Sunday, August 15, 2010

My Obsession with Religion

I am occasionally questioned on why I talk about god and religion more often than most religious people.  The short answer is because religion and other superstitious pseudo-scientific beliefs anger me.

I have been able to find no tangible evidence to support the concept of a supernatural power and even if there was, the scriptures themselves are no more factual than The DaVinci Code or The Other Boleyn Girl.  They all include names and places which were and/or are real and are based on some reality, but the stories themselves are pure fiction.  So many parts of the Bible have being proven to be incorrect that it is astonishing to me that anyone believes any of it.  Added to that, the story of Jesus was plagiarized from many, many, many old religions and myths long preceding the time period in which Jesus was supposed to have lived/died.  A running joke in the atheist community is a reference to Horus 2.0.

I used to believe that religion was fairly innocuous and wasn’t hurting anyone so to each their own.  But the more I read (and that’s something I encourage everyone to do more of), the more I find that religion is anything but harmless.  Yes there are religious people who do good things, charity work and so on, but the religion aspect is irrelevant.  Good people do good things and bad people do bad things whether they are Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic or atheist.  But then there are those who do bad things in the name of religion (attack on abortion clinic)- you won’t find that from an atheist.  There are those who place themselves on these religious pedestals only to look foolish (at best) when they’re found to be partaking in the precise behaviour they denounce.  Then there are those who do bad things with the best of intentions - (note that I include this example of a Pro-Life superbowl ad because while Tebow & Focus on the Family think they’re doing something wonderful that doesn’t appear to hurt anyone, I can think of far better uses for the $2.5 million spent for the ad – perhaps giving financial aid to the single mothers out there below the poverty line who chose not to have an abortion).

Now, on to the specifics of what angers me.

Child Abuse

It angers me that our supposedly civilized society routinely abuses our children in the name of various gods.  It comes in the physical form such as female genital mutilation and the male counterpart – circumcision

There is also the physical abuse not in the name of religion, but perpetrated and hidden by its most esteemed followers and leaders.  With all the hypocrisy in the Catholic church, it truly disturbs me that there are still Catholics to be found.

The abuse also takes the more psychological form of fear:
"Little child, if you go to hell there will be a devil at your side to strike you. He will go on striking you every minute for ever and ever without stopping. The first stroke will make your body as bad as the body of Job, covered, from head to foot, with sores and ulcers. The second stroke will make your body twice as bad as the body of Job. The third stroke will make your body three times as bad as the body of Job. The fourth stroke will make your body four times as bad as the body of Job. How, then, will your body be after the devil has been striking it every moment for a hundred million of years without stopping? Perhaps at this moment, seven o'clock in he evening, a child is just going into hell. To morrow evening, at seven o'clock, go and knock at the gates of hell and ask what the child is doing. The devils will go and look. They will come back again and say, the child is burning. Go in week and ask what the child is doing; you will get the same answer, it is burning; Go in a year and asks the same answer comes it is burning. Go in a million of years and ask the same question, the answer is just the same--it is burning. So, if you go for ever and ever, you will always get the same answer--it is burning in the fire.” ---The Sight of Hell (A Catholic book for children….Quoted from Christ Triumphant by Thomas Allin)

There is also the indoctrination, whereby we fill our children’s heads with these stories long before they are able to use logic and reason to work through the fallacies.

Preoperational Stage (2 - 7 years)
"During this stage, children's thought processes are developing, although they are still considered to be far from 'logical thought', in the adult sense of the word. The vocabulary of a child is also expanded and developed during this stage, as they change from babies and toddlers into 'little people'."
'"Animism' is also a characteristic of the Pre-operational stage. This is when a person has the belief that everything that exists has some kind of consciousness. An example of this is that children often believe that a car won't start because it is tired or sick, or they punish a piece of furniture when they run into it, because it must have been naughty to hurt them. A reason for this characteristic of the stage, is that the Pre-operational child often assumes that everyone and everything is like them. Therefore since the child can feel pain, and has emotions, so must everything else

If adults consistently tell children in the Preoperational Stage about a big bearded man in the sky who answers prayers and punishes sinners, they’re going to believe it absolutely.  Once they reach the next stage of cognitive development (Concrete Operational), if the adults around them are still believing in god (unlike Santa Claus or the tooth fairy), then the remnants of this belief will likely remain with them into their own adulthood.

I have to wonder if my long, difficult journey to reshape my own world view and perspective would have taken so long had I not been indoctrinated in the way I was.” - Todd's Hammer

Bigotry & Sexism

It angers me that we treat certain people as if they were second class citizens based on books written thousands of years ago.  The origins of the African Slave Trade rest with Christians and Muslims who traded goods for people.  The Bible justified this most notably via the Curse of Ham.  Even after they fought back and were given equal rights under the law, the racism and bigotry live on. 

