Wanna know what I think? This is what I think…
At some stage, at some time, we need to have the ‘religion’ debate. We need to know what good it has done which could not have been without it. We need to discuss and find out whether morality can exist without it, whether – actually – we can spend our lives not being murderous, raping thieves without believing that there’s some big chap (yes, I know – but it is, though, isn’t it?) looking down and telling us that we’ll go to hell if we don’t curtail those thoughts and feelings. As adults, with reason and sense and intelligence, we need to have that conversation.
Because I’m not convinced that we need the big guy in order to be decent to each other. And believing in the white, middle class, heterosexual, berobed and besandled dude (or what ever version of him prevails in whatever culture people happen to exist in) does not seem, automatically, to make us decent. We have done many appalling things in his name – the list certainly doesn’t need repeating – and we continue to do so. I’m not just talking about strapping bombs to ourselves and walking into large public areas, or equipping ourselves with guns and ammunition and ascending the tallest nearby tower. There are those of us, too, who reward the privileged and punish the unfortunate, who think that a million dollars isn’t a lot of money, who burn cash in front of the homeless, who amass a massive fortune simply to inject our arses with foam rubber, or to buy a second yacht, or who assume that everyone has had the same chances, luck, genetics… and, therefore, if we’re poor, or ill, or incapable – it must be our own fault. Yet they will still call themselves religious, stand up in church and teach their children – hell, even insist that the children of others should be taught – the same ideas, values and rules. Such actions are not, perhaps, as immediate or as vivid as the previous atrocities, but they’re still unutterably atrocious. To say that God endorses and polices our good behaviour is pretty ridiculous when our behaviour is so damn bad.
And if God is about, why the big guessing game? Why leave us with just one book (or lots of little bits of books, like some appalling jigsaw puzzle without even a box lid). If he wanted us to be nice to people, then he could just demonstrate his existence – clear up some minor issues and translation problems – and we’d all be nice to everyone. Why make it just about faith? Faith suggests we know and trust the big guy, and he’ll make good in the end. But we don’t. At all. He’s meant to be the definition of ‘good’. So why not reveal himself to everyone? Yeah – I know. It’s all in the book. But there are hundreds of books. Some written ages ago, some not so long. Some written by lots of people, some just one. Some written by obvious nutters, some by decent sorts in sandals and long robes. Do they all say the same thing? They do not. Are they coherent within themselves. They are not. Are they violently at odd with each other? It would seem so. Do most people who adhere to those faiths read the texts? I suspect not. The ‘book’ strategy doesn’t seem to be working so well, then, frankly.
Christ, apparently, said that all you have to do to go to heaven is believe in him: no one goes to the father except through him. But I can’t make myself believe in something. It’s entirely out of my hands. I can pretend I believe… I can say I believe… I can bloody well hope. But I can’t believe in something for which there seems to be absolutely no proof whatsoever.
But if you’re going around spreading such stuff without knowing, if you’re in charge of children and you’re pedalling the myth as if it’s reality, if you’re deliberately proselytising, as if it’s true, blarney without absolutely being in possession of the facts of the case, then you are absolutely part of the problem. Because such behaviour stops people from being able to reason, actually removes reason from the argument, calls reason part of the problem… because reason renders faith useless, and then there’s no power to be held and no system of control. “Dinosaur bones? Put there to test us… God needs you to accept him without any questions whatsoever.” Forgive me, but that sounds awfully like someone who doesn’t want to be questioned rather than someone who has any answers.
And if you’re in charge of that religion? If you’re the head of that religion? If you’re the person who’s supposed to represent God to us, to decipher the rules, to decide what’s right and what isn’t? And yet… you still don’t know, not absolutely… but, just in case, you’ll corrupt people, ban contraception, prevent people from taking helpful drugs, subjugate genders, kill people, destroy people, agree with mass killings of innocents, capitulate in genocide and, worse, pass all those rules on to the next generation… But you don’t know? Then never turn around and tell me that religion enforces morality.
Let’s say you do know… There are countless others, who believe something completely different, and know just as absolutely as you do.
You know nothing…
What is there to be known? These things. It is empathy which promotes morality, not religion. Passing off as truth that which you do not know to be true is called lying. There are people who woke up today assuming that they were going to bed again tonight, who had plans for the rest of the day, week, month… who loved and laughed and giggled… who were planning surprise parties, holidays, families… who were going to do amazing things with their lives. And they got blown to pieces by murdering bastards who believed, knew, they were right – because someone told them so…