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A Post on Religion
I believe that people get the religion they deserve.

Case Study #1:
My friend Greg is a spaz. He’s a great guy in every way: kind, kinky, and karing. But he’s always in motion – twitching a foot or tapping on the desk. So, we were all surprised when he took up Zen meditation. I thought it would be a fad for him, but ten years later, he still sits Zazen for an hour every other morning. My theory is that it’s the only time that he can be still, and his love for Buddhism gives him a center that his otherwise hyperactive life is missing.

Case Study #2:
I was on a long road trip with my friend Cary. We were in that post-midnight philosophical mood that you can only get after 10 hours of solid driving, when he asked me, “Patrick, if you could rape a woman and get away with it, no consequences, would you?” I was horrified, and responded back instantly with a loud, “Hell no! Why would you say that?”
It took a half hour of talking before Cary admitted that yes, he would rape a woman if nobody stopped him. In fact, he often thought about other darker things – murder, stealing – but his faith in a strict Baptist religion prevented him from doing those things. Now, Cary is not a psychopath… before that night, there is nothing in his peaceful demeanor or gentle actions towards others that would make me think he had such violence inside of him. I think that Cary needed a religion that acted like a superego… a mystical father figure who told him what he could and couldn’t do, because he didn’t trust his own suppressed animal urges.

Case Study #3:
I call myself a strong atheist. Now, this has nothing do with the intensity of my disbelief, but is more of an esoteric argument on provability. However, that’s the absence of something, and doesn’t count as a religion (and screw anybody who say’s atheism is a religion… that canard been argued over and over again unconvincingly in the US courts, or I’d start a Church of Nothing in my basement just for the tax-free building status.)

Instead, I’d like to be a humanist. I’m not there yet, but it’s where I’d like to be.This is the religion I *need*, similar to my friends above. I need it because people piss me off most of the time. Assholes in lines at the store, jerk on cells phones, other drivers. I am constantly amazed at the stupidity and cruelty of other people. I would lock myself in a room and stay on the computer if I let my baser instincts take over.

So, I’m trying to love my fellow man. Kurt Vonnegut meant a lot to me, with his mixture of humanism and cynicism. One of my many failings is that I don’t express or study my philosophy like I should. The nice thing about being an atheist is that it gives you Sunday mornings off. But I should still take time out of my week and try to be a better person: I should help somebody, or at the very least, not hurt someone who really deserves it.

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What concerns me about your friend Cary is that what keeps him from committing the acts is his religious beliefs, and not his innate moral conscience, which stretches across religious lines. That such acts are wrong for him, not because he innately believes them to be so, but because his religion tells him they're wrong is bothersome.

I haven't talked to Cary in a long time, but I had a feeling that he was caught up in "analysis paralysis". He couldn't decide a lot of moral questions by himself such as, "is it wrong to be a soldier in a war and kill people?" If anything, he was/is a very fair man, and saw both sides of an argument... maybe to his own detriment.

So, what worked for him was to turn over the big decisions to another person. Well, in his mind, he was turning his thinking over to God, but you and I know he was just following the leaders of a strict fundamentalist church. So, he no longer had any congnitive disonnance, and he was relatively happy. Though he was still a horndog when it came to women.

Well, I guess whatever keeps the knife out of his hand is a good thing, but man, the idea that one hands their moral compass over to someone else for direction is really the wrong direction in my book. I don't mean to judge yer friend since I've never met him, but do you know what I mean?

Yup, I certainly get what you mean! I'm glad he's found a church that's not too scary. But like you, I fear what happens when his solution doesn't work for him anymore.

Good therapy can give people in Cary's shoes the ability to identify and execute their superego. That is a big "so what" at present, of course ... therapy still has a stigma about it, and in any event many folks can't afford it.

I think one of the best things a rich society could offer its citizens is a shot at therapy. Of course, that would lead to even more people recognizing what B.S. the current power structure (including organized religion) often is, so I doubt it will happen any time soon.

Amen to that. Kurt was the one writer who really helped form my beliefs. i have such a distain for organized religion...it's only to keep people in line.

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