Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Religious Rant (another one)

OK, guess it’s my turn to put down words instead of just posting pictures. I’ve been reading a lot about the recent flap over cartoons being derogatory to a particular religion. Of that particular situation, all I can say is that I am really disgusted with religions in general.

I was raised as a Roman Catholic. Taken by my parents to church every Sunday, going to Sunday School after mass. I was even an alter boy for a while (no, no perverted priests at my church, unless I’m suppressing more memories). I stopped going to church when I was in the Navy, after looking at the world and wondering. No, not wondering at the intelligent design. Wondering how there could be a god (No, not God) that could permit such suffering in the world.

Talk all you want about free will and how god put us on this world to do as we want, only to be judged later when we die. What kind of free will does a baby in Africa have when he starves to death? What kind of free will does a three year old have when their parents beat them to death? What kind of free will does a farmer have when planes fly overhead and drop bombs on his house? Or men standing in line to get a job when some suicide bomber decides the crowd is big enough? Or people shopping or just having coffee when another comes by and does the same thing? Or a family living on a coastline that is wiped out by a tidal wave? Too many examples are available to list here, but I will not worship a god that permits things to happen to those that have no say in their lives.

I have come to the belief that religion was created to keep the masses quiet and controlled. To get people to be happy with whatever poor life they are permitted to have, to keep them quiet and subservient, and wait for their reward after they die. Kneel and pray to god, if you are good enough and have faith in your heart he will reward you in heaven (or whatever it is called in each religion).

Religions are also kept going by the leaders. Some of them might really believe in what they are doing, and that their god has chosen them to be a voice on earth. But others are in it for the power, or the escape, or the ability to control others, or the money. Some people have the need to have followers hanging on their every word, doing everything they desire by saying god told me to. We have enough evangelists here wearing gold Rolex watches riding in big cars living in big houses going on TV telling people that god wants them to mail in their money. We have enough priests that control alter boys, or women in their parishes. We have a president convinced that god is telling him what to do, and to go invade those countries full of non-believers (or those that believe in a different god). Sorry, but I am more acquainted with these people in the US than in other countries, but I am sure the US is not unique in this. I doubt if there is any country without religious leaders that live like their flocks. They may not be in mansions, but there is usually a nice house, and food every day, and other niceties around that the normal person down the street does not have.

Oh, you also have to fight for your god; he expects it of you. Your religious leaders will tell you how. Here, strap on this belt of explosives and show your faith in god by standing in the middle of those non-believers and blowing yourself up. So what if there are women and children there, they do not believe in your god, so they do not count. It’s almost every religion, not to pick on any one in particular. The Nazis thought the Jews should be exterminated. The Hutus and Tutsis are still happy to wipe out the others. The great Catholic crusades were to drive infidels from the holy lands. I still don’t know enough history to know what the Spanish Inquisition was all about, except for Monty Python bits.

I can’t forget all of our beautiful religions here in America. Right now our firm President wants to impose his brand of religious beliefs on the rest of us. There are small cults that figured if you killed yourself your soul would go with the nearby comet or spaceship or whatever. And Jim Jones took his group to South America to die rather than be forced into something else. I’ve been to tent revival meetings in Arkansas that preached faith, as well as hatred for non believers. I had some friends that were ‘born again’, who had no problem with lying and trying to cheat those not born again in their particular group because they were non-believers and their god did not care about those people. An article in today’s paper discusses a church in the Midwest that pickets the funerals of military personnel, saying that god killed those soldiers because they defended a country that harbors homosexuals.

I don’t care if you believe in whatever you want to believe in; just do not affect me. Don’t force me to believe as you do. Don’t feel free to kill me because I don’t worship your god. Don’t burn down my embassy because I felt like drawing cartoons. Here in Las Vegas you can gamble and get as drunk as you want on Sunday but you can’t buy a car because god doesn’t like that. We can go over the ‘blue laws’ in Texas, but I can’t understand how god says it’s OK to buy socks on Sunday but not shoes (depending on what county you are in). Don’t tell me what kind of medicine I can take, or what things I cannot do to my body because your god says that it is wrong. Don’t come knocking on my door with your ‘book’ in hand trying to tell me that my life is not worth living, and I am doomed to end up in hell for eternity because I don’t believe the same as you. If god is so picky then I would rather be in hell than worship something like that. Just don’t feel that you have to help me along.

Sorry, didn’t mean to leave out the Eastern religions, it’s just that I am not very knowledgeable about them. I think there have been some problems in the India area – Pakistan and Bangladesh and internal untouchable stuff. What about China? And Japan? I hear the Buddhists are relatively calm and peaceful. And the concept of coming back to life as something different, so you better be as good as you can be in order to overcome the bad in past lives. That’s still bothersome to me, but a lot better than forcing your will upon others.

I am sitting here at work (thanks, boss for not looking too closely) listening to the radio right now. Our mayor, Oscar Goodman, had a bet on Sunday’s football game with some radio DJs. The looser of the bet, which this year are the DJs, are now at a big intersection dressed as Kevin Federline (the woman DJ) and Brittany Spears (the man) performing before a big crowd. The mayor keeps saying that he thanks god for letting him win, and appreciates all of the people that said they prayed for him to win so that he would not have to dress up and perform. I think this is a tremendous use of their god, to pray to him to help one team win a sporting event so that the mayor would win his bet. Yes, thanks god for listening to the prayers of these poor people and granting their wish. No, don’t pray for food for the hungry, or peace for the wicked; pray that one team beats the other in football.

Back to the cartoons. Yes, they might be offensive to a particular religion. Virginia Gal points to a few good sites that are quite articulate in their comments (look in her earlier postings for others). Rob also goes into some background that I had not heard before. And I agree that if the cartoons were about a different minority then a different group would be rioting. But that’s my point. Why riot? As long as you believe in your heart why must you force others to believe as you do?

I wish that I could be as articulate and thought provoking as some writers. Sorry that you have to stumble through my words to get to my ideas. Penn Jillette - oh, I just searched Google for ‘pbs radio las vegas’ in order to find the quote, and this blog came up as listing number four; how sad that Google lists me over authors and stories and other events that the radio station itself supports. Anyway, ‘as half of the magic act Penn and Teller, Penn Jillette enjoys challenging his audiences with the unconventional. In stating his personal credo, Jillette finds liberation in believing there is no God’. So go read Penn's reasons why he believes there is no god. Lots of good quotes in there, but one stands out: “Believing there is no God means the suffering I've seen in my family, and indeed all the suffering in the world, isn't caused by an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent force that isn't bothered to help or is just testing us, but rather something we all may be able to help others with in the future. No God means the possibility of less suffering in the future.”

Another person that does not believe in god, Madalyn Murray O'Hare, had a very good interview several years ago, I’ll have to find it as it’s not coming up in Google (at least I’m not under that listing, yet). But there is an interesting article in a religious publication, the Examiner, in which she discusses some points about organized churches.

Enough for now. Your thoughts? (boy, hard to ask that question, then potentially end up with no comments.)

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