October 21, 2005

Perspectives on Religion

Those of you who have followed my column know that I have very strong opinions about religion. In one article I articulated my perspective about God. In another article I expressed how wrong I felt it was for the constitution of Iraq to implement Islam as the country’s official religion. I’m vehemently opposed to ANY religion controlling a government.

So while I’m at it, I figured I would devote an article just to my random thoughts and perspectives on religion. I know most of the people in this world do believe in God (or Gods) in some form or another, so I’m bound to piss off a couple billion people. Please don’t take any of this personally. While the right-wingnuts will be demonizing me as ‘Godless’, keep in mind I’m just trying to put it all into perspective - a 21st century perspective. As you read on, don’t just think of your own religion, think of the many other religions in this world as well.

Religion Divides

As each congregation gathers in their own houses of worship, one thing is abundantly clear to me. Not only does religion bring together people who think alike, it brings together people who think alike. In one sense I have to categorize this as a form of segregation. As the people who think alike exclude those who don’t think as they do, it melds towards bigotry. I realize that the exclusion is voluntary, but it still separates people by how they think, and that separation inevitably builds prejudices against those who don’t think like they do.

What do religions teach their children? Are they teaching them that all men (and women) are created equal? Or, are they teaching them that they are the chosen people? Are they teaching them that we all have a chance to be with God in heaven after we die, or that only they will be with God in the afterlife if they’re absolved of their sins, and those from other religions will be going to Hell?

Sadly, over the centuries, religion has been the impetus for hatred, wars and genocide. As an experiment, go to Google and enter ‘religion’ and ‘war’ in the same search. It’s scary how much violence, bloodshed, and death has been caused over the years from religious conflicts.

Religion Scares

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “God Fearing”. And isn’t the fear of going to Hell in the afterlife what drives billions of people to live moral lives instead of sinful lives? Any why are Christian Fundamentalists afraid of homosexuals? Clearly, religions have used fear to manipulate their followers.

Religion takes time

Of course this could be said of many things, but think of how much of our lives we’ve spent praying. Granted it’s time well spent for those who feel they’ve gotten something out of it. But ‘Imagine’ there were no religion (as John Lennon suggests). Think of the thousands of hours of your life you’d get back.

The Catholic Church

One of the things I pride myself on is my progressiveness. The root of ‘progressiveness’ is PROGRESS. After 2,005 years since we’ve been counting the years forward, we’ve come a long way. We’ve progressed. We’ve made it through the Stone Age, the Dark Age, the Ice Age, and even the Industrial Revolution. In just the past 200+ years we’ve experienced a magnitude of change in technology and society. But, has religion progressed along with the rest of society?

  • In today’s society, at least in our country, women are equal partners. They’ve worked for, and earned respect. They deserve to be treated as equally and as fairly as men. However, in some religions, women are second-class citizens. Why is it that the Catholic Church will not allow women to be priests?

  • In today’s society, birth control is a fact of life. Planned parenthood is a necessity as sexual attraction is an integral part of our culture. So, why does the Catholic Church disallow birth control?

  • In today’s society, in most religions, grown adults are encouraged find their life-partners, marry, and build a family. But in the Catholic Church, those who are most involved in leading the religion (priests & nuns) are not allowed to pursue the destiny that the rest of us enjoy. Because of this ‘vow of celibacy’, a demonizing sex-abuse scandal has threatened the very pillar of the Catholic Church. I wonder if that would’ve happened if priests had been allowed to marry and have children, much like ministers and rabbis?

Intelligent Design

It’s only been in the last few years that the phrase “Intelligent Design” has been a part of our language. Where did it come from? Previously we referred to it as “Creation”. The very first words of the Bible say “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”. I guess the “Creation” term wasn’t euphoric enough, so they repackaged it much like the Republican’s schemes. Like “No Child Left Behind”, “Healthy Forests Initiative”, “Clear Skies Initiative”, and “Faith Based Initiative”, it’s all about marketing.

So, let’s be perfectly clear. “Intelligent Design” is Creationism. It’s religion, plain and simple. It’s all fine & good to teach “Intelligent Design” in religious school, but not in public schools as scientific theory. God is the excuse we use to explain that which we can’t, but it’s not an acceptable alternative to science.

Religion’s Upside

I don’t want the reader to walk away with the idea that I’m totally against religion. That certainly is not the case because I do believe that religion has a lot of upside. I believe that most religions are based on righteous principles of love, brotherhood, family, community, mercy, hope and treating people with respect. Religion gives countless people a sense of purpose, comfort and belonging. Religion’s benevolent efforts have done a lot of good in this world.

I’ve always been a firm believer in “The Golden Rule”. It’s the primary value I’ve taught my children – “Treat people the way you would want to be treated”. In the bible the words are “Love thy neighbor as thyself”. Again, a righteous concept… a virtue… and could be attributed to religion. Personally, I would rather attribute it to basic respectful behavior. But if religion causes people to act respectfully, that’s a good thing.


I believe religion has its merits. However, I also believe that religion brainwashes and manipulates. It has its place in this world, but it should be a private place. A place where we can go to if we want, or not go to if we don’t want. Religion should be available and free to join, practice, and participate, but not imposed upon anyone.


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