Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Is It Too Unethical To Do Outright? Then Call It “Religious.”

by John Boodhansingh of Zero Mindfulness

One thing that’s bothered me since I don’t remember when is this:

How is it possible that billions of humans can simultaneously follow evidence-demanding science and evidence-negating religion—both of which have vastly differing theories regarding crucial aspects of life such as its origin, its inherent laws, and the afterlife—while still considering themselves to be rational people? How can these same folks ardently follow religions carrying such “laws of God” as “Thou shall not kill” as they concurrently instigate “ethnic cleansings” and the like?

The only answer I can really come up with is contained within one word: insanity.

God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything
by Christopher Hitchens

A friend of mine recently suggested I read the Christopher Hitchens book God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.

Hitchens, Christopher. God Is Not Great: How Religion
Poisons Everything.
New York: Twelve, 2007.

While I've long know of many of the "rougher" religious bits which have been swept under the written history carpet, this book really opened up a new dimension for me to see how much deeper and all-encompassing religion's troubles are.

Hitchens was an atheist, which I am not. However, for the message Hitchens seeks to get across, being an atheist may be critical since he is able to keep any personalized sense of God (or gods) out of the picture and focus simply on facts and figures to show that religion has done more damage to humanity than any other man-made force.

While Hitchens’ approach is “take no prisoners,” he bases his information on scripture and historical documentation and the like, as well as his own extensive personal experience.

In God Is Not Great, we are given a wide-angle view into the fundamental bass-ackwardsness of religions old and new the world over. We’re given a view, a very shocking yet much needed view, into the organizations which have created and perpetuated what has become (or perhaps has always been) the home to not just irrationality but insanity.

Before you read any further or maybe read the book, I'd like you to ponder something. Run through a list of major country- and worldwide destructive events in your mind, everything from terrorism to witch hunts to Crusades and Inquisitions to “Ethnic Cleansings” to “New Land” “discoveries.” Notice how nearly every one of them has been driven by one religion or another and resulted in mass genocide, torture, rape, plunder, etc. They have all been driven by some “divine” calling or “manifest destiny” stating the dire need to convert or destroy all infidels.

The Modern Day Religionist’s Rebuttal

At this the rebuttal may come from the here-and-now religionist that, except for the Muslim terrorists so pervasive on the news (which is mostly fear-mongering, by the way), My religion doesn’t take part in that anymore. Maybe back in the Middle Ages during the Crusades or something but not now. That stuff is over. We’re better than that.

Hmmm… Why don’t we see what Hitchens has to say about these types of things? And for this one I’m going to pick out the Roman Catholic Church because their evil goes as deep as does their projection of being devout and holy goes high.

From pages 238-239, from the chapter: “An Objection Anticipated: The Last-Ditch ‘Case’ Against Secularism”:
None…went as far as the Catholic hierarchy in ordering an annual celebration for Hitler’s birthday on April 20.
From page 240:
The collusion continued even after the war, as wanted Nazi criminals were spirited to South America by the famous “rat line.” It was the Vatican itself, with its ability to provide passports, documents, money, and contacts, which organized the escape network and also the necessary shelter and succor at the other end.

And of course we’re all aware of the more recent and continuing pedophilia debacle for which the guilty clergy are merely “shuffled around” to “lesser” parishes rather than arrested, given emotional and psychological counseling, or any such sensible and reformative treatment.

Blood Sacrifice and Zero Free Will

Religion also has perpetuated the notion that blood sacrifice is necessary to appease whatever passes for God or the Gods. As Hitchens says, this goes back eons.

It’s known that the Aztecs believed the sun would not rise should they not begin each day by ripping open a human chest cavity. The Old Testament, the very foundation of all Judeo-Christian religions, contains God-condoning/-aided/-appeasing evils uncounted. There are those who attack enemies via kamikaze (which translates as "divine wind") and Muslim extremist who become martyrs for some religious pie-in-the-sky.

And for many of these, once again the rebuttal may come: But that’s history. Except maybe again for a few screwed up extremists blood sacrifices are no longer.

Folks… Turn off Fox so-called News and read a book. Look at the reality of your life experience without the lens of religious belief. See what you see, not what religion says you should see. We must realize that just because something has become normal doesn’t make it right.

For instance... How many hundreds of millions of humans have been circumcised? For what? Because evolution screwed up? Because God messed up, but only in the genital area, in the midst of creation?

C’mon, people. It’s a religion endorsed blood sacrifice. And it still goes on.

