Religion

I do not understand those who take little or no interest in the subject of religion. If religion embodies a truth, it is certainly the most important truth of human existence. If it is largely error, then it is one of monumentally tragic proportions - and should be vigorously opposed. -- Steve Allen

Keep looking and you'll find things you have to ignore to accept a religion.

secularhumanism There is a lot in this section. Here is summary.

Summary of this Section

For the most part this page does not talk about God or spirituality. It talks about church or religion. Here's the essence of what it says:
The purpose of religion is to gain wealth and power. If you look at what churches and religions do, you will easily see this. They tell people how to live their lives and they take their money.

If you are a member of a religion, you attend events where you are told what to think and do and to contribute money. Of course, you are also told that you are there for some other reason. You are told that the creator of all things is so needy and vain that he will respond to your praise and adulation by sometimes doing what you request and by giving you a wonderful new life after this one. Just in case that doesn't get your attention, you are told that you will be severely punished if you do otherwise.

That's all there is to religion. Please, read the rest of the details. Then write to me and tell me what you think.

Webster defines religion as:

Yes, I looked it up in the dictionary to see if what I'm talking about is what religion is. Actually, I found that it is. However, here is a description of the religions I see around me that distress me to the point that I write this.

Of all religions the Christian is without doubt the one which should inspire tolerance most, although up to now the Christians have been the most intolerant of all men. -- Voltaire

What really has my Attention

Gore Vidal said it better than I can. I'll just quote him here.
Now to the root of the matter:
The great unmentionable evil at the center of our culture is monotheism. From a barbaric bronze-age text known as The Old Testament, three antihuman religions have evolved, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. These are sky god religions. They are literally patriarchal. God is the omnipotent father. Hence the loathing of women for two thousand years in those countries affected by the sky god and his earthly delegates. The sky god is a jealous god, of course. He requires total obedience from everyone on earth, as he is in place not just for one tribe but for all creation. Those who would reject him must be converted or killed for their own good. Ultimately totalitarianism is the only sort of politics that can truly serve the sky god's purpose. Any movement of a liberal nature endangers his authority and that of his delegates on earth. One god, one king, one pope, one master in the factory, one father leader in the family at home.
Gore Vidal does need to be corrected on one point - it has not been 2000 years - more like 5000. It is this type of religion that I see around me most. Perhaps if I were surrounded by Hindus or Budists or Confucians or even Unitarian Universalists I would not be writing this section. Perhaps I would.

There have been plenty of people throughout history who believed in a God or gods. There still are many. I do not hold this as evidence that God(s) exist. In fact an argument can be made that, if there is no God and we just evolved, we would be likely to believe in one anyway. Here it is.

I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours. -- Stephen Roberts

Why God is a product of natural selection

Free Thought Action Here's what Richard Dawkins said in an interview with Mother Jones Magazine:
I am often asked to explain as a biologist why religion has such a hold. The theory is this: When a child is young, for good Darwinian reasons, it would be valuable if the child believed everything it's told. A child needs to learn a language, it needs to learn the social customs of its people, it needs to learn all sorts of rules -- like don't put your finger in the fire, and don't pick up snakes, and don't eat red berries. There are lots of things that for good survival reasons a child needs to learn.

So it's understandable that Darwinian natural selection would have built into the child's brain the rule of thumb, "Be fantastically gullible; believe everything you're told by your elders and betters."

That's a good rule, and it works. But any rule that says "Believe everything you're told" is automatically going to be vulnerable to parasitization. Computers, for example, are vulnerable to parasitization because they believe all they're told. If you tell them in the right programming language, they'll do it. Computer viruses work by somebody writing a program that says, "Duplicate me and, while you're at it, erase this entire disk."

My point is that the survival mechanism that makes children's brains believe what they're told -- for good reason -- is automatically vulnerable to parasitic codes such as "You must believe in the great juju in the sky," or "You must kneel down and face east and pray five times a day." These codes are then passed down through generations. And there's no obvious reason why it should stop.

