Wednesday, May 9, 2012

800 Words: Why Religion Always Wins - Part 1

I’ve long since resigned myself to militant agnosticism and can’t help a seething contempt for anyone who’d care enough about God to take a stand on what God is. There are times in my life when I’ve believed in God, fervently, there were also times when my atheism was utterly complete. At the moment, I’m not sure I believe in God – but if I do, then I believe She’s a massive bitch.

I am not an atheist, I am an anti-theist. It’s not that I believe there is no God, it’s that I am against God. God is a bloodthirsty dictator who takes as much pleasure in killing those who try to obey his word as those who don’t. He sees all, hears all thoughts, yet She never seems to intervene except in the heads of His insane prophets, who inevitably tell their charges that God wants them to ostracize, mutilate, and kill far more often than to heal and help. I am against the Jewish deity I was raised to believe in that killed six million who in living memory worshiped within his temples, I am against a deity of all men who would allow more billions of his humble servants to be slaughtered millennium by millennium; all by the same war, poverty, and by other people's mental derangement which She never feels any need to cure. And then there are the lucky few among us, like me, fortunate enough to be born in peacetime. Those of us lucky enough to die in peacetime of natural causes will mostly do so in slow, painful deaths over a period of decades.

Yet in spite of all of this, in spite of all evidence to the contrary that God is a force for totalitarian terror, His name persists through the eons as the font of all love and mercy. The more people to whom She causes suffering, the more people love Her. Every time mankind draws closer to an era of enlightened secularism, God works His avenging angels through His worshippers, and the greatness of civilization is brought down with an orgiastic holocaust of blood – the closer to a godless civilization mankind comes, the more bloody its downfall. For all this, and much more, I curse Him with all my heart, all my might, and all my soul.

Perhaps the very fact that humanity seems incapable of evolving past God is the ultimate evidence that She does exist. Man is a creature of belief, not doubt; he trusts everything from his mother’s breast to the nurse’s test-tubes. To endure life’s responsibilities, to build a civilization better for those who come after him, man requires a greater purpose – and there is no greater purpose than to redeem oneself by serving a Being who hears all thought, sees all action, and judges you accordingly.

Anyone who can still believe that such a being is capable of mercy is cruel himself, and anyone who would have us believe that another solution exists to make life less cruel – the worker’s paradise, the magic of science, the virtues of the free market – is no less cruel than the most dogmatic bible-thumper. Life has enough terrors in store without having to endure the misery of realizing that our consolations are false during our most desperate hours. If God is capable of saving us, then He simply refuses to do it. There is no evidence that God cares one way or another about the salvation of humanity. All that remains to redeem our world is the capricious and vice-plagued salvation of our peers. There is nothing with which we can fight our way out of savagery except to rely on other human beings, each as beastly, grotesque, and horrible as ourselves. Terrible as we are, only we can to protect those we love (and perhaps those we don’t as well) from as many miseries as possible. As for those from which we cannot be protected, we must endure our trials with as much bravery as we have the strength to bear.

And therefore, it is perhaps the cruelest of all life’s ironies that the best institution in humanity’s possession to protect one another is religion.

It’s nearly as terrible an irony that the same totalitarianism of thought which made so many religious people over the millennia want to kill one another could also encourage generosity and fealty to those with whom they share characteristics. If you believe existence precedes essence, then you believe the world to be a random place of chance encounters, nothing more. It therefore profits a man nothing to act virtuously, merely to act in self-interest. To put it more simply, those of us who believe that we are put on earth without purpose are at the ultimate disadvantage: if there is no dictator who judges our every action and thought, then the continuation and improvement of our world is no longer an unshakeable duty. We who love the secular world can pretend that the betterment of mankind is still every bit as much a duty, but it’s an incredibly stupid lie. If life is no longer a gift from a creator who will punish us if we do not acknowledge Him, then we can discard its contents at our pleasure.

Therefore, even if there is only evolution in the hand of the world’s creation, then religious people are still at a huge evolutionary advantage from the rest of us. Their world has purpose we lack, they have an end goal in sight for what their lives must achieve – and they have millions of peers who share their goal. Most importantly, their desire for a better life makes them have more children who then can then be taught to covet the same end.

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