Why I view organized religion
ONE MINUTE SITE TOUR
My twenty-something niece, who was raised in a moderately religious household (but managed to turn out surprisingly well anyway in my opinion) still found much to take offense with in my science fiction short story The End-- and Clifford Dunburton. Namely, the title character is described as maybe the smartest man in the world-- and this man ridicules religion during the course of the tale. I guess I should have anticipated her reaction, but I didn't. Anyway, she basically demanded I explain myself, and so I did, with the email text below:
I don't share exactly the same beliefs that my story character does (my story characters are rarely wholly accurate mirrors of my own views). But I'm also not very pleased with religions in general, due to their bloody history of hate mongering, atrocities, and mass murder and torture both past and present, with no end in sight for the future. Sure, there might be some good here and there done by religious groups, or by individuals for religious reasons. But it seems to be outweighed by the casualty numbers among what tends to be overwhelmingly innocent bystanders (the bulk of them women and children). So in general I do not support organized religion.
The Founding Fathers had good reasons to separate church from state in the creation of America. For prior to that the church often controlled the state in various places around the world, and did many of the awful things listed before (look up the Inquisition sometime for just one example). The main way a church liked to perpetrate its crimes was to outlaw all competing religions in the territory it controlled, so that it'd then have a 'legal' excuse to kill or torture or hound basically whomsoever it liked-- including some of its own followers at times (when they didn't act slavishly enough to powerful leaders). That's why in America we Constitutionally prohibit our government from preferring one religion over another (however, as American politicians have become more corrupt over decades, they've increasingly tried to ignore their oaths to uphold the Constitution, as well as ignore that ban and all the history behind it, and go around it to promote Christianity).
Some of the very earliest European settlers in America were Christians fleeing the state dominance of and persecution from a different Christian sect in Europe.
Aside from the Inquisition, a great many wars have been essentially wars between religions-- sometimes even between factions of the same religion(!)
Religion is also responsible for massive tolls of death and suffering from a wholly different perspective: holding back scientific progress, when it felt that such progress threatened the religion's authority in some way. In other words, humanity would likely have far more scientific knowledge and better technology than it does today, if organized religion had never existed-- and so might have already eliminated poverty and sickness by now. Because we'd be at minimum more technologically advanced by centuries over what we are today. That makes for literally billions of people who've needlessly died and suffered in past centuries, and/or the next 100-200 years. You yourself will almost certainly end up being yet another person who dies or suffers unnecessarily-- where in an alternate timeline without religion, you might not even be familiar with the terms death and suffering, as they'd be so rare by this point.
If I care about you and the rest of the family, how could I possibly like organized religion in the face of all this? They've robbed us all of our best destinies.
Around 1584 Italian monk Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake because he made the statement below and would not take it back:
"Countless suns exist; countless earths revolve around these suns in a manner similar to the way the planets revolve around our sun. Living beings inhabit these worlds."
The (today) much more famous and celebrated Galileo came perilously close to the same fate himself, merely for insisting that the Earth orbited the Sun rather than the other way around. After he finally took it back under threat, he spent the rest of his life as a prisoner of the church.
The church basically used terrorism to suppress scientific experimentation and innovation for many centuries-- except where it helped along torture and mass killings. That's part of the reason today's militaries are so darn good at killing people; military tech has always been nurtured by those in power.
Still being young though, I realize you may not know much about the history of religion, or even care. That's how most young people are. I was too at your age. But over time many people decide this stuff is more important than they originally thought.
You do realize don't you that someone can be religious, but just be against organized religion, right? The question of whether God exists or not can be a separate issue from which particular religion you subscribe to; some religions (especially those which preceded the monotheist religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in history) held forth that there were multiple Gods rather than merely one.
You're also equating my phrase about religion's slowing of progress with your own personal mental state, when I'm speaking of organized religion itself, the institution. The one responsible for the torturing and executions and holding back of scientific progress over the centuries, mostly long before even your great grandparents were born. How you could hold yourself responsible for that mystifies me-- but perhaps you didn't know about the church's history, and that gap caused you to make the conceptual leap.
As for spending your time defending organized religion, you might want to more closely examine both its present and its past before committing yourself to that course.
You can be religious without being a pawn of organized religion or corrupt evangelists. Lots of people live that way, and so are less troubled when they hear of the latest crimes by the organized religion set, since they are not themselves participants in or defenders of such groups or their leaders.
Copyright © 2009 by J.R. Mooneyham. All rights reserved.