Monday, February 23, 2009

Why So Serious?

Religion takes itself very seriously. It’s not a concept that lends itself to comedy. It is a short step from ridiculous to ridicule; if the believer sees how silly it all is, the gig is up.

Of course, there is a lot of comedy that comes from religion… and it’s usually not flattering. While the witchdoctor talking to his congregation may garner a chuckle from the podium, the comedian can bring roars of laughter at the church’s expense by merely stating the obvious.

However, this comedy is dependent upon an audience lacking the mocked faith. It is amusing how criticism of Catholic priests’ predilection for altar boys is sure to make non-Catholics laugh, while it makes Catholics jump to defend. That same Catholic will undoubtedly laugh at a joke about Scientology, though.

It comes down to the fact that religions are viral ideology, programs of thought that encourage dissemination. All religions are programmed to belittle others while defending their own. Most of the faithful, when confronted with this fact, will deny it. Some claim that as long as someone is good, they will be rewarded in some other life. However, this is a bullshit façade that pea-brained followers repeat as a PR move. No religion preaches at the highest levels that their faith is merely one of many acceptable beliefs; all religions are in it for themselves.

Faithless Children

I’m twenty-five: the age when people start giving you serious advice about children. The fact that I’m getting married in a few months definitely adds to it. One thing I hear quite a bit is that I should raise my children with religion. I was raised Catholic and my fiancé was raised Orthodox Jewish, but we are both non-religious.

If my kid grows up to want to believe something, be it Christianity, Judaism, or even Buddhism, I’m not the kind of person who would stop them. Islam… maybe. But in all honesty, I have no doubts regarding how to approach teaching a child about life without religion or gods. Some people find the idea appalling, but I find the notion of foisting a complex system of faith upon a trusting child is borderline child abuse. So I suppose if you disapprove of my decision, the feeling is mutual.

There are several advantages to a rationalist approach to morality. Statistically, atheists commit less crime and have lower divorce rates. Also, I won’t dread the sex talk; it’s not very hard to say: “Use protection, it’s a lot cheaper than abortion and some STD’s don’t have cures.” Statistically, atheists have a low teen-age pregnancy rate, so I can rest assured they’re fooling around as much as the religious kids, but with the knowledge of how to be responsible.

My kid won’t know about Santa Claus or the Easter bunny, and the tooth fairy probably won’t be included in their childhood either. Will their life be deprived because of this? Is a magician less amazing if you know the lady isn’t really being sawn in half? I’ll never know, because I was raised on superstitions and empty rituals. I’ll let you know when I ask my grown child decades from now.

So how will I address religion? “Some adults like to play dress-up and pretend like kids do. They create lots of rules for their made up games and even have an imaginary friend, like you did when you were young. When adults do this, it’s called religion.” How do I explain where he or she comes from? “Your mother and I made you because we wanted someone to share our love with.” What happens when the child must confront the concept of death (likely a pet)? “Every living thing dies and ceases to exist, just as every living thing ceased to exist before it was born.”

More than any questions I fear answering, I wonder how it is religious people explain religion to their children. The best one could do is a rudimentary, over-simplified model of a loving god who will send you to burning hell if you’re bad, but lets you live with him in heaven if you’re good. This whole concept seems very barbaric and draconian to me. Also, when do I explain who the whore of Babylon is, before or after I explain how to stone someone to death?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Muslims: The Fountain of Irony

Islam is one hysterical religion. It is so deep in denial it can't even see daylight anymore. The last massive PR blunder was the Mohammed cartoon debacle, in which Muslims were depicted as being violent. In response, Muslims acted violently. Brilliant.

What I love about Islam is that they don't just have some Pope who says something mildly offensive from time to time. Muslim fundementalists are some of the most ridiculous lunatics on the planet. Case in point: this story surfaced today. Basically, a guy who started a TV station that broadcasts messages to counter Muslim stereotypes has beheaded his wife for wanting a divorce. I'm sure the butchering at least took place according to halal tradition.

Submit to the will of Allah by having zero respect for humanity.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Is Atheism a Faith?

Religion is a funny thing, but only because it takes itself so seriously. It seeks to tame man, even though it is our wild, natural ambitions that drive us to run against the leash of tradition towards progress. Religion fills the follower’s head with ideas of what to do, say or even think. This would be fine, except that it inevitably drives the follower to impress these ethics upon others. Religion is infectious ideology. Religion is contagion. This is the only regrettable trait of religion: its inability to acknowledge what limited scope of influence it deserves.

Speaking only for myself (as this is all I can ever do), I do not believe in any gods. This is distinct from the statement, “I believe there are no gods.” That is a statement of belief. For whatever reason, I lack the ability to suspend reason. Atheism may be a religion, especially for those who seek to convince others to believe in the absence of anything divine. However, for me it is not. Perhaps I am not an Atheist with a big A, but an atheist with a small a. To be honest, I prefer to the term “apatheist,” as I simply don’t care whether or not there are gods.

Despite these views, I see religion as playing a vital role in the world. It is like the sewers of society: an unseemly system for funneling refuse away from where it is not wanted. I would hate to see a day when religion is crushed, leaving the dogmatic masses with nothing to do but descend upon science with their blind trust and resistance to change.

Science is for constructive skeptics; it is for those who not only question, but also seek answers. Science must evolve over time, acknowledging and correcting its errors. It must relish in every opportunity to redefine itself. It must never become so comfortable with a “theory” as to accept it as the complete and total truth. Ideologies, philosophy, morality, and ethics can maintain a façade of constant tradition in the follower’s belief that they are mimicking the actions of their ancestors – though anyone who studies traditions through history knows they are only unchanged for generations at best. Some, perhaps even many people become reluctant to alter their familiar thoughts, and this is the sin which science must avoid.
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