Religion is dangerous

religion

Okay. I know I am going to get people riled up with this one, but it is something that has been on my mind lately. Please remember as you read this that this is representative of my personal views and opinions. I am happy to engage in conversation – but I am simply not going to respond to anyone who tells me I am going to hell, or that by not believing what you believe I am some sort of bad person. That being said – religion is dangerous.

This post is going to be a long one so bear with me. 

I have yet to see a religion that actually does any good in our world. Yes, for some individuals it offers peace and higher purpose. Religion can indeed change lives – some of them for the better, but many of them do more to alienate than heal. I said in one of my first posts that I would write about my religious experiences at some point. So today that is what you are going to get. Let me also clarify that religion in the context of this post is very different from spirituality and faith. I firmly believe that you can have spirituality and faith without an indoctrination into a specific religion. It is the man made construct of religion that corrupts us, not our desire or need to identify with something higher than us or that stands as some greater purpose for us that drives us to be better people.

Now there are hundreds of religions out there. Whether they are mainstream and accepted like Christianity, Islam, or Judaism there are tons more that people give their lives to without ever thinking past doctrine or some holy book or writing that validates a certain belief system. For a long time I was a Christian – Baptist to be specific. I will say that being a part of the church at the time I was involved did some very positive things in my life, but it was the people (a small minority of people in a pretty large church) who made the difference and not their God. I had my own view of God during that time (and still do) that does not match up with the doctrine and dogma of the Christian faith. I got in a lot of ‘trouble’ for that in my church and after looking back over twenty years ago to remember the pain the church caused me – well I am just going to say that with few exceptions the people of the church did not care about me – they cared about changing me to conform to their worldview – which in my opinion was completely screwed up. Here is a little story to illustrate my point:

I was a very bad kid when one of my teachers invited me to a youth group at his church. I went, people were nice to me, and I had fun. I immersed myself in being a good (sort of) Christian. Part of my problem at this particular church was that is was not reflective of the community that I came from, so I was kind of the ‘black sheep’ of the youth group. I still smoked cigarettes and I still had my non-Christian friends. I came from a poor single parent home on the wrong side of town, and my youth group consisted of a lot of kids with money and resources. Out of all the kids in that group – no matter how many times I professed my dedication to Jesus – no one believed me. Even though I was there – I wasn’t perfect and therefore, I was not a ‘good Christian’.  They told me I should witness to my non-Christian friends and so I did – to the point that they probably wanted to punch me square in the face. However – they were my friends (my true friends) and to make me happy they came to an event the youth group was having. They were completely alienated. What good does it do to witness to friends and drag them to church when all they would experience there was hate and ignorance? That was the beginning of the end for my faith in religion.

One of my friends even came to church with me (not just a youth group activity). The head pastor of the church came up to her and recommended she sit in the back of the church because of her hair (it was the 80’s and we all had silly punk haircuts and spiked hair). We were kids. I was a kid who was told, “Bring your friends” and when I did – they were treated horribly. I never brought another friend to church ever again. You see, this church had an image to maintain – they were not concerned at all with preaching the “good news” welcoming those who lacked faith, nor did they have any desire to help the downtrodden looking for hope and answers – unless they dressed right, came from the right family, and had the appropriate wardrobe for Sunday services. Since when did Jesus ever say that to be a good Christian you have to dress in a specific way or wear your hair right (other than the old testament that everyone ignores anyway unless it suits some agenda to condemn people)? I never once met a “Christ like” person. They said they were – but I think Jesus would have been tickled that I invited my hoodlum friends to hear his message. Too bad his people completely screwed that up. While they were all busy judging me, our youth pastor was having sexual relations with certain members (underage members) of the youth group while he was married . This same man judged me relentlessly for struggling with my sexuality – even to the point of recommending I leave the youth group. So one pastor regulated my friends to the “back of the bus” so to speak – while another pastor screwed all the pretty girls and passed judgement on me for questioning  and trying to reconcile my faith with my sexuality. Him screwing underage girls was okay – but me thinking I was gay wasn’t. Last I heard, he was leading a youth group in another state (I don’t know if that’s true or not) but the fact remains that he wasn’t punished. He lost his job and his wife was smart enough to leave him – but I bet he is still telling people that he is righteous and they are not. The story of his indiscretion didn’t even make the local news. The Catholics aren’t the only ones molesting children and covering it up.

