Leftist commentary from a mouthy bitch
It’s time for one of my annoying religion/spirituality posts.
I have a lot of friends who are Atheists. I have some friends who are Christian, but, to be honest, far fewer. I have some friends who are Pagan, as am I. I have Muslim friends and Buddhist friends, and I’ve even been known to hang out with a Satanist or two, regardless of how completely silly I think their beliefs are.
Here’s the thing: I do not think religious or spiritual beliefs are, in and of themselves, inherently harmful.
I do think the way people follow and teach them are.
Big difference. Kind of like the way I view guns. A gun is a powerful tool, but it isn’t going to hurt you without some asshole pulling the trigger (yourself included).
I don’t see a damn thing wrong with putting a “face” on the Universe so you can wrap your head around it. I think that can be a cozy sort of thing, and for some people it’s kind of necessary so that they don’t wind up absolutely overwhelmed or panic-stricken about it.
My biggest problem with the God Botherers of any stripe is the fact that so many of them seem to think that without this great big cosmic threat of punishment, everyone would be running around raping, killing and pillaging with nary a trace of conscience.
These people scare the crap out of me. They really do, largely because they are one personal epiphany away from being a serial killer as far as I can tell. Seriously, if you need a constant threat of punishment hanging over you to prevent you from being a complete shithead and just hurting and taking at will, YOU are NOT a good or nice person, and certainly no one I want to hang out with.
I mean really, if all there is to keep you from being a complete monster is this belief that there’s some guy sitting on a cloud watching you all the time, who will punish you beyond all imagining if you fuck up, you need help. Serious help.
The reason I am nice to people, for the most part, take in stray animals and loan money I probably shouldn’t to people who need it worse than I do, the reason I have an automatic charitable deduction taken out of my paycheck is not because I’m trying to impress you or any deities I may or may not believe in. I do it because it’s the right thing to do. I do it because everyone and -thing should have someone who loves them and cares whether they live or die. I put up with other human beings’ bad behaviors long past when I should just tell them to fuck right off, because of this.
I do this because I know in my heart that being nice to people and helping out when you can is what you do. Not because anyone told me this, but because I just know. Maybe it’s because my parents, for all their faults, instilled this in me in spite of themselves. Gods know their lives probably would have been easier without my bringing home strays: Hurt birds, squirrels, friends who had nowhere else to live… But religion had nothing to do with it. My folks were both nominally Christian, and I went to mass with my dad’s parents, but really, I grew up pretty secular.
Honestly, whether or not there really is a “God” is completely immaterial. It is. Because it shouldn’t inform how we treat one another. What should inform how we treat one another is the fact that we are all human beings. If you’re decent to me, I’m decent to you and it’s all good. Seriously, that’s all there is to it.
And Jack Chick can go eat a bowl of dick.
I’ve noticed that a lot of addicts use religion for that kind of self-regulation. I’ve always thought that was great for them, but invariably they’ll insist that everybody needs that sort of thing to control their lives.
everyone would be running around raping, killing and pillaging with nary a trace of conscience.
Oh wait, that’s a bad thing, right?
Really, do you need anything more than critical thinking skill to come up with the belief, “That would be helpful. That probably wouldn’t be helpful. That’s painful, I didn’t enjoy that; you know, others probably wouldn’t enjoy that either.”
I don’t think figuring out the helpful/not helpful, don’t enjoy/other won’t part is the hard part.
I think CARING is the hard part for most people.
Hey, I got mine. Screw everyone else.
One of the guys I did United Way with had a great story he told about growign up on a farm in Tiawan during the exodus of Chang Kai Check (sp) from the mainland.
His father gave away most of the crop to the refugees. When he asked his father why, his father explained if they didn’t help their new neighbors, then their new neighbors would help themselves and destroy the farm and land in the process. Then everyone would starve to death rather than just go hungry.
yes, indeed. that’s pretty much the approach called Virtue Ethics, which is my preferred approach.
Some people are good people. Some people are honorable.
And some people aren’t. Without a threat of punishment, in this world or the next, some people would pretty much behave like
assholeswastes of human DNA.
The real question is this: in society as a whole, what factors cause there to be more good and honorable people, and less wastes of DNA?
Writing as a Christian and hopefully one of those who you consider a friend, I’ll agree. Threat of punishment doesn’t really work very well. It also tends to create a sense of entitlement, and leads to massively self-righteous behavior when you think you’re “saved” and everyone else isn’t.
Nevertheless, having something external to oneself, a “higher power” or “God” is useful in the sense that it takes your consciousness out of a self-involved state, and into something external, what a friend of mine calls “God consciousness” (he’s a Buddhist), somewhere where the rules are different, where it makes sense to behave in ways that aren’t always in one’s own best interests. It does make a difference. It’s a way to practice love, as a two way street, with an object of that love that is not subject to human foibles. It reinforces the sort of “enlightened self interest” that you are talking about here.
In Christianity, it’s summed up like this: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” It’s really two sides of the same coin.
Am I arguing that there is no way that someone can behave well if they don’t believe in God? Not at all. But for some of us, it works well. I personally think that it also helps to bring a different perspective, one that it beyond what it is easy to achieve as an individual human, that can help deepen and strengthen the ability to behave ethically.