Saturday, March 22, 2008

Blog Against Theocracy 2008 Special Article

Using Religion As A Substitute

A friend of mine recently told me about a sign in front a church in Grand Rapids, Michigan…


And I thought about this for a moment and I realized that only organized religion can come up with something like that and not cause the townspeople to rise up with pitchforks and torches. You know that if someone posted that sign in their driveway that you’d have the police over there in a heartbeat eager to arrest somebody. Sure it’s a screw-up, and we all can presume that the church officials really don’t PLAN on having someone actually NAILED to a couple of pieces of wood and then left hanging for a few hours until their limbs break, their blood pools to their feet, and they die either from infection from the nails, shock from the injuries, or from the loss of blood.

We can laugh at the gaffe… but organized religion is really the only party that can make it and get away with it.

People of faith LOVE to talk about the supposed benefits of religion. Of course when they give their glowing affirmations of religion, it’s usually THEIR OWN religion that they have in mind, NOT just any odd group. You will not, for instance, hear a Baptist sing the praises of Islam or Judaism or Mormonism. They will, instead, stick to their own church.

There’s really no big mystery behind it, of course. They don’t want people to know that they’re biased towards THEIR own faith. And that pretty much applies to ALL faiths, not just Christians, or not just Muslims, or not just Mormons, etcetera and so forth.

And that brings us to one of the problems of organized religion… its insistence of religion as a SUBSTITUTE for everything in life.

Let’s get brutally honest here… ALL organized institutions, be they social, religious, or political, have within them the potential to become destructive collectivist enclaves; to become – for lack of a better word – cults. ALL of them do, without exceptions. If you think otherwise then you’re a damned liar both to yourself and to everyone else; because it is the nature of organized groups to become collectivist if it is left unrestrained.

And in order for organized religion to become collectivist, they have to sell their product… religion… to be the end-all-be-all universal solution to everything. Again, listen to the person who espouses their assertion (I won’t call it their argument because they really don’t want to argue about it) that religion is essential to everything in life. If “religion” (read: THEIR religion) isn’t hyped and glorified in society, then they assert that civilization itself collapses. Laws become meaningless. The bonds that keep society together supposedly implode. Anarchy supposedly rules the day.

Now they don’t just make that assertion in the most extreme of situations. They make that assertion ALL THE TIME, for ANY issue that THEIR religion has a stake in. It’s an all-or-nothing situation for them. Find an issue… Sunday liquor sales, abortion, stem cell research, the Theory of Evolution, prayer in schools… and you will hear this very assertion at some point. RELGION (specifically, their own) has to be the end-all-be-all to the matter, up-front, in the center of the whole mix, without question, THE FINAL ANSWER to everything… or civilization itself is DOOMED. Period.

To that end, we have religion being used as a SUBSTITUTE for things that it really has no business being a substitute for.

We have religion being used as a SUBSTITUTE for individuality. You are not a person. You are a follower of whatever faith you’re with, and you are EXPECTED to adhere to the dogma of your faith, without question and without hesitation.

We have religion being used as a SUBSTITUTE for reason and logic and science. Facts be damned, faith is all that matters. If any kind of information contradicts the “established” dogma, then that information is either condemned or suppressed.

We have religion being used as a SUBSTITUTE for education. Johnny may not be able to read, write, or do math, but he better be saying his prayers before the big football game if he expects his team to win! Oh, and by the way, the excuse why Johnny can’t read, write, or do math is supposedly BECAUSE he can’t pray in class.

We have religion being used as a SUBSTITUTE for ethics. Violence is wrong… unless it’s in defense of the faith. Murder is wrong… unless the person you killed did something to offend your faith. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, unless that opinion OFFENDS your faith… in which case that person must die, or at least be hounded out of town at all costs.

We have religion being used as a SUBSTITUTE for sound legislation. Laws are pushed for and enacted not based on any concept of freedom or reasonable balance between the needs of society and the dignity of the individual, but simply because a certain religious DOCUMENT declares it so. Why should liquor sales be banned on Sunday? It’s the same reason why all stores had to originally be banned from doing business on Sundays. Because that’s the day that everyone is supposed to go to CHURCH! Sure they can pull out a trillion studies about drunk driving and accident statistics, but they will NEVER come up with a simple, reasonable, LOGICAL and SECULAR explanation why ONE SPECIFIC day of the week should be singled out from all others. It is ALL based on RELIGION.

We have religion being used as a SUBSTITUTE for justice. If a preacher gets caught doing something unmentionable, it has to be covered up “for the sake of” religion. Ministers who preach that their followers “give ‘till it hurts” have luxury cars and diamond mines. They will launch an endless crusade to persecute those that “offend” them, but they will only give a half-hearted apology if their words or their deeds offend others and then expect that we simply accept it. And all of it is permitted because RELGION is more important than JUSTICE.

We have religion being used as a SUBSTITUTE for therapy. Look at some of the largest addiction groups in the country and see what they advocate as their “multi-step” treatment. The essential element in their “multi-step” treatment involves a certain church. Specifically THEIR church; the church that sponsors the treatment program. It basically advocates turning a person from one addition – drugs and/or alcohol – to another addition – religion. And judges have no qualms ordering anyone and everyone before them with drug or alcohol-related offenses to go to these “treatment” centers… even if they are of a different religion.

Finally, and most despicably, we have religion being used as a SUBSTITUTE for national identity. The constant mantra being uttered is that America is a “CHRISTIAN” nation, even though we have plenty of documents and statements from our founding fathers to the contrary. RELIGION is used as an essential qualification for holding public office, even though it is expressly FORBIDDEN in Article VI of the U.S. Constitution. Churches are given tax-exempt status and then use their pulpits to tell the followers how to vote. And even when the practice itself is outlawed, they find ways around that law.

ALL of it… every single instance where religion is being used as a SUBSTITUTE for essential qualities in life… is done so at the behest of and for the sole advancement of organized religion. It is done so that those in positions of power in that institution have what they have always yearned for… absolute and unquestionable power over others. The kind of unquestionable power that you currently see in third-world theocracies. The kind of power that was the source of much of the evil committed in human history.

It is for this reason, above all others, that the authors of the First Amendment made sure that the VERY FIRST prohibition of government was to prevent it from being used by organized religion for that very purpose.

“Congress shall make no law RESPECTING THE ESTABLISHMENT of religion…” (Note: emphasis added by the writer.)

That’s more than just prohibiting the government from officially ESTABLISHING a religion. That’s more than just prohibiting the government from FAVORING a religion. That prevents the government from acting as if such an establishment was ALREADY MADE!

Of course, as with all other rights, we as Americans have a hard time accepting some of these things, especially when they are in contradiction to everything that we have been brought up to believe in. But you take a look at how these substitutions are being made in this country, and then you take a look the end result in third world nations and ask yourself if their societies are any better because of it. If we are supposed to be “better” than them, then why are we trying to emulate their methods?

Perhaps someday we can look at that “LIVE CRUCIFIXION” gaffe again and know that ANYONE can make it and we would still get a good laugh at it. By then, of course, we would have put organized religion in its proper place in society… perhaps still respected, but certainly restrained.

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