Polemic on Religion

(Originally posted on LiveJournal in March of 2007.) This was by far the most popular, most commented, most re-posted entry I ever made on LiveJournal. I am reposting it here in its entirety, though I wish I could include the comments.

I try so hard to be fair minded, egalitarian, and respectful of the beliefs of others. I do, even here in the Bible belt, surrounded by Baptist Conservatives, Fundamentalists, and just plain ignorance. However, as time goes on, and the more I see, the less tolerance I have been able to maintain. Today I realized my tolerance is gone. Nothing in particular happened, there was no final straw, I just realized that I can no longer do it. 

Christianity is completely artificial. It is not grounded in anything at all to do with the historical person (if there was one) of Yeshua or his teachings. It is not grounded in anything his followers supposedly said or thought. It is not grounded in anything Paul said or thought. It is not grounded in Judaic thought. It is a fabrication; a construct of the mid-second and subsequent centuries, designed solely to consolidate power. It is the most successful ‘Big Brother’ ever devised. It is a mechanism of control, a totalitarian regime of which the world has never seen the like. Its only purpose is to keep populations quiet, unquestioning, and under control. 

The dogma of religion, (Christianity perhaps chief among them, but by no means alone), has done more to hold back humankind than all the wars (for which it is largely responsible), plagues, famines, earthquakes, and disasters our species has ever known. It idolizes ignorance, encourages blindness, creates division and enmity, and holds stupidity as its highest virtue. It is as insidiously deadly as Hitler, Mussolini and Franco combined. 

I recognize that not all who claim Christianity truly believe that the world began in seven days in a Disney-eque garden with a talking snake. They do not all believe that the Earth does not move, and the universe flings itself around this planet every 24 hours. They do not all believe that science is a lie, nor that is is perfectly OK to trash the environment and destroy the very earth beneath our feet because ‘hey, it’s all gonna end in a few years anyway, and why don’t we start a nuclear war to get it started?’ They do not all believe that is it fine, nay, even vital, that others be exterminated, if not by conversion, than by the sword, and if not that, the bomb. They do not all believe that blacks, or gays, or atheists, or Muslims are subhuman, and should be eradicated like vermin. But many, many, many people do.

And the fact that many people do, and the fact that they JUSTIFY these insane notions in the name of Christianity should be deeply alarming to anyone who claims the same faith. It should make anyone who claims that faith question seriously the value of that faith in any sense. Furthermore, it should be enough to make them realize, at last, that it is time to grow up. It is time to step out of the dark ages, to stop worshiping ignorance, stop believing the lies. 

It is long past time we realize that religion has no place in shaping our public lives, our communities, our government, our policy, our education, our world. It is time we grew up and began to think for ourselves. It is time to set aside faith, and all the evil it propagates, and become rational, thinking adults.

Does this mean I think that our rich and diverse history and heritage of religion is worthless? Not at all. Symbol, allegory, archetype, and metaphor are vital to our wholeness as humans, and to the wholeness of our understanding of ourselves and our relationship with each other and the world. But ONLY when we remember that they ARE symbol, allegory, archetype, and metaphor. THEY ARE NOT REAL. And no one has the sole license to the only valid metaphor. When the symbol is mistaken for the thing, all is lost, and we have willingly turned away from the real and embraced a deeply flawed fantasy. When the metaphor is read as literal, empirical reality is lost. 

The vast majority of the people on this planet, today, right now, have no sense of reality. They gleefully, with an insufferable sense of superiority, tout fairy tale as truth, and look down their deluded noses at anyone who attempts to correct them. It is time to wake up! Time to put religious thought back where it belongs, into personal reflection, personal understanding, and individual thought. It has no business anywhere else.

And that is why my religious tolerance is gone. My respect for the religion of another person extends only as far as that person’s understanding that religion is a tool of thought, and not reality. The rest, I cannot but regard as delusional, having no grasp of reality, and certainly not fit to make rational decisions about the world around them. Let me say that this applies not merely to Christians. It applies to anyone who seeks to make societal decisions based on literal beliefs in religious allegory.

If someone commits murder because a voice in their head tells them to, we remove their freedom to make decisions for themselves, for it is clear that they are not rational, and therefore are not capable of making rational decisions. How is this different from killing an abortion clinic doctor? How is this different from letting a mother die rather than allow an abortion? How is this different from denying access to contraception, or safe sex education? How is this different from refusing to allow stem cell research? How is this different from supplanting science with faith, creationism, and geocentrism? How is this different from starting a war in the name of God? It is no different at all. It is high time we stop excusing hate, violence, oppression, and ignorance in the name of religion.