Saturday, October 6, 2007

Life, Death, God, Religions, and other fears

In the middle of these recent and at least on more future post about validity this will hopefully be a quick but related distraction. WHYS asked its listeners the question "Should children be brought up without religion?" This question is also accompanied by relative questions about the purpose of religion in general.


I "believe" the best way to answer these questions is first to define religion and it’s purpose. Religion is how we humans, with our conscience self-awareness explain what happens to that conscious after our life functions cease. That looming question influences the actions of every human alive. Think about it, whatever you believe happens after you are dead, what if you found out the opposite were true? Would it not change the way you interact with society. That brings up another crucial part of religion. It’s relevance is almost entirely dependant on social interaction.


Let’s face it. If you were stranded on a Caribbean island by yourself, it would be impossible to disobey 6 of the 10 commandments. Dishonoring mother/ father, killing, adulterating, stealing, lying, and coveting all require other people. I somehow doubt that being hopelessly stuck on an island is going to make you switch gods. It might make you reconsider if there is one, but no "other gods" will probably fall into consideration. Money, power, and lust as the meaning of "other gods" all require other people to be present. I guess this means no making up other gods. Not something a stranded person is thinking about I suppose. The not taking of the name in vein is the most likely sin you might commit if stranded on an island. I think god might understand if you get resolved to that fate. If you can keep track of what day it is on the island, I guess you could be held to keeping the Sabbath holy too. Although I am guessing that whatever "work" you are doing is required for survival.


No, God is concerned with your actions as they relate to other people. The reason all religions deities are concerned with your actions is that they want to know they are letting only the most harmonious and loyal in the gates of paradise. That is the point of religion. In the end God is a communist and heaven, one giant hippie commune. Sorry conservatives. There is no money, greed, class, free enterprise, or condemnation in heaven. It is a land of free healthcare, no borders, no guns, and endless welfare. He doesn’t care how you showed up at his doorstep. Weather a suicide bomber or the result years of living poor have brought about your earthly demise, the only question is how well did you follow his rules. It is like Woodstock without the mud.


There are two things that every society ever discovered, no matter how remote, has in common. They all have two attributes not required for survival as a part of their culture. They all have religion and they all have music. Sure they all have ways to grow food, build shelter, and gather water. These are required to survive. But a tribe deep in Africa could survive without beating drums or praising the volcano god. So why do the all do it. Well it is really not magic, or a "miracle" so to speak. One thing every single human has in common is that they die. Almost every person experiences the loss of somebody they care about to death. Humans are generally problem solvers. They are doers. The feel the need to fix a bad situation. So, over the years logic, traditions, and methods get developed to deal with these losses. These traditions often take the form of song and dance. Since all the people of the community want to feel part of the loss. Ala the funeral food. They want to join in. Music is often used to pass the stories of the dead and the traditions of the past through the generating in a way that is memorable. Think about what makes you feel like the Christmas holiday is here. It is the pretty songs in a style that otherwise you wouldn’t get caught dead listening to. In America what most of us know about Jesus and religion is taught to us through songs learned in elementary school.


See that? I have just walked you into an understanding of the logical answer to the original question. Which is for those who forgot, "should we teach our kids religion." Over the few years of our conscious existence religion has become more then just the answer to the "what happens after death" question. That is also why people who may not practice actively still hold on to the traditions. Religion has become part of our identity. It is natural and completely agreeable that we want to teach them of their identity. As a matter of fact, psychologically speaking, many of them would be totally lost if parents hid that identity from them. So "yes" we should teach our children and include them in our religion.


OK, those who know me know there is a "but". (Really, it is often said, where you see LOL you are sure to find a real "but") Teaching you kid is not the same as brainwashing you child. The Catholic Church has a great brainwashing mechanism that has worked for them for centuries. They induct you into the church when you are young. My mother in law couldn’t wait to get our daughter to her first, and in 6 months of life, only appearance in church. Then they incline you to come every week at least and listen to a person who is presented as a person of wisdom. His wisdom has been taught to him by the church itself. The last half of the church is the same every Sunday. Repetition is a key brainwashing technique used to get thousands of false confessions and bad intelligence over the years. If you keep saying something eventually the conscious will accept it as truth. Rituals are important to finishing the process. People then look forward to participating and sharing these "traditions" with others.


