I want to preface this piece by saying that I realize in advance that this essay probably will not change anyone’s views on religion. Convincing someone that their religious beliefs are incorrect is about as feasible as convincing a guy in love that his girl is not good for him. In the end, it’s simply something people just have to discover for themselves.
I had religious beliefs. I really did.
I tried to believe in God and all things relevant to religion, but recently, I have come to a conclusion about what religion is really all about.
I use the word ‘conclusion’ deliberately in the most absolute of terms. I say this because I feel that I have figured out what religion is all about. The fact is, most people, even the most devoutly religious people around, can’t explain certain things about religion. The reason for this is that they simply do not know.
Religion is fiction. Basically in the same capacity as Santa Claus and The Tooth Fairy, except it applies more as much to adults as it does to children. perhaps even more so.
My theory on religion is that it began as a way to explain occurrences and phenomenons that man simply didn’t understand.
Take Greek and Roman Mythology, for example. The ancient Greeks and Romans had invented all sorts of different Gods and Goddesses to account for the things that couldn’t be explained conventionally. It became an easy excuse to delude themselves into thinking that any time lightning struck, or the tides rose, or a volcano erupted that it was simply the will of the Gods. They assigned a different higher power to everything they didn’t understand.
As time went by, mankind discovered among other things that the earth is round, and the sun rises as a result of the earths rotation, and the tides were the result of the moon’s gravitational force, etc. And slowly the beliefs that a different God was responsible for each of these occurrences died with the ignorant.
That said, there is one occurrence in nature that hasn’t been, and probably never will be scientifically explained. That, of course, is the question of what happens to us when we die?
I have developed this theory over the course of a long period of time and after a lot of thinking and observing.
Although I had always been skeptical, I didn’t come to a distinct conclusion until after a recent visit to the Field Museum in Chicago, Ill. It was their ‘Evolving Planet’ exhibit that has really persuaded me in the conclusion I have come to about the subject of religion. The exhibit is a series of stages that you walk through, starting with the earliest existence of Earth. As you walk through the exhibit, you witness how the Earth has changed and evolved and how life on this planet has changed and evolved.
Without getting into the deep specifics of evolution, suffice it to say that human beings are simply the most evolved creature to inhabit the Earth. Humans evolved from ape-like creatures. Humans are the first creatures to use their surroundings to better themselves. Humans are the first to understand that they exist and that they will die. This is a product of evolution.
With this new ability and desire to contemplate and learn more about their own existence, human beings have also developed a sense of immortality.
This is where religion comes in.
Religion is an invention of man to explain what happens to a person’s life-force when the body dies. This is how it began. Religion has evolved, too. Religious sects have recognized a benefit of religion outside of convenient explanation: control. Through religion, people of high religious authority (Clergy’s, Pastor’s, etc.) are able to control others’ thoughts, ideas, feelings and most importantly, their behavior. The fear of divine consequences has not only influenced, but outright controlled the behavior of human beings for thousands of years, and it is simply because of their own imperceptibly blind sense of immortality.
The accepted common theory is that the Earth has been in existence for about 4.5 BILLION years. Take a second and think about how long that is. You will probably live for about 80 years or so. If you do, your life will span 1/56,520,000th of the time the Earth has existed. That is an unfathomable amount of time. You mean to tell me that God had been sitting around for 4.5 Billion years (actually longer; since he supposedly created the Earth he would have to have existed before the planet did), then all of a sudden 2000 years ago he decided to put his great plan into motion?
That last paragraph is subjective, and the obvious counter-argument put forth by religious sects is that the bible states that the Earth is about 6,000 years old. My theory is that when the Bible was written, it’s author simply picked a number that he figured could never be disputed. Either that or that’s as high as they were able to count in those days.
Bible thumpers, as a rule, are eager to point out that whenever an apparent flaw or fallacy in the biblical text is unearthed, they quickly jump to the argument that the bible is open to interpretation and that it’s writings are not to be taken in context. This is preposterous and outrageous. To summarize, just to make sure I completely understand this argument, the Bible has certain parts that I am supposed to take literally and certain parts that can be twisted to mean whatever supports the religious side of the argument? The only thing that I am not sure of with this, is which parts are which? What about that one part that goes something like:
“…Dear God who art in Heaven…”
Is Heaven subjective?
The Bible describes Heaven as a paradise. Maybe Paradise is in Massachusetts? Or Guam? Or maybe Paraguay? I don’t think the Bible gives directions or enough specific information as to the location of this paradise, so I will draw my own conclusion. I think God lives in Salem, and he dances on the graves of the 19 women and one man that were murdered for being thought of as ‘witches’. Oh yeah, and who killed those poor people? Christians of course.
So what does happen to us when we die? I have a theory, but that’s all that it is. It’s a difficult concept to grasp and even more difficult to accept. But, it’s what I truly believe happens to every living thing when it dies.
They simply no longer exist.
When the life force has truly left the body, that’s it. No judgment, no Heaven, no Hell, no Purgatory or divine consequences, no 90 virgins (or whatever reward those wackos believe they will receive if they strap a bomb to their chest and go into a market and blow themselves up along with as many innocent people as possible), nothing. Before you were born, you didn’t exist. You will not exist after you die either.
Let’s go on another rant for just a minute. The ’90 virgin’ reward is so moronic on so many levels that it is almost impossible to comprehend why anyone would want that. But we’re not talking about the most rational group of people here.
So Allah can just create virgins to be used and discarded by his disciples? Why only 90? If you screwed one a day, you’d only have a three-month supply? What about the rest of eternity? Does Allah at least give you a Fleshlight for when you’re out of virgins? And why virgins anyway? Sex with a virgin is always awkward, uncomfortable and in a lot of ways completely unsexy. Wouldn’t it be more realistic to wish for 90 gorgeous sex-servants with tight hoo-hoos? At least you could be with them more than once. Maybe you could get some that are good at cooking and cleaning too. And some of then ought to be bisexual too. That’d be cool.
And why do men of this religious sect view women as sub-human, subservient whores? Why can’t women go to Heaven or Paradise or Mecca or whatever they call their virgin-filled brothel? Why does their deity only prefer the company of men? Is Allah gay?
Although I don’t believe anything happens when you die, I do believe that all living things on Earth have a special spirituality that allows us to love and feel and experience things on more than just a black and white sort of plane of existence. I also believe that with enough faith this spirituality can be channeled into things that improve happiness and overall quality of life. This does not require special beliefs or assistance from anyone outside of the person. Spirituality comes from within.
All of that said, I don’t think religion or religious thoughts and beliefs are necessarily a bad thing. There are many positive stories and lessons in the bible that have had positive influences on millions, maybe billions of peoples’ lives. Furthermore, religious beliefs can equal hope for people who are desperate, poor, sick, dying or just plain sad. I truly believe that for those people who have never been able to fill the void left behind when the truth about Santa Claus came out, religion has fit in nicely and there’s no real harm in believing in a fairy tale if it makes their life better and gives them joy and fulfillment.
It is just not for me. I can’t, and have never been able to lie to myself. You truly have to suspend disbelief in order to swallow most of the fundamentals of the invisible man in the sky. I may at some point change my mind, and if I do, it will probably be because of some sort evidence or feeling from within myself that I am simply unable to ignore. But until that happens, I will remain a non-believer.