October 18, 2004

Unstoppable: Religion and Murder

The other day my father and I were talking, as we are likely to do, about politics and religion. Hey, don't knock it. Talking with your parents about religion and politics is about the only safe discussion forum you can venture into for discussion with someone almost guaranteed to hold a completely different viewpoint than your own and not get attack for it. My father and I don't have complete separate views on much, but we do on religion.

You see, my father who was fairly non-religious as I was growing up has steadily become more so as he has grown older. Stances regarding religion that he would have never taken when I was ten years old are now commonplace, as is the starry-eyed, heaven-upwards, position of adoration that he has started to get when talking about religion in the first place. Now, I'm truly not condemning such a theocratic bent in my father's daily life. He's not ever pressured me to go to a church or to have a viewpoint similar to his own other than "I wish you would" ever. However, since we were talking about religion and politics somehow we got turned to the nature of Islam versus the nature of Christianity, and the actual practices of religion versus the held tenets of a religion.

This was where it became strange.You see, as if a vast shroud had been lifted from my father's eyes he finally faced the facts that I wasn't agnostic but an atheist.

"You don't believe in God at all do you?" he accused.
"I don't not believe in God, but on the face of the facts I think he's unlikely. Or rather, if he's there then his interaction is so limited and vague that it's not worth worrying about."
"So you're an atheist, not an agnostic."
"I don't deny that a god is possible, I just don't care, dad. I do think though, if this is where you put your kids and this is your idea of mercy then you'd not be a particularly good parent. We have matches and we're burning down the house."
"Stop being sacrilegeous," he said as I raised an eyebrow because this wasn't very much like him. "Well then, you're not qualified to talk about religion then."
"Why?" I said, honestly confused.
"Because you have to be religious to know what it's like," and with that he walked away and ended the discussion for the moment.

So, I've been thinking about that and why that's wrong. I certainly don't feel like I have to be a Nazi to know what Nazis are like, or black else be blinded by what being black is like. I don't know if I adequately understand those issues of "what it's like to be someone else that is counter to my normal existence" sometimes, mostly because I've not cared to listen to someone try to tell me what it's like or simply not been exposed to someone willing to tell me what it's like. However, since I live in the Southeast and I'm surrounded by millions of people perfectly willing to shove their personal idea of what religion is and I've actively gone out of my way to expose myself to varying ideas on religion, I'm not convinced that I can't forumalte a perfectly good opinion on religion based on observation and evidence presented.

I know that religion provides comfort to people. That's a good thing about religion, and I agree with it. Religion is also used to justify war and murder though, and those are more dangerous things for me to flirt with personally than any peace I might find. What bothers me the most about the widely disparate versions of religion we have in the world though is the certainty.

Certainty, or faith, is probably a really good thing for some people to grab a hold of when they're floundering. The problem is that they don't let go of it. Bush, as a recovering alchoholic, almost certainly found a sort of calm in omnipotence that you just don't get naturally when you're puking with your head in the john in the morning after you've shit yourself. When you're going through DTs and your body is shivering and burning and you ache all over, it might be nice to be able to say that "It's going to be alright, I've got someone to take care of me through this situation that no one earthly could possibly hold my hand through." That's a good thing. However, too often the faith is not in that you'll be protected from yourself through personal turmoil but that you'll be able to find solace through any failure or circumstance. That's the virgins at the end of the fireball faith, the exercising your political agenda in the face of established standards of ethics faith, the faith of Allah and the Abortion Clinic bombers. I fear that sort of faith, because that sort of faith is insidious toward reason.

I could break out the broad and popular lists here, the inquisitions and witch trials and what not. The fact of the matter is though, that even though these things are fact I don't consider religion the reason behind them. Personally, people are filthy malicious things. If there is a fallacy in that sort of critical and dangerous faith it is assume that the mantle of the divine somehow removes the taint from what is essentially a human gesture. Violence is as much as part of our genetics as breathing and our opposable thumb. Killing infidels is no different than killing your neighbors and enemies for other reasons, beside the fact that it makes you feel better. The same feel-good translation occurs when you murder for your country or your family as well, as if one act of violence were more justified than the other and so begin you on that same path of seeking a justification. Fear not, as long as we live among each other, we shall have enough reasons to kill one another.


Blogger Heretic said...

I can see your point, but. In most religions if you are killing and maiming or generally doing harm, then you dont understand the religion. Take clan members. If they were truly "God Fearing" as they claim, then they as a group would not exist. And as much as *they* want to believe it, I seriously doubt Allah would say, "Yes, go and kill those women and children" So although I agree with you in a way, I still think maybe you are seeing the wrong people. But hey, good guys dont draw attention, they just do the right thing and move on.

10:29 PM  

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