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This is Not Why I Hate Religion

Did I ever tell you that, prior to Confirmation as a Catholic, I got put first in line to go take confession at a mass with all my Catechism classmates in it?  And the priest left his collar-mic on and the entire church got to hear my thirteen-year-old confessions?

This is not why I hate religion though, I promise.

Did I also ever mention that in first grade, and again in fourth, I took the mandatory state exams and tested more than three grades above where age had placed me?  And that the state even contacted my (private Catholic) school to ask about it, but the school insisted that I couldn't miss out on the religious education (and, I suspect, hefty tuition) of those years, and kept me in the grade I was in, and never offered nor suggested any kind of accelerated program for anything?  I got straight A's my whole elementary-school career, never studied for a test until college, almost physically died of boredom, and got beat up by the other kids almost daily for being a smartass.

Also not why I hate religion, though, I swear.

Did I ever bring up how I got put in the corner or sent to the principal's office almost daily from kindergarten to sixth grade, for the evil crime of asking questions that made the teachers uncomfortable or challenged the Catholic curriculum?

Not why I hate religion.  Kinda why I avoid the hell out of churches, though; and a bit of why the love-affair with angry speed-metal, probably.

But have I told you yet about how it all clicked for me in my 20's, how I suddenly (over the course of about a year of thinking, I suppose) realized that yes, there IS a problem with humanity and yes, it CAN be solved, and peace and happiness is actually possible on a far wider and grander scale than we ever thought possible, and furthermore this wonderfulness can only be caused by individuals realizing a potent and foundational inner truth, and the more people realize it (I haven't, by the way) the more people can and will, and every single huge nasty problem in the world (war, torture, intolerance…all things religion is historically on the wrong side of, btw) IS solvable by nothing more than fixing a philosophical error in human thinking and feeling, and if we did this then in a few generations we could be teaching children to do it, and fix the entire human race just like that?

THAT's why I hate religion.

Because it insists to people that the answers are somewhere outside themselves; distracts them from the goal by insisting they study old, flawed, broken signposts instead of walking in the direction they point; tricks them into ignoring the one thing that could actually make things better.

They all said it, loud and clear, Jesus, Buddha, everyone who had actually gotten there: fuck the religion.  The answer is in you.  Nobody can give it to you, or tell it to you, and no amount of following commandments or making donations or saying prayers will ever get you there.  It's all a giant distraction from something you could find–can only find–by just paying really, really, really close attention to yourself.  There's a broken thing in there, in your psychology, in your fundamental way of perceiving the world.  See it, fix it, and you can move mountains.  Don't, and you will always suffer.

So I want some credit, darnit:  Religion abused me my whole childhood (and believe me, those stories up above are just a sampling), and I didn't come to truly hate it until I was fully an adult and hadn't been near a church in years. 

My hatred is not reactionary.  It's practical.  I want enlightenment, inner peace, and spiritual evolution, for me and for everyone — and I think religion is one of the biggest obstacles to it in the whole entire world.

Amen.

19 comments

1 John { 01.29.11 at 10:43 am }

Grat post.
I just want to add something.
 
Religion isn't about fixing the problems in the world and ending human suffering, and it never has been.
It's invented by man to ease his own fear of dying.
 
Inner peace and a world without hate and cruely is a great thought. But without that promise of your conscious mind living forever, people will always turn to religion.

2 Joseph Dowdy { 01.29.11 at 4:36 pm }

@John… Sorry, but I have to disagree as Jesus taught us to care for "the least of these" as in the poor, the neglected, the underpriveleged, the lepers, the blind, the jailed, etc. Judaism teaches tikkun olam which is literally to repair the world by doing what Jesus was teaching. Of course, we can't forget all the mass-killing done by Catholicism in the name of Jesus and say, hey, what happened to "Thou Shalt Not Kill" but that's for another time.
@Puredoxyk… GREAT POST
Y'know, I mentioned before I could hook you up with meeting my Tao Master and, the truth is, the answer is in you and sometimes people need something external to validate what is in you. It's easy to have a thought or feeling that all is well and then be distracted by Octomom or the economy and then that thought or felling is now just dust in the wind. Something external provides agreement for your inner truth. Sharing your inner truth is almost only done in the company of followers of the truth or maybe the closest of friends or relatives with an open bottle or two. Your happiness, you truth, your access to peace and enlightenment are within you and sometimes a guide can help in many ways.
There are some people in organized religion who can help, but mostly it's the religions who haven't changed from thousands of years ago that can do this best. I suppose it's possible that you could get peace and enlightenment from a Christian church but perhaps only if Martin Luther King were preaching…or perhaps some of the more New Agey brands of Christianity that accept pluralism as a given instead of a sin.
Well, have a great weekend and thanks for sharing your experience! It's been enlightening!

