I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life. I believe the equality of man, and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow-creatures happy. But, lest it should be supposed that I believe many other things in addition to these, I shall, in the progress of this work, declare the things I do not believe, and my reasons for not believing them.
I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church. All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.
I do not mean by this declaration to condemn those who believe otherwise; they have the same right to their belief as I have to mine. But it is necessary to the happiness of man, that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe. It is impossible to calculate the moral mischief, if I may so express it, that mental lying has produced in society. When a man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind, as to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe, he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime. He takes up the trade of a priest for the sake of gain, and, in order to qualify himself for that trade, he begins with a perjury. Can we conceive anything more destructive to morality than this?
The Age of Reason, Thomas Paine (1796)
Apart from the advantage of power and the myriad of other material benefits accruing to those in control and to the sycophants and carpetbaggers in tow, religion is at best a gated community for the poor or losers. Those same people are so smug that they even advance as clever the dubious qualification that there is absolutely no substantive basis whatever upon which to base a verifiable claim. Faith! I may as well believe in Santa Claus! And if they are not completely persuaded by the obfuscation, many prefer to sustain the propriety of their ritual by fashioning it as some kind of useful social convention, as though just getting together with one’s friends is sufficient rationality of the inconvenient intellectual roadblocks.
In the cloak of self-righteousness these snake charmers and charlatans pretend to put themselves above others and then say whatever they imagine will be palatable to the impaired intellect of their audience. This is naturally no surprise in the least. Even those who seek admission to notoriously exclusive private clubs imagine they have some entitlement to do so. Once one has gained admission through the gates – whether the Pearly Gates or other barrier of exclusivity – it behooves those on the inside to congratulate themselves and to do whatever suits to keep others out where there is any possibility of contamination of the false pretence upon which admission is based.
It depresses me that the remaining bastions of religious perversion in this world are those which unremarkably include populations of deprived and uneducated people. But this is hardly the audience upon which to urge the cutting logic “Believe what you see!”
I am the first to accept that hope is a useful tool to combat disadvantage but I cannot support a hope which is founded upon deceit. Encouraging people to “believe” based upon “faith” is nothing more than circuitous chicanery; it amounts to asking people to rise above all that they know to be true. Usually the underhandedness is bolstered by another imaginative threat – punishment in the “hereafter”.
The miraculous nature of life is not lost on me. But I do not intend to excuse my mystification by adoption of a preposterous insight into the mechanics of the universe. What dissimulation it is to purport to hear the voice of God! And don’t get me started on those television evangelists who “hear the voice of God” through an earplug connected to a co-conspirator!
The dying of religion in Canada and the United States is undeniable. Churches everywhere are closing; parochial properties are being sold or converted with unprecedented speed; membership is declining precipitously; nobody can seriously contradict the argument against religion. As a result it is an embarrassment to be with the people who persist in perpetuating the myths. Being a Christian is now equated with being a blockhead; being a Muslim is akin to being a fanatic; being an evangelist is nothing short of lunacy and often mental illness. I won’t even adopt that token liberalism about “you have the right to your own opinion”. What a condescension! I might as well say, “You’re perfectly entitled to believe in Santa Claus!” (fingers crossed). The only way anything like that is at all palatable is if you dilute the idiocy sufficiently to suggest that believing in goodness and kindness – whatever metaphor is used to capture it – is acceptable. And even if that were true (which I suppose it is), it hardly addresses the issue whether Santa Claus exists!
Who do you know who still goes to church? I suspect that whoever they are they qualify as part of society’s wreckage or they have some vested interest in being there, either power, control, financial advantage, “tradition” or some twisted sense of glory. I cringe to think of the behaviour of the so-called religious leaders, making a mockery of truth and transparency by disguises of language and fashion. The religious leaders are also part of society’s outcasts and rejects, insignificant persons (and sadly some criminals) who have discovered a path to prominence and domination based upon taradiddle!
My particular complaint is with the Anglican Church which, because of its shameless dedication to superiority (more of that British Empire haughtiness), is even more blameworthy than the arrogant but equally ignorant Catholics. The Catholics at least have their ignorance and blind submission as an excuse (a cultural deviation of the Mediterranean anesthetic), their brainwashed complacency which has fostered generations of uncritical satisfaction. The Anglicans on the other hand may as well go shopping as go to church; they’re only there to pick and choose what corresponds to their other furnishings and trappings of upscale society. The glass of sherry after the service is far more important than any thimble of wine at communion. It’s a club, for crying out loud!
I can only shake my head in further disbelief as I pass the architectural monuments constructed in the name of these fictions. And almost every one of them which I see is nothing but a huge structure surrounded by an empty parking lot. What was it that fuelled the ambition for these monoliths? How long will they last before they either crumble or are eventually sold for taxes or lack of maintenance? We’re looking at the modern pyramids!