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November 30, 2023

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Religious devotion leads to arrogance, discourages questions

As a young boy sitting in my father’s church, I often found myself looking at the rafters.

I wasn’t always bored, though I confess I used those little sheets people use to reflect on the message of the sermon as stationery for less noble endeavors.

Once I was old enough to understand what the message was about, I began to believe it, thinking I had come to these conclusions all on my own.

However, at the age where I first began to question whether I should even bother with Christianity at all, I realized that my desire to believe might have something to do with the fact that I had been dragged to church every Sunday as a boy.

At the time I resented it, though there were times when I enjoyed it. As I grew older, I began to view my faith more as a matter of curiosity than a matter of ritual. I will never understand those who treat the Bible, or any religious text as a rule book, and as such have I long since ceased trying to.

Thankfully, I was lucky to have two parents who didn’t want me to be afraid of them, or their God.

They let me ask, and encouraged me to ask questions like “Who in their right mind can believe in the immaculate conception?” “Did God banish the Devil because he couldn’t tolerate a difference of opinion?” and “Why should I worship such a petty, vain, bloodthirsty tyrant?”

Even from a young age, I thought Hell was a notion that could not possibly be in keeping with the ultimate God of mercy, and it seemed like a convenient form of deus ex machina to account for unpunished worldly injustices.

As I got older, the idea of Heaven began to seem equally absurd to me.

As Anton LaVey said, “Heaven must be populated with some rather strange creatures if all they lived for was to go to a place where they can strum harps for eternity.”

Though my parents explained their point of view to the best of their ability, part of growing into an adult is questioning, to whatever extent, whether publicly or privately, what we have been taught from a young age about everything from our faith to our career goals. I confess that I’ve always had a taste for iconoclasm, and my point isn’t that a supernatural deity doesn’t exist, but why then are some more credible than others?

If the Christian, Muslim and Jewish gods exist, then why are Poseidon, Thor and Isis dismissed as ‘myths?’ There is a hearty amount of literature about all of these choices, so pick your poison, but the idea that one religion is definitively right is absurd considering none of them have any proof to substantiate their extraordinary claims.

The devotion of many religious people, though admirable, puzzles me. I’m left wondering why some people are willing to wager so much of their time and effort, and anxiety for something that may well be false.

In terms of my own journey, I remain thoroughly unconvinced that there is a bearded man in the sky who cares who I sleep with or if I eat shellfish; and although medieval peasants may have been scared by the Inferno, I am not.

To be clear, it is not religious devotion that irks me. If you want to practice your faith, far be it from me to tell you not to.

What irks me is the astounding arrogance of those who claim that knowledge of ancient sanitation laws and fairy tales equates to ultimate truth.

This kind of unabashed zealotry is damaging to our society. I have yet to see the faith of these individuals move mountains [as they say it can], but I have seen it used to move the goalposts time and time again.

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