You didn't come here because you're a bad person. Au contraire, chances are you're a charming and
respectable fellow. You're known to be quick with a smile, a helping hand and an absorbent shoulder.
You're soft-spoken and polite. Your peers think highly of you. You're an asset to your community.
But lately, you're more thoughful, downright sullen and broody. Your smile is still there, but
it fades quickly when you think no one's watching. Your eyes are downcast, there's an almost
imperceptible stoop to your walk. You've taken to biting your lip, perhaps even your fingernails.
You make excuses when people invite you to share a good time. You go home early, but there are dark
rings under your eyes because you're not sleeping well.
Brother, you may think that what's plaguing you is a deep dark secret but in reality you're not alone.
You've sinned! You've broken a commandment, or perhaps only an injunction, a tradition. Perhaps you
haven't even outright DONE anything, you've just considered doing something. Do you covet your
neighbor's wife when she smiles hello over that low-cut top? Did you fudge the numbers on your tax
return? Do you catch yourself using His name in vain when someone cuts you off on the road? You know,
God knows, and if you're Catholic your priest knows too. With that on your conscience, it's no wonder
your soft bed is little comfort once you consider that you'll probably spend the rest of eternity in
Guilty. What now?
Friend, help is just around the corner. For the price of reading to the end of this writeup, I can
make your past sins a thing of the past, and bestow you with the power to never sin again.
First, a little psychotherapy.
Pardon me for improvising here, but I don't have an office, a diploma and a couch. As you read this
text, imagine a pendulum swinging before your mind's eye. Your eyes and your mind follow, you get
sleepy and I send you into your childhood. Before you drift away, I tell you you'll come back when
I snap my fingers!
You're three years old, maybe four, sitting in a warm and happy glow under the Christmas tree. Your
dad lovingly tells you about little baby Jesus in the manger. You don't follow the whole story, but
you understand that you're getting that big red fire truck because of baby Jesus.
You're eight, and on Sundays your parents send you to Sunday School. A kindly old lady tells you
stories from the Bible. You're proud to have your own Bible.
You're twelve, and your parents take you to church with them. It's boring, but everybody else is there
too. The Reverend talks about the power of God, and then there is singing.
You're fourteen, and it's your big day: Communion! People give you presents and you shoulder the
burden of now being formally one of His flock.
Ah, it's just as I thought. From early childhood, everyone has been telling you about God, and what
he does, and what he wants you to do. And they gave you a book with all the details. You dad told you,
the nice Sunday School teacher told you, the sincere and earnest preacher told you. Everybody knows
Or is it?
As a kid, you believed your dad because he knows. But how does he know? Yep, his dad told him. But
how does Grandpa know? How does anybody know? You guessed it: Their dad told them. For an interesting
little exercise, ask your dad, your grandpa and anybody else you meet at church whether they've seen
God. And if they talk to Him, has He ever answered? In His omnipotence, has He ever stood before anyone
and said, "Hi, I'm God. How can I help you?"
Well, God is a busy man, err deity, but 2000 years ago he sent his son to us to talk to us and help us.
But we, I mean, some other people long ago weren't nice to his son, and ever since He's not been on
speaking terms with us. We know this because it's all written up in the Bible.
Did God write the Bible? No, he's too busy for that too. But some buddies of His son did. They each
wrote a chapter or two, and someone put them together.
So what have we learned?
That's right: Your authorities for the existence of God are your dad and some other people whose
authority is their dad, and a book written by some rag-tag Palestinians and Greeks 2000 years ago.
I admire your faith.
On second thought, no I don't. If it weren't for the fact that you've been brainwashed since childhood,
I'd say you're pretty gullible. Hey, can I interest you in this bridge?
Not to make fun of you or anything, but as I see it the reason for all your depression and worry is a
fairy tale. Or, acknowledging that you're not a kid any more, a mass delusion.
Some people will tell you that if you're troubled by doubts like this, the solution is to believe
even more fervently in God; that your faith and His love will conquer all troubles. That may or may
not work for you. As a kid, did it help when you pulled the covers up over your head?
Imagine that your dad and all those nice people in your life are wrong. Imagine that religion is the greatest swindle in the history of mankind.
Imagine that when millions of people die violent deaths, it's not God testing us, it's just some
wicked people with no good people to stop them. Imagine that when a hurricane wipes out your home town,
it's not a punishment from God but the simple consequence of your government's failure to give a dam.
Imagine that when you tail-ended that car in front of you, it wasn't God at the wheel but your own
Imagine that God didn't plant oranges in Israel to turn the desert into an oasis; it was thousands of
settlers. When that house on the corner burned down but everyone got out unhurt, imagine it was not
God who rescued them, but a brave and well-trained fire brigade. Imagine that when you aced your
physics final, it wasn't God's accomplishment but your own!
