we travel through those biblical times we find accounts of prophets speaking
with God. All we have as proof that those messages from God were valid is the
say-so of the so-called prophet. When Moses saw God in the burning bush there
was no other witness. God never revealed himself to more than one person at a
time. In reality the only "evidence" we have of the existence of such
an important being is hearsay and you know how much validity hearsay carries in
a court of law. If a man sees what no other person sees, and if he hears what
no other person hears, then we must speak of a derangement of the senses.
It is impossible to pin down two people who agree on what God is (was) because
too many people spoke with God and did so out of their own imaginations.
Voltaire said, "If there was no God man would have created him." Of
course you have to realize that if people in Voltaire's day said blank out that
there is no God he was in danger of being invited to a necktie party, or worse,
to a roasting and he was the roast. Voltaire wrote with humor and satire. I
suspect when he made that statement he was doing so with tongue in cheek. I
will paraphrase Voltaire and say, "All gods are man made and that's why
the workmanship is so shoddy that it can't stand investigation."
It took many years of investigation, the hashing and rehashing of yeahs and nays before I ever reached that conclusion.
By the time Christ came along the Jewish religion was steeped in ritualism and petit laws. Theologians say Christ brought love into the world. Love was in existence long before he ever showed up and if this world is ever to be saved from total destruction love of our neighbor will have to be more than a pretty phrase.
Very little is known of the historical Jesus but the one fact comes loud and clear. He was a rebel. He rebelled against the rigid rules of his culture and he rebelled against the rule of
The idea of a sacrificial being was an idea accepted by the Sumerians and Babylonians who believed that man was created by the sacrifice of a god or gods who were killed that man might live. Lamba-gods (carpenter gods) were killed so that man might be given life with their blood. Over the eons of time scriptures change by creative writers taking old legends and putting them in up-to-date clothes.
The collectors who finally put together the New Testament chose only those
writers who said what the collectors wanted them to say. Those books were
written when people began to ask "Just who was this Jesus you talk
about?" Two, three, four hundred years after the events were supposed to
have happened. It wasn't one person's deliberate attempt to falsify things but
one small lie (an unverified statement) embellished by the next person, added
to by the third person, added to or subtracted from by the fourth person. The
Then came the big sell-out.
The Catholic Church had grown powerful in the cities, especially in
Everything was given and taken in the name of God. God blessed whom the church blessed. God cursed whom the church cursed. The Pope blessed the wars of the Emperor. Armies marched to protect the Pope. The costs of feeding, and arming the armies was on the necks of the peasants. The costs of building the enormous cathedrals and filling them with works of art landed on the necks of the peasants. Man was forbidden to read the Bible by which his life was governed. Priests of the church were forbidden on penalty of death to teach the peasants to read. The dark ages descended on
The only changes that were made for the benefit of man came from the few in the lower echelons of the church who went against the rules. Those who taught people to read in spite of the rules, who opened hospitals in spite of the rules, who resisted the collecting of fortunes by the clergy in spite of the rules.
Wycliffe gave his life to translate the scriptures into English so men could read for themselves the rules God had set down. Martin Luther tried to right the wrongs he could see which were perpetrated by greed among the clergy of the Catholic church, but he did it in the name of God. The idea of God and Jesus Christ by that time had grown so strong very few people could think beyond it. Those who tried to bring logic and rational thinking to the minds of men were shut up, burned at the stake, or hanged, dragged and quartered. Fear reigned everywhere, even among the elite. One never knew when an enemy would point a finger at him and cry traitor, heretic, atheist.
My study was only about the Christian world. Similar dramas were taking place world-wide in other religions; In 1982 I visited the Orient. At a Buddha shrine I saw many small boys running around. The tour director told us that in the Buddha religion the belief is that the first born son belongs to the family but the second born son belongs to the church. When the second son reaches four years of age he is given to the monastery for them to educate and care for him. The parents are allowed to see their son once a month. At the age of 18 years the boy is given a choice of returning to the outside world or remaining a monk. After 18 years of brainwashing it is doubtful that many are inclined to face reality and a life in the real world.
