I wasn’t raised to be one.
My parent’s view was that my sister and I had to decide for ourselves.
Santa Claus was a more of a concern for me as a kid than any invisible bossy person who may or may not reward you after you died, which to my kid mind was a hundred years away – Santa brought presents every year.
Better pay off for loyalty at any age, really.
I’ve been an Elvis fan for pretty much as far back as I remember and I was very interested in the stories of Elvis learning his performance style in church – which seemed at odds with all the churches condemning him.
When I was in 5th grade, a Southern Baptist Church opened up down the street from my school. This was a bit surprising, given that I lived in the lower mainland of British Columbia.
A person from the church stood outside our school to recruit us. We were given printed flyers on colourful paper – which was a bit astonishing, given that the school was still mimeographing things. What was exciting to me then and horrifying to me now was the offer of prizes. Yes, you got prizes depending on how many of your friends you’d bring with you.
Since I wasn’t interested in the church exactly, I wanted to recreate an experience that Elvis had as a child, I only asked my younger sister and best friend of the time to go with me to the show.
And what a show it was.
The preacher wore regular street clothes and he had a headset microphone – now, Madonna made that big in the late 80’s – but this was the late 70’s and I had no idea that there was wearable microphones – all I’d seen in school were the big clunky ones on stands.
He had pale brown hair and a mustache. He was slim and he moved all over the front of the stage – waving his arms, dropping down to his knees and jumping up again. I couldn’t help but be swept up in the emotions.
I did find the constant asking to bring our friends and win cool prizes a bit jarring and it broke the magic feeling. I had no real idea of what stories or lecture he was giving, because I was just in thrall to his passionate and lyrical voice and seduced by the way he moved.
When it was over, the sweat soaked preacher said that there’d be a special children’s class in the basement.
My sister and friend had been totally bored and couldn’t wait to leave. I headed for the basement, wondering what would happen next.
I vaguely recall being disappointed that we were handed off to a female instructor, she lacked showmanship. But, she did give us a comic book about Adam and Eve. So that seemed okay, I liked comics.
When I got home, I showed the comic to my Mom – and she hit the roof.
The comic book told the standard story – God makes everything, makes Adam, makes Eve and they eat the apple and get cast out and marked as sinners by being turned black.
Yes, the comic changed Adam and Eve from a white couple into a black couple to show they were sinners.
My Mom hit the roof and sat down with my sister and I to explain that the comic was very wrong. That people of different colours are no worse or better than us and how you can’t treat people differently based on anything as silly as skin colour.
She said that it was a bad church for teaching such a horrible message and we were not to return there. If we wanted to learn about church, she would find us one.
And she did. For a while we went to a Presbyterian Church – and it was extremely different. Even now I have a great fondness for the people, but seriously folks, would it have really hurt to clap after the children’s choir of 4 sang? Give us a little appreciation for being brave enough to stand up in front of you all? We weren’t even bad as far as kids singing goes.
It was stodgy, uptight and boring. No one moved around, the singing was mostly rote and it was too rigid and structured. I stayed for about 2 years, mostly because I enjoyed the singing we did as the choir – the children’s choir was me, my sister and the two grandsons of the Minister.
Anything to be in front of an audience was my motto.
But, even then, when the kids would be sent down for Sunday school lessons, and what was being told to us was not just absorbed because the performance was so enthralling.
Religious stories don’t match with known history
I asked questions because what I had learned in school and on my own didn’t match with what we were being taught in church.
What if you lose your leg do you get it back in heaven? What if you lose your leg and it goes to heaven, but later you become a bad person and go to hell? Does your leg go to hell too, or does it get to stay in heaven because when it “died” you were still good?
This type of bargaining is natural to kids – how good do I have to be in order to be good? Santa, had far lower standards and immediate rewards. God, not so much.
What about dinosaurs? What about early humans?
We had a book published by Reader’s Digest called The Last 2 Million Years.
So, what about all the civilizations that existed before the bible says the earth was created? What about these same civilizations that aren’t mentioned in the bible?
What about that the bible stories are set in a very small geographical area and do not take into account civilizations in areas that were occurring at the same time as these events, but aren’t in the texts?
Does that mean that that’s the only area that this christian god is the god of? That the commandment not to worship other gods is really “don’t move out of my catchment area and into other god’s territories”?
More than that, since I was reading a lot of my Dad’s science fiction novels, which largely did not include religion, unless it was on a backwards primitive planet, religion did not offer a world that I could really live in.
There was no possibility, no invention, no individuality, just well, boring backwards looking uptight people following rules that they had no say in.
Church was largely engagingly emotionally and extremely unsatisfying intellectually. It wasn’t long before I was spending my Sunday morning watching the entertaining tv program “Kids are people too“.
But not going to church isn’t really enough to be an atheist, because there’s lots of believers out there who aren’t associated with any church. Which also puts paid to the idea that the main point of church is the community and shared beleifs.
It’s religion itself. Keeping in mind that all religions have exactly the same amount of evidence (none whatsoever), I’ll focus on the christian umbrella since it’s the one most North Americans are most familiar with.
