On Religion

Religion. What an ugly concept.

“But, wait. Aren’t you Christian?”

Yes. But I despise religion.

I grew up calling myself atheistic and agnostic, believing in the absence of God and in the inability for anyone to prove the existence of God. I despised religion. I sort of realized along the way that what I actually despised was the intolerance, ignorance, and prejudice of people that pushed their religion on others.

It was the abuse of words like “truth” to represent something they believed in that was irrefutable, and the reluctance to yield to any other points of view that made me really despise these types of people and the organizations they represented. What I thought at the time was that religion created intolerant people, people unwilling or in some cases unable to re-assess the world around them and change their views. The people were intolerant, often choosing ignorance over reason. The familiar things, though wrong, were comfortable, and therefore anything that challenged those familiar ideas was so uncomfortable it could not be faced. So, I wanted nothing to do with religion, the church, or churchy people.

What I realized later was that religion wasn’t the cause, it was the byproduct. Intolerant people weren’t created by the church, they created the church to be a cozy place where they wouldn’t have to do the hard work of challenging their own world views and comfortable, destructive thoughts.

Now, I realize, it’s not just about Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Taoism, etc. “Religion” takes many forms–not just the spiritual religion that pervades the way we think about what the universe “means” to ourselves and others. It’s about the way we think about…thinking.

We each have religions. Plural. I mean the things we blindly follow without thinking about anymore, and especially those for which we have “chosen a side.” Here are some examples:

  • iPhone vs. Android
  • USA vs. China
  • Globalism vs. “America First”
  • Republican vs. Democrat
  • Global Warming
  • Mac vs. PC
  • Ford vs. Chevy vs. Dodge
  • Christianity vs. Islam
  • Feminism
  • Black Lives Matter vs. Supporting the Police
  • Pro-Choice vs. Pro-Life
  • Masks vs. Freedom
  • Gun rights vs. Gun control

See, the idea is that these things are religion because there are diametrically opposed sides, and you must choose one. And to choose that one, you must be opposed to the other, completely. If you’re able to articulately explain why you believe in one side, fairly accept counter points from the other side, and even concede that it’s okay for someone to choose the other side for themselves, congratulations, you’ve escaped the religion. If you blindly parrot all of the talking points of your side and never accept a single thing that the opposition is saying, well, then you’re blindly following your religion and I would recommend you reconsider and re-examine your thinking.

In America, there is a lot of cross-contamination between these religions. In fact, this is what people talk about when they talk about a topic being “politicized.” It means that one political party, or the other, or both, has successfully painted the issue in such a way that people feel they have to choose sides and, conveniently, each of the two major political parties in power in America have also chosen a side. This makes it really easy for people who already have a political affiliation “religion” to align to a specific side on the new topic and (bonus) they don’t even have to think about why.

I suspect this is being weaponized against people because political leaders realized that politics was a religion and that by taking other topics and aligning them to the same religion, they could:

  • Recruit people who believed a certain way about some other topic to their political religion (e.g. make a person who is pro-choice more likely to align Democrat)
  • Take people who are deeply a specific political religion and align them to other topics (e.g. make a person who is deeply Republican deny the existence of climate change)
  • Further entrench the divide between the political religions to prevent defection

The antidote, of course, is a concoction of the following:

  • Empathic listening
  • Careful consideration
  • Self-examination
  • Allowing yourself to change your mind
  • Being open to new ideas
  • Love

I get it, that stuff is hard. It’s way easier to just keep thinking the same thoughts we’ve always had. It’s way more convenient. But I don’t think it’s the right thing to do.

So, what religions do you have that maybe you should take a fresh look at and make a new decision whether to keep them or not?