Saturday, June 13, 2015

What is at the heart of religion's harmfulness to society?

I’ve written a lot about the harm I feel religion causes in society.  And, to be clear, there is a lot, familial strains and breakups, rejected children over LBGTQ issues, laws reflecting specific religious practices that not all citizens agree with, forced chipping away of the rights of certain classes of folks over biblically prohibited things of one type or another, especially sex, and a hundred other things.

But, in the end, I think there is one over-riding element of religion that makes all the other stuff happen.  One thing it does to us all, regardless of the specific religion, that creates the canvas upon which all the other harm is painted.

You see, Christian preachers proudly tell their congregations that all they need to believe, and thus be saved for, is to have faith.  Faith is the rock upon which belief is founded, or so they will say.

In reality, what is faith?  Some will say that it is the proclivity to believe something without evidence.  And, to en extent, so it is.

But really?

Faith is the training you receive from childhood that teaches you to believe whatever you are told by some authority is the truth.  No questions, no skepticism, just faith.  Shear, unadulterated gullibility, in other words.  From your childhood, you are taught that these authorities know what in truth, it is impossible to know, or so common sense would tell you.  But you are trained to ignore common sense.  You are taught that you cannot question these things.  They are simply taken as truth, by faith.

This allows those authorities to replace your own worldview with one of their choosing.  Like wiping a hard drive clean and replacing it with a flawed image of a brand new operating system - but one which includes some special programing.  Programming which allows you to live your life thinking you are doing good, even when you are not.  Programming which tells you that up is down, right is left, good is bad, and bad is good.

It is, in short, the programming that will allow a good person to do bad things, thinking that all of it is, instead, quite good.

Things like rejecting a family member, like a child, because they are gay.

Things like supporting a foreign war because god told the President to invade an otherwise innocent country.  Or so he said.

Or things like curbing the reproductive rights of women because god says women should be under the authority of men.

I could go on.  I could go on because this learning of faith is the basis for what society otherwise calls gullibility.  It allows you to believe all kinds of things without evidence, things like astrology.  Or ghosts, or ancient aliens.  Conspiracy theories like how Jews are supposed to have control over the world using some secret cabal.  Or the Illuminati.

Instead of children being taught to think for themselves, we are teaching them WHAT to think.  Not how, not how to be skeptical or to ask the proper questions, not how to verify something someone tells them.

Think of how much different our political system would be if we taught our kids to be skeptical of what they hear!  If we taught them how to verify things they’ve been told.  If we taught them how to use the Internet to scan the things politicians tell them to check for lies and prevarications.

How much different would our system work?  How different our elections would be!

That is the harm religion is doing to us.  It is teaching us to be gullible, to believe nonsense on faith.  To accept the authority of those preachers, to leave our kids in the tender care of clergy who often goes on to hurt them and sexually molest them.  To surrender the responsibility we have as adult human beings to examine the world around us to those who would instead harm us by teaching us harmful things, untrue things.

And, in the end, it teaches us to pass that harmful lesson on to our kids, keeping alive for one more generation the lesson of gullibility.

We don’t have to be gullible to be good.  We can let life teach us to be kind to others, to share our good fortune with those who have suffered the unkind hand of fate.  There are thousands, millions of good people whose examples serve to urge us to follow their good works with our own.

We don’t need superstition and fantasy tales to do that.

Let’s teach our kids to think for themselves.  Teach them to be skeptical.  Teach them how to ask questions and how to determine the right questions to ask.  Teach them that every claim of truth needs to be verified, then teach them how to verify those claims on their own.

In other words, let’s stop teaching our kids to be gullible, and teach them how to be strong and independent.

I think the world would be a better place for it.

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