Wednesday, January 07, 2015

In the name of God

The world will be a healthier, happier place to live when we overcome our desire to find superstitious answers to life’s difficult questions. Horrible news from Paris as masked gunmen stormed the offices of the satirical paper Charlie Hebdo and murdered twelve people, reportedly for satirizing the prophet Muhammad in the past. Predictably, there will be much wailing from Christian fundamentalists about the violent nature of Islam with no reflection on Christianity’s long history of barbaric behavior.

And Muslims have no monopoly on religious lunacy. In another headline from today’s news, we are treated to this: “City officials declare God ‘owner’ of their Alabama town.” The town of Winfield’s mayor hopes the designation will help residents become more religious. We can laugh or shake our head in wonder, but the mayor’s belief system is shared by a large number of Americans.

Many argue that we should look at the good that religion has done, but this isn’t a very compelling argument for me. Believers want to focus on the ‘good works’ of their faith, such as helping feed the poor, without including the broader discussion of why we have a system that allows people to go hungry in the first place. And “belief” is so damn pliable it can be used to justify almost anything, from obscene wealth to war to government-sponsored murder to the denial of scientific facts.

My opinion is that religion is a phase in human development, in the same way that believing in Santa Claus or imaginary friends is a stage of individual development. As we mature, we are slowly (and painfully) setting aside superstitious explanations of the universe in favor of scientific ones, and there will come a day when religion will be a quant memory…if we don’t destroy ourselves in the name of God first.

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