Also, let’s put aside that circular reasoning that because we have the world around us that god put it there. Because that just begs the question, which god then?
That a clearly not human manufactured thing exists, doesn’t mean that something with better skills made it. Especially when you really learn about how the various systems in the body works, you quickly learn there’s nothing intelligent about our “design”.
Aside: I think it’s a bit funny that the oldest church in the Christian milieu, the Catholic Church, tends to be seen as something other than christian.
Kids essentially need to be indoctrinated and have their exposure to other ideas, history and even that there are a lot of other religions practiced now and thousands that aren’t practiced anymore.
If I guaranteed that you had a 50-50 change of wining a million dollars in a lottery draw, but first you had to pick which one of a thousand different lotteries – how are you going to know which particular lottery to draw your ticket from?
No different from picking what religion is the “One True One”. Dadadadum.
So, here’s some of what’s wrong with the christian religions (because there’s lots of them)
The concept of sin is that you have knowingly and by your own free will chosen to commit a sinful act.
Original Sin has you starting out with smut on you already, you’re doomed from the get go and you didn’t consent to be born – and even so, as a minor, can’t be held to any such agreement.
Any person who believes in original sin and choses to have a baby is essentially deciding to put another person in the position of having one foot in hell, just for being born. Isn’t corrupting other people a sin?
No sense of proportion
If the only bad thing you did was to steal a candy bar as a kid or wear a poly cotton blend shirt as an adult, you’re as deserving of eternal damnation as Josef Stalin or Adolf Hitler. What sort of justice is that? What sort of forgiving,loving and supposedly all-knowing god is unable to understand the context of the actions?
God allegedly has a big picture view and ideas enough to create the universe, all the galaxies, systems, planets and so forth down to sub-atomic particles, but he can’t see that a 5-year-old really can’t understand the implications of shop lifting? Or get that adults need low maintenance but comfortable office wear?
Never gives credit for good actions or thoughts
If you stole a candy bar as a kid, but spent your adult life working to eliminate poverty and homelessness, you are still damned to hell because all your positive actions did not mitigate a minor infraction on your balance sheet.
Look at the 10 commandments, any version of them – the majority of the commandments are about worshiping and obeying authority – and very few are about actions or behavior.
Pretty much don’t be covet, don’t steal or murder is the extent of the behaviour code.
Everything else is worship god, not other gods and obey your parents.
Does that mean there’s other gods around to worship? Maybe they’ll make a better offer….
God sets people up for failure, just read the Cain and Able story – the early part. Able was always God’s favorite.
Expecting people to live a perfectly sin-free life is unrealistic. Especially now that our average life span is so much longer than any other time in history.
It’s like condemning a round object in the real world for not being a mathematically perfect sphere.
So, you’re supposed to live sin free, and feel bad about original sin that you didn’t even do – and don’t forget, women bear the biggest burden with the menstrual cycle and painful births.
Aside: Given that birth is painful for child and mother, and in pre-modern medicine times, infant and mother mortality rates were pretty high – can anyone really think god likes people? If we’re supposed to really go forth and multiple, then shouldn’t humans have relatively easy birthing of litters? Or was the bible really meant for cats? The ancient Egyptians thought they were divine.
which leads us to
Salvation has nothing to do with justice.
According to mainstream (not even the fringe!!!) Christianity, a serial killer could spend his entire life torturing hundreds of little children to death, then repent on his death bed, and get an express ticket to heaven without enduring a single moment’s punishment.
Think about it. Serial killer of children sitting on the same cloud as your great-great grandmother. All for saying sorry and asking Jesus to forgive him.
BUT any of his child victims was over the Age of Accountability or was a non-Christian when they were tortured to death (and possibly even taking the lord’s name in vain when prayers to Jesus and God to save them were answered “no” at worst or ignored at best), that kid goes straight to hell.
Imagine it. 8-year-old kid, kidnapped, raped, tortured and killed in a fire pit of hell beside Hitler.
And that’s the mainstream churches.
The spread of religion and getting people to obey is largely fear mongering.
If you don’t accept my god and follow the rules that I tell you my god wants you to follow, you’re going to hell.
Worse than that – you could well believe and follow the rules, but because society has civil laws that don’t match god’s laws – god is allowing people including his own followers to perish in natural disasters or terrorist attacks just because there are feminists, legal abortion and gays are people too.
Christianity is a horrible religion that has nothing to do with love, fairness, goodness or justice.
The eastern religions with their concept of karma and reincarnation seems a zillion times more fair, but no more plausible.
Being a nihilist is far cheery worldview than believing in the horribly judgmental, insecure, egomaniac, genocidal and all around Cosmic Sadist of Christianity
Seriously, how could I possibly resist?
Sadly, I did find this in the humour section – and I objected very strenuously to the book store clerk – yes, I bought it in a bricks and mortar store, even though I put links to online book shopping sites.
Now, I am not totally endorsing on line instead of in store book buy – after all, on line is great for a lot of shopping, but I just prefer my book experience to be a sensual journey of touch and smell.
Sorry, drooled a moment there.
The Pocket Guide to the Afterlife – 91 Places Death Might Take You was written by Augusta Moore and Elizabeth Ripley.
