Saturday, August 24, 2013

Why "revealed religion" can't be trusted

An article in today's New York Times prompts this post.  (Here's the link.)  Briefly, a well-known conservative Catholic who's written strongly against gay marriage has reversed himself and said, well, maybe he was wrong. There are probably those who'll attack him from the right as a man of weak principle, and there are undoubtedly people from the left who'll praise him for his change of heart.

Me, I believe he's simply confirmed the idiocy of his entire belief structure and world-view.

When you put your reasoning powers at the mercy of "revealed religion" -- ie: when you accept as baseline "facts" the supposed revelations of some prior prophet or religious founder -- you fundamentally abandon your responsibility to assess the world based on your own perceptions and your own ability to process the information at hand. Basically, you make yourself into a child who accepts the dictates of authority because, in essence, "Mommy and Daddy say so." As a result, when facts and evidence finally force you to change your beliefs, you're forced to do a fancy emotional two-step so you can convince yourself that Mommy and Daddy were never wrong in the first place, and you merely "misinterpreted" their perfect and all-wise words.

The fault, you say, isn't in the "revelations" that you used to justify your lack of reasoning; the fault, you say, was that you didn't fully understand the "revelation."

To which I say, bullshit.

Look, all we need to do is review the history of supposedly-immutable religious beliefs that have been abandoned in the face of new information to know that revealed religion is a pretty poor foundation for building a moral life. Two hundred years ago religion was used by Southern Christians to justify slavery. Other religious sects used it to justify polygamy. Others used it to justify racism. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Pagans, Mormons -- you name the religious belief and it's been used as the basis for some pretty repressive and reprehensible behavior. Is that the fault of the religion as such? No, because there is, in my opinion, no such thing as a uniform, stable, continuous and consistent "revealed religion." Every religious belief in history has been constantly reinterpreted to suit the current needs and prejudices of its believers. Even the Bible (especially the Bible) which so many fundamentalists hold as inerrant and never-changing, is constantly being reinterpreted by those who hold its "truths" to be plainly self-evident.

Case in point, the Catholic conservative below who once used Catholic theory to justify his anti-gay marriage beliefs and now finds he can use that same theory to justify the opposite.

If you can use the Christian Bible (or the Book of Mormon, or the Talmud or the Koran or whatever) to justify two completely opposite beliefs, then it's worth no more as a moral guide than a handful of pebbles tossed into the air to see which direction the Gods want you to follow.

So stop it. Just stop it. Think for yourselves. Recognize the world is a complex and contradictory place without an overriding logic, take responsibility for making it more humane, and grow up.

Mommy and Daddy won't spank you.

Mommy and Daddy aren't here.

There's just you, and me, and the rest of the human race. You want to be a good person? Be a good person. It isn't that hard or complex. Start by accepting you don't know more than the rest of us.

Here's the link:


Paul Chadwick said...

Hope you eventually get to the Olympus Has Fallen Big Dumb Movie post.

I was looking at The Midnight Dancers the other night, a novel I read when I was about fifteen.

And you wrote, I calculate, when you were nineteen. Sheesh, you were precocious!

Gabh said...

Well said. I'm not sure that people would behave better with-out religion, but they certainly couldn't behave any worse, on the whole.