Is the faith of that Oriental mother of lesser quality than the faith of the
Christian woman who is following the teachings of her church? They are both
doing what they have been taught since birth, to obey without debate. Most
every organized religion asks for devotion by faith, acceptance, obedience.
Our VCR travels take us through the times of John Knox, the vital force of British Protestantism against Catholicism. John Calvin, Wesley, the Huguenots, the Albeginsians, the Moors. Oceans of blood shed in the name of God and for God. The blood of the Catholics shed when the Protestants gained the power. The blood of the Protestants shed when the Catholics gained power. All of them claiming to be the bastions of morality, carrying out God's wishes.
To have to accept a whole world of beliefs forced on us by our environment, without a chance to choose or build our own world of beliefs, would mean a thousand fold frustration even if all that is forced on us were based on painstaking research. But soon we realize that people will lie to us whether they know the facts or have not bothered to determine the validity of them.
Religion makes man a stranger in the universe. It raises a thirst in him that cannot be quenched. It doesn't teach man to be at home in the world and be part of the animal kingdom but rather separate himself from it and make the earth his temporary abode and thus relieve him of any worry or concern as to the earth's final demise. To all theologians the dragon that must be slain is reason. The idea of God has its roots in the opinion that the world and the universe are artifacts and as such have had to have an intelligent designer. The conclusion sounds plausible "Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom natural things are directed---and that being must be God." But that simple explanation is given by those who do not understand the complexities of nature.
Religions are NOT the bastions of morality. Morality is imbedded in societies. Religions' first and greatest immorality is in professing to have perfect knowledge when there is none. Churches and dogmas have value only so far as they assist societies in the building of morality but not at the expense of intellectual development, honesty and truth. Few of them can meet that criteria.
Nature doesn't rule discord. Nature is discord, a survival of the fittest. The struggle for existence is not an evil. It is a reality. There is no hidden plan of God or nature. God forgives. Nature doesn't. You have to adjust, cooperate, or die. In truth the world is neither with us or against us.
This is the conclusion I came to as I studied the times when religions were at their peak, God is a cop-out, The idea of God takes responsibility off the shoulders of man and puts it on some mystical being. The idea of God relieves man of the guilt of his failures because he is offered forgiveness. Sophocles said, "Wonders are many and none is more wonderful than man." The only salvation of man is man.
This isn't a philosophy I whipped up but one I've labored over for many years Every statement I have made here has been substantiated and corroborated by many sources. The wonderful mind of man, which took him out of the tree tops and flung him into the skies, is the world's most marvelous resource. It makes man the supreme being of the universe. It is the most maligned, the most stifled, the most denied, the most enslaved, and the most misused of all resources.
What is it about man that pulls and holds him to this mostly senseless mysticism? Let's focus our VCR on today and see what happens.
"Change and decay in all around I see. O, thou who changes not, abide with me." So the old church hymn goes giving voice to man's continuing search for permanence. Man wants something that is constant, something that he can depend on. Everything around him is in a state of flux. As Shakespeare said, "First we ripe and ripe and then we rot and rot and thereby hangs a tale." We don't like the continual changes. We want the wheels to stop and let us stay where we are. We are egotistical enough to believe we are creatures which are above that constant change and eventual death. This world is not our permanent home. We want to think that this life is only one step in an eternal plan.
To the idea of inevitable death humanity imposes the image of life continuing after death. Therefore the human mind turns toward mysticism to identify and describe the post-death existence and to give comfort as death approaches. Religion is a reaction against this fear. It was not in the first place a belief in deities. That evolved as there was consolidation of the many gods in mysticism into one god. The theorizing minds tend to over-simplification, which becomes the root of all the one-sided dogmatism which gives religion a sense of certainty, puts it down where even the most naive souls can grasp it.
Religion is humiliating for human intelligence, yet humanity clings to its absurdity and error. It is bewildering that the most crass superstitions have long been regarded as a universal fact. Man is the only creature endowed with reason yet he is also the only creature who pins his devotion and hopes on things unreasonable.
