I spent the last couple of days thinking very critically of myself for the comments I made in the entry entitled American Pie this past Sunday. No, not my comments about Madonna, those I am sure of. I'm talking about my obvious skepticism and criticism of religion and others' beliefs thereof. I seriously thought about editing the comments out because I felt bad/guilty about potentially offending some of my friends, minimally, and others who I don't know.
I am apologizing to myself for feeling this way.
It seems today anyone can say or do anything they want in the name of religion. Secular laws were established - at least in the United States - to allow people to coexist peacefully and believe as they wish as long as they didn't infringe on the rights of others. So when someone expressed themselves by leaving their propaganda at my house trying to convince me that what I think is wrong I should not feel guilty about expressing opposing opinions in my blog.
Further, after reading again what I wrote, I realized that my comments were really ones of peace and caring for the world and other people (except Madonna). I stand fast in my belief that while many religious groups purport to stand for these principles, in practice I see them more often judging other people and imposing their beliefs on others. It is far easier to address problems with faith than to look at the root cause of the problem. Putting the responsibility onto an omnipotent being absolves us of any responsibility, or incorrectly explains something that we may not be ready to understand. Faith in a higher power had its purpose a couple of thousand years ago when science had not matured to the level it is now.
Why do people die in natural disasters? Shit happens. Why should we be kind to our neighbor? Because it is the right thing to do. Because we should treat others in a manner that we would want to be treated. Where do we go when we die? To the ground from which we came, to fossilize and in many thousands of years become crude oil to power someone's car. Where does our soul go? The essence of our soul lives on in the ways that we touch others' lives during the short time we exist. We are good people because we wish to pass that message onto future generations of human beings. Why are bad people bad? Shit happens.
I believe there are more difficult questions we face as a society that are very difficult to answer. For instance, is it right to genetically engineer a person? An animal? Should an employer be allowed to do a DNA test on someone, and not hire that person if their DNA indicates a genetic predisposition for a specific behavior or disease? When does life begin? When should it end? What is life? If we engineer a machine that is aware of itself and exhibits behavior similar to human life, are we obligated to protect the existence of that machine as we would another person?
Organized religion tries to answer many modern ethical questions such as these by interpretations of a sacred text, such as The Bible. The problem is that these interpretations are arbitrary and are frequently made more with the idea of propagating the religious belief than to determine what is best for society as a whole. We live in complex times. Our technological advances have come with a Pandora's Box of ethical questions that neither religious dogma nor our laws are equipped to deal with...and that's only the beginning.
If you believe in God or a god and you feel strongly about this that's okay. It's not okay as soon as you start passing laws that are based in your religious beliefs and not in maintaining a peaceful society. It's not okay when you choose to disobey our society's laws because you feel your religious beliefs supersede secular law. It's not okay when you promote bigotry and hatred in the name of your religion or deity.
Finally, on the lighter side of this conversation, I invite you all to read Kissing Hank's Ass. I first saw this several years ago and it's funny as hell...or maybe even funny in hell. Who knows? Hank does, of course...