Currently the target of choice is homosexuality and its attack on family values.  I’ll never understand how two men or two women in a loving and respectful relationship will ruin the sanctity of marriage.  The divorce rates are already very high and it’s safe to say that almost all (if not all) of those divorcing couples are heterosexual (given that gay marriage has only recently become legal and only in very few areas).
Then you’ve got people like Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich who declare that gays will ruin the traditional marriage while both being serial grooms (seven marriages between them).

What makes me even more angry is when these beliefs make their way into the laws of a country that is supposed to have separation of church and state.  In California human rights were put to a vote with Proposition 8 (an amendment which defines marriage as a union between one woman and one man).  Thank goodness it was appealed and struck down in court.  I only hope that ruling sticks.

Then there is the treatment of women. 

Christians (Southern Baptists in particular) call for wives to “submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ.  She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation."  
I’m down with equal and respect, but there will be no submitting and no serving in our household.  I’m either equal or I’m not.  Make up your mind.
As a further example of just how screwed up this is, I provide the following Christian article that practically had me in raging seizures.  It’s a long read, but in essence it tells women that if their husband tells them to do something that they feel is morally wrong, they can question him on it, but in the end must abide by his decision.

Catholics (as well as various other Christian denominations) refuse leadership roles to women.  Janine Denomme was ordained as a Catholic priest in a simulation (because the church doesn’t allow female priests) and was immediately excommunicated from the church.  She was not even allowed to have a Catholic funeral or burial when she died in her forties from cancer.

The Koran tells the followers of Islam to dress modestly.  For men this means covering everything from knee to navel while for women it has been interpreted as covering everything except for the face and hands (note that some don’t feel this is sufficient).  And ladies, even if we can’t see your eyes, they had better be lowered!

Then there’s the honour killings which appear to be mainly Islamic.  In Pakistan “Karo-kari is a tradition whereby a man can kill a woman, claiming that she brought dishonour to the family, and still expect to be pardoned by her relatives. Once such a pardon has been secured, the state has no further writ on the matter.”  The worst part is that these killings are happening in North America too. 

Health Care & Scientific Progress

It angers me when decisions about health care are decided based upon scripture. 
Reproduction and sexuality are prime examples.  The Catholic church is telling the world that birth control is a sin and trying to prevent the use of condoms in areas which are stricken with HIV and AIDS, even going so far as to say that condoms contribute to the spread of the disease.  Sure, abstinence is the only 100% effective method of preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, but it’s also highly unrealistic.  So let’s give people everything in the arsenal rather than saying “Here’s the bullets.  I’ll keep the gun.  Now get out there and win the war!”

St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison Wisconsin is trying to get a religious exemption to a new law which requires all group benefits plans which have a drug benefit to cover prescription contraceptives.  The Madison Diocese has gone one step further and threatened to fire any of their staff that use the benefit. 

How about masturbation?  The Bible tells men that it is a sin to spill their seed.  I hate to break this to you, but if this is about sperm that didn’t get a chance to fertilize an egg, that’s going to happen regardless.  A typical male will produce over 12 trillion sperm throughout his life.  The ones that don’t get expelled are reabsorbed back into the body and therefore never have the opportunity to seek out that luscious egg.

Then there’s abortion.  First of all let me say that I don’t like the thought of abortion, but I am pro-choice within reason.  If you decide in the eighth month of pregnancy that you no longer want to be pregnant, I have moral issues with that.  But if you were raped or the condom broke and you don’t feel that having a pregnancy or a child is in your (or their) best interest right now and you feel that an abortion is the right choice for you then get thee to a doctor ASAP and deal with it.  It’s a far better option than having an unwanted child or raising a child in poverty or with an abusive parent or whatever your reasons may be.
In May 2010, a nun in Phoenix was reprimanded for agreeing that a patient at the hospital needed an abortion to save her life.  Those that had her reassigned don’t deny that carrying the child would have been a death sentence for the mother, but still don’t condone the abortion.  Amazing that the life of the fetus is sacred, but not the life of the mother.

Let’s move on to stem cell research.  Embryonic stem cell research is regarded by many scientists as the wave of the future for managing or curing various ailments such as MS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, spinal cord injuries, heart disease, diabetes and much, much more.  It was discovered in 2005 that we could use adult skin cells in the research thereby removing the need for fertilized embryos.  Prior to this, the embryos were donated by women using fertility clinics who no longer needed them.  I’ve never understood why this caused such an uproar among the religious as the embryos would have been destroyed other wise.  My main question with embryonic stem cell research would be what’s more sacred? – An egg or the lives of the millions of people that could be helped or saved with the research?  To me this one is a no brainer.

Violence for God

The main cause of wars throughout the ages has been religion. 

