Saturday, October 04, 2008

Whatever Your Beliefs, You are Dead Wrong

People who have read my columns and blog entries through the years, or maybe who have just read my archives recently, know that I talk a lot about religion. But if you read some of my earlier posts and compare them with my most recent ones you will think that I vacillate on the subject of religion a bit.

Most of my columns have questioned religion, and more specifically, they have questioned certain belief systems within religion. When religion conflicts with science, for example, I always come out on the side of truth, that is to say, science.

I have often, in the past, called myself a Christian. That’s because in the past, I was one. But looking back, even in the days when I attended church service on a regular basis, I was always lukewarm with regards to my religion.

My beliefs over the years have evolved. Although I’ve always accepted the proofs and evidence of science, I didn’t really question that God existed or that Jesus was a real person who died on the cross for our sins. I didn’t even question that he was resurrected.

Later, I began to question much of what the bible has to say, and not just the Book of Genesis. As my beliefs have evolved, I have come to realize what I should have realized way back in college, that all religion is not only nonsense, it is the most dangerous concept that humankind has ever invented.

I feel embarrassed by the fact that it has taken me 55 years of living to discover what seems so obvious I should have been able to figure it out as a teenager. And that simply proves one of the points I now try to make, that religion is so ingrained in society, so ubiquitous, so pervasive, and so utterly woven into the fabric of modern life, that we don’t even notice how stupid it really is until we unravel it.

People who know that they know annoy me, because I know that they don’t know. How do I know? Because nobody can know. Even those who claim to know will admit that the reason they know is because of faith. You cannot know something by faith; you can only believe it. And as everyone will surely admit, believing is not always the same as knowing.

But here is what I do know: The one thing that all people of faith have in common is that they are all dead wrong. I can make that statement with complete and utter surety. How? Because it is logical.

Take, for example, the number of different religions in the world. There are dozens, and that’s just the main ones. Now take any one of the mainstream religions, like Christianity. It is broken down into myriad different denominations and sects. There are Protestants, Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox followers. Within the Protestant wing, there are Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, and so on. And within most of those denominations, like the Baptists, there are sects, such as the Southern Baptists, Separate Baptists, Independent Baptists, and who knows how many others. And within each of those sects there are individuals who don’t necessarily go along with every single point of every sermon their preachers preach.

So if you amplify the major religions into their many sects and finally down to the individual, there may be millions of different religious beliefs. Still, for the sake of making my point, let’s assume that there is a god and that religion is the road to salvation. Which one? They all pretty much believe that theirs is the road to take. But there are far more possible alternatives to a reality that includes God than there are beliefs about God, even with millions of beliefs. There are, in fact, an infinite number of different possible realities that include God.

One possibility is that God wants us all to be baptized by immersion. Another possibility is that sprinkling will do. A third possibility is that no baptism is just fine. There is a possible reality in which God answers prayers and yet another one in which he doesn’t involve himself with us at all.

So when someone confronts me with the notion that my disbelief might be wrong and that if it is, I will suffer eternal consequences, I tell them that there is no default consequence to being wrong. Because nobody knows which one of the infinite God-centric universes is real.

There are those who say the bible gives us all the answers we need. But again, which bible? There’s a perception that there is only one bible, but in reality there isn’t even that. There are the Protestant bibles such as the King James Version, the New King James Version, the New International Version and so on. There is the Catholic bible. There is the Koran. There is the Torah.

Then there is the possibility that the real universe has no god at all. And if that is the case, it doesn’t matter what one believes, because belief will make no difference to a soul that doesn’t exist.

So getting back to my original point, I don’t know the answer to the god question, but I’m 100 percent certain that nobody of faith knows the answer either. So whatever they believe is wrong. The only real difference is that those who believe as I do, are willing to admit we don’t know. Those who have faith in a religion are not.

So I choose no religion, and the reason is clear. Religion has done nothing but harm society. Yes, some churches help the downtrodden and feed the poor. Some churches have outreach programs that help their communities. Some send money to disaster relief efforts. But all those things can be accomplished without religion. We can have non-sectarian missions to do every one of those things.

Some say religion gives them personal comfort, and that’s fine. But people can achieve personal comfort and deep satisfaction through meditation or by other means that don’t involve invoking the supernatural.

God might very well exist. I don’t have enough knowledge to say conclusively that he doesn’t. But nobody else in the world possesses so much more knowledge than I that they can say conclusively that he does, which means those who say God exists or that their religion is the only one that will get you to heaven are resting their case on faith alone. And we all should know that believing something doesn’t make it so. Neither does wishing for it.

What I can say for sure is that religion has been and will continue to be detrimental to society. It has caused more wars than any other single entity. It has held back the progress of science for centuries and is still doing so today. It has resulted in the deaths of babies by parents who refused to seek medical care because of their beliefs. It has resulted in children in school choosing to ignore the teachings of science. It has resulted in a society that is repressive to women, homosexuals, and even heterosexuals who choose to have sex before they are married. Religion is both repressive and oppressive in almost all of its forms and iterations.

A belief in the tenets of any religion means checking your logical mind at the gate. It means giving in to superstition instead of taking charge of one’s own life and mind. It means ignoring one’s common sense in favor of pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking.

The bottom line is this. If there is a god, nobody knows what he wants of us, if anything; so why bother trying. If there isn’t a god, it doesn’t matter anyway. So regardless of the existence of God, religion doesn’t matter. And if it doesn’t matter, why participate in something that is so divisive, so silly, and so utterly dangerous to our species when we can live a better life, and one that is equally as moral, by jettisoning the baggage of religion once and for all.

It is past time that we, as modern human beings with great minds, finally slough off the dead weight of religion that has been dragging us down for eons and start to take charge of our lives and our own species. If we don’t we may not have a species left to protect much longer. Religion will have killed us all. And God may not be there to save us. And if he is, why would he want to. We did it to ourselves.


Celestite said...

Just offering a different point of view. There ARE religions that do not proselytize, do not proclaim unique knowledge, do not claim ownership of the one true path, do not insist on one true god. There is even one that I can think of that does not worship any deity. And others that acknowledge many deities. Deity, the divine, life force, universal energy are all concepts of some religions. Some beliefs identified by others as religion do not call themselves religion.
You are certainly free to reject the whole concept, as you say, but please rethink using Christian constructions as the reasons.

I enjoy your column.


Jerry Wilson said...

Celestite: You are correct when you point out that there are many other non-mainstream religions in the world that do not believe they have a monopoly on the truth as Christianity and Islam does. And some do not believe in the god of the bible/koran. Personally, I consider these "religions" more as philosophies. My point was that if you subscribe to a religion that is God-centric, whatever your belief you are wrong, because the odds that anyone would hold the belief that is true is infinitely bad. But some of the religions you speak of have no real doctrine, and hence, then cannot be wrong about it. My contention is, once you adopt a specific doctrine or dogma, you are wrong.

Celestite said...

I agree with that. Thanks for responding.