3 marzzbar { 01.30.11 at 3:56 am }

I think I'm going to run out of paper from printing out your blog posts…

4 Naomi { 01.30.11 at 7:19 am }

A summary of the Four Noble Truths, as taught in buddism:

Thus is the Noble Truth of Suffering
Thus is the Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering
Thus is the Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering
Thus is the Noble Truth of the Path that leads to the Cessation of Suffering

A summary of the "Noble Eightfold Path" can be found in the appendix of this essay:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bodhi/waytoend.html
Most sects agree on the fundamentals, not all of them agree on the method of teaching it.

5 Naomi { 01.30.11 at 7:22 am }

My comment was meant as a reply to John, who stated that not all religions are about ending human suffering.
Disclaimer: I am merely interested in buddhism, and have been reading about it and mulling it over. While by some people's definitions this makes me a buddhist, take my (possibly biased) opinion as you will.

6 Luca { 01.31.11 at 3:56 am }

Hi there,
 
really like your blog and your posts, thanks for sharing ;-).
 
just a small note: Buddha actually did teach that the truth is within you, he deliberately didn't write anything and told people to follow their own practice and their own path and not to read scripture, so it's actually a philosophy and a practice more than a religion. 
 
His ideas came chiefly from the same observation as yours in regards to the religions of his time.
 
:-)

7 Grimmer { 02.01.11 at 4:19 pm }

Lol at the contradictions. Religion is a barrier to peace and happiness, so consequently I hate religion.

I think that peace is possible through religion. Many religions/denominations/cults get very legalistic in their doctrine (Catholics are renowned for this) and this can get in the way of the peace the Creator-created relationship can bring. Or even the perceived relationship, if your an atheist. If they believe it, and it brings them happiness, then it would wrong for others to judge. 

8 fogmoth { 02.01.11 at 8:00 pm }

Amen

9 Anonymous { 02.02.11 at 4:54 pm }

I have an opinion of my own.
I believe that back then, people wanted to teach morals as well as humanity. But to do so, they used a medium. A symbolism of sorts that they can use as an example. In this case, religion. The prophet/chosen one/son of God is accounted as the bringer of many good wills, and they must do good just like him, because it's the supposed ONLY allowed thing to do. Whenever they didn't follow Him, they would be punished.
However, people came about to question; who is he, really? Where does he come from? Why does he exist? Most importantly, why do we need to always follow His actions?
That is when the general populace started to panic, and had to make a story of their own to sate their curiosity. As long as they would exalt the One, and follow the One's actions.
None questioned nor disproved what they learned. Thus, begins the puppeteering of the brain. The disclosure of free will. The shortening of what could have been endless thoughts of discovery. Note that this was merely a limitation of the thoughts, and not total eradication of logic. Somewhere out there, there are still those who thought for themselves and never relied on anything else.
Right then, geographical distribution happened. There are many versions of backstories told by people from many different places all over the world. With different geography, comes different factors, such as climate, language, resources, and many others. All these factors eventually manifest into what we have come to know as 'culture'. With each differing culture, the story is told differently.
When these different worlds meet, they find that their tales aren't exactly compatible with one another. Somehow, they decided that the best way to solve this dispute is to see who kills the opposing party first. Note that this is the mentality of lesser beings, before our minds are completely matured by true, modern ethos.
Fast forwarding to the twenty-first century, here we stand as humans that not only of capable of gaining epiphany by ourselves, but also is able to tell between right and wrong. Now that the children of the new generation is much more capable of receiving information and learning between right and wrong, lets ask our forefathers again;
Do we really need a medium to pass on humanitarianism anymore?

10 Dragos240 { 02.03.11 at 1:56 pm }

I completely agree! Religion causes more conflict than peace in this world. It's pretty ironic. Good post. This is why I am a proud anti-religionist. And yes, they do exist :).

