Warning: It's my rough estimate that 80% of the people who read this are most likely going to be offended. These are my strong opinions, and if you're religious, you're probably not going to like them. It would still be a good idea for you to read this, however. I'm an atheist, but I try to keep an open mind. It took me a long time to come to the decisions I've made about religion, so before you knock it, think. I'm not purposely trying to piss people off. If you disagree or agree with me on something in here, tell me. Don't flame me, but state your point. I actually do want to hear it.
First off, let me say that as many bad things as there are in religion, there are also some very good things. Most religions teach an expanded version of the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you", and all that good stuff. It's cool that Church Groups get together to do good stuff every now and then, and you see all sorts of Religious Charities and such.
That is one of the good things about religion: it encourages you to do good stuff. Check out Buddhism. Those guys are the most docile people on the planet. Jesus even encouraged people to live a lifestyle that put little stress on the environment. You hear about people who "found God" and cleaned up their lives, stopped being drug addicts, got jobs, grew hair back faster than Rogaine, etc. That's great. That's where I encourage religion. These are great ways to go. In Church, they teach you not to steal, they teach you not to kill, they teach you not to "covet your neighbor's wife" and such. All good life lessons. Not everyone who goes to Church necessarily listens to them, but it's great when they do. One of the most messed up people I know, who goes out and does all sorts of illegal stuff, is unbelievably religious. What goes on in his mind, I wonder? How does he justify what he does, and still believe that he's a good Christian Guy?
The biggest way that religion keeps going is that kids are taught it. Frankly, this disgusts me. I meet all sorts of people that are preaching God just because that's how they were brought up that way. This, in my opinion is wrong. Kids are unbelievably impressionable, so if you take Little Johnny to Church each day, and he hears Mommy and Daddy tell him that God exists and is a just and good god, what way do you think he's gonna go?
Kids shouldn't be brought up like this. If the parents are religious, they shouldn't tell the kid "This is how it is", they should allow them to choose when they're old enough. When they get old enough to make their own decisions, the parents should spend the time to actually ask the kid what he or she would like to believe, to drive them around to the different Churches and show them the different stuff. Let them decide, don't give them only one option by shoving it down their throats.
Three or four years ago, my girlfriend and I broke up. One of the main reasons was because of religion. She was strongly religious, and I wasn't. The subject had never been a problem for two years, but when it finally came around, it just came out that things wouldn't work. I talked to her a week or two ago, and she impressed me. She is still religious, but she's chosen her own way. She has accepted some of what she's heard in Church, but has come to her own conclusions about some other things that she thinks are total bunk. She has searched out and found other things that she believes, and I respect that.
On another matter, it seems to me that one of the main reasons that people believe in God is that they believe that there has to be something or someone better. Mankind is so flawed, there has to be something better. People have to have someone to look up to, someone who knows, someone to give them direction in their life. There just has to be a higher power because it would be too hard for so many of us to get by without one. It's a dependency. Love your mom, love your dad, and love God. You pray to each of them every night, and keep those roots for the rest of your life.
A reason why so many people just need to believe that there is a God is because they need to feel that there is some sort of justice is the world. They need to believe that right makes right. If you do good things, then good things will happen to you. "If you do good in your life, you will go to a wonderful place after you die, but if you do bad, it will all come back to you, and you will suffer forever." It's like Karma. Karma seems to be another fabrication of people believing that right gets right. In reality, bad guys and those who do illegal things don't always get what they deserve. Justice is not always served. Innocent people are put to death by mistake while murderers and the real bad guys get away with the cash. People believe that God will make everything right, because they just don't want to believe that you can do something horrible and not have a price laid down on your head for it. Deluding yourself is the easiest way out of the situation, because the truth is too ugly to believe.
Speaking of the truth, since there are so many religions out there today, all of which claim to be the "one true religion", I'd like to know what makes one person's religion any more "true" than another person's? What makes Christianity "true" and Hinduism a pack of lies? What makes Judaism more "true" than Islam? Countless Holy Writings and Scriptures speak of the "One True God", all of which are totally different. Then you see people fighting because of religion. Holy War. They go to fight the infidels with their "false Gods", to kill the heathens and the people who don't believe in the same things we do. I can't emphasize how stupid this is.