There's an additional factor in the virus theory, which is that those viruses that are good at surviving will be the ones that are more likely to survive. So, if the virus says, "If you don't believe in this you will go to hell when you die," that's a pretty potent threat, especially to a child. Or, if it says, "When you become a little bit older you will meet people who will tell you the opposite of this, and they will have remarkably plausible arguments and they'll have lots of what they'll call evidence on their side and you'll be really tempted to believe it, but the more tempted you are, the more that's just Satan getting at you." This is exactly what many creationists in this country have been primed with.

Setting what people believe aside and considering the evidence, it is highly probable that one way or another we are on our own. Here's why.

The way of approaching a question is not to examine the numerical strength of those behind the opinion, but to examine the soundness of the opinion on merits, or else we will never reach a solution, and if we reach one, it will be a blind solution simply because it is the wish of the largest body. If the largest body goes wrong, it is up to me to say you are wrong and not to submit. -- Mahatma Gandhi

Why I say there is no God.

science First let's get clear about what I mean by that. Do I mean there is no creator of the world we see? No, I'm not talking about that. What I do mean is that it does not matter. What I mean when I say there is no God, is that there is nothing we need to know or do regarding the creator if there is one.

It's very simple to see that, I say. It is obvious that it could be no other way. Here's why:

    There is no evidence that the creator (if any) is willing to communicate with us.
Some will argue this but always based on religious beliefs or personal experience. As always, believing sincerely or even experiencing something does not make it so. For example, we believed the earth was the center of the universe and we experienced the sun rising at one edge of it, moving over the top, and setting past the other edge. That didn't make it true.

Well, alright, some people have logical arguments. Here are a few of them:

  • It's absurd to think the universe just came into existence from nothing. Someone must have created it.

  • The world is more complex and intricate than anything we can even imagine designing. Therefore, it must have been designed by an intelligent being.

  • The beauty and magnificence of the world reveals it to be the work of a benevolent creator.

Consider what these arguments, flawed or not, argue for. They are arguments for the existence of a creator. They do not lead to the conclusion that there is any action we need to take. My statement still stands: There is nothing we need to know or do regarding the creator if there is one.

Religion, then, comes from people. It is either something they mistakenly believe, desire to believe, or want others to believe.

Could religion be what people mistakenly believe?

What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof. -- Christopher Hitchens

Is your first guess always right?

number one People try to make sense of what they see. When we have no good explanation, we use the best one we have. We don't just go generation after generation saying, "we don't know." Sometimes our explanations turn out to be wrong. For example, people used to think the sky was a dome with the stars attached to it. Evidence? Well, you can see it. What more evidence could you want? Well, alright, that was a long time ago and since then we learned not to just make things up - or did we? Sixty years ago we all believed that dinosaurs became extinct because they had small brains and got outsmarted by other animals (mammals, of course), but now we found out a big asteroid hit the earth and killed them all.

We modern people have no trouble understanding that primitive tribal people made up gods to explain why things happen. We can accept that the ancient greeks made up their gods out of their imagination and desire to understand. We look at these other people and "know" that they were simply wrong. Meanwhile, we worship gods passed down to us for thousands of years by people who misunderstood many things we know the truth about today.

Could religion be what people desire to believe?

It makes things so much easier and cleaner if you can take a universe that is nothing but infinite shades of color and infinite shades of gray and convert it all into low bit black-and-white. It takes up so much less space in the mind if it is black-and-white. -- Praedor Atrebates

Why would anybody want to believe it?

number two There are some comforting things - things that feel good to believe. Here are a few examples:
I'm not going to die, really.

My friends and family who died will be with me again someday.

Somebody up there will make sure everything works out for me.

I will get my revenge in time.

There is meaning and purpose to it all.

I know the truth about life.

This last one is bigger than we usually notice. The comfort of knowing and knowing that what we know is right is very important to us. Avoiding the discomfort of not knowing is a powerful motivation to find answers. Having all the answers feels good.

Could religion be what people want others to believe?

Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet. -- Napoleon Bonaparte

It's a simple matter of power.

number three If you want to be one up on somebody, be the one who makes the rules. Even little kids understand that. You've seen them lie to other kids for no reason other than to control them.

We know that people in power want to hold on to that power and increase it. What could be better than convincing people that you have access to even greater knowledge and power than they can see in you? - knowledge and power that can be available to them only through you.

My guess is, it's mostly the last of those three.