11 puredoxyk { 02.19.11 at 8:39 am }

If they’re ever stoning either of us in the streets for our anti-beliefs, Dragos, can we promise to rescue each other? ;)

12 puredoxyk { 02.19.11 at 8:40 am }

I like your theory, nisbah…reminds me of something my dad used to tell me: One lie breeds a thousand!

13 puredoxyk { 02.19.11 at 10:32 am }

Happiness is not the same as truth. The core concept espoused by most religions AND many philosophies is that there is a truth, a way of thinking and/or living, that will end suffering and bring bliss and Enlightenment. If your goal is happiness, then yes, you can’t judge someone for what makes them happy: If I believe in Narnia and you believe in Heaven and we are both made happy by our beliefs, then yes, they’re equal insofar as they fulfill the instrumental goal of producing (temporary) happiness. Getting drunk, dancing, and petting kittens are all also equal to Heaven and Narnia by this formulation, if they make a person happy.

But if the goal, as stated, is to achieve knowledge of a truth that cures human suffering, then one can absolutely judge one path as better than another: One works; another does not. My argument is that religions do not fulfill this goal, and that furthermore they fail to do it while *promising* to do it, thus leading people who want this goal astray. Insofar as the instrumental goal of Enlightenment goes, religion actually has to produce results in order to claim that it’s as good as other things. And its results are dismal at best, since it tends to cause wars and intolerance and suffering, rather than producing any measurable end to them, either in groups or individuals.

14 puredoxyk { 02.19.11 at 10:37 am }

So did Jesus – his actual teachings are all about learning present-moment awareness and pretty much the same things Siddartha Gautama taught. But in both cases their teachings were quickly co-opted by religions wanting to claim that they held the key to Enlightenment and the end of suffering, and the actual goal of achieving those things was quickly subversed to the same old goals of religion: join groups, give money to an establishment, fight wars, control populations. And while an argument can be made that maybe some Buddhists (Chan or Zen ones, probably) managed to stick closer to the teachings of their prophet than most Christians, in both cases the teaching was lost once it became a religion. Because, I honestly think, religions are not about those things, even if they use them as advertisements.

15 puredoxyk { 02.19.11 at 10:37 am }

Haha awww. ;)

16 puredoxyk { 02.19.11 at 10:43 am }

Interesting observation, John. I’m not sure I can validate or invalidate it, but you got a lot of other good responses, so I won’t feel too pressured to try. ;)

In the philosophy of religion (i.e. the academic study), one of the ways a religion is defined — and separated out from nationalisms and other groupings that can act in many of the same ways — is that it holds a core belief that Something In Humanity Needs Fixing. (Of course many philosophies — including mine — hold this to be a core principle as well, but they are different from religions in other ways.) Christianity claims that we have Original Sin and need Salvation. Jainism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, etc. all have some similar claim, and some suggested formula for fixing things. (Taoism does not, but then again pure Taoism is often called “philosophical Taoism” for just this reason; because it really isn’t a religion.)

And this tees me off, because I am of the philosophical opinion that the core principle is correct — that something IS broken and could be fixed, ending suffering — but I strongly feel that religion is, maybe in some cases deliberately, playing a slight-of-hand game where it uses the felt truth of that issue to draw people in, and then convince them that the way to answer the question is to pay them money and fight their wars. EW EW EW. ;)

Anyway, thanks!

17 EtherWolf { 03.02.11 at 3:20 am }

If the business of religion actually brought enlightenment and happiness, they'd be out of business.
I've been dancing Argentine Tango for almost 5 years now.  I don't know if I've hit 10,000 hours yet (my iai sensei has also mentioned that a few times) but I see in myself now what I need to progress.  I still absorb some outside teaching every now and then, and I consider myself the eternal beginner, but I really feel it within me now where before I wondered if I'd ever even understand the dance.  I have only come this far through a great deal of passion, desiring to better myself in this aspect.
That's what's missing from most religious experiences: the passionate desire to truly better oneself.  Seek teaching from others to be sure, all the prophets were teachers first and foremost (and look how we reward teachers in this age, hmm), but let them add to the fire within rather than relying on them to build the pit, put the logs there, drown it in lighter fluid, and bust out the eternal flame thrower to keep it going.  It's up to every person to stoke their own.