Now I still really like Jesus. He is one of my most favorite people in history. I have a ton of respect for what he did while he lived. While I no longer agree that he is the son of God – I  place him in the category of people who lived that was truly motivated to make the world a better place by preaching about love and responsibility for self. I no longer believe the ‘myth’ of Jesus, but I do believe his history and the legacy that I think he hoped to achieve during his life. To me Jesus was a radical. He was a liberal in the truest sense of the word. His concern was for social welfare and personal responsibility – and to try and make people aware of the the decline of the world around him. Jesus and I think a lot alike. So while I no longer feel that Jesus is the key to my soul and everlasting life – I do think he had some great ideas that over the centuries people have twisted into something even Christ wouldn’t recognize were he to really come back today. I think he would be pissed.

As for the Bible, I think it’s a bunch of bullshit. Well written bullshit and worth reading (kind of like Harry Potter is worth reading). It has great stories. It has good lessons (Like the Golden Books I read as a child), however, I think just like Harry Potter and Golden books it is fiction. Fiction with a little history in there to make it believable. What bothers me about the Bible is the fact that Christians will say it is the word of God and that it should be followed – however, even the most adherent of Christians do not follow the majority of what’s in there or we would still be sacrificing animals and children to a vengeful and angry God, and we would take to heart the words of Christ when he says to spread the good news to everyone without judging them. Christians seem to forget that part and if God forbid you point that out the them they respond with hatefulness and scorn and write you off as a heretic.

Every war in history has been fought for religion (sometimes we mask religion with politics) but it all really boils down to the need to change peoples views of what the more powerful think people should believe. The Shiites and Sunnis will fight forever over religion. Israel and the Palestinians will fight forever over religion. Islamic religions and their various factions (like the different factions of Christianity) have no problem killing those who disagree.

I think all religions have the same basic foundation – the golden rule – treat others as you want to be treated – and no religion in the world promotes that message. At least not in today’s world. If they do actually still preach it – they follow it up with “but people who don’t believe like us should be wiped off the planet.”  I am not even talking about religious extremists the Westboro Baptist Church or the people who blow themselves (and others) up for a religious cause or ideology. Those people have no faith at all and hide behind religion to wreak havoc and spread terror – but how is that any different than the  inquisition? Or the millions of people killed in the name of Christ or another prophet or religious text? There is no difference. For religions to just ignore their bloody pasts is yet another omission to suit the needs of the current faithful.

Religions – whether you like it or not change significantly over time. The Bible we read today is so different from the Bible of hundreds of years ago. Translations change with the times we live in. We edit it with modern language. We left out important bits of information (like the time between when Jesus was 12 and when he entered into ‘public office’ at 33. We have the documents that were written about him and his life – however to include them negates a lot of the information that made him such an effective and charismatic leader so they were intentionally left out of the Bible as we know it today.

I just can’t believe in a religion anymore that dictates what God is. I don’t think any human is capable of determining the thoughts and motivations of a God we can’t see and really haven’t heard from in a meaningful way since Moses and the burning bush (and really that could have just been a forest fire that Moses saw as something more than it was). How do we know? We surely weren’t there and we know that the historical accounts are filled with perspectives of people who believe that the burning bush was a sign from God. Even though science has proven that there are trees over in the middle east that will burn without being destroyed. Science has proved that the 10 plagues could have happened in the order they happened in – not because of God’s vengeance  but because of a changing climate in Egypt at the time (this included the parting of the Red Sea). Of course it is all theory. None of this – the Bible, or some of the science behind the ‘miracles’ in the Bible are proven fact. They are stories – embellished over time to give us something to believe in.

