Re: Is all religion moronic?

Ugo Cei asks “Is all religion moronic?

Not usually a topic for this blog, but I’ve been thinking about this recently myself and wanted to comment. And not because I’m a South Park fan (it’s been many years since I watched it and I was a little surprised they were still trotting out new episodes πŸ™‚

I actually agree with the original viewpoint that it’s hypocritical to have different standards. People shouldn’t be judged by other people for their beliefs, and they all deserve respect no matter how much they disagree with your own.

Ugo goes on to say, “But then I started wondering: Is there any difference between believing that we are inhabited by the souls of billions of aliens who were murdered 75 millions of years ago and believing that Jesus’s mother was a virgin when she gave birth to him?  Both are clearly made up stories…”
I wondered what makes them “clearly made up”? Is it a lack of any evidence? In the case of Jesus, is it simply that the evidence relies on the miraculous?

I definitely think that faith is required in any religion.  However, I’d disagree that religion is always “based on unproven statements that must be believed on faith alone, suspending all rational discussions”.  Religions dramatically affect the way people live their lives, and should be held up equally to close scrutiny. There should be no room for blind faith.  It’s true, God’s existence can only be proven by starting with the assumption that he exists. That certainly requires a leap of faith to believe! But I think it’s important that faith has a basis in real evidence.

So, I’m a Christian, yet I agree with the blog title – does that mean I’m a moron? I sure hope not, but perhaps I should explain why, just to be sure.

For me, Christianity explains the world I see around me. Yes, faith is required, but it’s backed up by the Bible and historical evidence, and by evidence from the natural world – some things that you “just know” to be true from your birth without being given an explanation, such as the existence of good and evil. Most of all, it’s evident in the difference it has made in my own life and the lives of those around me.

It still seems like a big leap. But contrast that to the leap of faith required to assume that there is no God at all. Which is the greater miracle – a virgin birth from a God that created the whole process, or an ordered universe that came into existence from nothingness by chance? In either case the evidence will only get you so far before you need to stretch your boundaries.

Now, to the point of the blog title, yes – all religion is moronic. This, of course, depends on how “religion” is defined, but I find it is commonly used to represent people trying to get to God, or otherwise doing something themselves. However, if a powerful God exists (or another supreme being), to think that there is anything we could do to reach out and affect them is completely self-absorbed, and just plain stupidity. Tradition, ceremonies, rules, gifts – all would be completely insufficient to really have any effect.

Religious activity is usually a means of disciplined self improvement. In that regard, it always fails! There are countless examples to be seen in the world today. They were always destined to fail, though – a powerful God that wants justice can demand no less than perfection. Now, I’ve always known I should be doing good, but still manage to mess it up daily. I know that I can never be perfect. But there’s no such thing as “good enough” on a scale of good and evil. Otherwise, where would the line possibly be drawn?

This affirms my belief in Christianity – it’s really not about “religion”, or anything I can do. An endless pursuit of trying to become perfect would be hopeless. But, if the Bible is to be believed, then admitting that I can’t do it myself and asking forgiveness is all I have to do – and in fact, all I can do. God wants honesty, integrity, fairness, and a relationship. Everything else (ceremonies, tradition, obedience to rules) should only be our expression of thanks, not a chore only tolerated to score points or receive some blessing. That, to me, seems real – it’s an appropriate response to a powerful God rather than a half-baked attempt at trying to do more good things.

There’ll be no reward for the quantity or quality of a person’s religiousness. Rather, by admitting fault and having faith, the reward is that God will never turn his back on you. The alternative? To turn my back on God, and eventually get exactly what I want – a lonely world without God, stripped of anything that was good. Nothing beautiful, nothing fun, nothing satisfying. Or worse, complete non-existence. I know which I’d prefer.

If that’s not the truth, then I may well be a moron. Just another 28 year old with an imaginary friend. But in my opinion, it would have been far more moronic to pass up a chance at that free gift of forgiveness, to risk ending up spending eternity completely alone, kicking myself for being so stubborn.

What do you think?

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10 responses to “Re: Is all religion moronic?