18 Shandra { 07.29.11 at 7:22 pm }

I too have a 'few' childhood issues with religion, it was all such a confusing mess that I read up on the wider world's historical and religious side of things to cross reference stuff my mother the Jehovah's Witness talked about.
Looks to me that Buddha, Jesus and other assorted religious/historical figures had their teachings taken over by the dominant society of their day and twisted out of all recognition as compared to the original material.  It's a case of in one ear, out the other, and don't bother me with the details, Jack.  Humans have always had a problem with that kind of behaviour.  
Buddha spoke to people whose world view was entirely described by the traditions of their society, so though he respected women, his male followers were steeped in a profoundly mysogynistic culture that would not accept the promotion of women to positions of power equal to a man's.  
Buddha had to compromise or lose a big chunk of his followers from day one.  Not many minds actively enjoy changing, it's scary to push one's boundaries, and dealing with reality is frequently uncomfortable.  Which is kind of what Buddhism is all about.  There's perhaps just a teeny tiny bit of irony there.  Maybe his original adherents were inspired to beat their wives and children less often.  Not necessarily a great beginning for Siddhartha, but everyone has to start somewhere and he had to work with what he had.  At least it's survived to modern times in some form, no easy feat.
Reincarnation is another screwy belief out of the native religions of India that promoted and supported the cruelties of the caste system which told people if they were born poor or female or became ill or took a crippling injury that they deserved it for having done something bad in a past life.  It has nothing to do with the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama and everything with the convenience of blaming the victim and enforcing authority.
This kind of profoundly damaging crap seems to correlate with the equally cruel and stupid notion of Original Sin.  Which has diddly squat to do with sex, no matter what rot the Xian propaganda machine spews.  Adam and Eve were punished for intellectual curiosity (eating from the tree of knowledge).  That is the reason that I do not consider myself a Christian of any stripe, to me, restricting knowledge is the real blaspheme.
They were cast out of Paradise for not taking "Because I said so," for an answer.  Sounds more like a lazy asshole parent who can't be bothered with the curiosity mere stupid children. 
Jesus got the same raw deal, near as I can tell.  The Romans co-opted Christianity and stuffed it full of their own mysoginistic authoritarian horse crap.  The council of Nicaea in AD 325 wrote the Bible and edited it to specifically enforce their (Roman) authority and control over the subject populations of the Empire.  This was continued and expanded on by the later Roman Catholic Church, which is pretty much a corporate structured government.  It even has it's own capital city and branch offices worldwide and a highly recognizable brand.  
Any of this 'from the mouth of God' crapola or the Holy Spirit stuff is the usual appeal to the irrelevant authorities at Head Office.  Or name dropping at worst, when they claim to have God's private cellphone number, like those bible thumper roadshows in the southern U.S.
Then there are the Catholic priests carrying on some very old Roman traditions with regards to young boys.  The weirdest shit gets preserved by formal religions, intentionally or otherwise.  Though it may be a structural flaw.  Priestly celibacy had more to do with any wealth accumulated by a man in a position of power having to will it to the church since illegitimate children couldn't inherit his wealth.  It was a cash grab.  Many 'celibate' priests had unofficial mistresses and children.  More 'do as I say not as I do' philosophy, matching 'Because I said so'.
As for a single more personal note, my mother and two younger siblings who got sucked into this J-dub stuff are socially expected by their congregation to spend 70 hours a month (17 or so hours a week) selling their religion door to door.  They get social brownie (brown nose?) points in return. They go to Kingdom Hall or bible study three or four times a week for several hours at a time in addition to the door to door stuff.  I think they're nuts, they think I'm a 'fallen woman'.
Just to be difficult ;)  if the definition of a cult is a religious movement headed up by a living holy figure/prophet, Christians, by their own belief system which says Jesus is still actually alive in heaven, is therefore a cult.  My Mom didn't think this was a funny joke.  My Dad did.  

19 Ed { 10.29.11 at 10:29 pm }

Seems to me that every example listed on this page about why religion is a "Bad Thing" has to do with someone who perverted or misused the original religious concept. I've always believed that it's the relationship with God/Christ that changes us from within. Sure there's always going to be people who abuse and misuse those who don't think for themselves in a religious/spiritual sense, but that's not restricted to just Christianity.