On page 49, from the chapter titled: “A Note on Health, to Which Religion Can Be Hazardous,” Hitchens states:
I pose a hypothetical question. As a man of some fifty-seven years of age, I am discovered sucking the penis of a baby boy. I ask you to picture your own outrage and revulsion. Ah, but I have my explanation all ready. I am a mohel: an appointed circumciser and foreskin remover. My authority comes from an ancient text, which commands me to take a baby boy’s penis in my hand, cut around the prepuce, and complete the action by taking his penis in my mouth, sucking off the foreskin, and spitting out the amputated flap along with a mouthful of blood and saliva. This practice has been abandoned by most Jews, either because of its unhygienic nature or its disturbing associations, but it still persists among the sort of Hasidic fundamentalists who hope for the Second Temple to be rebuilt in Jerusalem. To them, the primitive rite of the peri’ah metsitsah is part of the original and unbreakable covenant with god. In New York City in the year 2005, the ritual, as performed by a fifty-seven-year-old mohel, was found to have given genital herpes to several small boys, and to have caused the death of at least two of them. In normal circumstances, the disclosure would have led the public health department to forbid the practice and the mayor denounce it. But in the capital of the modern world, in the first decade of the twenty-first century, such was not the case. Instead, Mayor Bloomberg overrode the reports by distinguished Jewish physicians who had warned of the danger of the custom, and told his health care bureaucracy to postpone any verdict. The crucial thing, he said, was to be sure that the free exercise of religion was not being infringed. In a public debate with Peter Steinfels, the liberal Catholic “religion editor” of the New York Times, I was told the same thing.

This is to say nothing of the lifelong guilt, shame, and repression of all things sexual that arise in consequence.

And there’s no choice to these things, you know?

Here in the USA we have to wait until we’re 16 to drive, 18 to vote and get married, and 21 to drink alcohol. Why? Because “we need to be mature enough to make responsible, informed decisions.”

And yet one raised Catholic such as myself is circumcised at birth, baptized promptly thereafter, by age 8 has affirmed their inherently sinful and hell-bound nature through "First Reconciliation" and received “First Holy Communion” (i.e.: the "body and blood" of Christ ...think about it...), and by 14 has had “Holy Confirmation.”

We spend our childhoods involuntarily diving head-first into who truly knows what, and then held on a pedestal for doing such.

How’s that for conscious choice? How’s that for free will?

And people get all bitter and can’t seem to understand why certain of us choose to ditch religion…

An Uncertain Hodgepodge of Religious Origin and Scripture

Another thing pointed out in God Is Not Great is the “sandy-foundationed” way on which religious origin and its defining scripture is built. To put it eloquently, why don’t we just have a look at the title of Chapter 9: “The Koran Is Borrowed from Both Jewish and Christian Myths.” Hitchens elaborates on similar in regard to where Mormon, or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’, scripture originated.

At this one might argue something along the lines that the Jews or Christians might then be closer to correct if others are taking their work to found their own religion.

But there’s a problem with this. Because not only were most all “Western” religions crafted around a “savior” after that individual had died and no longer had a say, (or, as in Judaism, a savior who doesn’t seem too hot-to-trot to get here) but the scriptures written and collected about these “saviors” were done so many, many years after their deaths.

To make matters even worse in the modern day, variations of translations of original texts are ever growing. Some of these, passage-for-passage, can vary dramatically, and none, of course, are as the originals. To make matters even worse than worse, scriptures are cherry-picked to fulfill any given religion’s agenda.

And finally there are all those points of interest which are so commonly thought to make one’s own religion special from others when in reality these points are carried by nearly all religions throughout history. Some of these are:
  • A fall from grace
  • An afterlife for the chosen
  • Requirement of blood sacrifice
  • A great flood
  • Punishment in an afterlife, perhaps for eternity
  • An Armageddon and second coming of the savior of the “Chosen Ones”

Spiritually Speaking and Bodily Guidance

Being an atheist, Hitchens does miss the spiritual/metaphysical mark throughout the course of his writing. There are some lines where he references scriptural passages (including in the Old Testament) which, at least to me, have quite evident metaphorical meaning yet he slams as if nothing short of stupidity.

Nonetheless, in focusing with a logical/scientific/archaeological/historical perspective, his arguments are legit. Hitchen rationally and intelligently hits the purely-religious-bullshit bull’s eye.

And I do understand Hitchen’s no-God plight. I, too, began my life as a religious individual who’d spent 25 years trying to stuff the faith down my own throat and that of others before finally admitting how toxic it was. I’d then spent some time thinking maybe God was just simply a creator who made shit and left it to its own devices not really caring about what happened to it. An inexplicable, unexpected, and non-religion-related spiritual awakening is the only reason I’ve come to know otherwise.

