Wednesday, June 11, 2008

On being religious

Religious people like the idea, not the act, of being religious. Saying they believe a particular religious faith's themes and proclamations is what really matters to them, when you get down to the real stuff. The word religion is fraught with connotations of "rightness", "how we should behave and think" and "morality". These connotations also exist outside of religion, but the religious don't make the connection. To say " I am a christian" is to be proud. But of what? I distinctly remember at a Christopher Hitchens debate with his brother Peter, Christopher calling out anyone in the audience to stand up and willingly admit they are a sheep for their christian faith, and sure enough, one middle-aged woman stood up defiantly, and with a fervency usually reserved for AA meetings, spoke up for her sheepishness. She was absolutely proud to say she was a sheep for christ, blind to anything that might run counter to the teachings of her faith (whatever it may be). It is this pride that the religious are happily infected with, and it is this pride that will ensure a divided world for as long as we are here. Can you imagine a moderate muslim being happily accepting of a belief that the prophet muhammud was a sufferer of temporal lobe epilepsy, and that is why he recorded the fantastic imagery he did within the koran and the hadith? It is an issue of pride in what we've chosen to believe, but it is also an issue of selfish pride, in that what we've chosen to follow cannot be wrong, else we might look the fool. Which brings us back to the appearance of religiosity. Those who truly believe in the tenets of religions, are those who have thought about those tenets at great length, and have had to come to some level of acceptance regarding the discrepancies, unpleasantries and negative connotations the examined religions harbor. There is no existent religion that answers all questions, without discrepancy and mystery. This being the case, one of them might be right, all of them might be right, some of them might be right, or all of them might be wrong, the claim each of them hold on Truth, is equally valid to their counterparts. This is why it is much easier for the general populus to skate the surfaces of religion, by posturing themselves about as devout and pious. Because, to do otherwise would require an immense amount of problem-solving, data-padding, and outright contradiction, and they know this. They would rather say they are religious, because on the surface that type of proclamation sounds good. However, in life, the behaviours espoused by religions the world over are the same behaviours espoused by those who hold to no religion whatsoever, humanist ones. We have no way of evaluating the effectiveness of religious adherence on the after-living. We can only judge ourselves, our living selves. So it is human behaviour which governs the validity of religious dogmas. I would urge all religious folks, to take a good look at your average, everyday atheist and find something they do that you are incapable of doing that is also morally reprehensible. But I am not the author of such an idea, that title goes to Christopher Hitchens. But a good challenge it is. To the religious folks out there, I wish you good luck.

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