A lot of religions encourages intolerance and narrow-mindedness. Christianity does, particularly toward gays and people of other faiths. People have been persecuted for their beliefs for years. And why? Why the hell would you even want to do this? "This guy over here doesn't believe in the same God that I do, and because I know that my God is the true one, I'm gonna go kill him!" Where is the logic in this?
Oh, and wait a minute. Doesn't your religion say that it's a sin to kill a man? If this is so, then where is the logic in Holy War?
One of the reasons I hold so much disrespect for religions is because of how hypocritical they are. Check this out: Jesus died only for His sheep (John 10). His church (Ephesians 5:25). His elect (I Peter 1:2). If He died for everyone, everyone would go to heaven. All sins of all people would be forgiven. But obviously, all sins aren't forgiven, because people are burning in hell. The fundamental miracle, Christ rising from the dead, is even contradicted by the Bible, which states that the people seeing the supposed risen Christ did not recognize him.
The Bible was supposed to be the "word of God". It was written down by men who had spoken with God (The same men, I might add, that said that the world was flat). That this was the "word of God" seems highly unlikely for the number of factual errors, inconsistencies, vagueness, rambling, psychotic advice and irrelevancy.
Here's another thing. A lot of religions, especially Christianity, put a lot of meaning into the word Truth. Fundamentalist Christians believe that the Bible is the literal "word of God". Then they demand others accept that idea as Absolute Truth, purely on blind faith. Here's a quote for you, from Alan Watts about the definition of Faith:
"Irrevocable commitment to any religion is not only intellectual suicide; it is positive unfaith because it closes the mind to any new vision of the world. Faith is, above all, open-ness . . . an act of trust in the unseen."
So we aren't even dealing with the same word anymore. When they use the words Truth and Faith in the context they do, they don't even mean the same thing as the dictionary's definition.
The sad thing is there is no way to prove any of these people wrong. The chance that God would come out and say: "Hello, everyone. Here I am." is about as likely as all the atheists in the world declaring that they were going to become religious. There is not enough solid evidence to either side of the argument to make a valid decision. (I realize that people on both sides of the argument would disagree with me, but if there was enough proof for everyone, it wouldn't even be a topic for discussion anymore, because it would have been settled by now.)
How many times have you heard the religious catch phrase: "The Lord works in mysterious ways?" Have you noticed that when people use that phrase, it's because they don't have a logical answer for a question asked of them?
"Why wasn't the man who killed my mommy punished? Why did he get away free and now lives in the Caribbean?"
"Uhhh . . . well, son. The lord works in mysterious ways. We cannot question his motives, they are all part of a grand plan that we know nothing about and like to make up whenever something happens that we can't explain."
One bad and kind of scary thing about religion is how it can be interpreted any way you want. Some of the references in The Bible are so vague that somebody can take them to mean something totally different than another person would. Let's see, let's pick two of the most hated groups or people possible . . . ah. The Nazis and the KKK. Guess what? Hitler thought he was doing God's work in ridding the world of Jews, homosexuals and disabled people. Guess what? The KKK were and are all Christians. They aren't "burning" the cross, they are "setting it alight" to cast Christ's divine light on these impure heathens (which tend to be black a lot of the time, don't they?). Anything can be twisted into God's will: cults that molest children, groups of people who aid and abet the murder of doctors who perform abortions. These have all happened, more than once.
The fact remains that the Church itself did some horrible stuff in the past. They kept quiet about the Holocaust, they bribed people, they burned people at the stake who they declared were witches or warlocks, they killed thousands of people for violating religious rites. Remember the Inquisition? Done by Churches, in the name of God.
There was a time when religion ruled the world. It was called The Dark Ages. Religion was just something everybody claimed to have to avoid persecution, and because you were estranged if you didn't. The average man didn't believe a word of it, and would change religion whenever he was told to. Even the religious leaders would switch religions when it best suited their purposes, and these were supposed to be the most pious men on the planet. If you don't believe me, go read the book Sarum. It tells about the medieval times and later, about the Churches in England and Europe, and how corrupt they were.
