The whole point of free speech is not to make ideas exempt from criticism but to expose them to it.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Why does anyone else care if I believe...

At all times and in every area of our lives we are subject to immense pressure from religion. I'm not opposed to most of that. I am opposed to the disproportionate influence exercised by power mad zealots using some quirky religious belief or another to justify inhuman behavior toward someone else.

While Christopher Hitchens was not a factor in my arriving at pretty close to conclusive lack of belief in a "God, maker of the universe and personally concerned with my welfare," or in any Supreme Design, I do enjoy reading Hitchens' arguments for a similar point of view.

Hitchens said: "Many religions now come before us with ingratiating smirks and outspread hands, like an unctuous merchant in a bazaar. They offer consolation and solidarity and uplift, competing as they do in a marketplace. But we have a right to remember how barbarically they behaved when they were strong and were making an offer that people could not refuse."

Here's the problem. It probably makes little difference to God whether or not I believe in God. Whether or not I exist in a Supreme Design is, by definition, irrelevant to the success or failure of the Design. But people who believe in some combination of "God" and the "Supreme Design" naturally seek out others to convert them or to share their faith. These groups too often then seek, and way too often attain, the power to control an aspect of the lives of others over which they properly should have no control. Throughout history, zealots have used religion to inspire their disciples to put hot irons in the eyes of people whose religion didn't supply them with enough firepower to win whichever war was being fought.

The ritual and social life of the Mormon, Russian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and various European Protestant factions that I have observed with varying degrees of familiarity provide models of desirable lifestyles, although the level of undesirability that often lurks below the social waterline probably is no lower among believers than among non-believers. I believe I can exist peacefully with people who practice these religions, or any other religion, without trying to force me to practice their religion. Wait, if I knew that somebody down the street was going to excise his three-year-old daughter's clitoris and labia majora and minora, I would do what I could to put a stop to it. That's a little too gruesome for me to accept even in someone else's religion.

A disproportionate influence of exactly the sort I despise is being exercised in Rapid City Council meetings, where a local person of the cloth opens meetings with prayers. There can only be one logical reason for this practice to be imposed on all of us; the Believers want to identify the NonBelievers. Since they can't (as of today, anyway) tie people's hands behind them and hoist them by their wrists until they profess faith, they're left with observing the crowd of citizens, come looking for redress of grievances or some such, to see who's showing less than appropriate reverence.

If the Council People want to pray to God, why, in God's name, do they need to make us part of it? It's people like that who give God a bad name.

1 comment:

larry kurtz said...

Sure is good to see you writing, Bob: hope you keep it up.