The start of a new year and a new decade seems as good a time as any to look at God, and religion.
I consider religion the result of failures by human beings to acknowledge and do anything about their own problems.
I flatly reject that we need a Judeo-Christian (or any other superstition-related, artificially constructed) framework to make us, or keep us, morally worthwhile beings. This is a crock.
Conversely, I consider most religions, especially in their more fundamentalist guises, to be anti-human, as they seek to artificially curb and counter so many frankly human traits we should be embracing. Do we expect tigers not to act like tigers? Cows not to act like cows?
I am a morally good person. I help people. I am courteous (mostly). I do not lie. I do not steal. I do not lend money for profit. I do not speculate. I am trustworthy. I even let cars in when I’m driving (that’s rare, for New Zealanders).
I don’t need any God bogeyman to keep me in line. If you do, get some help. It’s pretty clear to anyone with a modicum of perception what is right, and what is wrong.
And while I have met many, many Christians, I can count the‘good Christians’ amongst those on one hand. Without using all the fingers.
Typically, Christians in my experience are narrow-minded, sanctimonious, ignorant and judgmental, especially about those things they know least about.
And the same goes for most other religious practitioners I have met, including all you smug Buddhists who focus on yourselves above all else. And maybe I have just had really bad luck (which I sincerely doubt), but that’s been my experience.
Christianity at least has something in common with the left. Looking at the Bible, it’s pretty clear Jesus had some left-wing and humanist principles. It’s possible this was made into a religion just to get people to accept it, considering the deep state of ignorance many may have been in a couple of thousand years ago, but wow, did it ever get out of hand!
Also like the left, it’s been easy to get Christians arguing amongst themselves and splitting up into ever more squabbling and disparate factions.
Partly this is because the Bible is such a mess – all those different sources, the several translations it’s been through, the clearly schizophrenic relationship between the Old Testament (an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth) and the New (love your neighbour, forgive transgressors) which puts them entirely at odds with each other. Not to mention the different takes on even the same stories (try reading the resurrection accounts, for example) … it’s hardly surprising it has been virtually impossible to follow and enact, in any meaningful and consistent way, the Christians’ holy book.
(I hope you have gathered I have read considerable amounts of the Bible, and books about religion. File under ‘know your enemy’.)
But even the Ten Commandments, which you’d think even an idiot could follow, have proved impossible to most Christians.
“Thou shalt not kill” … seems pretty clear. Can anyone misread that? So how can there be Christians in the armed forces? Crikey, there are even ministers in the armed forces. That serves as a great and shining example as to just how flawed Christianity appears to outsiders.
The commandments start so:
I am the Lord your God (who is? Fine, whatever.)
You shall have no other gods before me (how many are you allowed ‘after’? Are they the dollar god and the profit god?).
1/ You shall not make for yourself an idol (cuts out reality TV, doesn’t it? And calling bit-players on small-country soap operas ‘stars’).
2/ You shall not make wrongful use of the name of your God (define ‘wrongful’. It really depends on your viewpoint).
3/ Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. (Sure. Shut the malls, then. I’m all for it.)
4/ Honour your father and mother (even if they’re child-abusing arse holes? Like hell.)
5/ You shall not murder (seems fair. But once again, if someone attacks your kids, a human would retaliate …)
6/ You shall not commit adultery (seems fair, if you married in a Christian church. Widespread evidence to the contrary notwithstanding).
7/ You shall not steal (I can think of many examples in which stealing would be morally correct).
8/ You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour (what about the bloke two doors up?).
9/ You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife (sounds ridiculously difficult in many circumstances. And it excludes women – are they allowed to covet their neighbours’ husbands? Doesn’t sound fair at all!)
10/ You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbour. (But yeah, can’t help thinking their TV is better than mine. Does that make me a sinner? I’m not going to do anything about it. Besides, our entire Western Civilisation’s – and increasingly, the East’s – economic system is built on just that).
I think it’s pretty clear these commandments have had their (violent, bloody and ineffectual) day.
Likewise, the Biblical 7 deadlies are: Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, and Pride.
Yet if gluttony was a sin, where does that leave the US? The US has huge rates of obesity and consumes most of the world’s resources. Yet if the contender for office isn’t Christian, forget it.
Lust helped me have kids; did it not work for you?
Wrath … why did the US invade Iraq, again?
Sloth – um, what about the ‘holidays’? Originally called ‘Holy Days’.
Greed and envy fuel the economy of the world. Always have.
And pride we are told is good – we’re supposed to be proud of our achievements and proud of our kids and proud of our country and proud of our All Blacks and blah blah blah.
I cannot understand why a civil society like ours can’t have secular aims we should all attempt to hue to.
Mine would be:
1/ We should not kill
2/ We should respect our planet
3/ We should respect the living
4/ We should respect the past
5/ We should endeavour to be honest and fair
6/ We should value virtue before profit
7/ We should endeavour to help those in need
8/ We should not steal the honestly acquired property of another
9/ We should consider the opinions of others, as they should consider ours
10/ We should honour and protect these precepts for all humans.
No God required. And we should learn these at school. And your comments are welcome.