When I was a kid, I rarely questioned my parents when they told me to do something. Not because I didn’t have questions at times, but because I could sense when the response would be “because I said so”. For a kid raised in the 1970’s and 1980’s, questioning beyond that statement is an act of foolishness or daredevil tendencies. As a kid I knew the statement “because I said so” had little to do with wisdom or some higher level of thinking, it was the response to ensure we followed instructions without further questioning. Lucky for me, I have intelligent parents that would explain their rationale behind most of the “why’s”. So, when I did get those” because I said so” replies, what followed was me doing whatever I was told to do, while talking shit about them at the lowest possible tone or if they were still in the room, thinking shit about them in the lowest possible tone. I’m no fool.
Get down, or lay down
Coincidentally, this is a lot like how the Abrahamic religions permeated every facet of human life. Long ago, there were people living before these religions dominated, they had folks doing their own thing. Someone got the bright idea that controlling the population was necessary and would be leaps and bounds easier when their actions are micromanaged by an invisible deity that is ever present, inconsistent, and wildly temperamental. We see the value in security cameras right now. Knowing someone is watching you do something, subconsciously moves people to behave.
The interesting part about religion though, is that it truly sprang out of “because I said so”. Kind of a chain letter of “because I said so’s” actually. The first person to say it is the puppet master. He told others and everyone after him relied on “because I said so”, under the guise of a connection with God, and everyone since then has relied on “because they said so” out of fear of questioning, conditioning, or an unrelenting belief in a story that makes little sense when interpreted outside of a religious context. The early doubters were much like me, except instead of potentially getting a whooping, people were killed for defiance. Talk about incentive. It’s a lot easier to continue living with doubt than dying because of it. They weren’t fools either.
With or without religion you’d have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things, but for good people to do evil things, that takes religionSteven Weinberg
Out of questions?
Very few religious people that I know seem to question the origins of these biblical tales with even a fraction of the curiosity a child uses to question why they have to wash dishes 2 days in a row. When I was a very impressionable kid, my brother told me Michael Jordan once jumped so high he turned around in the air and sat on the rim. I believed that story until I started watching basketball on TV regularly and it was clear no one was capable of doing this, and the act would be so senseless that if it were possible, no one would do it anyway. The book of Genesis is narrated, not by God obviously, but some anonymous recorder with first hand knowledge of the timeline that existed before God created everything else apparently. In essence, he’s in the room, but not in a position to respond when God says “let us make man in our image”. Sidebar, I have never understood why those two words of plurality stayed in the Bible. Us and Our imply more than one, as there would be no reason for God to identify as a gender neutral set of pronouns at the dawn of creation. Us and Our would clearly reference another god presence or someone of equal authority, which, if there’s only one God, this would contradict immediately. It’s possible that God talked to Itself while working in the same manner car mechanics do when they know the person watching them won’t provide anything useful to the conversation. This narrator had nothing of value to add, just taking notes so we’re told to believe. He was likely an average guy with enough dollars to influence. This average guy is the basis for what a little over 5 billion people actively believe today. And no one is going to question this?
It’s not necessary to dive too deeply into what is and is not sensible about the story, especially because the basis of believing these tales is not logic or reason. The likely truth is that, the anonymous person spreading this tale was taking elements from the traditions that predate Judaism and sprucing it up to make it more amazing than what was already common. In the same sense we have a new version of Disney stories years later with darker characters and far more detail given to what was previously omitted, except the Disney tales are a bit more consistent. In the haste of the being chronicling Genesis, (s)he seems to have ignored the multiple gods aspect of the story (s)he stole from, and began creating this monotheistic story that later states God is jealous and no one should put any other gods before God, and that there is only one true God. Let me digress a bit.
Swing of things
Over the ages, there have been times where society is hopelessly tied to religious dogma, or rationally enlightened. Though I feel like we’re caught between religious dogma and irrationally enlightened at the moment, I have hope things will soon go the right direction. I kind of wonder if this phase is the natural order of things. Enlightened periods, followed by stagnant periods, followed by regression due to being stagnant for too long, followed by an awakening period which leads to enlightenment. Both religion and enlightenment are ever present, like the Yin and Yang. During the times of enlightenment, there is a lot of progressive thought and focus on sciences a little bit of religion and in the periods of regression there’s a lot of emphasis on religious ideals and very little progressive thought.
Our relationship with religion is similar to that of an abusive spouse where the charismatic charm sometimes numbs us to factual input. We often choose to see the best in religion even when the best simply isn’t there. This dichotomy is effectively used by religious leaders and progressive thinkers alike. The only thing both sides agree on is that they term negative critiques of their positions as demonizing. I personally don’t believe in demons any more than I believe in the 93 inch vertical jump required of Michael Jordan to be able to sit on the rim. I have the same amount of tangible proof to the existence of demons as I do to Michael Jordan doing this gravity and muscle defying act. It would require faith to ignore reality in both cases, so why would I place faith in absurdity or demons?
In the United States today, we have a huge group of the population that sincerely believes this country was founded on Christianity. It certainly was not, but facts don’t matter anymore. I assume they believe this because of the word God on our currency combined with unmitigated ignorance. The diverse religious backgrounds of the authors of the Constitution (primarily Deists) meant strength in numbers. You can’t try to take over a country with 20% of the population. It’s beneficial to find common ground and grow from there. They weren’t going to ALL agree on religion, so it made sense to exclude religion as a basis of this nation to form a common good. Without these religious battles the collective could focus on protecting this new nation from all enemies, foreign and domestic.
Amazingly enough, I have heard Republicans invoke religion in defending the right to own guns, the practice of capital punishment and the opposition of abortion. Taking my personal beliefs on each of these topics out of the equation, the Bible is not consistent enough to be an authoritative document unto itself when excluding reason or logic, let alone the legal system in the United States. As such, asking me what Jesus would do in regard to these varying policies, I generally respond “I don’t give a shit”. Not as a slight to the Jesus people pray to, whom neither I nor them have ever met, nor the various Jesus’s with Hispanic last names that I have met over the course of my life. I don’t give a shit because that’s not how our laws are determined and shouldn’t be how they’re interpreted. People are free to believe what they want, but your personal belief should not infringe upon mine…THAT is why the United States is NOT a Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist country, or any other religious practice for that matter. We are supposed to be united in cause, not faith. We are supposed to be protected to have faith in whatever we believe or nothing at all without legal repercussion, but in practice, that is not the case. As it relates to these arguments, no matter what side you find yourself, if your rationale for that position begins with “the Bible said” you’re wrong.
Not quite a disclaimer
I don’t think following a religion makes a person stupid. My personal opinion of the Bible is similar to the instructions for any other game I don’t play. It’s cool for the people playing that game, but I don’t apply those rules to the one I’m playing. Imagine being on the basketball court with guys that play football…both trying to adhere to the rules of their respective sports. The only thing they’d be united in is looking like idiots. That is where we are currently in the “United” States. We don’t look like idiots as individuals, much like football and basketball players playing their sports wouldn’t look like idiots. We the collective look like idiots because these football players are tackling the basketball players for having the ball. In their sport, that’s normal, in basketball and, to bring this metaphor home, the interpretation of this country’s laws, that’s a flagrant foul.