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Tuesday, August 17, 2004

The Religious People Are Pissing Me Off Again

So my family frequently asks me why I'm "so hard on religion" or have such an active dislike for it.

Well, there's a lot of reasons. And those reasons keep getting reinforced.

Religion is frequently used as an excuse not to think through moral or political or social issues for yourself. The answer is so clear - plain as day, so long as you read the Bible/the Koran/whathaveyou from the right perspective.

The obvious thing to cite right now would be the recent California court decision on gay marriage, but I knew that one was coming. There was a law banning it in this state. It's been a law for a while. Gavin Newsome was breaking the law, bless his heart. I agree with him wholeheartedly, but that doesn't change the law. Other things have to happen for that to occur. Meanwhile, it was a grand and beautiful gesture that reignited the dialogue.

No, what I cite today are other things, like the woman in South Carolina, who wanted to be a good citizen and participate in the local council. I applaud her for doing so. It's something most of us (myself included) are just "too busy" to bother doing. She's a Wiccan though, and found it a bit uncomfortable by having every meeting begin with a group prayer ending in “In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.” She asked to be considered. She asked to have just that part left out. Eventually, after the mayor told her that “This is the way we’ve always done things, and we’re not going to change,” she eventually sued the city. She won. This is all fine. People don't like change. Sometimes change has to be enforced. It's never fun. But none of this bothers me.

The part that bothers me is that the good "Christian" folks of the town have "killed her cat and hanged its gutted body" on her porch and "put sand in the gas tank of her truck." This from a community that does everything in the name of Jesus Christ. This sort of thing is evil perpetrated in the name of religion, backed up by the "our way, or the highway" mentality of religious groups.

Again, the golden rule is so simple, and remediates so many ills: Treat others as you wish to be treated.

I'm looking forward to picking up a copy of Sam Harris' new book, "The End of Faith." Meanwhile, he wrote a pretty good article for the LA Times. Religion is not the answer. It's the enemy. I have no problem with spirituality or a belief in a god or many gods. I do have a problem with organized, institutionalized religion. When one group tries to remake the world in the image of their religion, it can only end in pain for everyone else, because we will never ever ever agree on a global level about what is the one true faith. Therefore, no faith should be the basis for social or political policy. And yet, we elected the village idiot who is out there on a "mission" to do just that, and who treats everything as a "crusade". Swell.

17 Comments:

  • I know you don't like Bush, and have various reasons for doing so. But I find that "village idiot" link quite insulting.

    If the source of that report was the least bit reliable, it would be worrisome, but surely you understand the difference between emotional instability and low cognitive functioning. I'm not aware of anti-depressants impairing patients' mental faculties; in fact, the reverse appears to be occasionally true. I certainly noticed no cognitive effect while I was on them; nor have I noticed any effect on people I know who've gone on and off them.

    So fulminate against Bush all you like, and if you believe he's unstable, say so. But if you think that being on anti-depressants makes one an idiot, you're more callous and cold-hearted than you credit Bush with being.

    By Blogger Anthony, at 2:36 PM  

  • I hope you never feel that I am prostelitizing to you. And if I am I hope you will tell me so.

    By Blogger vile, at 2:37 PM  

  • Okay, fine, village idiot was not directly related to the anti-depressant thing. Just another link I wanted in there and was dealt with as an afterthought. Anyway, switched over to the more standard "Bushisms" website now. Doesn't make the president any more capable of handling the job.

    And Vile, I couldn't tell you if you were proseletizing, 'cause I haven't got a clue who you are. I'm guessing it's an LJ pseudonym for someone I do know, right?

    By Blogger Ammy, at 3:36 PM  

  • I feel the need to comment on this because this is an area I have studied a lot and feel passionate about. I hope you will hear me out.

    I completely understand your disgust with the people in North Carolina and their treatment of a woman whose beliefs were different than their own. These people do not understand the basic ideas of humanity and tolerance and are quite hypocritical. I cannot disagree with you at all in this area.

    I do have to disagree with your generalization of religion as a whole. To begin with I should state that I choose not to be involved in any religion. I personally believe in the spirituality of one is correct for me. This said I am also very thankful that there is religion in the world. My reasons are numerous, but simply put I enjoy the ability to learn from and interact with different beliefs; to be able to find pieces of each religion that work for me and to learn and grow because of religions, even though I am not a part of any one of them.

