Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Religion for Godsake?

Gonna talk a little about something close to my heart …

If a person truly believed rain fell upwards we would think them mad. If a group of people believed, against all the evidence to the contrary, that the sky was green, we would rightly consider them at best slightly weird. It’s hopefully unlikely these groups of people actually exist outside our more padded institutions.

However, there was a time when people believed the solar system rotated around the Earth. To suggest this to be wrong was dangerous and you risked being the main course of a barbecue. Now, of course, we have all the evidence we need to prove the solar system is heliocentric; the planets revolve around the Sun. These days, nobody is flambéed for suggesting the Sun is the centre of the solar system – unless we really don’t like them, but that’s less to do with their astronomical views.

What puzzles me is this: if hard, factual evidence for the planet’s place in the solar system can be accepted and integrated into common, accepted knowledge then why do so many still cling to other clearly fallacious ideas, such as Creationism and, inevitably along with it, religion?

There was a time when man needed a way to explain what was happening around him; Why did the sun rise? Why did the crops grow? Why did Uncle Ugh get crushed by that buffalo? What the human mind can’t understand, it tends to make something up to explain. What happened was most certainly that all these happenings were attributed to an abstract “Shit happens” that, over time, became personified into an all encompassing deity.

How did man come to be on this planet? “Shit happens” must have created us didn’t have quite the right ring to it, so they came up with another name, one that looked better on noticeboards outside churches.

And so was born god/s. Man, being the avaricious swine that he is, soon realised religion could be exploited. Those in higher positions within their community, those espousing religion, could explain the poor crop yield as an indication the people hadn’t contributed enough to the religious elite. The people knew no better so handed over more in the hope next year they wouldn’t starve and be forced to order a pizza instead.

I can understand how religion could have got a foothold under these circumstances but what bugs the crap outta me is that in 2009 so many millions of people still buy into it. We know, beyond any reasonable doubt, that there was no ‘creation’ in the biblical sense because we can demonstrate quite satisfactorily that humanity, along with every living species on the planet, evolved from a common ancestor.

Let me just point out here that anybody now saying, “Ah, but if we evolved from apes then how come there are still apes? Huh? Huh? Answer that, Godless boy!” will be directed to the nearest book on evolution. We did not evolve from apes. We evolved from the same source as apes. Just as you are not the son or daughter of your distant cousin, you can both trace back your family trees to a common ancestor. Right, now that’s out of the way …

There are currently several major religions blighting this planet (I use the word blighting as I firmly believe that is exactly what they do). The majority of these religions are monotheistic; they only have one central god figure. Travel back a couple of thousand years and look at many of the civilisations around then – many were polytheistic; they had multiple gods, each specific to a certain thing. A lot of religious people these days would scoff at such a notion as they believe there is only ‘one true god’, yet there is absolutely no more evidence for their ‘one true god’ than there was for the myriad of deities worshipped in the past.

Now, why do I believe religion is a blight on this planet? If somebody is racist you can point out that genetically we’re all the same underneath and, therefore, basing hatred on something as superficial as skin colour is all rather silly. If one group of football supporters hates, even attacks, another group of football supporters for following a different team then any right thinking person would look upon them as particularly stupid people who need to grow up and stop watching overpaid idiots kicking a ball about. Religion is different, unfortunately.

Inter-religious hatred, be it Christian hating Muslim or Muslim hating Buddhist or Jew hating Hindu, is not seen in the same way as inter-football team supporters would be viewed. Why is this? At least those football teams demonstrably exist outside myth and fantasy! If football supporters were hijacking planes and flying them into the opposition’s stadium there would be calls for football to be banned, rightly so (shame it doesn’t happen, I hate sport too). You might say the religion/football team analogy isn’t valid. I argue it is. Religion has its roots in communities and inter-community rivalries just as football teams do.

We’re nearly into the year 2010. It’s time the population of this planet woke up to the fact that religion is far more destructive than constructive. War after war has been fought in the name of a non-existent entity, even now such wars continue. Surely enough people have suffered?

A brief reply to those inevitably shouting that we need religion and the related bibles to guide us; bullshit. Sorry, that argument doesn’t hold water for two reasons.

1) Social evolution shows that benevolent behaviour in any community, be that human or animal and for the good of the individual or community, is more often rewarded and therefore more likely to be repeated. Non-benevolent behaviour less often garners a positive response. Evolution as a whole shows that more positive outcomes are favoured and more likely to propagate through the generations. We don’t need a book, demonstrably written by man, to tell us right from wrong.

2) If you’re reading this and religious, ask yourself this; if your bible didn’t state it was wrong to kill somebody would you go and commit murder? I’m hoping you’d say no, basing your answer on your own ethical view of the act. So why does the book have to tell you? The answer is it doesn’t! I’m an atheist (hard to believe, I know) but I would not murder, steal or covet my neighbour’s ass, not that they have a nice ass. I don’t do these things because I believe them to be wrong innately, not because of some words written hundreds of years ago. Which of us is therefore the better person; the one not committing an act based on what a book tells them or the person who simply knows it’s wrong and doesn’t need telling?

Look at the bigotry that the religious texts condone, such as racism, religious intolerance, homophobia and so on. The suffering resulting from these religious works has caused far more damage than any other invention of man, including the atomic bomb. If we were to abolish religion we would, in one swipe, remove the driving force behind a large percentage of the misery everybody on the Earth, religious and heathen alike, has to endure.

I’ll close with these thoughts:

If The Bible is, as so many believe, the ‘word of God’ how come so much of it is demonstrably incorrect? The Vatican had to admit that evolution was a fact, which gave rise to the rubbish that is ‘intelligent design’, so how come Genesis has a completely different explanation to how we got here? If The Bible got that wrong, as the Vatican admits, then either it was written by man or God was having a particularly bad day proofreading – and He’s supposed to be infallible. The answer many religious leaders have is that anything proven to be wrong can be explained as a parable and not to be taken as literal truth. That’s all very well but when more and more parts of a religious text falls foul of scientific scrutiny and incontrovertible evidence one has to wonder what the value of the text is.

Around spring, Christians will be celebrating Easter. This marks the day when Jesus was nailed to the cross and then returned, three days later. Ask yourself this; we celebrate Jesus' birthday on the 25th December each year, so why does the anniversary of his death move from year to year? The answer is that Easter had nothing whatsoever to do with Christianity. It was/is a Pagan festival called Eastra and, like much of the Pagan religion, is timed with nature. Eastra/Easter falls on the first weekend after the first full moon following the spring equinox, which is why it changes year to year. Christianity hijacked the festival for its own means as a way to ingratiate itself into the Pagan populace. The same is true of Christmas Day; the 25th of December was the birthdate of Mithras, the central figure of Mithraism, a Roman religion and, as with Pagan and Eastra, this was integrated into Christianity. For brevity's sake I won't go into detail of how much of Christianity's religious festivals take their customs directly from other religions.

Put down your Bibles, set aside your Korans, put your Torah on the shelf and enjoy life for what it is; a miraculous result of a random sequence of evolutionary steps. Steps that gave us a wondrously diverse range of creatures, each related to us in some long forgotten past. If you don’t waste your ‘day of rest’ praying to an empty sky you could spend that time enjoying what nature provided, it’s a lot more rewarding.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feed the primate some of your wisdom here: