The Problem With Religion

Around the middle of December, Danica wrote a post on her blog, Love Over Religion, that she entitled,”Wager” (she doesn’t waste words on any of her post titles 🙂 ). While the post itself was quite good, it was a comment she made in response to one of her visitors that really impressed me. With her permission, I’ve included it here. See if her thoughts don’t resonate with you as well.

The problem with religion is that it allows groups of people to justify cruelty towards others. At their core, each religion harbors discrimination against those who are not part of it. Unless you are an incredibly open Christian, you can probably test this by asking yourself if God is going to permit Muslims, Hindus, atheists, homosexuals, Jews into heaven. If your answer is no to any of these, you can clearly see that your version of God discriminates against that group of people. And if he does, why shouldn’t you? If your answer was yes, they will all be in heaven, then I congratulate you for being a wonderful human being, but regret to inform you that you don’t believe the Bible. I don’t believe it, which is why I left religion. It didn’t make sense to me to be in a club that I didn’t fundamentally agree with.

Religion, Christianity specifically, has been used to justify slavery and genocide in the past, as you mentioned. I think it’s safe to say that most Christians would not be okay with slavery or genocide. But in subtle ways, religion continues to “justify” cruelty. Ask any gay couple that have cried themselves to sleep because the religious right is fighting so hard to keep them from having access to dignity and respect. Ask the teenager who has received beatings and emotional abuse because her parents won’t accept her nonbelief. Ask the Muslim that has been spit on, or the child at school that has been ridiculed for being part of the only non-Christian family in a small town. I know someone in her 90’s who had to live her entire life in secret, apart from her family and those who claimed to love her, because her Christian family wouldn’t accept the truth of who she was. While over in the Middle East, people are dying daily, mothers, children, young fathers, over this thing called “religion.” I believe that until we can free ourselves from this ancient system of beliefs in gods and myths, a system that wreaks havoc on our natural inclination towards love and acceptance for one another, this misery and tragedy will continue. That doesn’t mean necessarily that belief in science promotes goodwill. However, there is no underlying clause in science or reason that divides us into groups. There is no suggestion in science that a supernatural entity will give this group everlasting life, and throw all the rest into the fire.

Happiness Is …

Recently several news sources reported on the results of a study published in the journal Emotion which pointed out how the power of money influences the way we experience happiness.

Few will be surprised to learn that among the wealthy, feelings of happiness are generally felt when the focus is on themselves. Those with more limited incomes tend to experience happiness when focused on others.

According to the study, people with higher incomes tend to be more insulated from social and environmental concerns, which gives them the luxury of being able to focus on their own personal needs rather than worrying about other people. Moreover, they tend to surround themselves with other wealthy people, thus further insulating themselves.

The study also indicated that those with higher incomes tend to agree with statements indicating they felt pride (“It feels good to know that people look up to me”) and contentment (“I feel satisfied more than most people”). Those with less money tend to focus more on the needs of others (“Nurturing others gives me a warm feeling”).

One can’t help but ask, “Isn’t worrying (or caring) about others something everyone (rich or poor) should value (particularly if they are in a leadership role)?” In other words, how do you help the poor if you can’t see beyond yourself and your own needs?

While this doesn’t necessarily mean wealthy people are happier overall, what gives them satisfaction is certainly different from “the rest of us.”

Following is an excerpt from the study that validates this information:

Upper and lower class individuals possess different resources
(e.g., income) and inhabit distinct environments, which shape their
concerns and priorities in unique ways. Increased material resources
afford upper class individuals greater autonomy and reduced
exposure to social and environmental threat, giving rise to
an internal, self-oriented focus— greater attention to one’s internal
states and goals and increased independence from others, as evidenced,
for example, by decreased social attentiveness and more
self-interested behavior. By contrast, lower class individuals are
exposed to more threats to their well-being (e.g., increased crime,
poorly funded schools), and they possess fewer resources to cope
with these threats. As a result, lower class individuals develop an
external, other-oriented focus— greater vigilance to the social
context and interdependence with others.

Personal note: I don’t think I need to point out how the truth of this report is evidenced in our country today.

Repost: “Season’s Greetings”

I originally wrote this post in 2011 (back when I had no more than one or two visitors 🙂 ). Since I feel the message is just as true today as it was six years ago, I decided to repost it … with a few minor additions/alterations.

After spending over 15 years within the confining walls of Christianity, one day I ventured outside … and found the weather delightful. Unfortunately, certain individuals (well-meaning as they may be) are trying to drag me back inside — especially during this yuletide season.

To Christians, the last month of the year signifies only one thing: the birth of Christ. Facts be told, the date of Jesus’ birth is unknown. Scholars who have studied Jewish history believe it was more likely in the springtime, but this matters little to the faithful. For them, it’s not about facts or history. It’s about tradition. And it’s often about ostracizing those who refuse to go along with tradition, including using a holiday greeting other than “Merry Christmas.”

Insert: A rather interesting take on the Merry Christmas greeting can be found here. While I definitely don’t agree with everything that’s written, the writer does offer some food for thought.

There is no disputing that Christianity is the dominant religion in the U.S. However, to use this majority position to try and force others to conform to Christian practices is simply wrong. Included in the makeup of this country are Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, not to mention smaller religions such as Ba’hai, Deism, Jainism, and others. There are also a growing number of atheists.

Many of these non-Christians, including myself, prefer to use the term “Happy Holidays” because it is more religiously neutral. Moreover, since this time of the year includes another holiday (New Year’s Day), the greeting becomes more inclusive.

Insert: On many occasions, I just say “Have a nice holiday.”

Not too long back, I came across a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1865) entitled, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Eve.” I was particularly drawn to the third stanza:

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Yes, sometimes “the hate is strong” — and hardly a testimony to the significance of this time of year among those who believe. To allow hatred or enmity to take the place of good will to men during this (or any other) time of the year is, well, not very Christian-like.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS to all my readers and followers!

UFOs, Space Aliens, and Other Weird Stuff

In a recent post on The Secular Jurist, Bob addressed what he called a “taboo” topic — UFOs.

I started to leave a comment, but after I got started, I found I had too much to say and decided to write this post. Besides, it’s a topic I’ve never touched on before. Breaks the monotony of religion and politics. 🙂

Other than “Ancient Aliens” (*gag*), pretty much any program/movie that revolves around UFOs, alien visits, and space travel has been my cup of tea for as long as I can remember — and the Star Trek series was my absolute #1 Favorite (especially Star Trek: The Next Generation). Even to this day, I search regular TV channels, as well as Netflix and Amazon Prime, for anything that deals with humans “going where no man has gone before.” 🙂

HOWEVER … as for the possibility that real UFO/aliens exist? Hmmm. Not so sure.

Bob asked in his post, “what is so scary about UFOs?” IMO, any “fear” that exists (at least among the general public) is directly related to how the entertainment industry has depicted the topic. Nearly every one of them portrays alien visitors as “out to get us.”

But let’s ignore Hollywood and say there are species living on distant worlds.  What would they really be like? From my perspective, I think it highly unlikely they would be anything like us. For earth’s conditions to be “duplicated” just seems too remote of a possibility to me.

(But, God …)

Bob also included information about an incident that took place some 15 years ago. Apparently, a Navy pilot saw an object flying around a patch of white water in the ocean below his plane. He reported that it moved rapidly and began to mirror his aircraft as he pursued it.  Then suddenly it vanished. He said it was unlike anything he had ever seen.

Obviously, I wasn’t there, but I tend to lean towards it being some kind of natural phenomenon. It’s not that I doubt the intelligence or eyesight of the pilot, but from his description,  it just doesn’t seem “outer-space” feasible to me. But who knows? Maybe the people at the Pentagon Space Program will discover more than has been revealed thus far.

What are your thoughts? Do you have suspicions we are being (or have been) visited by inhabitants from other worlds? Are UFOs more than just “unidentified flying objects”? And what about crop circles? Or other odd formations on the planet that have been seen from space?

Are you a bound-by-earth human or do you have other-world imaginings?

How Would You Answer?

The following two questions have been asked hundreds of times under various circumstances. In fact, they were recently asked on another one of my blog posts.

In many ways, these two questions could almost be considered “unanswerable.” Yet whenever they appear, they tend to stimulate lively debate — which is why I’m presenting them here.

1) Is it wrong to force someone to do something against their will?

2) Is it wrong to take something from someone against their will?

Yes or no?

Quite frankly, I don’t think a simple “yes” or “no” answer is possible because the questions revolve around ethics, principles, and to some degree, morality.

What do you think?