The anti-religionist

Posted: March 16, 2010 in Life
Tags: , , ,

In the thirty-minute walk from my home to work, I had a blog idea all sketched out.  And then when I got here, and used WordPress.com’s Tag Surfer to skim interesting blogs, I came across one that kind of twisted my head halfway off.

It was written by a young woman who appears to be slowly turning jaded by the comments and actions of people  in her church.

Ever have an itch you just can’t scratch?  That was my feeling as I read through her heart-felt disenchantment on religion in general.  You are not supposed to say that you hate anyone.  Especially when you’re in church.

I suppose I sympathize with her to a degree – it’s tough when the carefully assembled collage of dogma, built upon the warmth of your fellow believers, starts to turn an unpleasant shade of yellow.

It’s not that it has changed colours, actually.  It’s that you have.

Man. I was *not* ready to talk about this.

A girl I was out with recently (no, not the Russian beauty – another one), remarked in frustration that it’s now fashionable to be atheist.  We talked about that a bit.  I agreed with her, and wondered out loud if people in general had just become more realistic, more sophisticated.   There are those who are so disgusted by “Christian” talk, that they want to throw the baby out with the bath water.   The equation goes something like this:  if these people represent what God is supposed to be like (including Fred Phelps of “God Hates Fags” fame), and they’re so frigging hypocritical, then maybe God doesn’t exist.

It’s a dumb equation, built more upon emotion.  Of course science comes along with incontrovertible truths, and some use that to bolster their argument.   But the core is still the same: I have yet to find an atheist (although I’m certain some exist) who at their core aren’t emotional about their atheism.   

Agnostics have more credibility, at least for me:  most that I’ve known will acknowledge that you can’t know whether there’s a God or not.  You can only guess or you can have faith.  I respect that, because I think it’s honest.

Getting back to our disenchanted woman:  I suppose if she and I were to chat I would tell her that I believe in God but absolutely have no belief or trust in religion.   I see religion as a social system, with built-in safeguards and fail-safes, much of which involves circular reasoning.   “The Bible is true. How do we know?  Because it says it is.”

You just can’t break into that “logic”.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m using this as a typical example.  I have no problem with the Bible, none whatsoever.  I arrived at my faith because of it.

The mindset that came up with that reasoning is – to use a Star Trek reference – kind of like the Borg:  it’s composed of multiple people over many centuries, is self-defining, entirely interlaced and hence unbreakable.  My experience leads me to conclude that to get some clear thinking, you need to break away from it. 

Breaking away from (what they call) “the church” is a scary experience.   Fear is a great motivator.  “You’ll be lost, without hope, if you go away from the church”.   What they don’t say, but what everyone understands is that you’ll be a backslider, to be avoided – unless to invite you back to the fold.

I stopped going, and began to realize that my love of God wasn’t threatened in the least.  It provided an opportunity to *think* – using the magical God-given organ – my brain.    I thought about what it means to be someone who was made “in the image of God”.   Logically, it doesn’t make sense that we’re talking the physical necessarily, and really – is our physicality the sum total of who we are?  

In my opinion, not likely:  the amazing amassing of intelligence and science, the industries built upon emotion (like the entertainment industry for example), the undeniable genius of our medical and space advances means that we are more than likely not just wandering meat-bags.  Anyway, it’s logical.

So.  What’s the relevance of the Bible and religion?   I would guess it’s a good starting point, particularly for those who need some sort of system to put every piece of the puzzle in place.   But grown men and women should probably think about acting as men and women and not children, who need to be told what to do every step of the way.  We like our religion, and our dogma and the company of other religionists:  it keeps us comfortable and more importantly – we feel safer with the safeguard of “the church” in place.

If God exists, and if we are built in His image, then our creativity, our ability to reason and think, all reflect Him.   And if that’s true, then we are obligated to remove our religious diapers and start walking on our own, making our own decisions, revelling in living life (and not just tolerating our existence until we get Our Reward in the afterlife).   Oh, and those who think sex is wrong:  well God made that too.  Time we stopped blushing at the idea of it.

Yes, I did not mean to talk about this today.  Our regularly scheduled program was preempted. It’s not my fault.  I wanted to talk about guilty pleasures.

Maybe tomorrow.

Comments
  1. Nadia Chyme says:

    WOW! That was ALOT! I mean, A LOT..but so good and so much to think about. I do believe in God, I reject religion and I make no bones about it. I don’t mind being “spiritual” with other folk — it’s a nice community feel at times to pray with others.. but, the dogma? Well, I think we can all agree we can live without it pretty easily…. Thanks for my latest headache… my minds going into overload… ;)

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    • I just re-read the blog and of course fully concur that there’s a lot there. *grinning* What you see is just a fraction of the kinds of leaps my mind takes when tackling what is for me an important thought. Believe me, I think I could write a book on this and still not be done. You see a lot and I see just a little, because I wanted to hit on so many points, each of which needed a lot of expansion. And that would have been way too much for just a blog. Ugh.

