When I told Zemar that I believed in a god, but was not religious, he looked at me as if I just suggested that Justin Bieber should cover a Jimi Hendrix song. That kind of reaction makes sense, doesn’t it? I mean, how do you discuss a god without a religion? Or a religion without a god?
In 1979, Barry Marshall and colleague Robin Warren published several papers postulating that gastritis was caused by bacteria. The pair’s hypothesis was laughed at by everyone in the medical world who swore that bacteria could not survive in such an acidic environment. So in 1984, Marshall literally put his money where his mouth was and downed a Petri dish containing cultured bacteria. When he developed gastritis a week later, the laughter died down faster than the Carter administration.
The problem is people have a selective imagination. For centuries, the story of the Garden of Eden and talking snakes was considered a literal fact, although no one has taken the myth of Apollo wrestling with the talking snake at Delphi seriously since the invention of toilet paper.
So unless someone is willing to shed their conviction in the first place that God and religion are interdependent, that bacteria cannot survive in an acidic environment, and that human beings are incapable of doing good over bad, how can they begin to reconsider and imagine anything else?
The fact is, even in a religious sense, god precedes religion. Religion, by definition, involves human conviction so without the human you can’t have the conviction, without the conviction, there is no religion. If god created man, clearly god must have existed prior to both man and religion. Without even beginning to delve into the nitty gritty that comes with religion, god can easily be dissociated from the picture.
Here are some snippets of what we’ll cover when it comes to god and religion and why doubt is not a hopeless venture or a loss of conviction, but instead a new doorway into an incredible revelation:
- Religion belittles the concept of god. By defining god, by suggesting god needs caretakers or bibliographers of his word, religion is ironically devaluing their concept of a supreme being.
- Heaven and hell are man’s invention, not god’s creation. Why? If we suppose the fire and brimstone god of either the Old Testament or Quran is true, what in the first place would make that kind of character worth praise? Why would you want to exist with that kind of gruesome, hopeless mentality for others and yourself?
- Every religion relies on selective favoritism. Meaning god curries to a few who have a one way ticket to paradise while the rest of us are pitched into a lottery contest. Consider Judas. Even if Judas didn’t betray Jesus or Pontius Pilot released him, someone else would have been screwed over with the task of betraying or condemning him. Why? Because Jesus had to die on the cross. So why would a god knowingly damn someone from the start? Sounds like a Wall Street theme… selective favoritism…
- If the higher purpose we espouse to is harmony, equality, truth, and love, why is religion the gate-keeper? Why would my relationship with god be dependent on a book or on someone else’s words? How is religion a direct relationship between me and a higher being if there’s an altar or Mullah in the way? Don’t you think that whoever designed us would have already provided us with the internal tools to come to sense of higher purpose in the first place? Steve Jobs didn’t design iPods that read their own manuals to learn how to work; he designed iPods that already contained what they needed to do what they were designed to do!
The arguments presented here aren’t focusing on the dismissal of god, neither are they trying to discredit religion. In fact, the loss of Christianity in American society has come about has a kind of bitter-sweet-bitter tragedy. No one can argue against the Christian themes in It’s a Wonderful Life. The same applies to the Islamic practices of Saladin which rejected vengeance killing during the Crusades or progressive Hinduism practiced by Ghandi and his followers that denounced beliefs in the Untouchables caste system. However, if you highlight the general positive messages of the various religious case studies above, there is little to no discrepancy in their overall message. The Golden Rule, appreciation for life, and recognition of a higher being and a higher purpose are relevant in George Bailey, Saladin, and Ghandi’s messages.
In fact, the ‘golden age’ of every major contemporary religion today occurred not because of any organized religious aspects, but because of spiritual themes that transcended above and beyond the kind of damaging dogmatism that has given religion in general such a questionable rep.
God, creator, spirituality, and morality shouldn’t be touchy subjects in an overly dramatic politically correct society. The loss of such discussion and the pursuit of spiritual truth is far more dangerous than the threat of a double-dip recession, nuclear war, or political tyranny. Why? Because civilizations flounder and individuals suffer when the people themselves no longer appreciate the very spirit of being alive!
You’re Not the Only One.
According to a Trinity College survey, 12% of Americans report that they have no religious affiliation while 93% say they believe in a god or higher power. Here’s a list of brilliant people who felt the same way:
- Albert Einstein
- Adam Smith
- Ben Franklin
- Charles Darwin
- Ethan Allen
- George Washington
- Mark Twain
- John Locke
- Moses Mendelssohn
- Muhammad ibn al-Razi
- Napoleon Bonaparte
- Baruch Spinoza
- Thomas Jefferson
- Thomas Paine
- Victor Hugo
- Kurt Vonnegut
Now here’s what some of them had to say:
“History I believe furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose. ” – Thomas Jefferson
“The Bible is not my book nor Christianity my profession. I could never give assent to the long, complicated statements of Christian dogma.” – Abraham Lincoln
“I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own — a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotism.” – Albert Einstein
“You never see animals going through the absurd and often horrible fooleries of magic and religion. Only man behaves with such gratuitous folly. It is the price he has to pay for being intelligent but not, as yet, intelligent enough.” – Alex Haley
“I found nothing grand in the history of the Jews nor in the morals inculcated in the Pentateuch. Surely the writers had a very low idea of the nature of their god. They made him not only anthropomorphic, but of the very lowest type, jealous and revengeful, loving violence rather than mercy. I know of no other books that so fully teach the subjection and degradation of women.”- Elizabeth Cady Stanton
“They know that it is human nature to take up causes whereby a man may oppress his neighbor, no matter how unjustly. … Hence they have had no trouble in finding men who would preach the damnability and heresy of the new doctrine from the very pulpit.” – Galileo
“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” – Galileo
“Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise.” – James Madison
“This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.” – John Adams
“Our Bible reveals to us the character of our god with minute and remorseless exactness… It is perhaps the most damnatory biography that exists in print anywhere. It makes Nero an angel of light … by contrast.” – Mark Twain
“It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it.” – GK Chesterton
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?” – Epicurus
“Why should I allow that same God to tell me how to raise my kids, who had to drown His own?” – Robert Ingersoll
“God made so many different kinds of people. Why would he allow only one way to serve him?” – Martin Buber
“The more I study religions the more I am convinced that man never worshipped anything but himself.” –
Richard Francis Burton
“This is my simple religion:
There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy.
Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness” . – Dalai Lama
“If it were proven that there is no God there would be no religion. …But also if it were proven that there is a God, there would be no religion.” – Ursula K. Le Guin
“The biblical account of Noah’s Ark and the Flood is perhaps the most implausible story for fundamentalists to defend. Where, for example, while loading his ark, did Noah find penguins and polar bears in Palestine? “ – Judith Hayes
“Heaven is an American salary, a Chinese cook, an English house, and a Japanese wife.
Hell is defined as having a Chinese salary, an English cook, a Japanese house, and an American wife.” – James H. Kabbler III
“It is wonderful how much time good people spend fighting the devil.
If they would only expend the same amount of energy loving their fellow men, the devil would die in his own tracks of ennui.” – Helen Keller
“When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad, and that is my religion.” -Abraham Lincoln
“Nirvana or lasting enlightenment or true spiritual growth can be achieved only through persistent exercise of real love.” – M. Scott Peck
“When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kinds of dogmas or goals, it’s always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt. “ – Robert M. Pirsig
“We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.” – Jonathan Swift