Moving Beyond Religion
Yesterday night my wife and I took a trip to Long Island New York for
Mother's Day. At the last minute we decided to visit a friend of mine
who, because of personal reasons, is forced to live with his parents,
both of whom consider themselves dedicated Jews with a slight secular
bent, despite their belief in God. As has become their custom when it
comes to me, they decided to start up a conversation concerning
religion which became a debate.
In what turned out to be a clear effort to throw down the gauntlet, his mother made the statement that the Bible is a source, if not the source of our morals. In today's age the statement would seem comical if it was not so scary, especially in today's post 9/11 world. But even on the face of it, the statement can be discarded right away. If one were to read the book of Leviticus or the book of numbers or the book of Deuteronomy, one would find not only the approval of God to own slaves but a mandate to do -- so as long as you don't beat them to the point that you knock out their eyes or teeth. In fact, anyone attempting to intervene between slave and slave master and trying to stop the abuse would be committing a crime punishable by death. And in all of the Abraham books of the religions, Christianity Judaism and Islam, a woman who is not a virgin on her wedding night also receives a death sentence – and must be stoned to on her father's door step.
The clear implications, if one takes these writings literally, are that the Southern Confederate movement was correct from a moral stance on the issue of Slavery. Or in the question of conservative Muslims who stone their daughters to death after they are raped, the same conclusions must also be reached. Personally, I'm so glad that most of us these days consider these writings sheer rubbish.
It is also important to remember that the movement of terror against prenatal clinics is exclusively religious, as is the targeting and assassinations of abortion doctors. In Israel, the Zionist movement for the Jewish people to reclaim the country is always under a mandate of God. The outcome of this movement has been nothing less than genocidal violence against the Palestinians. In each one of these cases, these people are not misunderstanding their religions but taking the writings literally.
It should be pointed out that most religious people don't believe in committing these acts of violence but that is by in large because of our social evolution which was brought on by figures throughout history from the philosophers of antiquity, to the Enlightenment to modern figures such as Bertrand Russell, Charles Darwin, Malcolm X, Benjamin Franklin and Emma Goldman.
Our conversation at some point turned to the issue of belief without evidence and the importance of "believing in something". The problem of belief without evidence, that is something that could be proven without a shred of doubt, is that it is completely delusional. Take, for example, those who want to believe so thoroughly in a higher power and be a good, Christian, Jew, Muslim or a Hindu that they see images of Christ, Muhammad or Krishna on the back of a bathroom door or in a oil puddle or a bowl of rice. Without fail they will state that they feel the presence of these or other figure watching over them; if you're Hispanic feeling the presence of the Virgin Mary. The problem is these feelings often come through decades of conditioning. For example, if one were to be born in ancient Greece he or she would believe in Apollo or Athena. If you were born in ancient Nordic countries, you would feel the presence of any number of gods who reside in Valhalla. Of course they, like the other more than 10,000 other gods, are buried in the mass grave we know as mythology. Some of us go one God further.
The human species has existed on the Earth between 200,000 and 250,000 years, during which time man began looking for meaning in his life. Using 200,000 years as a starting point this presupposes that for 198,000 years if you are Christian - or 196,000 if you are Jewish - the heavens watched silently with folded arms as humans struggled to survive amid predators and myriad diseases. The average life span was about 25-30, with males dying in battles over women, food and turf. Birth mortality is believed to be around 25%, the infants often taking the lives of their mothers. At one point our numbers dwindled to less than 2000.
Tribes of bushmen eventually left the harshest environment of Northern Africa, some headed for the African coasts while others made a series of exoduses out of Africa all together. While in the new lands, man apparently became so savage that they needed a divine intervention and suddenly God decides to have private conversations with certain individuals. For the Jews, this would be Abraham or Solomon. For Christians, it meant using his own son first as a mouthpiece, then as a bloody sacrifice to somehow atone for original sin. And where does he decide to do this? In one of the most violent, ignorant and illiterate parts of the ancient world. Some plan huh? If you are religious, this is what you have to believe in.
Furthermore, all of this happened during the Bronze age when unexplained deaths or failed crops were often blamed on witches or dissatisfied gods. Today we know that disease is caused by viruses and bacteria. We understand weather patterns and climate change.
Until next time…