Personally, I am ready to believe not the books of religion, but of the modern day miracles I see everyday. I don’t need water into wine – I need peace. I need to see humanity practice what they preach – and until that happens no faith is going to convince me to ‘sign up’ and adhere to arbitrary rules, and judgement of others because they don’t believe the way I do.

Belief is personal. God is personal. Sure it helps to gather with like minded people – but to take that and extend it as a judgement to those who don’t believe like you is simply wrong and negates your entire message. If you want to convince people that your religion has the answers, you better make sure that your life reflects those truths as a testament to your faith – otherwise it is just another Harry Potter story and we are left to use our imaginations to fill in the blanks. I can believe that Hermione, Harry and Ron were good friends – but I don’t have to believe that they have magic wands and flying cars. It is a story filled with unbelievable things, and even if we REALLY REALLY want to believe they are true – doesn’t make them so. Honestly – I believe Harry Potter more than I believe the Bible. At least it doesn’t claim to be something that it isn’t.

I don’t know what response I am looking for with this post. I know it will be filled with the faithful trying to say what their faith means to them and I am excited to hear it. However – write your story please without trying to convert me or convince me. I am interested in learning why people believe what they believe and how they practice their faith. I am not however interested in conversion. I have my faith in God and that belongs to me, and God is a concept that can take on whatever meaning we as humans assign to it. I see God in everything, but I will not pretend to explain that to others because unless I start my own religion to force people to believe as I do then I have lost faith in my own belief system and become no better than the other religions out there that force God into a definition that serves a human purpose and I don’t believe for one second that is what God wants from me or anyone else.

If you comment – as always be respectful of others. Explain your faith and why you believe it, but practice keeping it personal and not preaching or with the intent to convert. 

30 thoughts on “Religion is dangerous

  1. Reblogged this on phillideethree and commented:
    Please, check out what tolerantpeople offers in this blog post. Rock on tolerantpeople. Im with you, regardless of your belief, faith…whatever. Thank you for being brave. Thank you for questioning the paradox within life.. Not too many of us care for that in todays world. But I care for that. Thank you,

    : )

    just a visitor.

    • Philly Visitor – Thank you for the reblog and I hope your readers enjoy or can at least appreciate the perspective here. I am not that brave LOL I am just opinionated and vocal about those opinions and I truly want to seek answers. Sometimes you have to be unpopular to learn. Sometimes, in order to people to form an argument – you have to upset them a little. I am truly glad you found value in my post enough to share it with your audience. Thanks!

  2. Excellent post. I’ve always wondered exactly why people feel that they need religion to define them. They can use religion to hide behind, (like with the wars and stuff; and with your priest person.). Also, I dislike the idea that you can only pray in a church. If you believe in a higher power, why must you be in a specific building at a specific time to be heard? And don’t you focus more when you’re organizing it yourself?
    I’ve also wondered why people find it so paramount to convert others. Can’t we all talk about other things and still be friends even if we’re not the same religion? It’s such a small part of who we are, and it’s not like we can identify physically who is what religion right away. It’s private, people who wish to keep it private may do so, and people who wish to be public about it may feel free to. Don’t confuse religion though with humanity- People can do bad things- we all have our words, our actions, our impulses- Religion doesn’t make people do bad things.

    • Jenn, thank you for your comment. You brought up something that has always touched a nerve with me and that is prayer. When Jesus talked to God about his impending doom – he was alone. Actually – anytime Jesus prayed – he was by himself. I think our important prayers are done in solitude. When we pray for an audience – it is for the audience and not for God.

      As far as people doing bad things – yes. Sadly that will always be a part of humanity. We actually create religion to stem the tide of people doing bad things. We try to provide purpose and value to individual lives through a collective. I am not saying all religion is bad – nor I am saying they are the root of all evil. I am just saying the religion has lost its purpose and ultimate mission because we let our physical world dictate our spiritual beliefs. The bigger the religion (just like government) the more corrupt it becomes.

