Saturday, February 05, 2011

Why I am not a Christian, or anything else for that matter

The title of this post is with all due respect to Bertrand Russell, truly one of history's greatest badasses.

As I mentioned in a recent post I would like to try and push myself to write more often, in one way or another. I have been wanting to put the ideas spewed out below in writing somehow and I figured, hey, why not for a buncha strangers who aren't reading this anyway? I have no illusions about this being earth-shattering commentary or anything like that, but I just wanted to set it down for my own edification. I also wanted to try and interject more humour into this post before I put it out there and maybe I had some success there but either way fuck it. And yeah, I just went British on your ass.

Ever since I started this 'blog, Jesus, almost eight years ago? Anyway, yeah, ever since then (and well before for those who know me outside of this 'blog) it was pretty clear that I hate religion. But why, Bitter Little Man? What did religion ever do to you?

Sorry to report that there's nothing really juicy to report. I didn't have biblethumping parents who raised me on a strict diet of religion and bullshit (but I repeat myself). I didn't have it beaten into me, literally or figuratively, that I was a sinner and destined for Hell. I was not molested by a clergyman.

To clarify up front, I am what Richard Dawkins calls a de-facto atheist. At my core I am agnostic because I can flat out say: I don't know. But I live my life in a way that is consistent with there being no god, and I think the odds of there being a god are pretty slim. I could go into this further, but just do yourself a favor and go read The God Delusion by Dawkins because it is much more insightful than this drivel. But by all means, read the rest of this too; you've already invested too much to quit now!

Now, I didn't get my religious standing from reading Dawkins (in fact I only managed to get around to reading Delusion a few months back). I was raised mildly Christian. The most religious person in my family is my grandmother, and she was very influential to me growing up. She taught me to believe in God and Jesus (well they are the same really, but they're not... Christ what a mess) and the Bible. We didn't go to church regularly or anything, but I did have a basic belief in Christianity since that is what I was taught from a young age.

Once I got to be, oh around 15 I would suppose, I of course knew everything, as all teenagers do. In all seriousness though, I did at least know enough to know that there are a lot of religions out there. I mean a fuckload. Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism... The list is as endless as it is annoying. For the most part, they are all mutually incompatible, by design. If they weren't incompatible, there would have been some mergers and acquisitions along the way and we'd have a lot fewer of them.

Even discounting religions that are totally different in their fundamentals, how about the religions that have some common core beliefs (such as Jesus Christ being the lord and saviour of mankind) and they STILL can't fucking get along? Forget about any mergers, the history of many if not all religions is the splintering off into new factions when people can't bloody agree on the stupid set of ideas they want to believe in and how they want to go about executing their belief.

With all these religions -- many of them vastly different -- I also realized the simple notion that they of course can't ALL be right. Even though every one of them has decided that they are indeed correct and everyone else has it wrong. Aside from that notion, it further occurred to me that what if maybe -- just maybe -- none of them were right?

I would say that that was the first cornerstone of my religious undoing. But as I had already learned, and would continue to learn, religion has been pretty horrific to mankind over the years. More people have been killed in the name of god than for any other reason. So much shit has been perpetrated with religion as the underpinning. To wit: the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the partition of India, the Holocaust, the Middle East situation for the past sixty years, the Middle East for a solid chunk of history prior, 9/11 (and 3/11 and 7/7 just so you don't think I'm all Ameri-centric), the oppression of women, discrimination against homosexuals... The list is long as it is depressing.

It may seem strange to some that I include things such as India and the Holocaust in there since those weren't Big Bad Religion going out there and fucking with someone, they were something terrible perpetrated on a group of people because of their religion. But that's exactly my point. What if people had no religious identities? How would the partition of India, truly one of history's greatest humanitarian disasters, have gone down if they didn't have Hindus and Muslims to separate? What group would Hitler have used as the scapegoat for Germany's problems?

Yes, I know that Hitler went after lots of other groups, but of course Jews were public enemy #1 for him. I further realize that people are persecuted for lots of other reasons besides religion, but religion is what we're discussing here so stop trying to change the subject, gorrammit. The point here is that without religion, there is one less gigantic reason for people to be killed or oppressed or just have to face unnecessary strife.

