Thoughts on Religion

It always worries me how people allow themselves to be completely defined by their faith.  I’m not saying that having faith is a bad thing, far from it.  Faith is important.  I myself have faith.  The problem is in how much of yourself you let that faith dictate.  Remember that faith, no matter how strong, is based in essentially guessing where no evidence is present to give concrete answers.  It is the nature of humanity to fill in the gaps of our knowledge with stories of what we “think” is the answer.  We’ve seen this in every civilization.  The problem is that each of those faiths eventually gave way to indisputable evidence.  We now know how lightning works so there’s obviously no need for a guy in a toga sitting on a cloud throwing lightning bolts.  We understand weather patterns so there’s no reason to believe a hurricane destroyed our village because our actions angered the gods.

Even now, in our modern faiths, we have evidence that debunks the dogma.  We know that the Earth is way more than 6000 years old.  We know that species evolve from other species in a never-ending cycle of survival of the fittest.  We can see from DNA evidence that humans and apes share common ancestors.  At each of these turning points, humanity has had a choice to make; cling to your faith and reject the truth, or let your faith adapt to our expanded knowledge.

There are some faiths who take the latter approach.  There are those who are willing to admit their dogma got some things wrong and still use it to explain the other millions of things we don’t know yet.  However, there are those who are so scared to be wrong that they would rather kill the truth to let their faith survive.  Why do they do this?  It is my theory that the mental conditioning associated with faith can sometimes go far too deep.  This is especially apparent in those who were raised in a strong-faith household since birth.  At a young age, nothing you hear is taken in passively, rather it is absorbed like a sponge.

Many religions teach their followers to never question; that to question God is to evoke his wrath.  We are conditioned from the moment we can understand words that doubting is a sin and that sin is met with a punishment of everlasting torment.  I’ve seen the results of this conditioning first hand.  I’ve seen it in people who get greatly offended at the notion that I don’t share their faith.  I’ve seen it in people who look horrified that I dare to question their god.  I’ve always found the term “God fearing person” interesting because that’s exactly what is going on.  The “God fearing person” is fearful of his own actions down to the very thoughts in his head; worried that they are being watched and judged by an invisible yet all-powerful force.

When faced with any given question, humans always use the same method of determining the answer; evidence is gathered and examined and a conclusion is devised based on that evidence.  What is strange is that religion is the one and only instance where people will reverse that tried-and-true method and think nothing of it.  With religion, people start with the conclusion and then pick out the evidence that supports it.  That which might make their conclusion plausible is held to while anything  else is casually disregarded or referred to something evil to throw us off the path to truth.  For as much as Christianity claims to be a monotheistic religion, it isn’t.  It has it’s cast of characters just like all the Pagan paths of old-you have the father, the son and the holy spirit-you have the angels Michael, Gabriel, Malachi and so on-you have your Hercules and Achilles-type super-humans like Noah and Moses and you have the most important character of all, the villain.

I believe it was Anton LaVey who said that Satan was the most important character in the Christian mythos and he was absolutely right.  Satan is the great scapegoat (a funny metaphor seeing how scapegoats were originally a Christian superstition) for anything we want to classify as “un-Godly.”  Satan is dubbed the father of lies and is, thus, the creator of all the “lies” disguised as truths.  Anything that contradicts the teachings of the religion is said to be “of the devil” and it thus dismissed without actually being dis-proven.  Satan is the lynch pin that holds it all together.  The entire structure of the faith would collapse without him there to shoulder the weight of all that would cast doubt upon the believers.  He is the easy way to not have to think; not have to question.

As I said, faith is not a bad thing.  I myself fill in the gaps of what I don’t know with what I think or feel to be the answer.  The important thing is to remember that faith is a thing built on an unstable foundation.  Faith is temporary housing for the soul; when something more concrete comes along it’s time to move.  The longer you stay in a tent the more work it takes to keep it inhabitable and that’s what happens when people hold onto dis-proven ways of thinking.  It takes a great deal of work to convince yourself that something you’ve held to for so long is still correct in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary and the very act of doing so can leave one violent, lost, scared or stressed.

We will always have a place for faith in our lives.  There are endless unknowns about the universe and it is our nature to need to feel as if we understand all there is to know about our world, even if we have to occasionally make it up.  Faith can also bring people great joy.  It can be a thing of comfort in difficult times.  Faith can bring entire communities together.  Faith can do many amazing things.  It is also important to note that faith answers the one question science will never be able to: why?  For all the hows we will ever discover, the whys will always be left up to faith.  This fact alone makes faith an important cornerstone in society.  The problem only lies in letting that faith hold you prisoner.  Don’t become a slave to your faith.  Be willing to go against it if need be.  Never let faith defeat truth for doing so will lead to the demise of us all.  Be greater than your beliefs and be willing to admit you are wrong if proven so.  There’s no shame in it and you certainly won’t face eternal punishment for it.


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September 2010
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