  3. Reblogged this on Unexpected Midlife Freedom. It is just about everything I’ve been experiencing and thinking about religion, and you’ve said it so well. I just recently posted a much shorter post about exactly the same thing last week. I’m grateful that there are people out there who ‘get it.’ If you get any haters, just be your tolerant self or block them. Namaste.

    • Thanks Derb. I think there are a lot of people out there who ‘get it’ they may just be afraid to express it. I like haters. They challenge me and part of the purpose of this blog is to be challenged. I also don’t think haters are haters -unless they are trolls just being jerks. Some people just have a different opinion than mine and I welcome hearing them.

  4. I enjoyed reading this and was touched all the way through by the struggle with what is overwhelming, personalized and thoughtful. The view of the Scriptures as partial expressions of truth the way it was seen then (and even how the most astute scholars can disagree on its present meaning now) — I agree completely. Religious concepts can be used to pigeonhole and bully others who look and act differently, who come from different parts of town or the country. I liked seeing someone else bring these ideas up.

    • Storymaker, thank you for reading and commenting and I am glad you enjoyed the post. I just think religion separates us more than it brings us together. The Bible is interesting because everyone who reads it can come away with a different message. There really is something for everyone in there.

  5. sophist6, awesome blog. I hate the word religion. It has a negative connotation for me. I am a “follower of Christ” who belongs to a nondenominational church. I love it there because this little community is totally opposite from your experiences as a child. In fact, the pastor you talk about would probably throw out my pastor and our entire lot for the way we dress, all of our messiness and for inviting ANYONE in. But this place is the reason why I love to go to church on Sundays – because these people really love and care about others. (By the way, I pray in the shower, in my car, while I’m walking, or wherever. Not just at church.) I grew up Catholic, so my mom is not happy with her Protestant daughter, but that’s because she is focused on “the church” rather than what Jesus teaches us.

    I never try to convert anyone. I totally respect individual beliefs in religion and politics because it’s always a personal decision and lifestyle. Sometimes I question the existence of God, but I hang onto my faith in Him because it gives me hope and peace in this world that can get really ugly.

    • Bikerchick, as always thanks for commenting. I sometimes miss church because a lot of it is just a great way to be social with like minded people. I would probably still attend if I could get over the sermons (which are all too often) about judging others or pushing your faith on others. Actually – I just like the singing 🙂

  6. This is a fantastic and well written article. I identify with just about every single word you have written! It SO resonates with me! I was fortunate to grow up in a very NON judgmental non denominational church, but still, they have rules that just don’t make sense to me. I know some really awesome Christian people who are practicing what they preach, but I have to follow my own path, and it is different from theirs. Thank you for posting this. It’s really great!

    • Apeene, Thanks for your comment and I am glad you could identify with what I wrote. I too know many great Christians and they all have one thing in common; they do not use their faith to condemn others. They live their lives to be like Christ (or whoever) and focus on their own spirituality. They may share their views; but in a non-condemning or judgmental way.

  7. What a beautiful post! I have experienced both good and bad while attending various churches in my younger years. I don’t go now. I’m kind of fed up with ‘religion’ as it is practiced in the world today. My partner had a bumper sticker that said, “Oh Lord, Protect Me From Your Followers”; and that’s pretty much where I am. If Christians were more Christ-like instead of focused on what everybody else is doing wrong, we might have a much better world to live in.

    • Thanks Ruth! I agree. I’ve been to some really great churches – the stories I posted were to illustrate a point, but I know not all churches behave as badly as mine did. It just goes to show that if you are going to go to a church – find one that shares your values.

  8. “That being said – religion is dangerous.”

    Homophobes say the same thing about homosexuality. You are in good company already.

    “I have yet to see a religion that actually does any good in our world.”

