. The unchecked and unchallenged acquiescence of such a lifestyle can only give rise to the mentality of religious extremist. To the prayer warrior (or religious terrorist, the terms are functionally interchangeable,) all outsiders are the enemy, and the enemy can only be overcome by assimilation, subjugation or assassination. Worst of all, when the only standards of judgement are the interpretations made by superstitious and irrational men of a book that can be twisted to criminalize any conceivable act, behavior or state of being then no one is truly safe.
And that is my problem with the 'casual' or 'default' religious person. You may cherry pick your holy book, and tell yourself that only the nice parts apply, and ignore (against the explicit orders of the same book,) the ugly parts, the parts that encourage and demand genocide, rape, slavery, child murder and torture: but at the bare minimum you have implicitly aligned yourself with those who do not ignore the commands of your lunatic god.
I'll share one of the most heart-breaking things I've ever witnessed and then shut up. I knew a lady that, as a child, was a victim of religious ritual abuse. I'm not going to draw a picture, but believe me, it wasn't just being forced to go to Sunday school. As an adult this woman fell prey to drug addiction and all its associate miseries; rape, prostitution, degradation, humiliation, arrests, and so on.
After years of this sub-human existence this lady, through rehab and counseling and group therapy, cleaned up, was given a second chance to become the person she was meant to be.
This woman told me about the horrors she suffered as a child in the name of the protestant god. She was concerned because everyone she knew who had managed to get off of drugs had told her that she HAD TO develop a deep and meaningful relationship with god.
The cruelty of giving an abuse victim the ultimatum to either reach out to, and bow down before one's abuser or die miserable and alone in the throes of unimaginable despair seems, to me, an act so unconscionable as to be beneath consideration.
The last time I talked to her, she told me, vacant and glassy-eyed, enslaved to and brainwashed by a new master, that she not only had made piece with her former god, her tormentor, her childhood nightmare; she had become a follower.
Next Time: The Return of My Sense of Humor and the Nice Things About Being an Atheist