Religion as an Apologist for Society

16Aug08

Yesterday I walked out of my apartment building to find that the large group of obnoxious Baptists were preaching via megaphone at the Liberty Pole again. They have every right to do it, but that doesn’t protect them from the fact that they’re assholes. I really do wonder how they can stand up there and say the awful things that they say without receiving some “freedom of speech” from the inner-city thugs that hang out there all day. I didn’t have to stare agape for very long before a large woman shoved a Chick Tract into my hand. “Ma’am, I think you dropped this,” I said while pursuing her, which she ignored entirely while continuing her distribution. Turn the other cheek, indeed; God forbid we enter into a conversation about Him.

So I’ve been thinking about the nature of faith and religion, God and eternity. I am not a lost soul, confused and trying to find myself. I know what I believe, and it’s astoundingly simple. My conversations with genuinely devout individuals – a very disparate group from the brimstone Baptists – have lead me to conclude that the beliefs of most individuals are nearly the same to my own in any way that matters. I, however, don’t believe in God. In fact, I don’t even care if he exists or not, it’s just not important, it’s not something that matters in the real world. The afterlife is beyond my scope of reason, and another unimportant semantic masturbatory target that has no bearing on how anyone ought to live their lives. I’ve come to see what religion is at its core, and in that I am a believer. I am not spiritual; I have no soul. I am not atheistic; I don’t know anything about God. I am not Agnostic; I do care. What I believe in is not a label.

At the center of Religion is an attempt at reconciling good and evil. At the center of faith is an attempt to convince believers that evil is a challenge or a part of the divine plan, and that good is normal. Many lose faith or are affirmed in their own haughty beliefs when they find that evil is the natural state of human behavior. This is a false premise, because there is no such thing as good and evil. There is no distinction. There is no continuum or benchmarks as to what constitutes a good person and an evil person. Religions attempt to make these distinctions by describing good and evil behaviors as a set of laws or rules. “Behaving in these manners makes you a good person, and deviating from them is sin, and causes you to be evil.” Furthermore is the abhorrent concept of original sin, wherein humanity cannot help but to be evil by virtue of being alive and breathing; wherein our birth marks the point at which we will be most virtuous and that anything we do in our lives are points against us. It is beyond my understanding how people can accept a life of guilt and penance for crimes they can not help but commit against a law decided arbitrarily.

The establishment of a spiritual law is an attempt at defining morality, which is not possible. Morality is governed exclusively by intent. If you perform an action with the intent of hurting someone, yourself included, your action will reflect the morals that you hold. An action performed with the intent of benefiting someone, again including yourself, similarly reflects your moral stance. Conforming your actions to follow a law blindly indicates a moral vacuum; regardless of outcome, benefit or hurt caused, the action was not taken with any intent but to follow. It is not evil, it is amoral. Morals can not be learned, as they are a reflection of intent. Intent is formed as a response to social forces. Where religion attempts to teach morals, what is really needed is to teach society. A successfully religious, spiritual or otherwise balanced person is as such because they were taught or learned to live in society, to realize that other people have thoughts, feelings and intentions just like the self has. What are generally regarded as evil actions are typically selfish actions that are beneficial only in the first person and hurt others. An individual who has not discovered society is most likely to think and act in this way. This gives the appearance that evil actions are easier to perform than good ones; in reality, it is that self-serving actions are more apparent to the individual, while social consequences need to be learned.

An action can come in three ways: one that benefits only yourself, one that benefits only others, and one that is mutually beneficial – listed in order of difficulty. Each type of action necessitates more mindfulness of intent than the last. Someone who acts only to benefit themselves is inexperienced, probably an infant or a socially stunted individual, liable to be ostracized. Someone who acts only to benefit other people while hurting their self is misguided and is probably following law blindly only to be unfulfilled and impotent. Someone who acts to benefit their self and others equally is fulfilling their social imperative – the benefit of others is implicit in what benefits you and vice versa. Intent is the core of morality, and even though the action may not be readily or obviously good, and might incidentally go terribly wrong, hell, at least you tried.

Any icing on top of that conclusion is all semantics. There is no need to complicate religion. Belief is unnecessary, explanations of the mysteries of the universe are a waste of time. Wasting more time by tailoring your behavior for rewards in the afterlife is committing to a life without satisfaction or fulfillment building up to a great uncertainty. Existence is a gift that can be revoked by anyone at any time, and I still struggle to understand why people squander the opportunity becoming tangled in semantics, arbitrary laws and all of the enormous hurdles in the way of true understanding. If that Chick Tract had changed my life, what would that say about the strength of my will and judgement? If I had been lured to the Baptist Church by the threat of eternal damnation, what would that say about how I value my life? I am fulfilled and enriched by the experiences of my life, why would I want to believe that everything I love subtracts value from my existence? Why would I replace pride with guilt? I can not understand these things.

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2 Responses to “Religion as an Apologist for Society”

  1. 1 Michael B

    Im working on writing about my view of how Oil is evil (old and nasty energy) and how the ancients were all too right to worship the sun (new and clean energy). This post will provide some inspiration. I’ll come back and leave a link if and when I ever publish it. Thank you.

  2. I’m looking forward to reading that.


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