  1. For a Christian, I would say you make some reasonably good points πŸ™‚

    (atheist speaking here)

    Why are we here? Simple statistics. As we speak, life is trying to emerge on millions of planets throughout the universe, and failing. But once in a while, the right conditions are there, and that’s what happened to us. Not trying to convince you (I know I won’t) but just pointing out that there are other possible explanations than an omnipotent god to account for our existence.

    Finally, your personal philosophy (“not keeping score”, etc…) seems to be very much at odds with the principles of Christianity (“you can do whatever you please even kill someone as long as you confess, and then you’ll be forgiven”) and very much in line with teachings of other religions, such as Budhism.

    Have you considered switching? πŸ™‚

    — Tanis

  2. Ugo says: “…based on unproven statements that must be believed on faith alone, suspending all rational discussions.”

    You disagree and expound on this disagreement by writing: “Yes, faith is required, but it’s backed up by the Bible and historical evidence, and by evidence from the natural world – some things that you “just know” to be true from your birth without being given an explanation, such as the existence of good and evil. Most of all, it’s evident in the difference it has made in my own life and the lives of those around me.”

    But therein lies the rub. The Bible is the rock upon which Christianity lies. Without faith in the statement: “the Bible is the divinely inspired word of God”, there is no Christianity. But that exact statement in the Bible’s divinity is an “unproven statement that must be believed on faith alone”.

    Furthermore, things that one ‘just knows’ can hardly be called proven statements. Nor can one claim these things one ‘just knows’ can be accepted on anything *but* faith.

    And to top it off, you mention the “evidence” seen in the lives around you. Well, I see all kinds of evidence in some Christians: hypocrisy, depression, anger, jealousy, adultury, abuse, etc etc. I also see all kinds of evidence in some Buddists, Muslims, Taoists: kindness, calmness, selflessness, generousity, loyalty. To claim that “evidences” in one’s life can be attributed to a Christian God – or any god – is one more example of an “unproved statement that must be accepted on faith alone.”

    All religion is based, at the bottom of the well, at the core of the religion, on faith. You’ve written as much yourself. There is no getting around the necessity for a blind leap accross the chasm, no matter if one is Buddist, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, etc, etc, etc.

  3. Have to disagree a little with your last statement, CuRoi. There are definitely folks who follow a very philosophical side of Buddhism that don’t rely on faith, but rather meditate, observe, experience and try to avoid getting stuck on a particular world view. Faith seems to run counter to that approach.

  4. Good responses.

    Tanis – no I haven’t considered switching πŸ™‚ Buddhism doesn’t resonate for me because of the lack of a creator, and re-incarnation doesn’t make sense to me. As for your quote about killing someone and then being forgiven – that would be total hypocrisy. You need to be honest about your repentance. And regardless of whether you are forgiven, you still have to live with the consequences in this world.

    CuRoi – you’re right, I talked a lot about things I see as evidence, and did’nt mean to relate them as proven statements. But I don’t believe it is about faith alone. There is historical evidence Jesus walked the earth – and for him to say what he said he either *was* God, or a nut case. The difference between the two is the miracles he performed. That, combined with the other evidence, is enough for me.

    Your examples of hypocrisy from Christians is sadly true, and in my experience that is something that commonly occurs when you stop focusing on Christ and start focusing on worldly things. It is a hazard of Christianity that you are called to remain as a part of the world, and that you will continue to be tested.

    I don’t claim any monopoly on a change for the good to one religion. But speaking from my own experience, I do know what a difference it made. It’s a slow process.

  5. Funnily enough, a developer friend of mine and I had a very similar discussion regarding the historical evidence that proved that Islam is the one true religion.

  6. Great post πŸ™‚ I think most people hear think that Christianity requires “faith” and think “blind faith”. To be fair, this is what most religions require, since they are unfalsifiable, based on someone’s visions/dream/insights, or in the case of Scientology, vivid imagination.

    But Christianity is very much falsifiable. The bible is chock full of verifiable historical claims, and many have been verified. The bizarre way Jesus’ handful of followers acted after his death really has no explanation except that provided in the bible.

    Real faith is what happens *after* weighing up the evidence, finding it highly compelling, and accepting its implications.

