Thursday, April 30, 2009

On Why Religion Is Bad

Does religion poison everything?

Let's ask a question or two about human nature. Is mankind fundamentally good, but somehow corrupted by religion, which has been invented by mankind, which is fundamentally good? Or are we fundamentally corrupt, so that the influence religion has on us would be either neutral -- it could hardly make us worse -- or restraining. Is religion a system of codified ethics, seeking to restrain social behavior, to edify and elevate the finer aspirations of the human soul? Or is it a haphazard collection of tribal taboos, later rationalized into a civilized form but still embodying a savage ethos of tyranny and superstition.

As for mankind, we have only to consult the annals of history to form a conclusion. History is a drama, and drama is about pain. The author of history is either mankind, or God. If God, then the discussion is over. Some religion must be valid. If mankind, then something within the human psyche must need to create suffering. Otherwise we would create happiness, and history would be a comedy. And since mankind craves chaos, it is not reasonable to blame religion for this chaos. As much as to blame the dagger for the wound. It is but a tool, and if not a dagger, then some other weapon would have done the deed.

It seems to be nonsense, to blame religion. Let's take Islam for example. Yes, it likes to jihad. That's bad. But what did Communism do? Built an empire, or two, on blood. There was terrorism long before there were suicide islamobombers. And while some religions just love child sacrifice -- Aztec priests spring to mind, but those of Chemosh too -- what are we to make of the one point five million abortions "performed" (Bravo! Encore!) annually in the US? These abortions are not sacrifices to religion -- not to any organized religion. Entirely secular. But, of course, secular humanism is a recognized religion, per the Supreme Court. Go figure.

Looks like the atheist's argument about how bad religion is doesn't stand up. Point for point, we have the same dysfunctional behaviors in the presence or the absence of religion. And since there is no society where there is not religion, we cannot then form any valid comparative sociological conclusions on the respective supposed benefits of either religion or of atheism.

What then can we say? We know that mankind is corrupt with or without God. We know that some religions teach as doctrine monstrous behavior. We know that when atheism becomes the State religion, as in the USSR, Red China, or Cambodia, the Purges take millions of lives, and the Plans take tens of millions. So these particular religions are truly destructive. Are there any religions that are truly peaceful? None that have ruled as governments. There have been Buddhist princes, therefore there have been Buddhist armies, and Buddhist wars. Pacifism is a great idea, if you live in the wilderness. But just as grasshoppers turn into locusts, under pressure men turn into soldiers. We can blame God for this only if there is a God.

God, who wants an eye for an eye. How brutal. What of forgiveness? It is annoying, the constant need to clarify these things -- but one generation rises up to replace the last, and we are born knowing nothing at all. An eye for an eye is not about brutality. It is less a commandment than a principle of justice -- if there is to be punishment, it must be equal to the crime. No longer will it be a life for an eye, or an arm for a hand. These so-called skeptics. You'd think they'd bother to inform themselves about the things they disagree with but love to argue about.

God, who ordered Abraham to sacrifice his only son. How savage. But the end of the story is that the son was not sacrificed, and a religion grew out of that fact, which forbade child sacrifice. Why, it's almost as if that's what God had in mind.

God, who sacrificed his own Son. Words fail me. I can only say that it was an act of love. Jesus had something to say about it. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. It was his life to lay down. Too bad he doesn't have more friends.

Yes, religion generally poisons everything. Religion is just a part of the universe, and the universe is poisonous. We know this, because everything in it is dying. If only there were something not of this universe, that might act as an antidote. What we know, for certain, is that such a thing could not be a religion. Not any religion. Not that of some church, or mosque or temple or shrine. Not that of the collective or the politburo. Not that of the atheist's lecture hall. No religion can save anyone. It's all crap. True religion is caring for orphans and widows, and visiting the sick and those in prison. Well that's good. But it's not really a religion. Who organizes it? The rest of it, with its songs and candles and crackers, is just some idea we have in our minds about what g/God used to want. All our righteousness is as filthy rags.

But you know where I'm going. Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends. Friends. Friend. Friendship is a relationship. There is a "religion" that would have you be a friend of God. Only one. Relationships are hard, though. It is easier to chant or crawl, to dance or not dance, to pay alms or to meditate. That's a lot easier than the day-to-day grind of just being a friend, with the demands that friendship would make. Marriage might be a sort of analogy. Indeed, I know a "religion" that uses this very image, of Bride and Groom. Hm.

But I'm not a preacher, so I'm not going to tell anyone to believe anything. Think what you want. Do as thou wilt. Just maybe try to be a good friend, to your friends, if you have friends. Question others, and question yourself. Try to be honest in your actions and even in your private thoughts. Then, maybe God, if there is a God, will notice your noble heart, and smile upon you. How sweet it must be, to have a friend who loves you enough to smile when he thinks about you.



Bipsy Quee said...

Do you realize how rare is the gift you have?

Jack H said...

That's very kind. Thank you. Some things come just as a gift to me, that I hope will be a gift to you. "Too bad he doesn't have more friends." It made me catch my breath. But I am easily moved.


Bipsy Quee said...

Maybe that's where we fail?

We stop at "friends" instead of "disciples"?

Jack H said...

I'd count that as a success. We start as disciples. We end as friends.

Then again, a fear of the Lord does focus the mind.


Bipsy Quee said...

Well, I meant that we stop when we make them OUR friends.

Will C. said...

What wonderful thoughts and logic, consider me a friend...

Jack H said...



Bipsy Quee said...

Even more beautiful the second time around.

Still a friend.

Jack H said...

I just hate the idea of my more meaningful efforts languishing forever in the bowels of the blogosphere.

Welcome again.