Thursday, April 25, 2013

The only true believers of any religion are probably in mental hospitals, or crazy praying homeless bums.

There's something I've always wondered about, when it comes to Christianity, as well as any other religion that believes in the heaven/hell paradigm:

Why aren't there more completely batshit crazy, out of their minds, unable to function or even form coherent thoughts, religious people out there?

Stay with me, this will make sense.

As an agnostic atheist, I feel that any human morality comes from an innate understanding of what is and what is not wrong.  An inherent feeling of what is good and what is bad.  And there is also the knowledge that there is a whole lot of gray area, and that, if you aren't sure, but you're not hurting anyone, you're probably not doing anything wrong.

Most religions seem to capitalize on those built-in feelings by either defining them in some sort of "commandment", or using that understanding to illustrate some sort of story.  For the most part, though, any sane human being can read any of those things and come to the conclusion that they already knew whatever lesson was being taught.

For instance, I don't think many people look at Christianity's 10 commandments and think "So I shouldn't screw my neighbor's wife?  Oh, that's news to me!"

Or "Stealing other people's stuff is a dbag move!?  I HAD NO IDEA!  I guess Bob read this, too, and that's why he's upset that I stole his lawn furniture!"

The whole of most modern religions boils down to "Don't be an asshole, and worship (insert deity here) like this."

But, again, we already knew that.  We learn that pretty early on because we understand the concept of consequences.  Golden Rule type stuff which, by the way, as a concept, predates religion entirely.  We just figure that out when we're very young and we carry it forward throughout life.  Don't smack people because getting smacked sucks.  Don't steal shit because getting shit stolen sucks.

By the time anyone can read a cereal box (let alone a holy book of any religion), they know those simple rules of living with others.  Do they always follow them?  Not necessarily, but they have an idea that they should.

Now, let's also assume that there is no such thing as karma, either the Westernized version or one of the original religious versions (which, combined, create a wide spectrum of beliefs that may or may not be similar to each other).  I think, when it comes down to reality, most people tend to discard the concept of karma, anyway, because the entire idea, just by existing, would become so convoluted as to not be useful at all.

For instance, you murder a child.  You asshole.  Oh, wait, that child was the next Hitler?  Well, then, that makes you a great person.  You wonderful child murderer.

See what I mean?  Is it intent, or effect that matters?  And does ignorance play a part?  If you kill Hitler version 2.0 on purpose, but he was about to murder the guy who would create the weapon that destroys the entire planet, does that knock some of the positive points off of your accomplishment?  And whose deity gets to decide,. or by what rules are those points tallied?

It's inevitable that whatever route you take, it's going to be wrong, so the reality is, most of us (religious or not) just do what seems like the best idea at the time and hope for a good outcome.  We assume that, if something bad comes of our actions, the Cosmic Karma Keeper won't penalize us because, hey, we didn't know.

We just invoke the whole karma thing when we think we've done something good, or we think someone else has done something bad.

I just fed a stray dog, maybe I'll get a raise tomorrow!  

That asshole swerving around while talking on his cellphone, oh he's getting his...SOMEDAY.  

So now, for most religious people, we have distilled things down to heaven/hell, or some variation thereof.  You either did something that sends you to hell, or you didn't, which ends in you going to heaven.

Now, in the Christian religion (and others, I would assume), there is also the forgiveness concept.  The idea that, in essence, you can ask for forgiveness for just about anything, and if you really really mean it, you're still not hellbound.

But that doesn't really change much, does it?   I mean, for minor things, sure, but not for things like mass killings or rapings or setting orphanages on fire or whatever.  If you really were sorry for doing it, you probably wouldn't have done it in the first place, and you're surely not going to do it again.  Yet most violent criminals continue being violent until caught.  So, yeah, forgiveness doesn't really apply to them.

Take the violence out, and people still don't really feel sorry for their misdeeds.  What person really feels bad for going five over?  Well, that's breaking the law of the land, isn't it?  And isn't that something you're not supposed to do?  It's so minor, it's not hurting anyone...right?

Do you even ask for forgiveness each and every time you do anything that might be against the rules?  Without some sort of massive thought reading device, we can't tell for sure, but I'd bet good money that there isn't a single religious person alive that hasn't forgotten to ask for forgiveness for doing something they weren't supposed to do, even if it's just one thing.  However, I'd bet that, with most people, it's more like one thing a month, or week, or day.

So here's where the insanity comes in.  Every single religious relative of every single person who has repeatedly broken at least one of whatever rules or commandments that will send a soul to hell, or its equivalent, should be absolutely convinced that their dead relative is in a place of eternal damnation and torture.  And let's be there anyone that wouldn't be in hell?  Anyone at all?  Christianity is one of the more forgiving religions, and I'm fairly certain that there's not a man alive who hasn't been slothful and wasn't in the least bit sorry about it.  Or coveted another woman with absolutely zero remorse.

Let's not even go into what almost every religion says what a woman can and cannot do.

Essentially, every religious person should truly believe that any dead relatives are in hell, and that heaven is basically empty.  They should also be assuming that, within 80 years or so, they will also be enduring eternal torture, and that they've already consigned themselves to it.  That is not something that, if a person really truly  believed, they would be able to continue operating as a normal human being.  It would consume them.  They would be able to think of nothing else, and they would lose their minds.  Each minute of each hour of each day, they would know that their loved ones were being tortured.  You don't just ignore something like that and keep on going.  Life would not go on.

We would have people dedicating their lives to somehow praying their grandfathers out of hell for thinking Harriet across the street had sexy legs, or their grandmothers out of hell for thinking and, well, talking out of turn.  Or cutting their hair.

The only alternative would be believing that forgiveness is truly a get out of hell free card.  Which means that religious morality is, by extension, a complete and total lack of any morality, because you can do whatever you want and then just ask for forgiveness, without meaning it in the slightest.  Any commandments or rules would just become lists of things for which to ask for forgiveness.  They would not define, nor lead to morality.  In fact, such a belief system defies the built-in human morality that we all already have, religious or not.  It negates it.  If we all truly believed in forgiveness of sins, we would all be savages, taking whatever we want, doing whatever we want, destroying whatever got in our way, and just praying for about 15 minutes afterward.

"Uh, God, please forgive me for...Tuesday.  And Monday.  Did I pray on Sunday?  Let's throw Sunday in there, just in case.  Also, 2012.  All of it."

Now, I know that has been addressed before, the whole lack of morality behind forgiveness, but I hadn't really considered the fact that the other side, the ones who didn't believe you could simply ask for forgiveness, would therefore be forced to conclude that any dead loved ones were being tortured eternally.

Yet, when you think about it, it's obvious that no one (or at least very few) truly believes either way.

Very few spend their lives mourning their dead ancestors' never-ending torment.  Most grieve, move on, sometimes think about the dead, they miss them, but after a while, they stop obsessing.

Very few spend their lives terrified of the fact that most religions, their own included, have already decided that they're going to hell themselves.

And very few go around murdering and stealing, immediately dropping to their knees and asking for forgiveness, and thinking that they then have nothing to worry about.

All three of the above would be considered crazy people by even the most devoutly religious.  A person wouldn't be able to exist in any of those ways, at least not in a way that society considers normal at all.  Yet, what other option would a true believer have?