With or without religion?

“With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.” – Steven Weinberg

The reason I usually refuse to discuss religion is – what’s the point? Religion is based on faith, which is the antithesis of logic, so discussion is pointless. Except… when you really want to get to know someone.

I was raised Catholic. Kindergarten through 2nd grade and high school were Catholic schools. As late as my senior year I thought somewhat seriously about becoming a priest. When I chose a secular college, the principal of my high school told me, “Kurt, if you go to that school, you will lose your faith.” It told him that if my faith was worth keeping, I wouldn’t lose it. Before I finished my freshman year in college I no longer considered myself a Catholic.

I’d been something of a kindler in high school. If a teacher talking about contraception said that intercourse without the possibility of conception was sinful, I’d ask if the pleasure of the partners wasn’t equally important. They really hated seeing my hand go up. There were many things about Catholicism I questioned, but I didn’t have the freedom to really think for myself until I got to college, and then everything changed.

Many of the great crimes in history were precipitated by religion: the Crusades, the Inquisition, the burning of “witches”, numerous wars. It’s a very long list. Today radical Islamists have the world on edge. For a while I thought that religion had value because it helped to control the ignorant masses, but the contrary is true. People acting in the belief that they are doing God’s work have no boundaries. Everything, anything is justified for them in the name of their God and their religion.

Most religions preach tolerance, but religious people tend to be exceptionally intolerant. Their religion is the only true religion, and people who don’t subscribe to their beliefs, who aren’t like them, are damned. They might think themselves righteous if they proselytize, but really they are just building walls.

Many religions teach that homosexuality is a sin – the bible calls it an abomination. (I think the bible is an interesting book. I’ve read both the Catholic and King James versions.) But there are extensive data that show that homosexuality is genetic. How can natural creations of God be abominations?

In spite of the obvious problem of global overpopulation, Catholicism still teaches that contraception is sinful. (Catholic teaching is wrong on so many issues that I am convinced the Church has become an anachronism, kept alive primarily by the world’s uneducated and impoverished.) Many religions dogmatically consider women to be inferior to men. And on… and on… and on.

Jesus Christ taught one message: love. And yet Christians seem to practice love even less than atheists. The hypocrisy is painful, but I doubt many religious people even realize they’re that way.

And that is the real problem in religion. The only thing that differentiates humans from other animals on Earth is intelligence, and religion systematically denounces intelligence in favor of dogma. It is very difficult to control people who think for themselves, who use their greatest natural gift. So all religions are based on belief, which means accepting as true things that cannot be proven to be true.

I refuse to subscribe to that. It is certainly more difficult to face the trials of life and the inevitability of death without religion’s promise of being cared for by a supreme being, but it is more honest and more courageous. I don’t deny that there is a God, I just can’t believe that he would want me to forgo the greatest gift he gave me in order to achieve comfort.

So I don’t.

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