Many religions are not dissuasive of the leading children with more pleasant ideas. Catholics are not discouraged from teaching children about Satan Clause (oops did my dyslexia screw that word up again?) and/ or the Easter Bunny. The two major pinnacles of Christian faith are the birth and death which lead to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet the catholic church doesn’t discourage sugar coating the events with fairy tales. They encourage their children to hold false gods and graven images. A big fat man flying around the world on the backs of enslaved reindeer, breaking into peoples homes, and leaving presents for the ones who he has judged to be worthy. Isn’t that "God’s" job? Then there is the Easter bunny who lays eggs for kids to find? What kind of LSD laden trip must one be having to come up with that one? How have we broken the Ten Commandments, let me count the way. False witnessing, other gods, graven images are the ones right off the top of my head. Then throw in the "Christmas Spirit" you see at the mall every season and you can knock off stealing, coveting, quite a few times the lords name is taken in vein, and malls are open later on the Sabbath. Respect for parents and adultery seem the only unscathed commandments by the Christmas season.


So why allow this promotion of gods and materialism to kids? It is simply part of the brainwashing. Kids first learn to associate difficult and unbelievable subjects with warm fuzzy ferry tales. For believing (because everybody knows if you don’t believe in Satan Clause he doesn’t bring you any presents) you get rewarded with presents and a day of fun games and candy. As you get older you develop fond memories of those holidays and are willing to accept the "real meaning behind them". You are asked to cast off your belief in ferry tales about flying reindeer and egg laying bunnies. You are still to believe that this guy walked on water, turned water into wine, fed 10,000 people with a basket of fish, cured the sick, healed the blind, and died then returned from the dead. Why did he do all of this? Because we humans are evil and being punished for a sin bestowed upon us from two people 6000 years ago. So he came down here so we could abuse, torture, and kill him by nailing him to a cross. That made things all better. Somehow that works. People send money, lots of it. Christmas makes them feel good. It gives them hope. It reminds them of their youth, the good parts.



This is what you aught to be chastised for teaching your kids. This screwed up version of free enterprise religion causes vast gaps in reality. It leads to the biggest sin, which is hypocrisy. There is so much room for interpretation that anything can be justified or forgiven.



There is so much more to the teachings of Jesus. He was truly a great man. His beliefs in tolerance, forgiveness, compassion, and peace are what humanity needs. The concepts of turning the other cheek, loving they neighbor, treating others as you would like to be treated, passive solutions, and leaving judgment to a higher power are ideals that if adopted instead of just preached would save millions of lives per century. But it isn’t natural. Our animal instincts, the ones brought to us via evolution, inspire a different human race. One where the survival of the fittest and most well adapted is the religion we actually abide by.


It is nice to sit in church and listen on Sunday about Jesus’ ideals of cheek turning and forgiveness. However, the reality is the evangelicals have lent their support to the pursuit of vengeance. Two wars, hundreds of thousands dead, and decades of negative effects have been the result of the attack on 9-11. Nobody will deny that these wars are possible because of that need for revenge. "9-11-2001 changed everything" I have heard over and over.


So teach your kids your traditions. It is important. If you choose to teach your kid your religion, make sure you understand it yourself first. Never force them to become part of it. Make sure they know who you worship more then they recognize a marketing figure. Lastly, know that any good idea will withstand scrutiny. If you remain credible and true to your beliefs your kids will see it and accept it more easily. Prove yourself to be a hypocrite and your children will have to seek validity from another source.


I couldn’t just pick one quote on this subject so here are a few. With the best one being last.

You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do. --Anne Lamott

We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not
enough to make us love one another. --Jonathan Swift

If the gods listened to the prayers of men, all humankind would quickly perish since they constantly pray for many evils to befall one another. - Epicurus

Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion—several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn’t straight. --Mark Twain

Isn’t it strange that people place so much emphasis upon going to church when there is not one command from Jesus to do so, and yet neglect the basic duties of our ordinary life which are commanded on every page of the Gospels? —William Law

"If I could ask God one question, most of my questions would already be answered." – John Wallace


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