Thursday, July 10, 2014

Tolerate the Religious

Forgive them it’s not their fault, it’s just the way all our human brains are wired!
"Believing is easier than thinking. Hence
so many more believers than thinkers."
[Bruce Calvert]

For instance there’s pattern recognition so that we don’t have to spend extra time to recognize friends or enemies. It’s all so that we can tell the difference between the good plants and the bad plants, to save energy and get on with the business of living. 

So it’s the same when we select the things we will believe and many of us have parents and other’s teaching us as we grow up and they hand us a ready body of thought that most of us out of trust, just take without examining it too closely. Most of the same parents who indoctrinate the Christian faith will also allow a child the luxury of believing in Santa Claus. Then one day the child finds out Santa Claus isn’t real. They have received a lesson on being gullible. They have a real example of their parents lying to them, and yet the faith indoctrination still takes because it’s emphasized more and most kids will have too much else they’re trying to do and learn to take the time to question. 

In school you’re supposed to sit still and listen to the Teacher, not question. Under the guise of authority teachers teach or worse indoctrinate. Questioning a Teacher especially on their motives for saying or doing anything goes against what the children have been taught up to that point in their lives. “Don’t talk back” “Do as I say, not as I do” are the order of the day for at least the child’s first 10 years. A child that questions the teacher could get labeled as aggressive or anti-social and in these days of anxiety about spree killings and other violence in schools, you’ll see suspension and expulsions for the smallest things. And, it can stigmatize a child for years. At the very least the children learn to stop asking questions, they learn to stop “questioning or challenging authority.” So we learn the habit of not questioning. The habit of just accepting what we’re told.
Since social services in many cases can easily and always find a reason, many parents are living in fear their children could be taken away from them if the wrong set of circumstances arise – such as a child who questions authority. I’m not saying the system is broken, so much as it’s geared for systematic abuse of people’s rights to free speech and requires constant vigilance to make sure kids get a square deal and an opportunity to develop their critical thinking.

Any adult in the child’s life has a chance to influence what the child will believe later on in life. They could evoke an emotional response that ensures that child’s enthusiasm on a topic for the rest of their lives, possibly to great benefit of our race!, or they could hurt the child emotionally so bad that they are stuck dealing with the trauma the rest of their lives and their broken wasted potential could end up nothing but a burden to their families and society as a whole.

In these days of the internet it often seems as if belief is far more important than knowledge. Everywhere you go there is someone who’s sure they have the answer, cure, diet, facts, truth etc. etc. Knowing who to trust, what to trust and what not to trust is a battle many don’t seem even willing to fight. They just choose, and accept. And can you blame them really? We all want to look to some authority to validate what we say at least once in a while. Everyone is looking for someone or somewhere to at least validate what they think they know.

And there’s just too much to know! We can’t all be experts in everything anymore, maybe it was possible to a know it all back when hunting and gathering was our species life (though I doubt it since I’ve read Jean Auel’s behemoth series!) but then it’s not as if there was less to know, just our knowledge was less and when someone just has to have an answer, when “I don’t know” isn’t good enough well we humans tend to make shit up. A.K.A. the bullshit gene.

 Any Parent who has faced the tough questions about Death understands why “I don’t know” will feel inadequate. They don’t want their child to be afraid. They want them to hold on to their innocence. In a sense all religion is just our human frailty expressed. It’s our sense of loss for that innocence, and religion is a weapon against that feeling, that fear of the unknown. It is our longing to not have that unknown to look forward to in our ending. 

However, for those with an urge to control their society, that weapon against fear too often becomes a tool to control people as well. Fear of death becomes fear of judgment, and fear of failure to please a distant parent like figure whose supposed power is beyond understanding. If you like it’s the super ego Freud mentioned or the Superior Parent, so if the actual parents of a child are feeling inadequate, they can call upon the authority of the Superior Parent ie “God” to control their offspring.

This makes the children’s parents, teachers, pastors etc. all culpable in the lie to cover their fear and inadequacy. If you challenge that faith, you will chip away at the protective bandage of the lie. A lie the parents were told by their parents and are now telling their children. This multi-generational collusion of lies and fear is incredibly hard to break out of or to just persuade someone out of, so when you fail to convince, don’t be surprised.

You will not succeed in proselytizing people into Atheists. They each have to already be on the road to questioning and finding their own paths to the answers that will satisfy their needs. Otherwise, Atheism would just be another type of religion with believers gathering weekly to reinforce each other’s beliefs and socialize. (huh! about that. . . oh nevermind – another post someday.)

Many religious people contentedly live out their lives doing no further harm with their beliefs other than to pass them on to their children. If they do so in a manner that still respects their children’s right to decide how religious they’ll be in their lives, then there’s no reason to object and most Atheist, Secular or Agnostics won’t object to those situations. It’s the unfortunate numbers of aggressive fundamentalist or proselytizing religious that are trying to take us all back to living in a Theocracy that have stirred up the Non-religious’ objections. The very unfunny reasons for our objection to growing religious hegemony are all around us and can be found in history, repeatedly.

"The price of seeking to force our beliefs on others is
that someday they might force their beliefs on us."
[Mario Cuomo]

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