  7. I take issue with your assertion that there are somet things that we know at birth, such as good and evil. This is patently false. So far as I’m aware, the only thing a new-born infant knows is how to cry. Calling even that “knowledge” is a bit of a stretch. Hell, they have to be taught how to suckle.

    Children are taught right from wrong (or good from evil) by their parents and other people around them. It is a process that takes years. A two year old does not understand why hitting another child is wrong, just that mommy gets very upset and he should stop doing it. The more abstract reasons one should practice kindness are not understood until at least five years of age, and often not until several years later. Of course, some people never have such lessons in life, and consequently behave in a violent or socially disruptive manner their entire lives.

  8. Brett – right on. Christianity is not about trying to earn my way to heaven, it’s about realizing that I can never do that, and that Jesus paid for my many sins through his death. As the hymn says, “‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, ’twas grace my fears relieved.” Amen!

  9. Brett, of course my question “is all religion moronic?” was a bit of a stretch. I know many smart people who proclaim themselves believers: they’re certainly not morons. I also know some smart people who believe in astrology, or that they can beat the house at the casino. Sometimes people believe the weirdest things and if you add to that the powerful conditioning that religion imposes on most people from a very early age, it’s easy to understand what’s happening.

    As for what is easier to believe, it’s certainly easier to believe in a Universe which came out of nothingness than to believe in an all-powerful being who came out of nothingness and created the Universe. You have fewer implausibilities to believe in the first case and they also obey all know laws of nature.

    And no, there is no historical evidence of most things that there are in the Bible: no evidence of the Genesis, no evidence of the Flood (which most certainly did NOT happen), no evidence of the Exodus, no evidence of the divinity of Jesus and very weak evidence of Jesus’ own existence. What there is evidence of is the fact that the Bible was written, rewritten and manipulated by many people over the course of many centuries.

  10. Brett,

    That was a ‘good work’. Thanks.

    I can easily understand that to some of the people who do not accept that God’s Truth and scientific truth converge, religion is for morons.

    For me, the stumbling block to faith was my training in science. As a physics major (and a fan of Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy), I was convinced that all of life could be explained, and wiould be explained, in terms of scientific equations, derived from observation. I realized later that I had an unjustified faith in science. In my certainty of my physics class, I was convinced that much of what is written in scripture is false only because it wasn’t scientific.

    Today, I understand that the truths discovered through science is the Truth created by God. Its also true that the Truth of God has been and is waiting to be discovered by science. Out of certainty of this convergence of the truth of science and God, when we come across a line of scripture which contraticts our understanding of the physical world, we should look behind the literal meaning of the scripture for the divine Truth. A teacher of the Word is of great help in discovery of the diving meaning. The Holy Spirit is essential.

    Literal meaning of the scripture so often conflicts with modern understanding of physical world. Its unfortunate. Too many people, people of science specifically, find this as a stumbling block like I did, and consequently find the outreach of our God too incredible to accept. As a result, too many people do not become faithful believers.

    This is where the Holy Spirit starts to work. He touched me when I watched the love of the Church pour forth while my father lay dying. Prior, I thought the Church was just brick, mortar and a bunch of rules made up by some old guys in the Vatican. But since then, I’ve come to understand Church as the living presence of Christ. This could only come through the working of the Holy Spirit.

    The Holy Spirit cannot be measured in graduated cylinders. The presence of our Lord in the Eucharist cannot be detected by any scientific instrument no matter how sensitive. The love that God the Father has for ALL of us cannot be understood in any scientific term. Proof cannot be had without faith.

    I hope I’m not out of line to make a correction for Ugo. Christian belief does not require you to believe that God was created out of nothing. Christian belief holds the God is Creator and not the created. When Moses asked for the name of the God that is sending him to free the Hebrews from slavery, God replied: “I AM”. God is more than simply a supernatural being. He is more than the totality of everything. He is existence itself.

    May the peace of Christ be with you, even if you are not a believer.

    Regards,
    John

    P.S. I, too, also want to apologize on behalf of all christians for the behavior of some christians in the name of Christ our Lord. Its not easy to live as Christ asks us to, and many of us get it so wrong as to be hurtful. I pray that you do not let these past sins prevent you from seeking and finding the healing power of Christ, the son of our God.

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