Friday, March 4, 2011
Letting Go Of God Part Six
When you tell people that you believe in any personal god, or even one that differs from theirs, the person will desire to confront you about your lack of belief. The person raised to fear a god also fears the presence of an atheist. Often times a free thinker will be publicly accused of corrupting children with their scientific ideas and not hating fags; the unbeliever scapegoated for the destruction of the so-called traditional family.
But, as the priest who reminded my mum that my 4 month old brother was in Hell for not being baptized knows, children aren't born with religion. All babies are born atheists. They don't fear god when they're circumcised or dunked in a tub, but they may indeed be afraid of dudes with white beards or those in purple dresses afterward. Children learn what we teach them, and many of us tell them a variety of tales we know aren't true simply because that's what our parents taught us. Some deliberately lie to kids rather than tell them that Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy aren't real rather than confuse them or offend their grandparents. And religion certainly plays a role.
Religious indoctrination begins early by design, before kids can ask to many questions. More often than not, people will claim to be born with a religion or another because they can never remember a period in which they didn't believe. With media, there are programs teaching very young kids to never question and always obey this father they cannot see or touch, but are still told is there. As they get older, they will be taught that girls are less than boys because of some tale about her coming out of Adam's rib cage and Eve falling prey to Satan. By the time kids hit school, they will likely know that god is male and that those who don't believe as they do will burn in a fiery Hell.
Belief systems certainly do offer parents advantages. The major plus to teaching your kids the religion that you were brought up with is to have answers to inconvenient questions. It's far nicer to say that granddad is in the clouds floating amongst the angels than that he's simply lived a good life and is now gone save for the memories. It offers explanation for natural disasters and why man sees himself as more important than the other species- after all, it was god who gave mankind dominion over the Earth.
Additionally, religion institutes rigid structure and blind obedience that some parents find far easier to deal with, especially if it is a family with many kids. If kids are left to their own devices, who knows what kind of trouble they'll get themselves into? Religion gives parents an easy way to control their kid's behaviour because instead of explaining the pros and cons of something, one need just say that god says that girls who have sex before marriage are whores. Religious scripture reflects a flawed parent-child structure where the person is so petrified of an eternity roasting over Satan's pyre, they'll submit to anything to avoid it.
So, is the atheist an enemy of the traditional family? Not really. If your family is a authoritarian patriarchy, the presence of atheist families might cause your kids to ask questions, but you'll just tell your kids that my kids are going to Hell anyways. Such will be the same for the Jewish families or gay families or anyone else who doesn't see the world the way you do. If your tradition involves forcing your children into believing that the world is 6000 years old, man roamed the Earth with dinosaurs, and women are only allowed to speak with permission of their husbands who can abuse them in any way they see fit, reason may be a very minor threat to your beliefs.
When I still believed, I encountered a lady and her daughter, whom hold no personal god. Naturally, I asked a lot of questions. At this point it was inconceivable to me that someone didn't talk to their imaginary friends. Now, this very interesting child did not judge me. She explained very maturely that religion and morality were vastly different things and while she didn't have a god, she respected other people. She mentioned the pagan origins of the major religions and that there's really nothing wrong with celebrating a harvest or a change of season. There was no insulting language from either end, just a very thought-provoking exchange of ideas. This teenager was anything but angst-ridden; she was and is one of the most serene and intelligent human beings I have ever met.
As I've grown as a person, I've come to the realization that no amount of belief in irrational things can make them true. However, I do not hate god. You cannot hate the nonexistent. Do I hate the actions some have done in the name of their gods? Most certainly, but I understand how easy it is to be a slave to a man-made master. Thinking for yourself is a difficult thing and just as Moses claimed god told him to rape and pillage, people will often seek almighty justification for their depravity. Divine command is no excuse for hatred, and if it is, you might want to let go of your god.
"The more I study religions, the more I am convinced that man never worshipped anything but himself." - Richard Burton
Posted by Michel-Exildas Galipeau at 22:05