Religion Pt. 1

When I was a kid, maybe around six, I had a children’s bible – an illustrated, abridged collection of some of the more kid-friendly stories from both Old and New Testaments (I’m assuming it didn’t include any of the rape, incest, or anything else that wouldn’t appear on Veggie Tales). They were good stories. I guess I read it a lot for a certain period of time, and apparently professed some measure of fondness for its contents, because around this time my mom asked me if I wanted to start going to church. I certainly hadn’t considered doing so up to that point; my mom is a lapsed Catholic and my dad has never articulated to me any kind of theological faith, so religion and belief in God simply weren’t a part of my early childhood. Now, granted, I can’t exactly remember what thoughts about religion and God were swimming around my underdeveloped brain, but I’m fairly certain that I was aware of belief in God, but thought of it only as something other people did. But when my mom raised her inquiry, it somehow entered my mind that I might like to investigate it myself. I didn’t make up my mind right away – I distinctly remember that my mechanism for coming to my decision was whether or not I gave my mom 25 hugs over the course of a week. I gave her those hugs, proving that I was once, long ago, an affectionate person, but neither she nor I followed up on them, and I never ended up going to church or Sunday school. If I had gone, it would be a pretty good bet that I would’ve gotten bored and given up after not too long a time. After all, I’d learned the basics from my children’s bible, and I can’t imagine how anything I’d gleaned from it would have been enhanced by hearing some old guy prattle on about Jesus.

I didn’t become any more receptive to religion as I got older. I professed belief in a non-denominational God, in writing, as late as age 13, but a very short time period after that I quietly slipped into a personal acceptance of agnosticism/atheism. The reason this didn’t occur earlier can largely be attributed to a fear of retribution – partially of a social sort, since, having grown up in the Christian-centric political and social culture of the United States, I held some conception that not believing in God was somehow wrong. But mostly, I was afraid of retribution of God himself. Sure, I was far from certain that I believed in God, but what if I was wrong? Would I end up in hell, rubbing shoulders with Hitler and Jerry Garcia and burning in a fiery inferno for all eternity? I can’t deny that the fear of God sending me to a cartoon hell weighed heavily on my mind for sometime before I realized that if I really didn’t believe in him, or at least the Christian Him, that his threat of eternal punishment held no power over me. Besides, to paraphrase Wayne Coyne, hell’s got all the good bands anyway.

Undoubtedly, my bourgeoning distaste of religion had a whole lot to do with the noxious role it played, and continues to play, in American politics. Whenever I brought this up, my mom would be quick to scold that what Jerry Fallwell or Pat Robertson represent is an ugly distortion of true Christianity. And of course she’s right. There’s a John Lennon quote—and again I’ll paraphrase, because clarifying and sourcing are for pussies—about this – something to the effect of, “who fucked up religion? Sick heads, and nothing else.” Sick heads. Only sick heads could fuck up the simple and essential human morality found in the stories in my children’s bible.

Now, I’ll be the last to deny that the bible (and all holy books) contains some really sick, twisted shit. But that’s precisely the point. Yeah, yeah, I know, the bible is supposed to be the word of God, but it ain’t. It’s a mass of forgeries, written and collected by people over the course of a few centuries. Some good people, some bad people. The bad people put in stuff meant to control other people and consolidate their own power. The good people put in stuff containing basic moral rules upon which humanity and society should center their existences on. And those parts are why religion continues to play a central role in all human societies – and why the greatest value of a given religion has nothing to do with believing in it literally.

Some people say there can be no morals without God. But if you are able to accept the logical fact that the bible is not some divinely inspired magical book that fell out of a cloud break in the sky onto some unfortunate apostle’s head one day, but rather a compilation of stories and articles compiled by mere mortals, you are on the road to realizing that you can quite easily follow the morals detailed within its pages without giving a fuck about any of its claims to divine inspiration (and we’re talking about the good morals here… do the right thing. Be a good person. Don’t screw your neighbor’s wife, even if she calls you over for “help with the plumbing” and you find her spread eagle on the couch wearing nothing but an ankle bracelet. Try to steer clear of the bad stuff, like “stone all adulterers” or “sell your daughter into slavery”). The foundational morals of the bible were created by man, not God, and thus can and should be followed no matter what you believe; whether or not God exists is irrelevant to their applicability to human society. They—and in particular, and perhaps exclusively, the lessons of Jesus—are what humanity needs to create a non-brutish world. The fact that so many millions and billions of people only seem to follow them because they fear God, or fear hell, is deplorable to me. They assume morality can come only from God, when in fact both morality and immorality comes from people.

For instance, a lot of idiots believe that the United States is supposedly meant to be a “Christian nation” because it was founded on “Christian principles.” I assume they believe this because they notice a few passing congruencies in the constitution with biblical principles. That is because those principles are so basic and foundational in the first place, not because the constitution was meant to be a Christian document. Many of the founding fathers were irreligious deists, and Thomas Jefferson, the man who actually wrote the Declaration of Independence, was quite possibly an atheist – his own edit of the bible, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, in which he removed all supernatural events and claims of Jesus’ divinity and left only his teachings, essentially made my point 200 years before me. “Under God” wasn’t added to pledge of allegiance until the Dwight Eisenhower administration. America is not a Christian nation, but it was founded on basic human principles that can be found in the holy texts of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, etc. People created religion, and people created the morals, good and bad, found in religion – they’ve been either following or manipulating them ever since.