I don’t hold much truck with orthodox religion but I support the right of those who do to practise their devotion in so far as it does not encroach on others. Neither am I an atheist – though I must admit to sounding like one if you miss the nuance. To me, religion seems to have little to do with God and everything to do with politics.
Every time there’s a debate about anything professing to relate to ‘God’ or ‘Faith’ it’s always couched in the context of orthodox religion or atheism versus orthodoxy. The thing that both frustrates and makes me smile is that, besides neither having much to do with sacredness or divinity, both also hold positions of non-evidence-based certainty. To me, framing the existence or non-existence of ‘Gods’ in such narrow terms as described and prescribed by patriarchy and orthodoxy (no, they’re not the same thing, though it’s tempting and amusing to tease that they are, considering the massive overlap) is stale and unimaginative – and distinctly unhelpful.
Nevertheless, that is the rubric within which most of the world keeps itself confined – be it through education, governance or ‘holy’ wars.
Each religion is mostly interchangeable with another: they alter their costumes a bit and change dates and the names of people and stuff but the basic tenets; the widest meaning in the message is generally the same.
And all religions have been, are and continue to be vehicles of both peaceful and violent thought and deed. At their best, they offer beautiful interpretations of Life’s mysteries and frameworks by which to live.
And at their worst they each have their fundamentalists; extremists who have terrorised and do terrorise those who don’t share their values. Yes, the Qur’an has verses which can be interpreted as permitting or even promoting violent retribution and punishment. So does the Old Testament. No Abrahamic Faith is immune and, looking further east, neither are the Hindus, nor the Buddhists.
Most religious people are moderate people who have no drive to convert or correct the behaviour of others. Many followers of the orthodox faiths pick and choose their adherences with varying degrees of guilt or comfort, be it using contraception, eating pig, imbibing intoxicants, marrying out of one’s faith, neglecting Confession – yada, yada. One only has to witness the majority approval for secular governance within the ‘first’ world and the majority who aspire to it in other regions of the globe to appreciate this: equal, educated, free and well-informed people; people who can rely on consistent and fair laws and a sufficient measure of security, don’t want or need to be told how to live by either the representatives of elected authority or by those who claim to represent a Higher One.
And therein lies the rub, doesn’t it? It always comes down to that same, basic list.
Major swathes of the world’s populations are being sold short while religious doctrine replaces basic education and information is exchanged for censorship. If religious dogma is your main or only source of common knowledge and experience, then it is little wonder that superstition, prejudice and taboos prevail and fester. And to force it on children is in the least, a grey kind of magic. Religion within mainstream education should be facilitated through philosophy, not through doctrine. Faith schools? No thank you. Save it for the Temple.
Law, governance and culture have been traditionally shaped and dictated by patriarchy and it is as loathe to giving up its self-righteous control freakery as, say, Monsanto or certain banksters. It is curious how those who claim to be so devout are so much more concerned for the souls of others than for their own. That there is no such thing as vicarious atonement seems to have escaped from their founts of wisdom.
Of course, any moral militant can find things to hate in the modern, secularising world: the aspiration for equality; for living according to one’s individual desires and needs; for being free to draw personal boundaries, exercise preferences. And so they do. But History is replete with religious violence, isn’t it…? Terrorism perpetrated by citizen groups, ‘democratic’ governments and state sovereigns alike.
Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims: all brilliantly misrepresenting their faiths; all desirous of imposing their ideology on others; all so certain. It is politics, mediaeval style. No wonder the atheists are bemused and pissed off.
The problem here isn’t ‘God’. The problem is cultish and political bigotry and fear. It is the arrogant and ultimately fruitless notion that you are the manager of another’s soul and free will. It is the pitiful demonstration of people who look upon the world with narrowed eyes, lacking appreciation for the greater beauty, ferocity and mystery of the human animal; who cannot recognise the paradox of life: that simple things are often made complex by their explanation and that things which seem complex are often very simple.
What the bigots fail to realise is that while they are perfectly entitled to their rigidly narrow and conjured opinions – so is everyone – it doesn’t give them the right to legislate for everyone based on them. This is why a secular society is the best way to protect and govern with equal and fair effect: the only way to prove that the majority, the minority and all the individuals therein feel and know that their rights are valued equally. Secular governance doesn’t mean you have to bury your faith. It recognises that not everyone has a faith and that no one faith is superior to another.