Thursday, December 11, 2008

Religion is Dumb

Last night I went with my brother and sister to see Religulous, Bill Maher's documentary on religion. I enjoyed it, since for most of the movie Bill was pretty much echoing my own thoughts on the issue of religion back at me, and it's always fun to have someone famous tell you how smart you are. ;o)

You could call me skeptically agnostic. I think it's unlikely that there is a supernatural, omniscient, omnipotent being who created the universe and listens to Littly Jimmy's prayers every night, but I'm willing to concede that it's possible. I think that atheism is almost a religion itself, with its own dogma and its own set of fanatics, and I'm not quite willing to slide that last little bit over to the there-is-no-god side of the religious continuum.

What I do believe, however , is that god does not exist in the form preached by the big monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam). I think that all three of those are patchwork religions, pieced together by taking bits from other religions that came before them and mixing them all together. I think that initially, religion was a way for ancient people to answer the questions they had about their lives and their surroundings. Making up a story about how the sun is a fiery chariot being pulled across the sky is a perfectly reasonable way to explain something that would otherwise be wholly unexplainable. So, people made up their stories, and passed them on to their children, and before you know it, everyone took the stories for granted as being the truth. Eventually, some people figured out that they could take these stories and use them to control the actions of those around them: those who were not in power could use the stories to get power; those that were in power could use the stories to cement it.

Fast forward a few thousand years, and basically the same thing is happening. Parents teach their children about their religion, and after hearing the stories umpteen times the children just learn to accept them as fact. Those who are in power are still using religion to to maintain that power. The only difference is we should know better by now. Back in the Bronze Age, if a respected member of society told you that Earth and the Universe was created in seven days, don't really have a choice but to believe him. We should know better by now. We have all the information available that we could ever want, and yet people still cling to ideas that were conceived thousands of years ago. I don't get that at all.

3 comments:

  1. Hey Greg

    Nathan here, we used to work together on the AIO contract at the Big Con, I kinda stumbled upon your blog here and just wanted to let you know that for the most part I agree with you, the only part that I wanted to address however was the assumption that atheism is dogmatic and a religion.

    I'm an out atheist myself and an active member of our local atheist society here in E-Town and I can guarantee that there is no dogma, in fact it can be interesting trying to get 2 or more atheists to agree on anything beyond the lack of belief in god(s).

    If you find yourself in Edmonton, we have monthly pub nights, and I'm sure you would find an interesting discussion to say the least.

    Hope you are well otherwise.

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  2. Yay! My first wholly unsolicited blog reader! If there was a prize, you would have just won it. ;)

    Funny you should happen on my blog this week, I just happened on your two coming-out video posts the other day... I have been meaning to send a comment but with the holidays being so busy I just haven't gotten around to it yet. It was heartbreaking to hear about the fallout but in the end I'm glad you decided to do what felt right for you.

    I probably should have been a little more clear about my views on atheism. I suppose you're right about dogma... pretty much by definition it's impossible for atheism to be dogmatic. On the other hand, I've definitely met at least a few atheists who are just as militant about their views as even the most hardcore religious crazies could ever hope to be.

    What it boils down to for me is that it's really impossible to know or prove one way or the other. Like I said in my post, I find it highly unlikely that a god or gods exist, but I still think it could be *possible* that there's more to the universe than we can see. I'm generally a little skeptical of anyone who is 100% certain about *anything*.

    I'm planning on moving back to Edmonton pretty soon... I might just have to take you up on your meeting invite one of these days.

    Hope all is well with you also and that you ended up having a good holiday season! Say Hi to Jared for me too! :)

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  3. Thanks Greg

    I've been getting a lot of support from my fellow atheist and non-believer friends which made things a lot easier. I have a few GLBT friends and I want them to have the same rights as everybody else, I hope I inspired others to do the same.

    I do hope you can make it to one or more of our events (they are open to the public). You will be surprised to find that most atheists don't claim absolute certainty of the existence of god(s), in fact many of us are also involved in the skeptical society which promotes a more scientific approach to reality. I would even go out on a limb and say that your views are shared by many of the atheists I know.

    I look forward to you coming back to E-Town drop me a message on FB when you do, and we can get together for coffee/drinks. I'll let Jared know you said hi (we wound up working together...again lol). Hope your holidays were good too (mine were interesting to say the least).

    Take Care

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