King Henry the Eighth wanted to divorce his wife, but the Church said that he was not allowed to, by religion. So what did he do? He started his own Church, the Church of England. People were forced to devote themselves and believe this new religion, which was created simply so a King could divorce a wife. I'd be ashamed if my religion had roots like that.
Would you like to hear an uncomfortable fact? Christianity is the number one cause of death in homosexual suicides. Kids that are so tormented by constant pestering of their sexual preference, mostly by religious people, that they are driven to kill themselves. This is disgusting. Being homosexual is those people's choice. If someone were to threaten me, beat me up, and disrespect me because I liked tofu, I'd be pissed. Or if I liked to wear orange clothing. Christians, or people of any belief have no freaking right to tell people what sexual preferences they should have, any more than they should have a right to tell them what they should believe in. That is total crap.
So many religions are anti-science. This is no way to progress mankind. Christianity would have you believe that evolution is total bunk, that God just snapped his magical fingers and created the world, despite all of the evidence and research done in the area of evolution. Christianity would have you believe that volcanoes are God's Wrath, despite all of the research done in the area of plate tectonics. Some people still believe that the world is flat, for crying out loud. That's pathetic.
Fundamentalism is scary. When I say that many intensely religious people can be narrow-minded, I'm not even mentioning Fundamentalists. I know some people that have amazingly strict, religious families, and their lives are so restricted that it's not even funny.
There was a Fundamentalist Preacher on TV once, and out of pure curiosity, I watched and listened to what he said. That scared me more than any Nuclear Power Plant Plan or anything that President Bush ever said. He actually called for beating children with sticks to make them fear God. He said that children should be "trained" using the same techniques used for training animals. This belongs in the dark ages, not in modern society. I remember hearing someone bring up the point that Satanism is actually a more modern religion, because it is based on modern society. Most other religions are based on cultures and things that happened more than 2000 years ago.
Children are not property, and should have rights, as well. The beating of children should not be allowed back in schools, or even in homes. What this man was calling for, in the name or God, was Domestic Violence.
The preacher went on to say that all rebellion against authority was wrong, and that Hollywood should not encourage it. Rebellion is one of the best things for society, in my opinion, because it leads to change. It's great that kids rebel, because that leads to a new wave of the future. Many of our parents were rebels in their days, and now they're in the position of their parents.
The preacher specifically called for the abolishment of the separation of church and state. This is another huge subject, and President Bush has been trying to thin the lines between church and state. This should not happen. We have a "free" country, which means Freedom of Religion. This means you can also choose to not be religious. Putting religion in schools removes our choice to choose what we want to believe.
In conclusion, I'd have to say that it's your choice. You can be religious, you can go to Church, you can make your own decisions on how you want to live your life. You have Freedom of Religion, and Freedom of Choice. However, Freedom of Religion can also mean Freedom From Religion, as you can choose not to be religious at all. I will respect other people for their own choices, if they want to be Christian or Muslim or whatever, but the moment they start preaching to me, and trying to convert me, I lose my respect for them. Believe what you want, but believe it quietly.
One of my best friends is a Christian, and he has impressed me more than I thought possible. Not once did I see him go out of his way to preach his beliefs to anyone, or even mention (unless prompted or asked) that his religion felt that something was wrong. I didn't even know that he was religious for three years or so, until I noticed a Bible in his room, and a religious poster on his wall. I was surprised, and told him that I hadn't known he was religious. He just shrugged and said yeah. Not once in all the time we'd known each other had he tried to give me anything from his religion that I didn't want, that I didn't need. He believed what he wanted, and he kept it to himself. I respected him for that more than anything.
Don't take crap that's been shoved down your throat. Take your own path and make your own choices before someone else makes them for you.
I know that some of you will disagree with me, probably quite strongly. This wasn't meant to be just an insult to your religion or anyone religious, it was meant to open a conversation. Write a response. Thanks for actually reading this.