Why Abandon Religion?
It is so commonly believed today that religion is a source of goodness and charity for so many people. It is also believed that to oppose religion is also to oppose the goodness and charity stipulated to be with it. When I ask others to abandon religion, they will reply, "Why would you want to abandon something that has produced so many helpful things?" But I am not asking people to give up the affectionate and tender ways, laced with gentleness and humanity. I am not asking that they give up mercy or justice, things which are just as easily attainable without religion, if not easier. I am asking people to give up their fear of hell and daemons, their belief in a soul and ghosts, their hope of an afterlife and a god, the creeds founded on the credulous superstitions of their ancestors. I am not asking the human species to relinquish the things that are good and accompany every warm heart -- I am asking the human species to ameliorate the ideology that a god exists that will punish nonbelievers and reward believers, that will smile at the sufferings of the damned and fortunes of the saved. I am asking others to abandon religion, which has been a never-ending source of intolerance for those who have harnessed any sort of bigotry.
There may be those who persist in the assertion that religion is inseparable from goodness, and goodness from religion. Would any religionist be honest to state that without god, they would allow themselves to be heartless and brutal -- to become the epitome of savage behavior, of unspirited meanness and sincere hatred? Would anyone who called themselves close to god, and with good intentions, if this individual were to suddenly discover that there was no god, would they find themselves to be less considerate, less hopeful, less charitable? If any religious person can honestly say yes to this, then it would only be right to be suspicious of the claim that they are hopeful, kind, or charitable now. God, this mythical being who lives apart from the physical world, and his existence are only questions of science: he either exists or he does not. If he did not exist, it would hardly deprive anyone of ethical or moral behavior. If a city, a road, a mountain, a lake, or a natural formation did not exist that we had believed to exist, at discovering this, would we abandon all humaneness and all forms of goodness? Only those who had reveled in hypocrisy and deceit can truly say so. There is nothing innately special of the mythical beings called gods that means their existence gives privilege to moral behavior.
There are, though, the genuine claims that we should not abandon religion on the grounds that religion has portrayed a truthful and honest view of the world. Though this claim made be made on the foundation that we ought to pursue the truth, it often fails short of that, because religion has universally been the opponent to investigation and inquiry. There have been times and eras where the church had disallowed the public from reading or writing, and had made it punishable by death to be found with a Bible written in local languages. In 391, Christians burned down one of the world's greatest libraries in Alexandra, said to have housed 700,000 scrolls. [The New Columbia Encyclopedia, 61, and Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade.] The tale of Galileo should not need repeating, but perhaps the tale of Giordano Bruno or Francisco Ferrer need repeating. Though Galileo was only threatened with death for his claims, Giordano Bruno was burned to death for his ideas in 1600 and Francisco Ferrer was shot to death for his beliefs in 1909 -- both executed by the Roman Catholic Church. Giordano Bruno, the great thinker, and Francisco Ferrer, the great educator; a day does not go by where their grave loss is mourned by Rationalists and Humanitarians worldwide. Gregory the Great had the library of Palatine Apollo burned "lest its secular literature distract the faithful men from the contemplation of heaven." [Barbara G. Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1983) 208.] The history of Christianity and organized religion runs parallel to the history of oppression and slavery. Examination and inquiry have been restrained, and this can be found in the evidences that every historian ought to be well aware of. Even today, we find the same radical fanatics, burning Harry Potter books, and on the same exact claim that it will deprive children of the religion of Christianity. We also find Christian fanatics working to ban books in public libraries, including works by Mark Twain, J. D. Salinger, and Maya Angelou, sometimes on the exact claim that these works are "unchristian."
But aside from the fact that religion tends to disallow Freethought and investigation, inquiry and science, can it at all be permitted to call itself truth? As well as having a long history of suppressing honest and sincere attempts at science and truth, religion is also founded on superstition and myth. When man did not understand the origin of the rainbow, he postulated that it had divine origin. When man did not understand the origin of the human female, he made the same claim. When man did not understand anything that was of natural phenomena, he often times ran to the easy and simple belief that it was created from a god or a spirit or a ghost. Even beyond that, though, the evidences and claims of religion are synonymous with many cultural myths. As I have discussed in other works, Santa Claus and god both have a remarkable amount of similarities: both are mystical beings, both live far away, both have no evidence, both are only believed because they are taught by community and elders, both have not been demonstrated, both have supernatural powers, among an enormous amount of other similarities. But if one is not content to believe that a man exists who delivers billions of presents to children on one night of the year, then why would one be content to believe that a man exists who delivers billions of souls to heaven or hell?
