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Religion is stupid, and here’s why

January 11th, 2005 Posted in Personal

"Hope is a pathological belief in the occurrence of the impossible." – H.L. Mencken

I’m terribly sick of the religious "oppressed minority" complaining about the fact that their beliefs are under cultural assault. First of all, they’re not under assault at all: this country is overwhelmingly Christian, and the right-wing "moral majority" has shown an impressive lack of morals in their total takeover of every branch of the federal government. Second, they should be under assault; they’re archaic. Look that word up before you attempt to debate that fact. But that’s not what this post is going to be about. This post is going to be about why people believe in God.

What is it about human nature that requires us to justify our existence by proclaiming our self-importance? Why can’t we just be what we are, without some cosmic connection to a controlling force? When someone claims to be "spiritual", we nod and smile as if this is a positive atttribute; they must sense some divine presence that we cannot. No, the truth is they have numbed themselves (through drugs, meditiation, cultural brainwashing, or just plain repetition) into a feeling false connection to nature or the universe, because they are too scared to be alone. For some reason I will never understand, be it vanity, loneliness, fear, pride; people need desperately to feel that they are a part of something bigger than themselves.

I have had countless conversations on this subject with scores of my religious friends; smart, intelligent, warm, funny, educated people who persist in believing that a book their parents gave them when they were little was written by an invisible man in the sky. They have never seen him, never touched him, never heard him open his metaphysical mouth, but they are sure he’s there. I consistently ask them one question, to which I have never heard a good response: Why do you believe the Bible is the word of God?

Most existing religions, and specifically Christianity, take pride in their suspension of rational thought. They discuss "faith" (by which they mean drawing conclusions without any logic or evidence) as if it is a noble quality. Call me crazy, but I believe in empiricism. In a search for knowledge, you never jump to conclusions; you put forward hypotheses, you test those hypotheses against physical evidence, and if they hold up, you promote them to theories. Through extensive experimentation and analysis of the data you gather, sometimes you even prove those theories to be true. But one tenet is paramount: you never insist something is true just because you want it to be true.

This also means that you never try to label the unknown without evidence. You accept that there are things you cannot explain and you do your best to explain them with new ideas. I believe in the theory of evolution and more specifically in the theory of natural selection because those theories are the only ones that fit with the evidence we currently have. If tommorrow, new physical evidence and experimentation conclusively proves creationism, I’ll want to know how and why. If I’m satisified, I’ll adopt that belief instead.

Lastly, and most important, I believe that the feeling of contentment people get from religion is attainable through other means. If we stopped looking for something intangible for just one moment, we might realize that all we’ve got is each other, and we’re all in this thing together. Being alone together on a chunk of rock floating in space doesn’t makes our laws and rules pointless; it makes them the only thing we’ve got, and that much more important.

Why not take comfort in that instead?

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  • Thank you Ty, for showing us all the benefits of your classical education. And people wonder why Bush won Ohio.
    This from the guy who got arrested for barking at a dog.

  • tyson

    hey Jake, you're gay.

  • Thanks for the comments.
    ...we can rationalize leaving religion as a way of life to push a social or political cause like capitalism or democracy.
    I want to point out that I never argued against promoting religion as an optiate for mass control or even for distribution for a set of moral values (at least not in this post). I again, I think Mencken put it best:

    It is often argued that religion is valuable because it makes men good, but even if this were true it would not be a proof that religion is true. That would be an extension of pragmatism beyond endurance. Santa Claus makes children good in precisely the same way, and yet no one would argue seriously that the fact proves his existence.


    At a point our answers stop and you have to act based on what seems to work.
    Not sure what you're trying to imply... that it is best to conduct yourself under false pretenses if those pretenses allow you to function more effectively? It is my opinion, as I argued in my closing paragraph, that secular forms of guidance can function in similar manners and without the disastrous consequenses (read: the spanish inquisition).
    When events outside of one's control turn out fortunately time and again that becomes evidence.
    No, unfortunately, it does not. Evidence requires repeated experimentation involving not just a test subject, but a control group as well.
    How the fuck can I prove that wrong?
    You can't, and that's why natural selection is a theory, and not a fact. As I said, I am open to the concept of creationism should reputable and repeatable evidence arise.
    Once you start learning intricate biochemistry, you may begin to question whether the evolution timetable was long enough to create what exists today.
    You've got me there. My knowledge of biochemisty is definitely lacking. And if you then wish to argue that I have faith in science the way other people have faith in God, I think you have a valid point. I would still counter, though, with the fact that I believe any scientific viewpoint I adopt could hopefully be traced all the way back to the level of repeatable evidence found through experimentation under the regime of the scientific method.
    But more importantly, the argument against the solidity of evolutionary theory misses the point. I don't deny there are things that are unexplainable. I'm simply unwilling to label those things as some all encompassing force, and I'm trying to analyze many people's need to do so.
    Anyway, good point- the world should think just like you. I'll get right on that.
    Ouch, cheap shot (though probably deserved; this post was defintely intended to inflame and arouse discussion). But may I point out that it's not so much me as, you know, Socrates, Galileo, Da Vinci...

  • Landis

    Angry essay, Jake.

    It's a big claim that people are wrong not only to legislate their religion, but to believe in God. Looking back from today we can easily see how and why religions thrived through history. And we can rationalize leaving religion as a way of life to push a social or political cause like capitalism or democracy.

    But you're putting faith in science and humanity to figure out the entire universe. At a point our answers stop and you have to act based on what seems to work. So people turn to religions for guidance, and religions rely on God. When events outside of one's control turn out fortunately time and again that becomes evidence. Remember, a hypothesis/theory can be proved wrong but never proved right.

    I'm not calling myself a creatist, but I will tell you that natural selection and evolution are pretty weak theories if you want to champion science. They take evidence and work backward to create a story, one that is rarely testable. For example, cardinals and sparrows fill similar niches. "Cardinals are red so they stand out to potential mates while sparrows are brown so they camouflage with their surroundings." How the fuck can I prove that wrong? C-O-N-J-E-C-T-U-R-E-? Once you start learning intricate biochemistry, you may begin to question whether the evolution timetable was long enough to create what exists today.

    Anyway, good point- the world should think just like you. I'll get right on that.

    Landis

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