      As for religion: well I’m done with the system. Just plain done. I look at people now, and really appreciate them for the multitude of facets they show to me of the nature of God.

      Like

  2. I was raised on hell-fire and brimstone… Not for me… Christianity is a red flag word for me… Not the beliefs, but the practices.

    Can’t wait for the guilty pleasures. 8)

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    • Nadia Chyme says:

      Here! Here! I agree!

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    • I was raised Catholic, then converted over to the fire-and-brimstone faction. There’s a subtle but definite measure of control being exerted in those circles, mostly by altruistic people who truly believe in what they’re saying. At the end of the day though it is still just control.

      And therefore way too confining, for those who chose to live, rather than sit still and stagnate.

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  3. Larynxa says:

    The best piece of bathroom graffiti I ever saw: “I love Jesus. It’s his fan-club I can’t stand.”

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  4. wordofabe says:

    Aw…there is beauty at times within the steaming poo of “church”. I’ve felt it…

    Now what did ol’ Abraham do back in the day without the twisted and convoluted mechanisms of a “church”. He talked to God, walked with Him, and received His blessing. His church was the desert with a million stars overhead. He was getting it done, and this was even before the Levitical laws were put into place. So…I guess it’s possible for you to walk with God even if you don’t go to church.
    Backslider.

    Heh.

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    • *laughing* Well you see – here’s where I stand in danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, too. I recognize that my rejection of religion can be too encompassing, and that there are decent people who still attend. I maintain that it is still largely a system though, which catches up all kinds of folk, most of whom are altruistic. I suppose that’s the beauty and the danger of it, good intentions notwithstanding.

      I like your observations concerning Abraham. Did you ever notice that Jesus himself spoke up against religiosity in the strongest of terms, warning people not to be like the scribes and pharisees – and then spoke specifically about some of their actions, and how we were to avoid them? He spoke in the temple on occasion, but mostly – he gathered people on the hill sides and in the cities, and in those places where good church-going (I know – there was no such thing as churches then) would never imagine themselves ever going. I don’t know what he was thinking – hanging around prostitutes and thieves and the like. Didn’t he know he could get germs and AIDS and stuff? Wow.

      All very tongue-in-cheek of course but there’s a kernel of truth to that. Especially when you contrast that to today, where divorced folk and gay folk are looked on with at best constrained tolerance, as sketchy as they might seem. There are churches where separated or divorced people will never gain a position of leadership. You can almost hear the gasps of dismay at the very thought of it! :)

      Seems to me the church fathers liked what He said so much they went ahead and enshrined his words, thereby establishing the exact system he warned against. Food for thought anyway.

      I’m a big fan of the night sky with its millions of stars. Best church ceiling in the world.

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      • wordofabe says:

        Yeah. I always think of how frustrated Jesus must be. He tried to explain it over and over, and then His apostles would say something like, “Uh…wait…who gets to sit next to you on the throne?” It certainly didn’t take long to hi-jack the movement, though it is a complicated and interesting history that led to the state of affairs of today.

        Still…there is hope.

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  5. Ronda says:

    I grew up Freewill Baptist (lots of fire and brimstone), went to a Methodist-affiliated college (lots of tolerance and discussion) and had a bunch of Catholic friends (lots of knowledge about how to have a good time). I believe in God and consider myself to be religious, but I find the pomp, circumstance, dogma and intolerance of many organized Christian religions to be a big turn off. I understand that some people need the comfort of ritual and fellowship. I’d rather sit on the edge of the Grand Canyon, look out at that amazing landscape and enjoy God’s “church” of shock and awe.

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    • I’m with you on that one. And you bring up a good point Ronda: there are those who truly require the comfort and safety of the dogmatic yet warm setting of today’s church. I would rather bite my tongue than disturb any of that. Among the people attracted to the church are those who’ve been damaged. God knows I was (more on that in tomorrow’s blog), and I certainly found comfort in those places at one time.

      I suppose that’s why I found it so difficult to read that woman’s blog that I mentioned, without replying as I wanted to. I had no idea of her state, and didn’t want to cause any angst by adding any fuel to the fire of her discontent. I’ve been on that side of the fence, with someone questioning my stance on religion. it’s not comfortable at all, when the church is all you have.

      I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon. Your description makes it mandatory to go there at least once. :) Thanks for posting!