I now see, just as of the time I’d read Hitchens' book, that I really have always detested Western religion, if only unconsciously. Indeed, I’d had a childhood experience trying to tell me as much at age 10.

I went to a Roman Catholic school which had a church just next door, and we’d go to mass regularly. During one particular mass I was feeling quite sick. I had the sweats, a weird feeling under my tongue, increased saliva production, full-body uneasiness—all the common signs of you know what.

Of course, I didn’t say anything; I'd only ever looked around and looked back hoping the teacher would see my ailing condition. And why would I say something? Isn’t it only right to be invisible? To be obedient? To not speak one’s mind, or place any value on one’s personal needs? Sure. It’s shameful and guilt-inducing to do so.

And so I just sat there in the pew with a dire hope that my uneasiness would abate… But I vomited all over instead. I even got some on the kid next to me. Sorry, Mark. :-)

I ended up being unable to sit through another full mass for a few months at least. Twenty minutes in, and I’d have to leave because I’d get an upset stomach. I suppose my mind, via my body, was trying to tell me something before I’d fully owned the distaste 15 years later and made the move to throw in the towel.

And after so much internal torment, why not end it? Why go on believing in religion when I can just believe in God? When I can know God?

Closing Words: Clerics are People, Not Prophets.

Many years ago, I innocently made the following observation to some of my family members: Isn’t it funny that pretty much every priest is fat and bald? Like it’s a requirement or something.

Granted, I stated this of Roman Catholic priests, but my worldview then was very small. I see now that clergy members of nearly all religions (at least Western) are of a similar way.

Since leaving Western religion and adopting many positive aspects of Eastern religions, one thing I’ve learned about is the chakra system.

Part of the human makeup is an unseen “energy body” which contains 7 central energy vorticies, or “chakras,” aligned with the spine. Each of these chakras pertains to different aspects of our being and experience. For instance, there is a heart chakra. This chakra is located in the chest as is the physical heart. It is the center of love and the link between the earthly (of the lower 3 chakras) and the etheric (the higher 3 chakras).

I now realize that what I’d spoken in innocence carried a powerful insight.

While many clergy members have much excess body fat overall, the majority is typically in the belly. And the baldness nearly always begins in the crown of their heads. When looking at this from the perspective of the chakras, what we find is like an unsurprising surprise…

The 2nd and 3rd chakras have to do with sexuality and worth, respectively. When people carry a lot of internal hurt—such as sexual repression and worthlessness—two things which religions are notorious for creating in their adherents—they self-abuse, often with food. Naturally, this is going to put fat on the gut. And what is fat? It’s padding: protection from a harsh world.

The 7th chakra is known as the Crown chakra, which is located, sensibly enough, at the crown of the head. This is the “God connection” chakra. Putting two and two together, it shouldn’t be of any great revelation that baldness sets in like clockwork on these people who spend their lives pontificating of the supposed word of God, and one that's fully intellectualized at that, yet have little ability to live it themselves and have suppressed serious hurt within.

While these words may sound rough, this is not meant to be some condemnation but just an expression of truth. I know myself, as a former Catholic, what it’s like to experience this stuff.

No, I’ve never been fat, ever. But I have in the last two years been working to heal the mental, emotional, and energetic trauma I’d suppressed in childhood—much of it being religiously caused, directly or indirectly. My lower chakras are really messed up, and processing has been a nightmare for me. My lifelong yet unconscious eating disorder hit me like an iron fist and ever since, although in the process of healing, I’ve had near continuous moderate to severe digestive issues.

As for the spiritual side of things up on the crown chakra… I’m nearly 31, yet the crown of my head has been half bald for half my life. At about 24 years old, when I’d begun meditation and the “God connection” clicked with me internally (that is, in a palpable, non-intellectual way), some of that long departed hair grew back in.

That said, I guess I’ll end by saying this:

If you’re religious, I know you hurt. Nearly everyone who follows religion does. If it somehow truly works for you, great. Keep truckin’. But if not, as with the majority of you, please take care of yourselves.

And remember that clerics are people, not prophets. Like you and I, they’re usually just as lost and as afraid to seek help as anyone. It's why they've sought positions in patriarchy-dominated religious organizations to begin with: because internally they yearn for a "father's" guidance, healing, and comfort—that is, all things they want, not things they already have.

They don’t mean harm, but harm is the unavoidable outcome when the cycle of the blind leading the blind perpetuates.


Coda: A Few Tidbits

On my way home from the library with God Is Not Great on the seat next to me, who did I pass other than an older, harmless-enough-at-quick-glance-looking man wearing a black t-shirt with white print.

The shirt said: I'm a sinner.

True story.