    Religion fulfills several basic needs of human kind. In its essence religion is an incredibly good thing. However as a species humans are not always as good. Religion serves a great purpose in good to some, but is easily used for evil by those who are fanatic in their beliefs or who use it toward gaining power and political aspirations. History as well as the present continues to prove how easily some people are led to do things that actually go against their core beliefs. There are also many people who don’t understand the beliefs of their religions; they simply follow because they are told to follow.

    Catholicism is one religion which does preach that it is the only way. Having been raised in a catholic family I understand the major faults of this religion as well as some of the intolerances that can be developed from it. I still feel this sometimes from family members whom I love. On the flip side you would be surprised how many very religious people are incredibly tolerant and open to the discussion of their own religion as well as others.

    Really what I’m trying to say is that there are a lot of goods, a lot of tolerance and a lot of education offered by religion. However many people don’t understand, don’t care to understand and misuse religion for their own purposes. I completely agree with you in your disgust and frustration at these people, I just ask that you keep in mind that this is the fault of the people and not completely the specific religion or of religion in general.

    I’m really sorry that my post has gone so long. I appreciate the chance to express my views on a topic that I know we both feel strongly on. I’m glad that you made this post; I think it’s an important discussion to have.

    Thanks,
    *hugs*
    Rachel

    PS: this is not vile – I just want to specify that this is not a follow up to the current conversation.

    By Blogger Rachel Lea, at 4:48 PM  

  • Thank you for changing the link.

    By Blogger Anthony, at 4:57 PM  

  • Religion is not the answer. It's the enemy.You do realize that the Wiccan woman you refer to is religious, yes? Would you care to tell her, as well, that her belief system is "the enemy"? Or are just certain religions--you know, the Big Three--"the enemy" while our kewl Wiccan friends get a special exemption cuz that's like different?

    By Blogger mythago, at 10:00 PM  

  • Mythago - Yes, I realize Wicca is a religion, and she's religious too. And I've met militant, overbearing Wiccans in my life. There's always a subset of fanatics amongst any religion. And there's always a subset of people who use their religious beliefs to inflict harm on others in the name of their god of choice.

    I still think anything that asks you to turn your life and your will over to a god or gods or godesses or whatever and stop thinking for yourself has a high potential for causing evil in the world. Sure, there are other similar things - like patriotism - that have the same net result. Again, think for yourself. Having a belief or a faith is fine, but forcing it on others as the one true path is an evil, and taking out your agressions on others because they don't follow your one true path is also evil. Too often, the us vs. them created by religion fosters this sort of activity.

    By Blogger Ammy, at 9:54 AM  

  • Hey, It was really cool to have a discussion on this last night. Thanks!

    I think in the long run, even though we still disagree on certain details, we do feel the same at the heart of it.

    By Blogger Rachel Lea, at 10:17 AM  

  • I still think anything that asks you to turn your life and your will over to a god or gods or godesses or whatever and stop thinking for yourself has a high potential for causing evil in the world.And I still think it's ignorant to assume all "religion" follows this model, and to therefore declare it evil.

    You made an absolute statement: Religion is the enemy. Back it up. Waffling about how some religions have a subset of fanatics, or ascribing a particular set of religious beliefs (pushes the One True Way, is homophobic) to ALL religions is not a logical presentation.

    Science has been used to hurt and control vast numbers of people; many people excuse racism, sexism, or just plain evil behavior by hiding behind "science." Does that mean science is the enemy? It sure does, following your explanation of why religion is the enemy.

    By Blogger mythago, at 10:28 PM  

  • >Science has been used to hurt and control vast
    >numbers of people; many people excuse racism,
    >sexism, or just plain evil behavior by hiding
    >behind "science." Does that mean science is the
    >enemy? It sure does, following your explanation
    >of why religion is the enemy

    Hardly... to call the weak rationalizations that people call "science" when they justify the sorts of atrocities you allude to simply demonstrates a poor understanding of not just science but the principle of scientific method that underlies it - not just on the part of the people doing the justification but on the poster's part in using their claims to demonstrate a moral equivalency between the two.

    The fundamental difference here between science and (organized) religion is that religion is primarily faith based and presents it's truths as descending from something beyond human abilities and as such are to be accepted without question or critical analysis. This could not be more opposed to a scientific viewpoint which is based on reason and the idea that any conclusion reached by that path should not only be able to withstand independent critical analysis but actually invites it and *encourages* debate.

