Why I Don’t Subscribe to Any Particular Religion
– with thanks to George Carlin and Christopher Hitchens –
I have to say that when it comes to bullshit, and I mean major-league bullshit, not even government can top religion’s list of false promises and exaggerated claims.
Christianity, for example, 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 this guy has a special list of ten things he doesn’t want you to do, and if you do any of those ten things, he has a special place filled with fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish where he’ll send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry, for ever and ever, until the end of time.
But he loves you.
He loves you, and he needs your money! He always needs someone’s money! He’s all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, and somehow just can’t handle money! Religion takes in billions of dollars, doesn’t pay any taxes, and always seems to need a little bit more cash.
I’ve really tried to believe that there is a god who created each of us in his own image and likeness, loves us very much, and keeps a close eye on things, but the older I get and the more I look around, the more I realize that something is very wrong. I see war, disease, genocide, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime and corruption, and I have to say that if this is the best god can do, I am not impressed. Results like these do not belong on the resumé of a supreme being. This is what you’d expect from an office temp with a bad attitude. Between you and me, in any decently-run universe, this guy would’ve been out on his all-powerful ass a long time ago. By the way, I say this “guy” because I firmly believe that, looking at these results, if there is a god, it has to be a man. No woman would’ve made this much of a mess of things.
If there is a god, I think most reasonable people might agree that he’s at least incompetent, and maybe – just maybe – doesn’t give a shit (incidentally, I admire a person who’s willing to admit they don’t give a shit – at least you know they’re not lying to you), and which would explain a lot of these bad results. So rather than mindlessly, aimlessly and blindly believing that all of this is in the hands of some spooky, incompetent father figure who doesn’t give a shit, I decided to look around for something else I can really count on to worship. Immediately, I thought of the Sun. It happened overnight; just like that, I became a Sun worshipper. Okay, it didn’t happen overnight; you can’t see the Sun at night, but the first thing the next morning, I was right there, worshipping my fat ass off.
Here’s why: first, I can see the Sun, unlike some other gods I could mention. Visibility lends a lot toward credibility. Second, the Sun gives me heat and light, it makes plants and animals grow, so from that I get food, which is pretty important. The trade-off is the occasional skin cancer, but at least we don’t have to put up with crucifixions. Third, the Sun doesn’t ask us to set people on fire just because they have a different opinion than we do. Fourth, there’s no need for mystery, miracles or pageantry; nobody asks for money to support it, there are no songs to learn, and we don’t have to build a special building where we all get together once a week to compare clothing. We just need some sunscreen and a hat. Fifth, the Sun never tells me I’m unworthy or that I’m a bad person who needs to be “saved.”
So I worship the sun, but I don’t pray to it. I think praying to the sun would be presumptuous. I’ve often thought that people treat god rudely. Think about it; trillions of prayers every day, asking and pleading for favours – “Do this, I need that, I want a better job’ – and most of this happens on Sunday – his day off. That’s no way to treat someone. I wouldn’t ask a butcher, for example, to carve up a side of beef instead of taking the kids to the beach.
But people pray for a lot of different things; I say fine, pray for whatever you want, but what about the Divine Plan? A long time ago, god gave it a lot of thought, decided he’d come up with a good plan, put it into practice, and for billions of years the Divine Plan has been doing just fine. Now you come along and pray for something, and suppose the thing you want isn’t in the Divine Plan? Should the Plan be changed just because you have a special request? Doesn’t that seem a little arrogant? What’s the use of being god if some asshole with a 2-dollar prayer book can come along and mess up your plan?
Suppose your prayer isn’t answered; what are you going to say? “Well, it’s God’s will. Thy will be done.” Fine, but if it’s god’s will, and god’s going to do what god wants to anyway, why even bother praying in the first place? Seems like a waste of time and energy to me.
If you need something in writing to support your views, what about the Bible? For moral lessons or literary quality, you might want to consider that the Bible’s a book written by many authors over many years in several languages, and edited by many people in several groups over many sessions in several countries under the authority of many different Popes (don’t even get me started on Popes). There’s no way any written document that’s gone through that many hands will make any kind of sense or subscribe to any one moral code. Assuming god exists, and assuming that god created man…if man is guilty of original sin, then man is imperfect, including issues involving our moral character. Our imperfections prevent us from making moral judgments and in determining correct choices for ourselves. How, then, can we determine if by choosing to follow god, we’ve made a correct choice? How can we determine if god’s moral character allows him to make correct judgments? We were created in his image, weren’t we? If we’re imperfect, what does that make him?
If one believes that God’s word is eternal and applies to everyone, then why do some Christians ignore sections of the Bible – which is said to be the word of God – and choose to follow only those parts with which they agree? The Old Testament includes references to God permitting slavery – even selling your own daughter (Exodus 21:7) and genocide (Exodus 12:29-30). Seems a little drastic to me; maybe that’s why belief is selective. Some Christians might say that they follow specifically the teachings of Jesus Christ, who said that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) Therefore, if you follow the teachings of Jesus, who said to live by EVERY word of God, either you live by ALL of God`s words, or you live by NONE of them. If you live by every word, you`ll have to agree with the practices of slavery and genocide; if you live by none of them, you can`t call yourself a Christian, because you`d be disobeying the teachings of Christ. The way I see it, you don`t get to pick and choose which parts of the Bible you`ll follow. One person might disagree with one particular verse while another person may perceive no problem at all with it; instead, the second person might choose to disagree with one entire BOOK which the first person upholds completely. The whole idea is ridiculously self-contradictory and can only lead to a sort of conflict that has spawned more than one major war. I choose to avoid the conflict altogether and follow the teachings of reason and rational thinking, having discovered that I no longer need religion in my life.
So what do I believe? There is no proof of the existence of any deity, so instead of ‘commandments,” I adhere to these morals:
• Treat others the way you want to be treated.
• Form independent opinions from your own reason and experience.
• Always respect the right of others to disagree with you.
• Live in peace with everyone, without regret or need for apology.
• Protect the defenceless.
• Inform the ignorant.
• Hide your face in shame if you dare to harm a child.
• Don’t think about using people as private property.
• Don’t condemn people on the basis of their sexual preference, ethnicity or colour.
• Leave valuable contributions for future generations.
• Teach a man to fish, then fish with him.
• Be willing to renounce any god or faith if any of their “commandments” contradict any of the above.
• Support those who follow these ideas.
To quote the late Christopher Hitchens:
“Religion comes from the period of human prehistory where nobody – not even the mighty Democritus who concluded that all matter was made from atoms – had the smallest idea of what was going on. It comes from the bawling and fearful infancy of our species, and is a babyish attempt to meet our inescapable demand for knowledge (as well as for comfort, reassurance, and other infantile needs).”