Upon the hundreds and hundreds of fallacies and errors, we find that religion itself is something deprived of both merit and science. It has, for ages, worked against the instruments of truth, often times denying the population the right to think and believe as they wish. We also find that the foundation for the belief in religion is identical to the foundation for the belief in many other cultural myths that have also been abandoned. There is little truth to be found in religion, once an open-minded investigation has been allowed to examine its institutes. Instead of finding a realistic and open-minded viewpoint of the world, we find flaws, oppression, ignorance, and a sizable amount of cruelty.
Only a small investigation into the real world would allow us to discover that many individuals put much stock into the institute of religion. If we were a free and intelligent people, without the tyranny of a Capitalist class and government defending them, people would put less concentration into the things unseen and put such focus onto the real, materialistic world. Instead of investing in prayers, people would be offering their kindest and warmest affections to those around them. We would not build churches, but homes -- we would not ask the gods for forgiveness for our actions, but those we harmed -- we would not pray for things to happen, but make them happen -- we would not rely on the superstitious myths that have guided so many to bigotry, or rely on the unseen to do what we must do for ourselves, or praise anything that was nothing more than an idol representing cruelty and misguided violence. If a man reserves his love for a god and for angels, he simultaneously deprives love from those around him. By giving our kindness and affection, our sincerest dreams and hopes, desires and aspirations, to this being without evidence, we are losing focus of the one thing that we do know: our lives. And by losing focus on our lives, and those around us, we are ignoring the one thing that we know for sure: that we, as material beings, do exist, and that we are capable of feeling joy and suffering. To ignore this is the greatest of ignorance’s, and the most grave of all follies.
Tolerance and Acceptance
If there was a god, I would make only one prayer to him: That his followers would follow truth over scripture, benevolence over cruelty, science over myth; to ask his followers to be more focused and concentrated on the things that exist -- their lovers, their family, their children, their friends -- to uphold truth as beautiful, and kindness as sincerity. There is no other prayer I could give to such a deity ruling over our Universe. If I were to make such a prayer, though, it may very well be that such a god would ask him followers to turn against him. That would only be so, however, only if the god that exists was the one of a popular Monotheistic religion. Such gods tend to be described by their scripture as vicious and unrelenting in their pursuits to control mankind to devious ends.
Religion and its followers have embraced intolerance and have called it duty and reverence to their lord. Though the disciples of the cross have managed to do everything in their power to destroy liberty and happiness, I would be the last man on this Earth to say that nobody should be allowed to be a disciple of the cross, or a follower of any religion. It has been the custom of religion to oppose freedom of thought, but I certainly cannot oppose this freedom in any form. Whether a man desires to be a Christian or an Atheist, a Buddhist or a Hindu, it is their own decision. It is their actions, and not their beliefs, that ought to be monitored. My belief that everyone should be entitled to their belief (as well as beliefs about beliefs) is not derived from the idea that we should not be like those we oppose. Rather, it is formed from the idea that everyone deserves the right to believe as they wish, to consider and investigate for themselves, that power lies within the individual, and even more deeper, because I believe in humane and fair treatment, I believe in justice and compassion. Those are the reasons that are behind my belief in the right to think and believe as one wishes.
There are some Christians who I have heard say, "I will not speak to that man or deal with that man unless he is a Christian." There are also many Christians who speak of myself as though I am the first Atheist to walk this planet. But as well as speaking of me with that harsh, grave tone, they have systematically made up lies about myself, claiming that I hate all who claim to be Christians. It seems impossible to some of the followers of the divine for Atheists or Agnostics, or any infidel or heretic, to hold charity and mercy as good values. It may sometimes even be considered unfulfilling to aid a nonbeliever in any way, to offer them any sort of affection or kindness, to give them the fruits of a warm heart. But whether someone believes that a god exists or not, or in any religion, there will be one fact about that person that will not waver my humane treatment of them: that they are a conscious being, that they can feel pain and suffering or joy and happiness, that touching their skin gently will produce feelings and emotions of security and happiness. This is something that will not be erased, no matter what creeds an individual professes to believe, no matter what ideologies an individual follows.
The Purpose of a Rationalist Humanitarian
My purpose is not to turn every man and woman into an Atheist or an Agnostic. Such a proposal would be impractical and difficult to obtain, at best. My purpose is to offer humane and rational solutions in comparison to the brutal and dogmatic solutions offered by others. I would like to convince the clergy and the ministry to teach their youth how to respect each other, and not how to respect god. I would like to convince those who believe in religion that there is no hell. I would like to convince religionists that there is no need to cry in fear of god's punishment, that if there is a god, he is merciful and just. Offering all of the kindness and affection that can be mustered from a sincere heart, I would like to offer the world all I can to make it a better place for everyone to live. To maximize happiness, to teach people how to treat each other warmly and thoughtfully, to teach them how to think rationally and logically, to teach them tolerance and acceptance, beauty and love, duty and kindness... This is my purpose as a Rationalist and a Humanitarian.