    Science admits the possibility of error and seeks to learn when demonstrated that an existing theorem has been disproven.

    Religious dogma does not.

    Now the label of "science" has justified some horrendous things (Hitler's "science" of eugenics and subsequent butchering of millions being a perfect example) but when looked at in the cold light of reason are these sorts of mental constructs truly scientific or are they simply another faith based dogma that finds the label "science" something that makes the idea easier to sell?

    Faith is personal and doesn't take kindly to critical examination. Reason (if honest) admits to the possibility of error and if such is found usually works to a new solution.

    I tend to take Ammy's point of view personally. I find it far preferable to deal with a world through actions based on reason than faith.

    By Blogger Bill B, at 7:01 AM  

  • They are not mutually exclusive.

    Ideally, science is rational, thoughtful and seeks the correct answer and not the wrong one. In reality, it's used by human beings. Bias guides scientific funding and research. Scientists massage data, ignore results, or are just plain wrong in their understanding and application of the data.

    An awful lot of religions, BTW, are based on the idea of questioning and rational thinking--not blind stupidity. Are they rooted in faith? Sure. That's not synonymous with stupidity or a refusal to think.

    I mean, relationships are rooted in love. I doubt you, or I, or Ammy based a relationship entirely on rational factors. Does that mean relationships are the enemy?

    By Blogger mythago, at 7:19 AM  

  • You do know me. I am one of your best friends actually. I shouldn't torture you and by telling you ... but I am.

    http://vile-pernicious.blogspot.com/ may or not give you a clue as to my true identity.

    Or if you just want me not to comment any more I can do that too.

    By Blogger vile, at 10:55 AM  

  • I think I'm coming from a similar angle an Mythago on this.
    To me, religion is simply a set of beliefs shared between a group of people. Two people believing roughly the same thing about spirituality is a basic religion. While religion, like all ideas and cultural things depends on people to pass it on and espouse it. That is in itself not bad (because things like Ceili dance depends on enthusiastic people passing it on for continued survival as well).
    The problem arises when people try to force their views on others as exclusive views. But that's not inherent in every religion or religious person. You can have a religion without having to force it down other's throats.

    As for the people who tormented that poor women, to me, that's not an example of religion being wrong, that's an example of people being wrong and hypocritical about their religion. That happens within every religion, but doesn't define it. It also happens in situation like where Oliver North broke laws and shredded documents because "he loved his country". (It also has to do with power dynamics in that community, but that a different tangent).

    I think you can recognize religion as being ok, but the adherants not being perfect.

    I wholeheartedly agree though, that you should not put your reason or personal morals aside when in a religion. You are responsible for your own actions

    By Blogger Chris S, at 12:08 AM  

  • "Religious people" piss me off and I'm fairly religious

    By Blogger Chris S, at 12:09 AM  

  • Sigh. And we're back to defining "religious" as synonymous with "the obnoxious wing of the fundamentalist Christian movement". Way to let them control the discussion.

    The Amish are religious. Do they piss you off? How about the Dalai Lama? He's pretty religious.

    By Blogger mythago, at 12:42 AM  

  • Mythago,
    You're right, my bad

    By Blogger Chris S, at 9:21 AM  

  • Hi, I am a devoted Christian and I've been sitting here wondering what to write that would get my point across and I came up with this.

    If I could start my life again I would probably change just one of my decisions. And that is to not have told the girl I liked in highschool that I liked her.

    That means that after having read your points of view on religion, I would have chosen Christianity once again.

    You see, you are not describing religious people, you're describing the exact same people that 2000 years ago, also got on Jesus's nerves:
    Jesus replied, "Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
    "'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.' You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men."
    (Mark 7).

    But you also mention that faith based religions present their truths as descending from something beyond human abilities and as such are to be accepted without question or critical analysis. And I would like to say about this that all the beyond human abilities descending truths, if questioned or critically analized, they always turn out to be for the good of mankind. Because if they don't turn out like that, then they are just another "tradition of men". I am making this distinction to show that critical analysis is, in fact, encouraged by Jesus so we do not make the same mistake they did.

    So, you see, you're not bringing up anything new; the people that so clearly annoy you have been annoying everyone since B.C.

    By Blogger someonefunny, at 12:52 AM  

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