People often see examples of the divine in every day minutiae. A bored housewife, all hopped up on Zoloft, sees the Virgin Mary in her George Foreman grill. A schizophrenic hobo takes a short break from mainlining his breakfast to notice that a piss stain on the freeway underpass also looks a lot like the holy mother. An illiterate factory worker mistakes chocolate scraps as a sign from the ubiquitous virgin, who apparently makes more personal appearances than Paris Hilton’s scabby labia. The aforementioned chocolate dribblings bore a slight resemblance to the standard posture of religious icons (i.e. flowing robes, arms outstretched), but it was akin to looking at a cloud; I happened to see nothing more than a delightful snack, but perhaps that is why I am an atheist.
Would I go to hell if I ate the choco-virgin? Of course not, because no such place exists. Ask a Christian that same question and you are sure to get 3,000 bible passages regurgitated that add up to “Because God said so.” Then they will claim you’ve been brainwashed by the Cult of Science, politely inform you that Charles Darwin recanted evolution on his deathbed, and lastly decree that your final resting place will be the fiery pits of hell if you persist in this type of behavior. Cue the scary music.
One could chalk up the difference of opinion to perception. A Christian looks at a sunset and sees the hand of god; an atheist looks at the same image and sees a giant ball of gas that heats the earth. Both sights are equally beautiful and both viewers can appreciate them as such. But only one perception is verifiable through the scientific process; the other takes a great degree of blind faith. Let’s not confound science and religion, as is the trend. Religion is the bastion of the faithful, those who choose to believe without seeing. Science is for the reasonable, those who prefer testable theories to go along with their facts. They are not always mutually exclusive, but they are dissimilar and should not be treated as rival faiths.
There is a particular mindset that many Christians (as well as those belonging to other religions) share. Conformity is often a foundation of religious dogma. There are rules to be followed in every faith, and by virtue of that, anyone choosing to disobey these rules will probably be more trouble than they are worth. You don’t sign up with a religion to be a free thinker, after all. There is also an “Us vs. Them” mentality that is part and parcel to the religious experience. You cannot decree that you offer the only salvation without ghettoizing those that believe in something different. Many religions fear change and would prefer that societies stick with traditional values and roles regarding gender, sexuality, ethnicity, science and technology, etc. Religious belief is often accompanied by an atavistic point of view that some find extremely troubling. As the saying goes, the good old days were not so good.
Although, in my view, it would be extremely difficult to maintain a whole-hearted reverence to religious dogma from start to finish, many millions of people the world over do exactly that. They also pass these beliefs onto successive generations. It does seem that the tide is turning, however. Many hold contempt for religion for various reasons. It can be seen as a hindrance to scientific pursuits, it is often used as a means of subjugating women the world over at the cost of their very lives, it is a source of continuing rancor between rival faiths, often leading to all out war, it tends to celebrates ignorance and hatred. Conversely, largely secular societies often boast a better quality of life than that of their religious counterparts. For instance, according to the Kripke Center’s Journal of Religion & Society, highly religious societies (such as the US) have increased rates of homicide, early mortality for both adults and juveniles, STD infections and abortions. The study concludes that secular societies (such as Britain, Japan, France, etc.) with a lower rate of worship were also less dysfunctional and most successful in reducing murder rates, early mortality, STDs and abortion.
Cold, hard facts show that it would behoove humanity to eradicate religion. Before you release the hounds, let me clarify: personal faith is fine by me, even though I disagree with the idea that there is some ethereal being watching over the universe. What people do in their respective places of worship is none of my business, just as what I do in my own home is none of theirs. But therein lies the rub. Certain religions (and I’m looking at you, Christianity) require that their practitioners save as many of those godless savages as possible. This quest for souls extends to all aspects of all our lives, especially in the US.
You can’t deny the Christian influence on American culture. 80% of Americans consider themselves Christians. Christians comprise the largest special interest group in the country, shaping policy and pressuring the government to pass legislation mired in Christian dogma. Yet Christians continually cry that they are oppressed and discriminated against due to their beliefs. They suggest the entertainment industry and “liberal” America are in cahoots to further the homosexual agenda. They claim the teaching of evolution in public schools is unfair and demand equal time be given to their creation theories of human origin (fortunately, this does not go over so well in most school districts). They cite ridiculous and often false examples of this alleged persecution. They seem to crave victimization. It goes hand in hand with the Christian religion’s lust for martyrdom. They revel in it, like pigs in slop.
Jesus was the poster boy for quiet suffering. As a child I attended catholic school and it left an indelible stain on my psyche. There I was inundated by images of the crucified Christ, featuring mournful, downcast eyes and sorrowful expression, oozing blood and tears. One could almost hear his voice over the priest’s monotonous babbling. “Forgive them Father,” he’d whine, immersed in divine suffering, “they know not what they do.” Jesus strikes me as a sad-sack, lifeless bore. The idea of basing a religion on a perpetual doormat of a man seems wholly impotent. What good does it do to simply roll over and die without so much as raising your voice? If Jesus was so noble in his pursuits, had he not the right to stand up for himself and his principles? What did it accomplish to simply submit, all because “God said so”? Is this an example of the most dysfunctional father/son relationship in this history of mankind? And we’re supposed to drop to our knees and worship this farce?
For those choosing to live the unexamined life, this man-made drama works wonders to reign in the masses. The rampant hypocrisy that pervades Christianity seemingly goes unnoticed by the faithful. Preachers festooned in expensive jewelry, driving luxury cars to their stylish homes (paid for by god’s will), tell their flock “The meek will inherit the earth.” Others who spread the “good news” via thousand dollar PA systems, complete with laser light shows for the easily distracted, hawking books and other wares, ask parishioners to please dig a little deeper, so that they will be rewarded with eternal life. Who knew there was a price tag on immortality?
Modern religion is merely another way for hucksters and snake-oil salesmen to turn a profit. You can plaster Jesus’ name and visage on virtually any item and watch people line up to throw their money away. Consider this: in 2004 a grilled cheese sandwich, apparently donning the image of the Virgin Mary, was sold on eBay for $28,000. The sandwich was originally made in 1994 and saved for ten years before its owner found the proper outlet in which to auction it off. It stands to reason. If Jesus could turn water to wine, surely he could change a 10 year old, moldy, grilled cheese sandwich into an item worth $28,000. However, I believe the naiveté of man should bear most of the responsibility for that transaction.
Stacie Adams is an unassuming and introverted young woman with plans to take over the world and make it tolerable. Her heroes are few, but precious: Bill Hicks, Nat Turner, Orson Welles, and Hunter S. Thompson. She detests useless celebrity, bureaucracy, and unfettered stupidity. "I am disgustingly provincial and I’ve never stepped foot outside the US , but it is my dream to travel the world. My favorite beer is Red Stripe, my favorite movie Irreversible. I’ve seen Evil Dead 2 over 100 times. I am an encyclopedia of trivial facts and figures." She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.