I never was religious in the way most people are. The revealing of Santa Claus' true identity pretty much sealed religion's fate for me. I never saw any need for faith in a higher power, and the concept of prayer and the various customs seemed (and still seem) rather silly and, at best, antiquated. I fully support the right for anyone to believe as they wish, however. If these faith-based belief systems work for you, then go right ahead and believe them as long as you don't try to change my mind or interfere with my right to believe as I do.
It is important to understand, particularly if you are religious, that I do have a strong moral foundation. My belief system puts a very high value on life (of all living things, not just human), emphasizes trying to treat others as I would like to be treated, and that the only person responsible for what I do is me. That system of values (except for the last one) is the one that most of the religious groups claim that their value system is based upon. I'm not being nice or doing good things because I feel it will help my position in the afterlife -- I am doing it because it is the right thing to do.
So with all that being said - Religious evangelism and extremism in particular is dangerous. Once the exterior shell of "love thy neighbor" is stripped away, a core of hate and judgmental belief remains. History is littered with hideous acts performed in the name of religion -- from the burning of alleged "witches" to the bombing of abortion clinics -- from the Spanish Inquisition to certain jihads of Islamic fundamentalism to Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. If there is a supreme being looking down on what we're doing, he or she is shaking their head in shame at this point. I don't think Jesus Christ would approve of the commercialism and greed that has become the day we celebrate his birth.
As many of you already know there is usually a reason for me to have an outburst such as this, and you would be correct in believing that this time is no different. Last night I watched another episode of ABC News' 20/20 and John Stossel's story about the funeral protests by the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) in Topeka, Kansas. The WBC asserts that all the bad things that have happened to the United States is God's retaliation for the support of homosexuality ("fags" as WBC would call them) within our country. They have brainwashed their children into believing their agenda and hate speech without even understanding what it truly means. Incidentally, their web site, www.godhatesfags.com, is no longer accessible, although I'm sure this is merely temporary.
I'm not homosexual (hopefully, this is obvious) - but I support homosexuals as people who haven't done anything to anyone. They're human beings just like you and I. They're not responsible for the collapse of the family - in actuality, lack of planning for a family and marrying for the sole reason of having children and fulfilling religious dogmas are responsible for that. They're not responsible for the spread of AIDS or other illnesses. My only gripe with the gay/lesbian community is with the fringe and extreme groups (acting weird doesn't help support your group). While I'm not comfortable with sexual preferences different from my own, it doesn't mean that these folks can't be my friends and that they do their thing and I do mine. There are a whole lot more important issues facing the world today than worrying about someone else's sexual preference. It seems to me that Fred Phelps and the WBC need to find something more productive to do with their time and energy.
People: You don't need religion to be a good person. I don't know whether or not there's a supreme being, and if there is I'm not going to pretend to know how that being manifests itself within our universe. I can only hope that any entity that is above us in knowledge and wisdom would rather that we spend our time making the world a better place (that means less fighting and finger-pointing) than to waste time worshiping and fighting in the name of him/her. Stargate SG1 fans will know that we've already dealt with the Goa'uld and the Ori (who not-so-coincidentally look a lot like TV evangelists) and the harm that they do.
If you're interested in further study on this topic, here are a few interesting links:
- Max Ehrmann "Desiderata"
- Stargate SG1 Description (Wikipedia)
- Jihad (Wikipedia)
- Jesus Christ (Wikipedia)
- Evangelicalism (Wikipedia)
- The Spanish Inquisition (Wikipedia)
- The Boston Globe article about Westboro Baptist Church ("What can we learn from a 'church' of hate")
- Westboro Baptist Church (Wikipedia)
- "God Hates Figs" - A humorous parody of the WBC's web site
- "What Is A Freethinker?" - Freedom From Religion Foundation website (note, I do not agree with everything on this site, but this page is good)
- Freethought (Wikipedia)