A great source of comfort to some, a reason to go to war for others, or just a fairy tale?
Stephen Fry and Ricky Gervais have spoken far more.eloquently than most on the fairy tale aspect. What is significant is their position is one of tolerance, or even indifference. This contrasts sharply, in some cases literally involving sharp implements, with other more prescriptive religions. There is a with us or against us attitude with some religions that can only lead to conflict.
Religions are a sort of club. You agree to follow specific rules, you get some sort of reward. A lot of these rewards are a bit vague, and are only qualified for once conventional life is over. There are a few flaws in this, but religions have rubbed along for thousands of years on this vague promise with the good old carrot and stick. Happy ever after, if you follow these arbitrary rules, or eternal damnation. In some of the bigger religions, there is a fair amount of detail on the eternal damnation thing, presumably to make it sound as appalling as possible.
But it’s all so primitive. If you do follow the rules there is a promise of serving some imaginary god like figure for all time under his or her benevolent gaze, or make for own choices and face the fire forever. Sounds like house servant or boiler keeper. Both are hierarchical positions, with you still at the bottom.
Others appeal to more carnal aspirations, offering a vast number of inexperienced young ladies, at your disposal, to satisfy the most voracious appetites. Apart from sounding like a teenagers wild fantasy, it’s a bit harsh on the ladies. Where do they come from in this version? It’s not overly appealing for them, to be one of a collection of bags of flesh for a random male to abuse for eternity. How did they get subscribed into this story line?
At what point does anyone remember the sage advice, if its too good to be true, it’s probably not.
There is the small matter of proof. There is no record of a reliable witness returning from any of these reward or punishment centres. There are lots of documented near death experiences, where folk, who were presumably in significant pain and under the influence of a lot of medications, make claims of a long white corridors, calming feelings and so on. If you factor out a large number of me too claims, factor in the medication, and the also documented hopeless expectation of death induced calmness, that’s neatly explained.
I fully accept the comfort Religion brings to many people. It offers a codified life, which leans towards doing nice and civilised things, usually for the benefit of other people. Except the whole with us or against us, go to war thing.
I like the rules and safety net of modern life. I’m comfortable with the big rules about killing and stealing, being reasonable and mindful towards the needs of others as well as my own and so on. I am much less comfortable with big religions hoarding riches, slaying people who don’t agree with them, or agree to follow their choice of rules. It’s the big intolerance issue. I cannot understand how so many folk want to be in control of other people’s thoughts and actions.
My personal belief system can be summed up thus.
Firstly, life it is a result of a strange chemical reaction billions of years ago and then evolution happened.
Secondly, If your alive, you will die, and the biological bits will break down and cycle through the planet again.
Thirdly, there is no master plan, stuff just happens.
Fourth and Final, always try to do the right thing. If the right thing is not obvious, try harder.
Ultimately, folk will do what they feel comfortable with or compelled to do. I do, and assume you do too.
(Note, this whole alphabet thing is turning out to be more difficult than I thought. Pick 26 random topics and write most days. Good exercise, never again…..)