The 91 religions are all in the tags – sorry, couldn’t do all the funky international symbols.
What struck me the most – well, right after all these religions being able to be condensed into 2 or 3 pages of a slightly larger than a pocket book – nice to have the high level overview and not bog down in details.
What struck me the most was that a lot more religions than I realized expect to reincarnate. Some you can come back as anything, any other animal, plant or rocks even. In others, you are human and human alone, and your journey is being different kinds of humans. In others, what and how you reincarnate depends on how you behaved now and in past lives.
But the goal of all the reincarnation, living lives and learning, is to get to oblivion. And it seems to me that that is a lot of time and energy to get to a state, that on the balance, is pretty much were we go after death.
When you compare the religions that have clothing requirements, it’s almost like being a trend pimp in high school – plain clothes, over everything clothes, special hats, special hair styles – or no hair – and then there’s food.
Eat this, don’t eat that, you can eat that but not on magic days of the week.
Worst of all there’s the constant having to achieve a behaviour code that basically is anything that our natural incline is bad – whether it really is bad or not.
As of the book’s publishing, there are only 4 Quakers left. Why? They don’t beleive in sex. At all. Ever. Not even missionary. Ever.
The other enlightening part is how many times religions have rolled into another. Vodoo and Vodun have both rolled into Catholicism by simply matching their plethora of spirits to the plethora of Saints that the CC has. And they do all match up.
It struck me too that Catholicism is not a monotheistic religion – you’ve got god, jesus and the holy ghost, who also combine a trinity – but then there’s Mary and all the saints who are also prayed to and worshiped. Pretty Pantheonic by any standard.
But, even it’s all read, compared and giggled over, there is one truth that rings loud and in a clear and unmistakeable tone.
The major function of religion is not to define us as groups of people, despite being largely geographically determined who’s in one versus another.
It’s not to to provide moral guidance through our lives, as, most of the requirements are nonsensical, impossible standards and make life rather joyless. (Seriously Quakers, you shoulda thought of that one). For most, the commandments and requirements are also about worship the deity and authority – there’s nothing moral about that – and in fact blind authority worship will result in a general worsening of society.
The theme that rings clear and loud is that religions are all designed to make people accept their lot in life – especially those in the poorer categories.
Oh, you have to work off your bad karma from your last life, oh you must learn the lesson of humility, harder for the rich to get into heaven so be glad you’re poor.
There is nothing noble about grinding poverty, nothing truthful about being working poor.
If rich people really beleive that being poor is the way to heaven, then why do they stay rich? I know politicians cost a lot, but if they really beleive, shouldn’t they be poor too?
The purpose of religion is to maintain the status quo, so the poor do not rise up and demand the equality we claim our society offers. So they do not share in the benefits of their labour in order to obtain education and bring themselves up the socio-economic ladder.
Especially all the ones who claim to be about Jesus – a guy who didn’t own a horse, wore long hair and sandals and hung out with 12 guys and never married.
Hmm, doesn’t sound like the Evangelical way of huge missions, universities, fleets of cars and planes, tv networks, theme parks with waterslides, expensive suits and, well, with all that money, they should be able to get better haircuts.
It’ exhausting. If people sat down and read a book that provided just a short overview of what religions claim – their creation story, their god’s personality, the after death scenarios, you’d start to see that it’s all pretty random and a bit nutty.
I mean, as silly as a believer of one finds everyone else’s religion, so do they all find yours funny too.
So, why not enjoy them for the art works they inspired, as literature.
It’s not hard to be a good person – it’s the giving yourself persmission to be that good person.
It’s easy. Don’t kill except in defense of yourself or others.
Don’t assault or rape other people, especially children. You’d hope that this would be obvious, but it clearly isn’t to a lot of religions.
Don’t steal from people or businesses, it’s not yours until you pay for it.
Letting go of your gods will not turn you into a genocidal raping and pillaging crazed person, but there’s a lot of evidence that hanging onto a god will turn you into just that.
What is with this insistence by True Believers that only they or ones like them or that they approve of are True Whatevers and other people who say that they are whatevers are not.
What’s interesting about True Believer is that it’s not about religion anymore, but other areas, like fans of an entertainer or being into any cause – vegetarians, environmental – but it’s this spill over into fandom that I find most interesting.
On an Elvis forum, I had a woman tell me that I wasn’t a true Elvis fan because I was willing to accept certain claims about Elvis being realistic and likely.
And it was funny to me that my listening specifically to him for the last 33 years, collecting albums, cds, books and DVDs somehow didn’t mean I was a true fan if I accepted certain claims as fact.
To me it was very much like people in one splinter group of xtianity claiming members of other splinter groups weren’t true xtians to be the same thing.
So, funny that it’s not enough to be in the club, now you have to be in the correct chapter.
Wouldn’t you expect that the oldest chapter – the Catholic Church – is the correct one?
Do you think this is an American thing – that anything European is rejected and the authority must be local?
Is that why Mormonism took hold, because it claimed a third testament right in the US?
Is it that religious American’s can’t cope with the Bible, allegedly the word of god, making no mention of America?