What's that you say? Not all people of faith perpetrate horrific crimes against others? Yeah I know. Much like specifically most Muslims are not terrorists, generally speaking most religious people are not major troublemakers. Sure, they may be annoying, hell VERY annoying lots of times, but hey, they aren't really bothering anyone and certainly not bringing questions of mortality into play (morality being another story). Still though, based on history, mankind clearly cannot keep its shit together when it comes to religion. A handful of miscreants have simply made the whole endeavour not worth it.

So the crimes of religion form the second cornerstone. Even if the myriad religions all thinking they have the answer (or final solution, you might say) to certain quandaries wasn't totally retarded, even if religion hadn't led to countless problems throughout history as well as the everyday lives of people, there still remains one reason why I despise religion: it discourages critical thought. You could easily argue that it requires you to suspend critical thought. And what takes the place of thinking about stuff? Blind faith.

Please note the critical modifier: blind. I don't do well with blind faith. Oh, I can have faith -- in myself, friends, family, co-workers, science. That faith isn't blind though; it is based on facts, experiences, experiments, etc. Maybe I can't guarantee some things or say that I know them with absolute 100% totally indestructible certainty, but I can say that for all practical purposes I know some things. I can have faith in another person, for instance, based on the experiences I have had with them, getting to know them as a person, etc. I can have faith in scientific knowledge because it is based on study and experimentation, peer review, etc. Sure, someone I thought I knew could turn out different from what I was expecting. Sure, science can be manipulated for politics or personal gain, and scientific knowledge evolves over time. That evolution is a huge part of my point, though -- by simply thinking about stuff, ideas we have, either individually or collectively, can change as new data becomes available.

Religion, by and large, does not really change much. Oh sure, every now and then the Pope decides to quit being an asshole over something, or in the face of disgustingly overwhelming evidence the Church has to change their stance on something, but that's not exactly the same as the progression of science. In the end, religion says, hey, don't think about this -- listen to what this old dude standing up in front of the congregation while wearing Liberace's Snuggie tells you and just believe because it is the word of God. Why is it the word of God? Because it just is! Jesus, were you not listening?

I'm not saying that everyone who is religious never thinks about their religion. There are plenty of people out there who question their faith, many who question it a lot. But if that questioning doesn't lead to the abandoning of religious belief, then it's all for naught.

OK His Bitterness, so you think everyone who holds religious beliefs is a ratard? This is one area that I struggle with a bit. I know, and am friends with, many very smart people who I like, respect, and admire, who are religious in one way or another. I don't automatically think that someone is stupid just for believing in god or whatever, but I do think that that one part of them is retarded. I seriously do have low regards for religious beliefs and practices. But I can still like a person who is religious just the same as I can like a person who roots for a sports team I hate. Granted, religion is a bigger deal to people than sports, but, wait, no it really isn't. That was the perfect thing to pick for comparison.

In the end, I do strongly believe in everyone's right to their own religious beliefs, and right to practice those beliefs, just so long as they aren't being a pain in the ass about it. Yeah it is hard to draw the line between "Well, OK" and "Knock it the fuck off" but I know it when I see it. And also, hey, what if I'm wrong about everything? I'm fully willing to admit that I could be. Let's just agree that I think your beliefs are dumb and you believe I'm going to Hell and we'll call it a day.

Alright, so that's it: too many religions that can't agree, too much ugly shit, and you have to stop thinking to believe in that nonsense. We don't need religion to be good and would be a lot better off without it. Maybe simply just putting out this concluding paragraph would have made for a cleaner post. Amen to that.

And there was much rejoicing

OK so someone left a pretty encouraging guestbook entry (thanks for that; and in case it wasn't obvious to everyone in addition to being just a plain lil' bitch I am also continually needing some kind of validation) I got my shit together and figured out how to get comments back. I used Haloscan comments because I just thought they were cleaner and simpler to use than Bloggers built-in commenter. I was also able to title it "Fuck everything: The Commenter."

Well, as mentioned previously, once Halsoscan went titsup I had to yank the Haloscan code out of the HTML for my 'blog page and I couldn't figure out how to get the Blogger comments in there. I've never had a real burning desire or need to learn HTML or any associated web coding but it actually turned out to be pretty simple when I just paid some fucking attention to the page where you edit the HTML which allows you to re-set the widgets without even having to do any code work. I'm glad I noticed that because I was about to start over using a totally new Blogger template and all of the ones available are shit.

Anyway, long story short, for anyone out there, comment to your heart's desire. Real posts to follow (?).