Give me the child until he is seven and I will show you the man. -- Saint Ignatius of Loyola

My guess at how religion started

Billboard Here's the problem religion solves:
You can get your kids to do what you want while you're watching but how do you get them to do what you want when you're not watching?
To solve this problem, you tell them that there's somebody else who's watching and knows what they do all the time and even knows what they think, someone who knows every move they make and will reward or punish them.

Well, if you think parents wouldn't make stuff up and tell their kids stuff when they know it isn't true, what about Santa Clause, Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Boogie Man, Big Bad Wolf - aren't these all ways to control children? If that doesn't convince you, push a cart around a grocery store a while and listen to what people are telling their children.

Parents talk to each other sharing things like how to keep the kids in line. Kids talk to each other sharing things like what their parents told them and then they tell their parents what the other kids told them. Is it surprising that the various stories become the same over time? Is it surprising that some kids mature still believing the stories their parents told them? After all, there is no way for them to check it out. But, actually that has little to do with it. You see, the kids grow up and then they have kids and they want to be able to tell the same story. They want to believe it! Besides, they become parents before they are done being kids. There's never a time for their parent to say, "Now you are grown up. I have something to tell you".

Think about this: How many people do you know who started going to chuch when they had children?

Evidence

We have a case of the deception being well documented and yet it works anyway. American slave-holders taught their slaves Christianity. It's no secret that this was done to make them better slaves. No, it was not to save their souls - slave-holders thought that slaves did not have souls. All of that is well understood, simply a part of our history. It was part of the mess all this caused that resulted in there being a separate "Southern" Baptist church. Now 200 years later, what is the most popular religion among descendants of those slaves? You guessed it - Christianity. Here are millions of Americans who can easily look at the origin of their religion and see that it's a sham. The Southern Baptist church even apologized a few years ago. How many black members did that cost them? Not even one, it seems.

But, wait! There's more! What about the slave-holders? How seriously do you think they took their religion if they told soulless animals to act out the rituals of worshiping their god. Apparently they didn't really believe. If they did, wouldn't they think their god would be angry at them for using fake acts of worship to control their slaves? - for lying to their slaves, telling them they could have life after death? Remember, they thought slaves did not have souls. That's what made it okay to treat them like animals. But, is it okay to lie to your dog, for example, to call him in for food and not give him food? So just like the first parent that ever told a child that somebody up there was watching, these slave-holders didn't believe.

There was even a Bible specially edited for slaves. It included the parts the slaveholders wanted the slaves to know about but not other parts that might give slaves ideas about fredom. Here is something about it and here is more.

Take a look at the effects religions have had on the world and people. Religions have started wars, killed people, told people to kill others and themselves, tortured and killed animals, supported tyranny and slavery, oppressed women, persecuted minorities, interfered with scientific progress, encouraged overpopulation, discouraged environmental responsibility, extorted money and property, taught guilt, shame, and self hatred.

Other people have a lot to say about this. Here's what some of our great leaders and thinkers say.

Former heavyweight boxing champ Muhammad Ali visited the ruins of the World Trade center in the days following the disaster. When reporters asked how he felt about the terrorists sharing his faith, he replied, "How do you feel about Hitler sharing yours?"

What do our leaders and thinkers say?

Lighthouses are more helpful than churches. -- Benjamin Franklin

If they are good workmen, they may be from Asia, Africa, or Europe; they may be Mahomedans, Jews, or Christians of any sect, or they may be Atheists. -- George Washington.

The Government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion ... -- John Adams

The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his father, in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. -- Thomas Jefferson

Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise, every expanded prospect. -- James Madison

I have seldom met an intelligent person whose views were not narrowed and distorted by religion. -- James Buchanan

My earlier views of the unsoundness of the Christian scheme of salvation and the human origin of the scriptures have become clearer and stronger with advancing years, and I see no reason for thinking I shall ever change them. -- Abraham Lincoln

In 1850, I believe, the church property in the United States, which paid no tax, amounted to $87 million. In 1900, without a check, it is safe to say, this property will reach a sum of $3 billion. I would suggest the taxation of all property equally. -- Ulysses S. Grant

I know that human prejudice - especially that growing out of race and religion is cruelly inveterate and lasting. -- Grover Cleveland

... religious intolerance which exists among many of our citizens. I hold it to be a menace to the very liberties we boast and cherish. -- Warren G. Harding

As men's prayers are a disease of the will, so are their creeds a disease of the intellect. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

For my part, I would as soon be descended from [a] baboon ... as from a savage who delights to torture his enemies ... treats his wives like slaves ... and is haunted by the grossest superstitions. -- Charles Darwin

It is time the clergy are told that thinking men, after a close examination of that doctrine [Christianity], pronounce it to be subversive of true moral development and, therefore, positively noxious. -- George Eliot.

