Thursday, November 27, 2003

There are lots of reasons why I am angry at and fed up with religion, and the nauseating marriage of politics and religion is one of them.

I was thinking the other day. That may come as a surprise to many of you, but I actually do think every now and then. Anyway, I was thinking about the First Amendment. Typically, when you mention the First Amendment, people think of free speech. Along with that, of course, is the principle of freedom of religion.

Free speech is not absolute, and restrictions can be placed on it. The classic example, of course, is that you cannot yell "fire!" in a crowded theater when, in fact, there is no fire. Doing so presents a "clear and present danger" which can lead to panic, injury, even death.

Since free speech is not absolute, then free exercise of religion shouldn't be either. As such, a big part of me would love to see more restrictions placed on religion. Why? Because religion is fucking dangerous.

Countless wars have been started over religion. People have killed abortion doctors in the name of god. Good people have been made to feel unnecessarily bad about sexual proclivities that they have no need to feel bad about. The Crusades. The Inquisition. September 11th. These few examples alone imply to me a "clear and present danger." To sum it up, more people have been killed in the name of god than for any other reason throughout history. Religion ruins more lives than anything.

There's part of me that of course wants to be accepting of everything. Then there's the other side of me that has read history and just paid attention to a thing or two going on around me. It's the latter side that often wins in this particular debate. I can't help it, but I wish we could get rid of religion entirely. I'm not just picking on Christians here, either, but they are a pretty big contributor to my distaste of religion.

The problem is, what to do about it? I've often thought about forming my own sovereign state, and one of the founding principles would be strict religious intolerance. But what does that mean, and how far do we go? What defines "religion"? What about simple "belief"? You can't stop people from believing. And even if we had the balls to put some sort of restrictions on religion (which we don't), what kind of restrictions would we put on people? Like I said, there's no way to stop someone from believing something. The very fact that I'm talking about trying to control belief disturbs me, because it really does go against everything I, well, believe. It's just that the free exercise of religion throughout the course of history has been so free that it's led to a lot of unpleasant results, and the pragmatist in me says that it's just not worth it.

The sovereign state example shows that this desire to see religion wiped out is unreasonable and infeasible. So, I need to find a different route.

I have to agree with Carlin when he says that those of religious faith are "fundamentally weak." I'll openly belittle beliefs and believers. Does that make me a judgmental asshole? You bet it does, but I'll make no apologies for that.

Even though I take such a hardline stance against religion, things wouldn't be so bad from my perspective if people just didn't take it too seriously. The problem is that they obviously have and will continue to do so, but let's see if we can't at least some up with something.

Coming from my ignorant heathen perspective, I 'd like to see us grow up as a society and as a species and move beyond this need to believe in a higher power or whatever. Barring that, it'd be nice to at least see us grow up to the point where we can believe in religion without taking it too seriously and without bothering other people with it.

Here's the deal: I'm willing to concede that I might (keyword: might) be wrong when it comes to religious beliefs. There may be a god, Jesus may be his son, etc. Quite frankly, I just don't know. But you know what? You might be wrong, too. Same goes for everyone else, and I just wish we could all admit this and take it to heart. Also, I'd like to see a little less mindlessness when it comes to religion. If I see that someone has actually thought about things, instead of just buying into whatever their parents or whoever told them, I am much more comfortable with them. No, you didn't come to the same conclusion as me, but you at least put some effort into reaching that conclusion, and I can work with that.

If people could admit that they might be wrong while at the same time not pushing their beliefs on anyone else, we'd be making some progress. If we were able to achieve this, I think we would basically be admitting that no one religion is more valid than any other. That would be a nice starting point, so that we can move beyond that temper-ridden childhood into those troublesome teen years...

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