The consequences are staggering.
- There is no invisible higher authority telling you what to do.
- The decisions you make are your own, as are the consequences.
- There is no punishment other than the mess you get yourself into.
- There is no reward other than what you earn for yourself.
Here's what it will cost you:
Here are your rewards:
- You can stop worrying about an all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful and blatantly wrathful entity
watching your every move. You can stop looking over your shoulder.
- You don't have to plan for an uncertain afterlife. You can plan your life to be rich and fulfilled
so that you get the most of it in the time you're here.
- You don't have to go to church, pay church tax or make donations. You can sleep in on Sundays.
- You get to plan and manage your own life.
- You achieve a higher degree of freedom.
- You can forget about sin.
Finally, a special note to... well, you know who you are!
Some organized religions are like totalitarian statesmanship: In a state where picking your nose is
illegal, everyone is a criminal. In a religion where thinking about tits and ass is a sin, everyone is a
sinner. Your guilty conscience is the stick that your church holds over you. Discard religion, and out
the window go sin, your guilty conscience and your sleepless nights. If you're of a suitable age and
have a willing partner, there are better ways to spend nights. And as long as you're loving,
respectful, fair, considerate and truthful to her (qualities which, I may add, exist independently
of religion), there's only one thing to worry about: Remember to use protection - it's not a sin, it's
An attempt at reasoned discourse with my esteemed respondents
Someone whose comment I've unfortunately already discarded called my postulate ridiculous: He seems to think that anyone who takes their religion seriously enough to worry about their sinning is hardly going to drop it because they finds themselves troubled.
My response: Being troubled gives one pause, pause makes one think, thinking can mean re-evaluating basic premises. I am a living counter-example to Someone's claim: It so happens that I was once in this position, and found satisfaction and freedom after dropping God like a hot potato. I'm aware that not everyone will come to the same conclusions, but if I can rescue just one fence-sitter in the same position, the effort of this WU will be more than justified. Please /msg me if you'd like to see your real name here.
Jaez, in the same node, explores some other avenues germane to my topic. However, I take exception at his first paragraph.
I never claimed that people believe in God purely because their parents told them to. What I do claim is that most people feel a need to address some personal questions that fall into the realm of the mystical/supernatural/philosophical, and most parents channel this need by pointing their children toward their own answers to these questions, usually their religious faith. By human nature, most children thus accept their parents' faith, and this is the prevalent mechanism for the propagation of the meme. While I haven't read the book yet, I suspect that this is something that Richard Dawkins puts forth in The Selfish Gene. So while the faithful may have trouble swallowing this proposition, I believe it is valid and I'm not alone in asserting it.
Jaez seems to mistake the light tone of my WU for mockery. I do nothing more than expose the fragile nature of religions: Every religion is held together by faith/belief, nothing less but nothing more, give or take a bit of social/personal inertia. Any person's personal faith can implode in the blink of an eye, merely by a conscious decision to abandon it. Certainly there are the steadfast who will defend their faith to the death; but there are also many who harbor doubt and for whom that decision is within their grasp. And given that this is so, making the decision to dump one's religion and free oneself from the bogeyman of sin is entirely plausible.
In short: You may not like my conclusions, but I don't believe you've unearthed any flaw in my premises or my reasoning.
Jaez, I'm very willing to play but at the moment I get the impression you're playing with yourself rather than with the subject at hand. A whole paragraph to tell me you disapprove of my use of the word meme? 128 million occurrences indexed by Google, 9 writeups in Everything should give the word some legitimacy but if you insist I'll happily say idea instead. You're going through the motions of arguing; if all you can do is nit-pick then you might as well just give up before you embarrass yourself even more.
Why the increasingly smaller print? Are you coming to realize that your pseudo-intellectual discourse is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing? I believe that there are noders who might be able to destroy my line of thinking with strong and valid arguments; but I don't believe that you are one of them. Here then, is one of my beliefs, nay two, and both could be destroyed in the blink of an eye by a well-crafted sentence or two. Demonstrate that religion is more than just belief (plus the warm feeling of sharing that belief with a community), and I'll stand corrected. Otherwise, stop using big words to confuse simple ideas.
To answer your question,
E = mc2
is believed by scientists worldwide to be an excellent mathematical model for the interconversion of matter and energy, among other things. Yes, that's a belief, but it's backed by mountains of experimental evidence; it has proven its worth in predicting the power of atomic explosions. This is the difference between belief in a scientific theory and belief in God. There, now was that so difficult?