One example being when the United States was the attacked by Islamic extremists.  Even the U.S. civil war had religious undertones as the South fought to hold on to slavery as justified in the Bible.  The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been ongoing since the 1800’s and causes emotional (and physical) outrage all over the world.  Jerusalem is a particular hot spot, with Jews, Christians and Islamists all claiming a piece of the Holy Land.  The Crusades lasted for hundreds of years as Christians attempted to control various areas and people across Europe.  Ireland even has the followers of Jesus fighting amongst themselves.  If god did exist, I’m sure he’d be so proud of his kids.  Although he shouldn’t be surprised as violence begets violence and his books are certainly full of it.  Who could read about all that smiting on their behalf and not feel it was their right to try it out themselves?

All in all I would love to see a day when all religion is gone.  It most likely won’t be in my lifetime, but I’m confident the day will come.  After all, if history tells us anything it’s that today’s religion is tomorrow’s myth.


  1. I would say that you are wrong, as most people are, about religion being the main cause of war. I think that control over resources, production, and able-bodied workers, namely economics has been the main cause of war. Religion is simply the go-to justification that everybody uses.

  2. In many cases I would tend to agree. George W invading Iraq was so about oil no matter what he claims. However in cases where the war cry is "Death to the Infidels", it's fairly obvious that's about religion. In saying that a war is caused by religious belief it doesn't necessarily mean it was a direct cause. The American civil war wasn't an "I'm Christian and you're not" war, but it was certainly a "You're trying to prevent me from doing things that are justified by my religion" war. Therefore an indirect cause is still a cause.

  3. And just for the record, even if there was only one war in the history of the world that was caused by religious belief, that is one war too many.

  4. Wow Kerry - I have to say this post totally offended me. I'm going to keep this short so I don't return in kind.

    Sharing your faith with a child is not child abuse. Insinuating that it is is one of the most offesive things I have ever experienced.

    Christianity is not a faith of repression for women. The Bible clearly speaks of mutual submission within a marriag relationship. Just because you have a bee in your bonnet about the way you were raised does not give you the right to paint the rest of the faith community with the same brush strokes.


  5. Okay - this one will be a little more difficult to respond to.

    First, I genuinely feel bad that you were offended.

    I would agree that sharing your faith with a child is not child abuse, but only under 1 of 2 conditions. Either you wait until your child is out of the PreOperative Stage of development (see above) or you also share with them a variety of other faiths (and/or lack thereof).

    That being said, I absolutely understand why neither of those options are really reasonable to someone of faith. If one truly believes in Christ as a saviour (for example) then to withhold that from someone you love would feel like an abuse in and of itself.

    I do believe that Christianity is the least sexist of the big 3 (with the exception of Catholicism), and your church may be fully evolved, but I have lived among the Southern Baptists so believe me when I say that repression of women is alive and well among some sections of Christianity. (I would however like to see the parts of the bible that speak of men submitting to their wives. That's not a part that I'm aware of.)

    As for the way I was raised - there was no mention of religion in my house growing up and I'm thrilled about that. It allowed me the open mind to go searching for truth as a (fairly) rational teenager. I took a world religions course and every Sunday I went to a different house of worship to see what was out there and make my own decisions. I even got swept up in the moment once and welcomed Jesus into my life - I already regretted it 20 minutes later when I was discussing it with one of the youth pastors. In the end I just couldn't buy into what they were trying to tell me.
    I still considered myself spiritual (believing in a higher power while not believing in the various holy books). It took me 15 years of searching and researching and reading and listening to come to the conclusion that god most likely does not exist.

    So that's my story. I hope that this isn't a deal breaker for us as I do value your friendship. I believe it's true friends who can discuss their beliefs with each other (even when they are at opposite ends of the spectrum) and still come out friends.

  6. Also just as a little bit of evidence that I am actually open minded. ;)
    I noticed this article yesterday:
    "Merchandise Decision: No Babies Brights!"
    "Brights" are one segment of the atheist population. Their online store was carrying clothes with the Brights logo on them. There was a complaint made that this was "Surely not appropriate, since babies will eventually make up their own mind?" This was a thought that hadn't occurred to me when I wrote this blog, but I would tend to agree. I can't possibly hold that one should not tell a child that god exists without also agreeing that one should not tell a child that god doesn't exist. After all I don't have absolute proof of either belief.

  7. Kerry,
    As always, we're just fine. I just figured if you could be blunt, so could I :) Thanks for your honesty, and willingness to see things from someone else's perspective. I am certainly open to hearing about other people's faith journey. Not everyone chooses to believe the same thing I do and I do enjoy reading your blog, even when I don't agree.

    Hope you're having a great day, H

  8. Just a little more evidence of the repression of women in Christianity.
    Summary - Principal of Lutheran school fired because of his beliefs that women should be respected more. At the meeting to discuss his fate the women weren't allowed to speak or vote.