June 24, 2005

A New Religion - Shustism

Imagine there’s no heavens
It’s easy if you try
No Hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today
- John Lennon

Let’s think outside the box again, take off our blinders, and challenge our thought processes. Imagine you were born and raised on another planet, and only recently landed on Earth. Of course all aliens from outer space speak English, so you easily tap into our culture, our media, our art, our society, and our politics. After the first ten minutes you’re curious about this strange phenomenon known as ‘God’. You see it everywhere… “In God We Trust”... “God Bless America”... “Acts of God”... “Thank God!”

“Who’s this God person?” you ask.

“Oh God’s not a person.” is the reply from your trusty space companion.

“What is God?” you ask. “And why do they refer to God as ‘him’?”

“Looks like God is some kind of ‘higher being’. I see them gathering by the hundreds in meeting places and ‘praying’ to this ‘God’. They think God created this planet and everything on it. They call that notion ‘Intelligent Design’.”

God & Fairy Tales

When we were very little, our parents provided some fantasy for us in the form of Santa Claus. For the first few years of our lives, we actually believed in Santa, that he came once a year on Christmas, and gave us presents. When we started losing teeth we actually believed that there was a Tooth Fairy who replaced our molars for money overnight while we slept.

But then we started to grow up and learned the ways of Mom & Dad, and came to the realization that these are all just ploys of our Parents… except for one. Why do we logically dismiss the fairy-tale fakeness of Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, & the Easter Bunny, but continue to believe in God as a ‘higher being’ who works in mysterious ways and will accept us into heaven when we die if we’ve been ‘good’? Anyone who’s supposedly seen God is dead, so what proof is there that God actually exists?

Religion Divides

Over the last several thousand years the people on planet Earth have been sharply divided, and the lines of this particular division are along our beliefs in God. Each ‘religion’ has their own view of what God is, and all of the accoutrements that come along with those beliefs. Each religion thinks their beliefs are the right ones. Each religion has their own ‘book’ (‘Old Testament’, ‘New Testament’, Koran, etc) to guide them. Each religion thinks their people are God’s ‘chosen’. In many countries an official religion even controls the government. And unfortunately over the years, religion has also been the basis of bigotry, hatred, wars and even genocide.

At this juncture the closed-minded “Religious Right” are probably demonizing me as a “Godless Liberal”. I guess that’s their prerogative, and they certainly have the ‘right’ to say so given our First Amendment’s freedom of speech. But I’m not trying to demonize religion. I’m trying to put it into perspective.

Religion has a lot of upside, too. On the whole I’d like to think that most (if not all) religions are based on the ‘righteous’ principles of love, caring, brotherhood, mercy, family, learning, growing, community, tolerance, and treating others with respect. So, what does ‘God’ have to do with it?

I have my own beliefs too (perhaps I should start my own religion – I’ll call it Shustism). I do believe in those ‘righteous’ principles and that everyone should live their lives adhering to them. However, I believe that God is merely a symbol of those righteous principles, not a ‘higher being’ responsible for the ‘intelligent design’ of our universe, who’ll condemn me to eternity in ‘Hell’ after I die if I don’t live my life exactly as the Church commands. God is in our stories (which I also believe are largely fairy tales) as a way of communicating & teaching those principles.

God is also used as a tool. It’s the “Fear of God” that motivates many people to behave the way they do. And don’t get me started about the Televangelists and how they’ve raised money manipulating their followers by using ‘God’ as a tool.

The ‘Morals’ of the Story

Given my beliefs, why should I have God shoved down my throat? God’s written on our money (“In God We Trust”). God’s in the Pledge of Allegiance our children say every morning in school to profess their patriotism for our country. Every 7th inning I hear that God has ‘blessed’ our country. But, why is God in the White House? Why is George W. Bush our president again because of his born-again Christian beliefs? Why are millions of my tax dollars going to religious Christian organizations?

So here’s my message. Separate ‘church’ and ‘state’. Our founding fathers, who delicately crafted our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, were extremely careful to make sure that NO religion would be infused in our government. Instead, they ensured that each and every American would be free to practice their own religion within the limitations of not interfering with other’s rights.

So, go ahead and practice your own religion… as much as you want… Just don’t impose your religion on me. Don’t tell me what’s ‘moral’, ‘immoral’, or ‘righteous’. Take God off our money, take “...under God...” out of our pledge of American patriotism, and don’t send my hard-earned tax money to religious organizations, which by definition are openly discriminatory. There are too many other worthwhile secular organizations that need it.


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