Karl Marx said religion was the opiate of the people. It softens the blow of
death of a loved one. It boosts the courage of the dying. It may put regret for
his actions in the breast of a dirty, rotten sinner. But then it may not,
because that person is given the option of repentance if he believes in god,
and therefore he has an out.
Religion often serves as an opiate to those who live under hopeless oppression. By being humble and accepting their lot the oppressed are building up 'brownie points' with the celestial score keeper who will pay up--sometime. They are proving themselves strong to themselves as well as to others. "I can take it" a sort of victory to those who have won no victories. This is why women are frequently the backbone of churches. Forced into roles that are often intolerable they live the good life in spite of their burdens. The promise of a better life in the world to come helps them endure what they can not change.
"Teach your children in the way they should go and when they are old they won't depart from it." So says the Bible. But so say all those who wish to indoctrinate others. Hitler said "Give me the child until he is twelve and I will give you the man."
The Bible also says: "Lean not unto thine own understanding." Thus giving the death blow to curiosity and debate, putting the responsibility of ones behavior on the authority, thereby taking ones destiny out of ones own hands and putting it into the hands of someone else. That's a very dangerous thing to do if one values his freedoms. Religion an opiate? Definitely. But like all opiates it threatens to enslave its user.
God cannot be proved by the intellect. He can only be known through the emotions. Martin Luther said; "You have to kill reason to know god." But if you kill reason you kill the intellect and leave man defenseless.
When a child is trained to think in the mystical modus that God is watching over him, directing him and will punish in some nether world all who disobey him, or reward him for good things done, then he begins to regard the world as down a long corridor. He thus falls prey to all sorts of holy excesses, fanaticism, self torment, prudery, gullibility and a morbid inability to meet the world. The healthy mind, the one which is free of all fetters of mysticism doesn't need to be born again. He sees life for what it is and can accept it. It is only the warped mind, the sick soul who needs to be born again to be happy.
The pretense of religious belief when one really believes otherwise is one of the greatest forces that keeps organized religion active and alive. A fear of ostracism if the family finds out a member is in rebellion from the things that person was taught as a child. There is a social need to belong to a group, or a political reasons (it gives a sense of worth to be affiliated with a popular religion), reasons of expediency, (I can make profitable connections belonging to this group). There is usually a fee, tithe, required to maintain ones membership in such organizations.
As custodians of offerings, tithes, contributions, church is BIG business. The greatest fraud of that arrangement is that the church is accountable to no one but the nebulous God who seldom if ever considers bank accounts, investments, embezzlements, misappropriations and plain stupid mismanagement.
Churches won't let churches die. There is too much money involved.
When a person spouts a mysticism and money begins to flow in then it solidifies
and grows. The more money a church gets the more power it has and the more it
promotes mysticism. Such wealth puts much power into the hands of those who
want to strengthen the church for political management. Power gives up nothing
unless it is forced to give it up. Changes in churches come about not from the
top but by insignificant people gathering together, realizing that changes are
needed, putting pressure on leaders until they force changes at the top.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not freedom of religion which has made this country great, but freedom from religion. Religion can go just so far and then political action contains it. One particular case was the Mormons and their practice of polygamy. After more than fifty years of legislating against polygamy and having the Mormons thumb their noses at all laws concerning marriage, the Federal Government put all the church's property into the hands of a receiver in 1889. Officially the Mormons gave up taking several wives each. Unofficially it kept going on even by high church officials until there was another confrontation in 1905. Polygamy is still being practiced by fundamentalists to the embarrassment of the present day Mormons.
If religious zealots can defy civil laws with polygamy because it
is their religious belief there is danger of any kind of "kookiness"
coming under the umbrella of religious freedom.
Historically the church, especially the Catholic Church, has wielded so much power that mankind was literally held in intellectual bondage for over a thousand years. Thousands of people killed during the Inquisition in the name of religion. Many others deprived of their human rights. Any changes which came about were through heresy and individual disobedience. Yet in the face of such a history the church, all churches, claim to be the bastions of morality, the keeper of morality, the guardian of morality.
