I am a clear atheist, that should be put out there immediately. This is not a balanced and fair view of the pros and cons of religion. I am anti-religion, but I am not anti-religious people per se. In fact, I think people of faith can be amongst the nicest people you can meet, aside from their delusions of course. It’s the willingness to be on a completely nonsensical plain of ludicrous unreality and to have no consistent or logical basis for your world view that befuddles me about religion.
My religious background is fairly standard for a child of the 70s. I was born into a white, essentially middle-class family with a Church of England background. Whilst we weren’t religiously outgoing we had a general understanding of religion, but one generation removed to the grandparents but even though, it was never overtly suggested that we were a faith family. In fact, I don’t believe that we ever went to church. So, our new and exciting post-70s family were religiously ambivalent at best.
When I got into primary school it was a CofE school with a Rev as the headmaster and we sang hymns every day in assembly, but I still didn’t get it. In the end I stopped singing them because I knew I didn’t believe in it (apart from Morning has Broken, of course) and to this day I won’t sign hymns. I just don’t like it and feel inwardly wretched, even when it’s a more social occasion, like a wedding. Some people think it’s principalled self-importance, I think not.
My epiphany came relatively early in life when I got into dinosaurs and watching Wildlife on 1 of an evening. The general principals behind the existence of animals all made sense to me and the natural way of the world, including the horrible stuff, all added up just fine. I got why grass grew, and bugs walked around without comprehension, and why bigger animals ate smaller animals, and why bodies rotted into the ground and, etc etc.
What blatantly had no part of all of this was a God-head of any description. It became quickly and clearly apparent to me that the concept of a creator/manager of the affairs of earth was not only a bizarre idea, but a redundant one. It didn’t make any sense that God would be responsible for all the things that went on, as they did it anyway. The evolved and developed nature of survival and creation were perfectly acceptable to me as a child and, as I’ve gotten older, they are essential parts of my psychological makeup. The mechanical universe, one where we are fragments in an infinite expanse, is a pleasure to accept. I find joy in that idea.
Where this deviates from religion of course is that religion requires you to place yourself at the centre of everything. It’s this extraordinary arrogance that I can’t accept. To believe that you are so much more special than everything else is ludicrous. The Judeo-Christian trip-tych of maddening religious world-views all say that humans are the perfect creation, that we’re just peachy. Tell that to the cancer sufferers, the blind and the ADHD headcases.
We’re rubbish really aren’t we? I can’t even bothered to list all of the afflictions that we are beset by. We all know someone who’s had something terrible come at them from the inside. We aren’t made perfectly.
What about the contradictions? Well, religions are full of them. Revenge/Forgiveness is the best one, but there are hundreds if not tens of thousands of them. The inconsistencies stretch for miles and the deviations in what kind of a particular religion people follow echoes this explicitly. Ideally, if you’re going to believe in something then you should be in for a penny, in for a pound. Religion is full of good stuff, but it’s packed with dreadful things that decent people want to be far away from. So, they pick the bits they want and avoid everything else, essentially picking some things that they like the idea of being in their lives, but only those bits. Which kind of sounds like just deciding what you will and won’t do and how you’d like to be seen by other people. Faith, hope and charity. That kind of nice stuff.
But, it still needs there to a be a big old ghost in the clouds keeping an eye on things and being ultimately responsible for everything, therefore removing any real responsibility from you and your behaviour or opinions. That’s all a pathetic cop out and I find it vile.