    Because, of course, reality is entirely dependent on what you see. The millions of people of faith who actively support civil equality for GLBTQ people, including the first sitting U.S. president to endorse same-sex marriage, the first out NBA basketball player, 60 to 70% of GLBTQ people in the U.S. who are Christians (per Barma polls). You clearly don’t see them, do you? The people of faith who resisted slavery in the U.S., running the underground railroad, invisible.

    “Every war in history has been fought for religion” Absolutely false. EVery War in history has been fought for greed – to acquire wealth, land, resources, control of people. Religion has been used as an excuse, but so has ethnicity, philosophy, commerce.

    Atheism is a prejudice. As your blog post demonstrates, it is just a means for you to exalt yourself and your peers, by putting most of humanity down.

    • Darr, I appreciate your view but I think you misread or misunderstood much of what I was saying. I never claimed to be an atheist – quite the opposite. Also, I never claimed that people of faith were bad. I am speaking about the man made construct of religion. Before you attack me – please make sure you understand what was actually being said.

  9. I grew up being taken to church but got nothing out of it. As an adult I found a church and enjoyed the pastor’s fresh take on old things but still I kept my own personal spirituality. I “came out” as a Seer and was kicked out of leading a Bible study I’d led for several years. I loved learning about the Bible because it’s a fascinating slice of history and because almost every problem anyone has, someone somewhere in the Bible had that problem so it can speak in that way. I know it isn’t the holy words dictated by a god and that over centuries and translations the meanings of some of it have changed radically. I think sometimes churches do good works when they collect stuff and money to give to the less fortunate. I deplore that those gifts sometime come with so many strings attached.

    • Cookie, for the most part I think that most people mean well – until they are corrupted. Like politics, religion corrupts. If our only rule on earth was to love one another and treat people how we want to be treated we wouldn’t need religion. In light of that there are many great churches out there. There are many great people of faith who do wonderful things. I think the Bible speaks to many people – it isn’t the longest running best seller of all time for nothing!

  10. Thank you for articulating what is, for me, a very familiar experience. I always loved what was “right” and “true” about faith and worship but even from a young age had difficulty stomaching the hypocrisy and “missing the point-ed-ness” of organized religion.
    Still consider myself spiritual but

    • Thank you for your thoughts. I think it is a very common experience for people who attend religious services. We hear one thing and watch another. Some people (like me) are bothered by that enough to stop attending and then learn to define our faith for ourselves, while others choose to attend services for whatever reason – for me, my favorite part about church was the singing. It was the only time I ever really felt tied to the people sitting next to me, and that we were all engaging in something good together.

  11. I wanted to follow up on this blog and share something that happened in WI this past week. You may have heard about this as it went national.
    http://www.jsonline.com/news/wisconsin/church-cancels-leroy-butlers-speech-after-he-backs-gay-nba-player-rq9pjrt-205580231.html

    LeRoy Butler much loved and admired in WI. He was interviewed on ESPN and he said “My momma brought us up to love everyone.” I find it rather ironic that the church had invited LeRoy to speak about bullying and yet they ended up being the bullies. On a good note, though, a Madison church has invited him to speak and I imagine others will as well.

    • I did read about this and it obviously saddened me. We want to stop bullying unless it is against those we disagree with -then it’s a okay. Churches by far are the biggest bullies out there (not all of them mind you – there are many many loving and accepting churches out there) but for the most part when there is a social outcry about a certain behavior or trait it is often spearheaded by the religious right. So sad.

  12. Wow! Blown away! How’d you get inside my head. This is awesome to hear someone say the same things that I do. I belonged to a religious cult for twenty two years. That really screwd up my head. Now I am free to follow the path I choose and believe what I feel to be right. If God truly exists, He alone will judge me. It is beautiful to be who and what I am.

    • Peggy, I am glad you found some value and validation in what I wrote. I do believe that God exists, not to judge us or to scare us into certain behaviors, but to give us purpose and higher meaning in the everyday things around us. Always follow your heart where faith is concerned – it won’t lead you astray. People however will lead you into the darkness while trying to convince you it is the light.

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