The Church hates a thinker precisely for the same reason a robber dislikes a sheriff, or a thief despises the prosecuting witness. -- Robert Ingersoll

Missionarying - that least excusable of all human trades. -- Mark Twain

The great trouble is that the preachers get the children from six to seven years of age, and then it is almost impossible to do anything with them. Incurably religious - that is the best way to describe the mental condition of so many people. Incurably religious. -- Thomas Edison

When a man is freed of religion, he has a better chance to live a normal and wholesome life. -- Sigmund Freud

It is not disbelief that is dangerous to our society, it is belief. -- George Bernard Shaw

Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear ... fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand in hand. -- Bertrand Russell

A man's ethical behavior should be based effectively on sympathy, education and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death. -- Albert Einstein

I feel no need for any other faith than my faith in human beings. Like Confucius of old, I am so absorbed in the wonder of earth and the life upon it that I cannot think of heaven and the angels. -- Pearl Buck

What mean and cruel things men do for the love of god. -- W. Somerset Maugham

To work hard, to live hard, to die hard, and then to go to hell after all would be too damned hard. -- Carl Sandburg

Why do people go on pretending about this Christianity? -- H. G. Wells

Christianity as an institutionalized religion has laid no stress on the pursuit of truth. Indeed, for the most part it has been suspicious of the truthseeking process. The truthseeker might overturn accepted beliefs. -- Harry A. Overstreet

I do not want church groups controlling the schools of our country. They must remain free. -- Eleanor Roosevelt

Religion ... is the first enemy of the ability to think. -- Ayn Rand

I have never, in all my life, not for one moment, been tempted toward religion of any kind. The fact is that I feel no spiritual void. I have my philosophy of life, which does not include any aspect of the supernatural. -- Isaac Asimov

If people need religion, ignore them and maybe they will ignore you, and you can go on with your life. It wasn't until I was beginning to do "Star Trek" that the subject of religion arose again. What brought it up was that people were saying that I would have to have a chaplain on board the Enterprise. I replied, "No, we don't". - Gene Roddenberry

Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith, I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile! -- Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Sometimes I think we're alone. Sometimes I think we're not. In either case, the thought is quite staggering. -- R. Buckminster Fuller

Religion is but a desperate attempt to find an escape from the truly dreadful situation in which we find ourselves. Here we are in this wholly fantastic universe with scarcely a clue as to whether our existence has any real significance. No wonder then that many people feel the need for some belief that gives them a sense of security, and no wonder that they become very angry with people like me who say that this is illusory. -- Fred Hoyle

Men rarely (if ever) managed to dream up a god superior to themselves. Most gods have the manners and morals of a spoiled child. -- Robert A. Heinlen

The idea of the sacred is quite simply one of the most conservative notions in any culture, because it seeks to turn other ideas - uncertainty, progress, change - into crimes. -- Salman Rushdie

There are a score of great religions in the world, each with scores or hundreds of sects, each with priestly orders, its complicated creed and ritual, its heavens and hells. Each has its thousands or millions or hundreds of millions of "true believers"; each damns all the others with more or less heartiness - and each is a mighty fortress of graft. -- Upton Sinclair

Christianity is such a silly religion. -- Gore Vidal

All your Western theologies, the whole mythology of them, are based on the concept of God as a senile delinquent. -- Tennessee Williams

As a historian, I confess to a certain amusement when I hear the Judeo-Christian tradition praised as the source of our present-day concern for human rights. ... In fact, the great religious ages were notable for their indifference to human rights. -- Aurthur Schlesinger

