Musing: The Social Contract and Religion

I know this may come as a shock, but I don’t always know exactly what I’m talking about. My previous essay (on polygamy) was an exercise in thinking on digital paper, and so too is this article. This one is a good bit longer than I usually aim for, but I’ll justify it by not caring. I was thinking aloud here with no real end goal, so I wasn’t paying much attention to the word count. The title reflects the course of my musing, and if either of those things strike your fancy (or even if not), feel free to read and comment.

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Jesus-Colored Glasses

Caution: Angry late-night rant ahead. You have been warned.

The thing I hate most about religion today is that it teaches people to view the world through an incredibly twisted lens. It teaches its adherents that it’s okay admirable to reject other people’s views and hold one’s own up as inherently superior.* “You are a member of the elite—God’s chosen people. You alone have the true moral code of the universe, and everything you do to uphold this code is service to God.” To someone holding such an idea, empathy is not just unnecessary, it’s an act of defiance against one’s religion.

Take the recent Chick-fil-A debacle as an example. In the event that you haven’t heard of this, Chick-fil-A is a fast food restaurant owned by asshat Christians who oppose equal rights for homosexuals. (God sez gays are teh abominnayshinz, so tey is bad, kthxbai.) They’ve contributed to anti-gay causes for years, so it perplexes me that it’s taken this long for public outcry to happen, but there’s been a wave of anti Chick-fil-A sentiment over this recently. As a result, corporate sponsors (the muppets) have removed their support for this “biblical values” company, and many individuals have announced that they will be boycotting it. Not content to let supporters of equality express their outrage unanswered, religious apologists have responded by saying, essentially, “Chick-fil-A should be allowed to express their values, just like everyone else,” calling for a “National Eat at Chick-fil-A Day.”

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How Not to Respond (Again)

Here’s a follow-up to my last post:

This is pretty much exactly what you should not say to survivors of a shooting:

I’m very, very happy God spared you.”

So, what, God descended from heaven to intervene to “save”* some members of a church, but not to stop the shooting in the first place? What this vestment-shod sociopath is saying is that God’s opinion is, “Yeah guys, y’all are cool, and I’m willing to alter reality to save your lives, but those other people who got shot? Yeah, I couldn’t care less about them. Sure, I could’ve stopped the whole thing at any point, but those other poor bastards just didn’t love me enough.

Sigh.

If you attempt to reason that God saved someone because of X, you’re also implicitly saying that God did not save everyone else because they lacked X. By thanking God for sparing you from this sort of tragedy, you are thanking God for bestowing it upon someone else in your stead. Frankly, that’s quite morbid.

What I also find fascinating is how no one ever seems to attribute malicious acts to God, even though he’s said to be a vengeful angry god—one who regularly destroyed the lives of a multitude of people in the Bible. How eager Christians are to overlook those atrocities, though! I’m so incredibly sick of hearing “God is all-powerful and all-good.” Reality disagrees.

Feelings of helplessness are miserable indeed, but this is not the way to cope with them.

* Saved from physical harm, that is. Who knows how much mental trauma the survivors will have to endure.
Sure, it's better than death, but it's hardly protection is it?

How Not to Respond to Crises

I dislike prayer.

Okay, that’s an oversimplification and thus a lie. Praying when you’re in a crisis is perfectly understandable. I can see how this might make it easier to cope with bad things that are happening to you. (I find no comfort in this idea, but hey, whatever floats your boat.) It’s not the act of prayer itself that bothers me—context is important. What I’m referring to is when religious believers who weren’t involved in the crisis say “I’ll pray for you” or “Let’s pray for the victims.” As I have said, the words are not the problem, but what happens after this pledge? It’s far too common for believers to approach prayer as if it’s the solution to a problem. It isn’t.

When someone says “I’ll pray for you” to someone in crisis, what I hear is this: “Gosh, your situation makes me feel bad, but I’m not actually going to do anything to fix it. In order to assuage the feeling of guilt I will experience for my inaction, I’ll just think about it in the general direction of the sky, and it’ll be just like I’m helping!” As far as I can tell, prayer is just a method of cognitive dissonance removal.

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More on Faith

What fortuitous timing. I just discovered this little gem thanks to the reliably enjoyable Jerry Coyne. It’s worth a read, and so is Jerry’s blog.

This particular article is over eight years old. Eight years ago, I was still mired in faith. It’s hard to believe that people were writing so powerfully then while I had absolutely no idea that this discussion even existed! I took religion and belief in the supernatural for granted—it simply would never have occurred to me that there might be people who rejected these notions. I wonder how I would have responded upon meeting such a person. I’d like to think I would have seen the light all that much sooner.

What is Faith?

What is faith? As it’s most commonly used, faith falls into one of two categories:

1) Belief without evidence (e.g., faith in gods)
2) Confidence gained through evidence (e.g., faith in friends/family)

Faith is often said to be one of these abstract “virtues” to which all people should aspire, but I subscribe to a far different interpretation of faith. In terms of the first definition, faith is a disease of the mind.

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