Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Religion is the Margo Leadbetter of the Masses.

Firstly, I'm an atheist. Or Agnostic. Whichever one Richard Dawkins dislikes more than the other, you know, the one where you are pretty sure there isn't an all powerful deity but just in case you keep an open mind. Agnostic, that's the one.

Anyway, I do not have a beef with religion as it stands. What people believe in is entirely up to them and I am the last person in the world to belittle someone's belief system (which is entirely what this blog entry is about, not belittling as opposed to belittling).

What I do have a beef with is the attitude of a lot of the followers of religion that their personal choice of deity is the absolute, singularily correct interpretation and, with no proof other than 'This is my belief system, hence it is right, hence you are wrong and by deduction I am better than you'. And that's the crux of my annoyance.

Normally the 'I am right, you are wrong' attitude comes from two places - ignorance or doubt. Either one is not an excuse for single mindedness. If there is one thing I've learnt to date it is that defending a position of doubt is untenable, and ignorance is by far the most dangerous thing you can embrace.

Which brings me on to my point, finally. Religion is not the opiate of the masses, as that would imply it gives you an unbridled sense of fuzzy happiness. Religion is a way of feeling better than your neighbour, hence the Margo reference. And this comes from an interesting place...

Back when we all lived in caves and actually subscribed and behaved by the laws of natural selection, choosing a sexual partner was pretty much down to hitting the other guy until he wasn't capable of intercourse. The defining concept on what made a good breeding partner was who was biggest, strongest and possibly maddest. With the exception of the deep south of America, this is no longer the case in a 'civilised' society, and we judge 'strength' by different (incorrect in my humble opinion) values.

The insane nature of our society is that we tend to score suitability based on material wealth now, which is something you have to be canny (or simply born into) to acheive. For those who cannot, for some reason, attain a huge material portfolio religion, strangely enough, comes up second. Why? Because you can feel better than someone else with no material proof.

Sounds daft, but deep down the concepts of religion are are powerplay to make the individual seem 'better' when it comes down to the biological imperative.

Please note I am not slagging of religion. If I was doing that I'd be trying to make myself appear better and therefore subscribing to the biological imperative..... Oh dear.


  1. I am not sure that I agree with all your points here - as women, maybe the defining 'good breeding partner' points are defined primarily by wealth (and this is not so different in fact from brute strength, the ability in question being to support, protect and provide sustinence and shelter. The progression is a fairly natural one). For men though... at what point did the trophy female stop being one who could bear endless children, and start being one who could wear 20" waistbands? Often, wealth is not terribly attractive to men, as, if we are steriotyping as we are, it is commen for men to be threatened by a high-earning powerful woman.

    Religion doesn't just offer a free way to feel better about not achieving. It gives you a direct reason not to achieve. Neither is it just the mainstream religions, sadly. I can recall many of the psychics loudly proclaiming that they only didn't win the lottery or get better jobs or loose weight because 'it would be cheating' or 'spirit doesn't want me to'. Instead of trying and maybe failing, why not stay safe and warm and comfy in your unshakable belief that it would be WRONG for you to succeed? That everyone who DOES succed has somehow sold out, betrayed the divine?

    I personally think that religious belief is programmed into most of us. That the need to believe in something is one that developed in all variants of humanity should tell us something. Indeed, as I see it the true evil is organised religion, because it is at this point that someone starts defining what thinking is good and what is bad. Strangely, all organised religion preaches acceptance of one's lot. Is that because it's what all people secretly want, to be told it's ok to fail? Or just the easiest way to get everyone doing what you tell them? I know what I think!

  2. Religious need does seem to be programmed into most people. Not all though. I am completely incapable or an irrational belief in something that there is absolutely no evidence for. People like me do exist, but alas we seem to be in the minority.

    I definitely call myself an atheist though, not an agnostic, as I think it is definitely safe to do so by this time in life with zero evidence for any supernatural beings at all, especially a personal god who watches over us (That's leaving aside the point that if there was he'd be an evil bastard for all the things he lets happen (if he existed)).

    Sorry, got all Lisp-y there with the nested brackets.

    I have been accused of being as closed minded as the religious people in the past, but this is in response to the militancy of the religious people and the complete exasperation with religious apologists. However, unlike people who "believe", I am willing to accept proof, should any arise.

    So, I go one step further and see the weak mindedness of people as the true problem, which allows such things as organised religion to exist. If people only thought for themselves before accepting nice comforting stories that others tell them, the world would be a better place. Yes, it's nice to be offered a nice comforting lie, but it is still a lie nevertheless. The world is as it is, not as we would like it to be.

  3. Neal - I always thought of myself as a pure aetheist but there are some things that I like to believe a little bit of magic exists about. It doesn't mean I subscribe to religious beliefs, but, as a proponent of pure freedom, I'd like the possibility of choosing to be hand-held through all my ethical choices :-)

    Belladonna - this is the first of my rants, I wanted to test the water to see if I'd really offend people with the next one, 'Religion is the Get Out Of Death and Understanding All It's Bleak Consequences' for the masses.... You are dead on with the use of Religion and other beliefs as an excuse not to succeed.