They announce this often and long and loud trying to give themselves a purpose to remain in existence. They claim that belonging to an organized religion guarantees that their members will have moral training. The role of churches in morality is a point to be debated. In actuality morality is imbedded in societies. Almost all moral codes tell of the necessity of caring for your neighbors, reverencing your parentage, loving your children, taking nothing from the earth unless you return something of equal worth to the earth. But those are social laws. They are not divine laws, laws revealed by God. They are universal laws which must be obeyed if the human family is to continue.
The greatest immorality of religion is that it teaches as truth things which have no basis in truth: The existence of God, a God who directs the universe. God speaks to men. There will be life after death. You will be punished in an after life for contributions to the church which you have withheld, all kinds of punishment for all kinds of sin.
None of them are honest enough to teach, "What I am telling
you may not have any basis in fact. Go out and find out for yourself." In
my opinion it is child abuse to fill a child's brain with half truths and whole
lies until when he comes of age to think for himself he has no brain to think
with. You are not excused of child abuse as a parent if you haven't established
that which you are teaching him is the truth.
Even the greatest thinkers fumble and stumble when they try to deal with the
idea of God, not because they are slow of speech or inadequate to deal with
mystical subjects but because God does not exist and they are trying to make a
falsehood a truth and that is impossible.
Man should display moral behavior because he is nature's greatest creation and should respect every other human being as of equal worth as himself. That which is good for his neighbor must also be good for all men and by arbitration all conflicts shall be settled. The same moral concern should be displayed to all of the earth's creatures and even to the earth itself. God doesn't demand it. Nature demands it. If man does not heed this moral code then nature will exacts its toll. Nature does not forgive man his trespasses. Spinoza said, "If we offend the principles of reason our religion will be absurd and ridiculous."
I have this passion to reflect and I
enjoy the delights of sustained reflection. I abhor the safety of a
sluggish intellect even though it is seldom that honest inquiry leaves a
question unscathed. When religion serves as an opiate to influence a
person to accept less than is his just desert, then it is evil. When
belief in a certain religion fosters pathological guilt complexes which
keep a person from enjoying natural pleasures then the so-called beauty it
brings into a life is no fit substitute. When religion makes a
person give up this world's opportunities and his money in favor of some
"eternal rewards" then it is selling a person something under false
pretenses. It is fraudulent. Is a person who teaches such
things innocent? No! He becomes a perpetrator of a
fraud. Is that morality? Not in my book.
Many people might ask, "If the
God idea brings so much comfort, beauty, and tranquilizes so many people why
roil the water? Why remove the rose colored glasses? Why
take away the security blanket? Why deny the sick soul his
Seventy three years of good living
I've had. I have enjoyed the love and companionship of two good
husbands. I appreciate the love and support of my four
children. I have been fortunate to have my life span from the old
horse and buggy days to the computer age. I am grateful to the
forces which have allowed it. But I haven't put back into the world
a like amount of what I have received. I owe. I have to
add my voice to those who have already spoken. Religion sets a
person's eyes on the mystical, away from the world; it is the side-tour which
turns man's eyes to things which are untrue.
Blessed are they who by their own
intellect are able to accept this life for what it is and are able to paddle
their own canoes and sail through life without the leaky theological lifeboat.
I am a humanist. Men/women
are the supreme beings of the universe. The future of this earth is
the responsibility of mankind. Nature reigns supreme and is a
jealous ruler. Nature does not forgive. Those who disobey the laws
of nature pay. There is no second chance. Finally, in the
end, it won't be God's wrath which will destroy the world, it will be the wrath
When the forests have all been
destroyed; when the rivers are contaminated or dried up; when the last clean
air is heavy with pollutants. perhaps man will at last recognize his doom and
turn to God whom he believes has been the director of all things, and can
restore all things. The last leaders of the world will call for a
day of prayer when all humanity petitions God for forgiveness. "We
didn't know what we were doing, God. Forgive us. Give us
back our world and give us a second chance."