Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Essays 3: Let's get rid of Religion - but please don't cut off my head

There are many things wrong with the world: global warming; corrupt dictators; and the propensity of certain pubs to sell ’pies’ which are actually casseroles with jaunty pastry caps on top. However , if you are going to change something, then let’s change something that will have a big affect.

Religion. (I have now a mental sound track playing, from Fiddler on the Roof. It is stuck on everyone singing “Religion! Religion!”). The problem with saying ‘Let’s get rid of religion’ is that some people take it very badly and threaten to cut your head off – which sort of makes my point.

Religion – ‘It is the opium of the people’. A saying of Karl Marx often quoted, though his argument is a lot more complex and of its time. People remember this particular part because it has a truth to it. A little religion, like a glass of wine with your meal may well be a good thing. A small prayer here, following most of the commandments especially the stealing and murder ones; all very good and beneficial.

Overdose on religion and the affect is more dramatic. People drunk on religion start stoning certain people, because, say they happen to be have slept with the ‘wrong’ person. They start to think that they are the ‘chosen people’ and everyone else is lesser people and not ‘special’ like them. They even blow themselves and innocent bystanders up in ‘holy wars’.

Religion, at least the organised type, is about putting a social order and control on the people. It has very little to do with thinking about the meaning of life and much, much more about your place in life and how you should live it. Hence, all the rules over shellfish, pigs, sexual activity and prayer times. Really – if there is a God (and I am not discounting the prospect incidentally) – do you think the supreme being, who is outside time and space even cares what you eat? Who you sleep with? And when or even if you go to a place of worship? You may say ‘you cannot know the mind of God’, I am going to take the radical step of assuming God is neither mad nor stupid – which means anything that hurts no one is not a problem for God.

So then, who came with all these rules? Oddly enough, I think it is the people who have the robes and do the chanting. After all, they benefit. If we just had ‘Think before you act and do as little harm as possible’ as the one commandment, it would rather cut down the need for priest types, wouldn’t it?

Cut out the bells and smells and “moral lecturing” they would be stuck doing useful stuff, like helping the poor maybe?

Now we could have a long list of the good and bad that religion has done, which actually is not my argument. (Though one for my list, is the refusal of the Catholic Church to allow the use of condoms. This has helped HIV/AIDS spread and kill so many people that it is tempting to call it mass murder.).
Why would I change Religion? Because it is a method of thought control and social conformity. It really is an opiate of the masses – you don’t have to think or reason or try to do the right thing yourself. Just do as the good book and the priests say and you are just and pious, no matter how idiotic. Kill the infidels, don’t allow blood transfusions, gay people cannot be adoptive parents, make women cover themselves all the time. Just Shut Up and Do as you are told. Which is just plain stupid. We are humans, because we think differently from the other animals. So we should use our brains, possibly God given, for making life and the world a better place. Not for trying to stick to silly rules or fighting over who’s God is best.

Religion is like an over protective parent. It treats people like very small children, with a list of ‘you must do this and not that’. In truth, with the widely educated societies we are becoming, we don’t need ‘Do and don’t do’ and rituals that control us. We need solid values and rational reasoning to help us in life. Not dogma, cant and patronising.

We need to be allowed to think as when we think we are human. When we do not we are just another dumb animal.