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  6. Stacie says:

    Religion is not my favorite topic by any means, but I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed this post of yours. I have a very hard time with the idea of church being a sytem. The judgements that all of these ‘church-goers’ pass on a daily basis outside of church is actually quite appalling, because they see no guilt in what they do all because they go to church. You can’t spend your entire week out boozing, smoking and using expletives, only to retreat to Jesus on Sunday. What do you do? Ask for his forgiveness for committing the exact same sins day in and day out? I know far too many hypocrites.
    I agree with what your friend said, church can be held anywhere. It doesn’t have to be in a chaple, church, sanctuary, shrine, cathedral, or any such place. I’m trying to convince my grandmother of this, as she thinks its absolutely taboo that I don’t attend church on a daily basis. I just can’t wrap my head around this ‘religion thing.’

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    • *laughing* Religion is definitely not my favourite topic either. (My comment about not being ready to talk about it reflects my natural need to avoid it, really). Certainly there’s enough hypocrisy in any dogmatic religion or variance of Christianity you can think of, to put a pause to the notion that the dogma itself has credibility. Where’s the credibility of the Catholic arena, and the idea that priests need to be celibate, or that birth control is wrong, when we see priests having affairs (and worse) and we see the horrendous human toll of third world countries who persist in following the Vatican’s teachings, only to find themselves overrun with more mouths than they can feed?

      Where’s the credibility in the fire and brimstone set, and their teachings about morality and against homosexuality, when pillar after pillar in that crowd either ends up with affairs or steamy bathroom encounters with members of the same sex?

      Something is wrong in the state of Denmark, and it’s not God. It’s those who pretend to speak on His behalf (myself included) who think they really have it all figured out. I think the wiser course is to understand and acknowledge that we are limited beings with limited understanding. In fact, the one thing I know for certain about God is that I don’t know everything there is to know about Him. So why would I want to try and pretend otherwise? It’s not logical.

      You know – I went back to church a few times (over the space of about three years) just to see what it would be like. The people were warm and friendly – which was not a surprise at all. The dogma and the Christian protocols were all heavily in place too – and I found, sadly, that I just couldn’t stay there. It was too illogical and I would have been lying to myself.

      Wow – you sure know how to provoke comment don’t you? *grin*

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  7. Randy says:

    I happened to read this post within minutes of you posting it (just passin’ thru), but I resisted commenting on it immediately. You already know my feelings from my post months ago. :)

    I only have one philosophy that I developed over 50 years – “Organized Religion is the greatest fraud ever foisted upon mankind, by mankind”. And I was going to use the Catholic Church as my example, but I see that subject has already been covered. So I’ll leave it at that.

    Cheers!

    Like

    • Hi Randy. Actually I’ve only been on wordpress for a few weeks so don’t (well, didn’t) know your feelings. So now I’ll have to go over and take a look. :)

      I think religion has become it’s only self-perpetuating monster of sorts. (“Monster” is probably too strong a word, really, since it does provide comfort to some who really need it). Still though – in so many ways it lacks logic, and for those who treasure logic, it is a frustrating beast for sure.

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  8. Dee says:

    Wowza! I hate to pick a title but if I had to, agnostic. *though raised via Catholicism and those darn drop offs known as Epicscopalians. My poor kids were confused suffice to say when I picked Lutheran as the final stop for the train. Heh! Now I just say, “Do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.” In the end, and I refuse to name him, WE are all his hands.” Loved this.

    hot damn it’s good to see you writing again!

    Like

    • Thanks Dee. Good to be back doing this as well.

      I think you nailed it with “we are all in his hands”. Probably this is a failing only applicable to me but…when I was down and dirty with the evangelical set, I couldn’t see people outside of the church as anything other than “lost souls in need of salvation”. Couldn’t appreciate the fact that they too were His kids, some more humble than others, exercising the gifts He gave them.

      Had to get out of the church before that notion ever crossed the threshold of my until-then closed mind.

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  9. ” . . . I believe in God but absolutely have no belief or trust in religion . . .”

    Words to live by. And to die for.

    Feel the same way and that’s what I like about Buddhism. You don’t like something, don’t follow it, until or if you can get your head around it at some point. If you can’t then, to hell with reincarnation, a million previous lives and the 6 realms in the Wheel of Life.

    I want to taste a little of each, drink a lot from the Buddha bowl, but play with a Shaman and a Christian lady. One on each arm as I sing Dion’s song, the “Wanderer” and “roam from town to town . . .”

    Roam from spiritual belief to spiritual belief.

    I find a high in most of them if I don’t get hit over the head with Thou shalt follow only one path. I enjoy shooting the bull with people from all paths. Find I can learn more of life that way.

    Kinda like reading Wolfshades!

    contoveros

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    • I’m in so much agreement with you it’s scary Michael.

      I had to come out of the church before my head was clear enough to realize that God didn’t make just one type of person, thereby damning the rest to hell. His image is reflected all over the place, with a million facets, each different, and each with something to teach me, about Him and about His work.

      I think it’s hilarious that we’ve come to the same conclusion (if you can call it that) from such different directions. That alone seems to prove the point though doesn’t it?

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