Wednesday, November 2, 2011

On Christianity & Morals

I’ve been thinking about Christianity and how much it irritates me again. There are rumors of real Christians out there, but I still don’t know that I know any. I still feel as though as soon as someone picks up the cross, they turn into a self-righteous, judgemental ass. Because, in spite of what that book they so readily defend says, they seem to think that belief in their God gives them the right to pass judgement and, even worse, define what is moral and immoral. That’s just downright frightening.

Morality should not be bought and paid for by promises of an afterlife. It shouldn’t be founded on tales of bloodshed and murder. It shouldn’t be symbolized by the execution of a man. I’ve experienced the “morality” of some of these people. I’ve listened to a teenage girl from a very religious family adamantly support the idea that tolerance is wrong. Her church and her parents had taught her that all Muslims are evil. She believed they should all be deported from America. I listened to her sister, who I briefly dated, tell me stories of the abuses of her oh-so-righteous father. Yet these were good, church-going Christians.

I realize that they’re not all like that. There are critical aspects of their teachings that are wonderful, common sense morality. Let’s look at a big one: thou shalt not kill. This is a great start and would be even better if the so-called religious would stop sending other people to do their killing for them. I’m sorry, but the degree of separation doesn’t keep their hands clean. Let me tell you, I didn’t lose faith in Obama when his plans didn’t work out. I lost faith when he started celebrating the deaths of our enemies. Death should never be celebrated. Even a wake is a celebration of life. The only time killing is ok is when you must kill or be killed.

The best of the ten commandments can be summed up fairly easily: don’t kill, steal, lie or cheat. They’re summed up even better by the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have done unto you. Which is terribly similar to the Wiccan Rede: An it harm none, do as you will.

The Golden Rule shows up many times in the Bible, notably in Matthew 7:12 when Jesus says, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” and Luke 6:31 when he says, “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” So, this being the case, I’d love to hear a few more Christian excuses as to why they will not support basic human rights like gay marriage. Not only is this a ridiculous issue, it shouldn’t be an issue. Gay marriage isn’t a matter of morality or legality and attempting to use a Christian moral structure to deny these people their right to live and love as they will is, according to Jesus F. Christ, denying yourself that right as well. Homosexuality is not a crime, and if it is, barring rape, it’s none of your business. If you’re Christian, that judgement is your God’s to make, not yours. The Christian role in dealing with homosexuality, really, any group they believe God doesn’t approve of, is to love them anyway. Or at least leave well enough alone. If you’re going to be smug and self-righteous about your belief that someone else is going to hell, keep it to yourself.

While we’re talking about hell and God and heaven and angels and immaculate conception, let’s take a look at what that implies. It implies you believe in the supernatural. That in the world you live in it is possible for some being to magically create the world. The universe. As in, abracadabra and POOF Harry Potter creates life. If you or me or anyone else for that matter went around claiming that we found a magic lamp and a genie granted us the ability to walk on water or make bread and fish multiply on a whim, we’d be branded delusional and carted off to the nearest insane asylum. It’s as if religion exists to channel our crazy just enough that we can go about normal lives. In the world we live in, surrounded by technology and scientific fact and discoveries that are constantly giving us a better definition of how it all works, why is there still a need or room for this crutch? It’s insane. Literally.

In fact, science has brought us to an era in which Christianity (and other deity based religions) are completely unnecessary. Quite honestly, it’s been unnecessary since the founding of Buddhism but now we have a secular methodology that has similar approaches without the religious trappings. There is a science of human well-being and it’s been empirically proven to fulfill the needs that have so long been the domain of religion. Jung said human spirituality was a built in part of our psyche, but I think if he were here now he would change his mind. What he recognized was our need to lead fully-realized lives. The path to that is out there. It’s just slightly more difficult to achieve.

That’s the crux of the matter, isn’t it? Christianity is EASY. It’s so easy to stand ignorantly behind faith and tell the scientific community that the Big Bang theory is a silly view of creation. Well, the first problem with that is it ISN’T a creation theory. It’s an expanding universe theory. What this brings us to is critical thinking. Religion protects people from the terrible effort that is using their brains. While there are most certainly intelligent religious people, studies have shown that there is a direct link between religion and brain health. If you don’t have to think, question or learn, you aren’t using your brain. Much like any other part of your body, if you don’t use it, your capabilities degrade and your health degrades. For fun and non-profit, one might say that religion is obesity for the brain.

Let’s talk about how Christianity is the Borg of religion. When in it’s infancy, the Church followed the example of Rome and assimilated EVERYTHING. Rather than making those pagans stop celebrating that obnoxious winter solstice holiday, the Christians suddenly decided it was a convenient time to celebrate the birth of their deity’s mortal incarnation. His conception sounds remarkably like any number tales of Zeus coming down and playing around with mortal women. (We won’t mention the probability that Mary was LYING, either.) There are a lot of books on the origins of Christian mythology and I recommend starting with Thomas’ Paine’s The Age of Reason if you’re interested.

I could go on and on and on. Really though, I’d be more than willing to leave Christianity to its happy little delusion if its people would start having a little more respect for the rest of us. I’m not interested in forcing someone to believe or not believe. I would simply appreciate it if as a group Christians would stop treating non-Christians, non-theists, gays and any other group they’ve chosen to impose their flawed immorality on as second-class citizens. Where is the love and respect your God supposedly teaches? What right do you have to deny people life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

As I wrote earlier, morality should not have to be bought and paid for. Not to mention that it’s clear that the Christian system of morality doesn’t work. First, let’s make the easiest point: 81% of incoming inmates in American jails are Christian. (If you want a comparison .02% are atheist, but I’m not here to defend atheism.) What that statistic means is that 81% of all prison inmates have most likely in some way broken one of the commandments they were raised to respect. Their Christian upbringing somehow failed to create good, God-abiding citizens who loved their neighbors and did unto others as they would have others do unto them. The promise of heaven and the threat of hell just weren’t enough to keep these people on the right path.

Science, again, has an explanation for this. It’s all about human motivation and we know for a fact that offering rewards for good behavior and punishment for poor behavior ISN’T a successful method for motivating people. In fact, it’s been shown in experiments done all over the world that when offered a reward for any non-formulaic activity, people will perform worse than if they’re not offered one. (Which explains a lot about the atrocities performed in the name of God, if you ask me.) Morality, indeed, is quite non-formulaic. In the end, it turns out the best way to motivate people is through intrinsic motivation. People must do something because it gives them a sense of mastery, autonomy and purpose. Therefore, being a moral person is something that should be done because it is the right thing to do. Being a good person is its own reward. No system of ethics is good in which morality is not intrinsic.

This is why I find myself irritated by Christianity once again. I expect more of a congregation that follows a messiah who preached love for your neighbors. There’s a beautiful message in the Bible, if Christ’s followers would just stop fishing with a bucket. I’m irritated because I’m disappointed. Disappointed in people who can’t or won’t think for themselves, people who think that belief in an amorphous entity is a reason to judge others as good or bad and disappointed that these people are so capable of extracting the worst parts of their belief and acting upon them instead of embracing the ones that would let them welcome anyone and everyone with open arms.

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