By the year 2000 we will, I hope, raise our children to believe in human potential, not God. -- Gloria Steinem

In the Bullshit Department, a businessman can't hold a candle to a clergyman. 'Cause I gotta tell you the truth, folks. When it comes to bullshit, big-time, major league bullshit, you have to stand in awe of the all-time champion of false promises and exaggerated claims: religion. No contest. No contest. Religion. Religion easily has the greatest bullshit story ever told. Think about it. Religion has actually convinced people that there's an invisible man -- living in the sky -- who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever 'til the end of time! But He loves you. He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He's all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can't handle money! Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more. Now, you talk about a good bullshit story. Holy Shit! -- George Carlin

See Free Inquiry for more.

If you wonder why I bother to say all this, here's why.

Life is tragic simply because the earth turns and the sun inexorably rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last time. Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, which is the only fact we have. -- James Baldwin

Why all this fuss about religion?

dead fish You may wonder why I bother to write all this. Some people have accused me of all kinds of pathology, so I'll take a minute here to explain about me and religion.

It's getting to be more and more on my mind. That is, I'm more and more seeing it as one of the most serious problems in our country and the world. - in our country because it threatens our freedom, our educational system, and our population's ability to think. - in the world because it threatens world peace. Each day I find myself more compelled to speak out wherever I am and let people know there are other views around them.

Most people either agree with me or are offended - two not very useful results. I've no need to talk about this with those who agree. Regarding those who don't, I'm not trying to argue, just to present a point of view. I suspect that many people are Christians (or Muslims or whatever) just because they don't know anything else. I want them to hear what I say as an alternative, not a challenge.

I knew a man who, when younger, was 3 years into a college program to become a minister when he became an atheist. He was very openly atheist at all times. It came across, not as though he had any axe to grind, but just as an integral part of who he was. I was with hundreds of people who knew him and never heard any objection to how he acted regarding his atheism. You couldn't talk with with him for half an hour without it coming up somehow. He was very direct about it, and surely offended people sometimes but also got them to think a little, I think.

Is abortion murder? Here's how we know.

I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it. -- Mark Twain

Whom can I kill?

feet pin I saw a woman wearing a small pin in the shape of a pair of human feet. I asked her about it and she told me it was the size of the feet of a "ten week old unborn baby".

It had such an effect on me - I just can't stop thinking about it. I guess it shows that a "ten week old unborn baby" is a human being and we shouldn't kill it. It's a fetus - or feetus. It has feet.

But wait. Cows have feet (but no toes). Chickens have feet (but only four toes). It's okay to kill cows and chickens. I guess it's that fifth toe that makes the difference.

All right - I get it. The point of it is that the feet are perfectly formed at ten weeks. Therefore the baby has a soul - or sole - or two. I've heard there are occasional babies born with no feet, just stubs, or even no legs. I guess it would be alright to kill them. I have one foot slightly smaller with a missing bone at the ankle - been that way all my life. Perhaps it would be alright to kill me.

What is it okay to kill?

  • a terminally ill pet in great pain?
  • a terminally ill person in great pain?
  • a terminally ill fetus in great pain?
  • a fetus likely to cause the death of its mother?
  • a fetus nobody wants?
  • a siamese twin when only one can live but only if separated?
  • a soldier of another country's army at war?
  • a civilian of another country at war?
  • a convicted murderer?
  • a burglar robbing your house?
  • a rapist raping you?
  • a killer killing you?
  • a shark about to eat you?
  • a lobster for food?
  • a deer for fun?
  • a fly annoying you?

Are there still any religions that include human sacrifice? Here are a couple examples.

Everybody wants to go up to heaven, but nobody wants to die -- Peter Tosh

Human Sacrifice?

human sacrifice I wonder what you think of religions that practice human sacrifice. Consider this:
Judaism started with a person willing to sacrifice his son for God.

Christianity started with a god willing to sacrifice his son for people.

After all this serious talk, can you lighten up a little? Let's try.

I'm Nailed Right In. -- Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews

Does God have a sense of humor?

Chicken If God is omnithis and omnithat and omnialltheotherstufftoo, it could only be that God has a really good sense of humor.

God may have a good enough sense of humor to laugh at this - maybe even good enough to make it true.

Listen:



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