Archive Opinion The Orion

A crash course in religion’s wrongs

January 1, 2007

An old man walked to the top of a mountain and lugged a few rocks down the hill.

The son of a carpenter said a few controversial things and was hung on a cross. One man was so great that his picture can’t be shown in a newspaper without fear of an upheaval.

These are rational ways to look at from where most people in the world pull their religious teachings. I have nothing against any of the teachings, and I live a fine life respecting their existence.

It’s just the people I can’t deal with.

It’s one way or the other with religion today. There is no middle ground. But how did we get here?

It’s very similar to the descriptions I made of Moses, Jesus and Mohammed. Everything’s been oversimplified. You lose the gray area. The black becomes darker, and the white becomes brighter. You’re either with us or you’re against us.

Lost between the two poles is anything remotely related to the teachings from sacred texts. Instead of loving your neighbor as yourself, it’s, “I hate gay people.” Instead of the values of peace and toleration, it’s, “If you don’t agree, I’m taking you down with me.”

Religion is basically a coping mechanism. If you look at the common features of every religion, you’ll see an explanation for three things: the beginning, death and the end. All three of those are essentially unknowns, and they allow for some form of comfort.

People don’t want to hear they came from nothing and have no real significance, so there is a divine creator that nobody’s seen but definitely exists because his plan’s being lived out.

Death is something people have only one chance to experience, and because nobody ever writes back after dying, we have a fluffy resort in the sky. To keep people in line, we have a divine being who can remove us all from existence with his magnificent powers if we behave too badly.

This is all well and good, but it’s also a massive distraction from the important things in life – the people around us.

I’m not talking about this in the missionary sense of wandering to Africa or New Orleans to help those in need. It’s the woman down the hall you see every day. It’s the guy who you always walk past on the way to class. It’s the people whom for some reason you never find the time or opportunity to say hello to.

That’s exactly the kind of polarizing effect we’ve allowed for religion to have. Somewhere on the path to enlightenment and figuring out the world’s unknowns, we forgot about the world around us.

I’m not calling for the dissolving of all religions. Life is one massive non sequitur. There are many things that don’t follow our lines of reasoning. We need something to help us cope.

But it also has to be something that everyone can benefit from, something where you take a moment from the hustle and bustle of life to stop and say hello.

While you have your nose buried in a book that was written thousands of years ago – and revised many times since – in search of the meaning of life, you’re missing out on what it’s really all about.