Dogged by dogma

I hate organized religion. I don’t hate Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, or anyone from a specific religion. Rather, I hate how religion impacts our lives.

Why? For starters, religious differences will be found somewhere in the story of almost every war that this planet has ever seen. Religion is also one more way that we divide humans. 

Without religion, there would be hundreds fewer reasons to hate our neighbours. Even if I had nothing else, “less hate” would be more than enough justification for my position on its own.

Without religion, we would form opinions of our neighbours based on their actions, not based on the background of their ancestors, something that they were born with and had no choice about.

Without religion, no one would be disappointed in their child for choosing to marry someone who was brought up with a different set of beliefs. Less hate, more love – an exciting combination.  

I submit that religion has not added anything to our world that what today we call morals, values, and common sense would not have helped us arrive at independently over time. Each religion claims to be the origin of concepts like “respect your parents” and “thou shalt not kill”, but let’s be honest, we would have figured this out without “divine intervention”.

Lastly, at least for this blog, I am anti-religion because religious beliefs cannot be truly questioned in the way that everything else is.

I am dogged by dogma.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines dogma as : “a doctrine or body of doctrines concerning faith or morals formally stated and authoritatively proclaimed by a church.”

To de-Christianize the definition, consider that “church” refers to the religious authority in each religion.

The definition also includes the following mention: “a point of view or tenet put forth as authoritative without adequate grounds.” Try telling that to someone who swears by a religious viewpoint. To them, their belief is the only “adequate grounds” they need. Unfortunately, beliefs are neither real, nor are they necessarily true.

We all know someone who has a negative attitude more often than not. These people are walking “I can’t” machines. Propose the slightest thing outside of what they know how to do, their comfort zone, and their default response is “I can’t.” The only reason that they can’t accomplish something is because they said so, and have subsequently convinced themselves of it. The more they say that they can’t do something, the more it becomes true in their actions. Repeat something often enough, and you will believe it to be true.

Similarly, in most cases, religious beliefs are introduced to children almost from birth through rituals, stories, words, and more. They are repeated over and over, ad nauseum, through pre-school and elementary school years. Before the child has even learned about the concept of critical thought, let alone has had the chance to practice it, let alone regarding a topic that, if questioned, has the potential to infuriate this young child’s family and lead them to question their entire heritage, the “beliefs” of religion have been drilled in and presented as inalienable truths. Simply, dogma.

It takes a very strong, self-confident person to question beliefs like these. It takes someone who is at peace with the threat of the potential conflict that can (and likely will) arise out of questioning such an emotional, personal, and historically accepted-as-fact set of beliefs to instead look critically at what is actually true or actually real in terms of religion. 

Regardless of one’s beliefs, one cannot deny that based on available knowledge, it is impossible to rationally and objectively *prove* the existence of a “god” in the first place, yet it is the object of massive debate. This impossible mission leaves this topic to be debated with subjective, emotional, belief-based arguments alone rather than using proven facts. Add to this the inherent impossibility of disproving the existence of  ANYTHING, and this becomes an unresolvable debate regardless of your position on the matter.

Anyone who believes that “god” as an almighty being definitely exists or definitely does not exist is relying on faith, belief, or on stories and tales. This unattributed quote says it best: “When someone believes in an imaginary figure that only they can see or hear, it is called a psychological problem. If one believes in an imaginary figure that even they can’t see or hear, it is called religion.”

To believe otherwise, specifically, to claim something as factual and real when no such proof exists, is to willingly and repeatedly lie to one’s self. Many, many people do this on a daily basis. Why?

Acting as if one’s beliefs are true is a rational behaviour, meant to justify or rationalize holding the belief. It stands to reason that someone who doesn’t believe their own belief to be true would not hold on to that belief in the first place, right? So we make ourselves believe our own leaps of faith to be true in order to have some semblance that we are not crazy.

The reluctance of people to question the real and measurable truth of their religious beliefs likely stems from a fear that, faced with an argument that runs contrary to their longstanding beliefs and views, one that they cannot rationally negate, that they would be left questioning much more about themselves. To these people, the possibility that a belief that they held to be true since early childhood is untrue could lead to an uncertainty about “who they are”, an outcome so scary that it justifies continuing to believe (regardless of new viewpoints presented) in order to maintain the illusion of control over their lives.

Despite this natural and obvious logical uncertainty, some choose to dismiss any argument based on logic (including this one) in favour of belief-based arguments. Any contrary view is met with emotional rhetoric that deflects the opposing view off course in order to allow the believer to avoid having to answer the rational question. This renders logical debate impossible and allows the believer to carry on maintaining, falsely, that their beliefs are sound. 

Those who currently hold religious views that they were not brought up with would be well served to look at where they came from. Were you exposed to suggestion from a religious leader? From family? Were the views shared with you presented as fact, when they were actually someone’s (or some community’s) beliefs?

Avoiding a rational conversation about one’s religious beliefs is very much akin to sweeping dust under a couch. In both cases, ignoring an issue can make one believe that it does not exist, but in reality, it remains unresolved.

I maintain that everyone has the absolute right to believe whatever they choose to believe. However, in terms of religious beliefs, it is my position that the enlightened religious person accepts that religion and religious beliefs are essentially unproven and possibly made up stories and yet can choose to believe them anyway.

A person who holds this well-rounded belief demonstrates an essential mix of logic, understanding of the difference between fact and fiction, an appreciation for reality, and free choice which allows them to hold beliefs that transcend it.

To accept this means the end of religious in-fighting within religions and religious fighting between them. It means the end of religions trying to convince people that their beliefs are more true, correct, or righteous than those of another group. It means the end of discrimination and petty judgement.

More than that, accepting this means the beginning of a world where people are free to believe what they choose, based on any or all inputs, knowing that they chose their beliefs, and can change them at any time, for any reason or for none at all.

It means that priests, rabbis, imams, and other religious leaders lose their illegitimate moral authority (for which we have many stories of abuse), and the power of religious beliefs moves squarely into the hands of the individual.

Gone would be the days of grouping people who think the same way solely because they were taught to do so, replaced by groups of likeminded people who thought to do so.

Though I choose not to for myself, I maintain that it is perfectly acceptable for someone to believe in something that is not real, provided that they don’t claim, to themselves or others, that it is.

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3 Comments

  1. Well written! I’m with you on this. Forced religious beliefs have been the bane of my existence. I hate that religion is used as an excuse to hurt and kill others. We don’t practice any religion, and I don’t force it on my son like it was forced on me. He has the freedom to choose what to believe or not believe in. Wish I grew up with that choice.

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