Religion: Superstition and Habit

I find it amazing that so many people still believe in God.  I can only conclude that, in most cases, they just haven’t thought about it.  Because thinking about religion is the surest way to atheism.  (Which is probably why so many religions discourage thought: be like a child–whose intellectual faculties are quite insufficient for the task; trust in me, listen to me, I speak for God–you don’t need to worry your little head about it.)

There are several classic arguments for the existence of God.  But as Bertrand Russell (Why I am Not a Christian), B.C.Johnson (The Atheist Debater’s Handbook), George H. Smith (Atheism: The Case Against God), and so many others have pointed out, their flaws have been, in the last few centuries, uncovered.

Consider the first cause argument: everything must be caused by something (nothing can come from nothing), therefore, God exists–God is the something that created everything, or at least that created everything that caused everything else.  But who created God?  No one: God is self-caused.  Then why couldn’t everything else, or even some of everything else, also be self-caused?  You can’t have your cake and eat it too: you can’t say everything needs a cause in order to get to God and then suddenly change your mind and say no, not everything needs a cause.

Consider the argument from design: when we observe the world, we see how everything fits together so nicely, it’s obvious it was created, by design, by God.  Well, one, you must be looking at different stuff than I’m looking at: I observe that I don’t have earlids; and I observe that children often suffer horribly.  And two, even if I grant that everything does fit together very nicely, it’s not obvious that it does so from design: it could be from adaptation–and what didn’t fit together with everything else simply died.

There are many more, and equally poor, arguments for a God, but anyone who really wants to examine his/her faith can look them up.  In short, there’s no reason, no basis, for such belief.

But even if you do accept one of the arguments supporting belief in God, you still have to find a reason for believing in the Christian God (or the Jewish God, or the Muslim God, etc.).  Let’s consider, for example, belief in the Christian God.

The most common reason for believing in Jesus Christ et al is that ‘it says so in The Bible and The Bible is the word of God’.  This is circular; it’s like saying you know that Santa Claus exists because he said he did in a letter he wrote to you. Even a ten year old can see through that one.

Quite apart from the invalidity, let’s consider consistency: it says a lot of other stuff in The Bible too–for example, that if you do something wrong with your hand, you should cut it off (Matt 5:29-30), that you shouldn’t plan for the future (Matt 6:34), and that you shouldn’t work to obtain food (John 6:27)–but my guess is you don’t believe any of that.  So if you’re just going to pick and choose and believe only what you want to believe, why involve The Bible at all–why not just start from scratch?

Then there are those who believe because they had a vision, because God appeared to them.  I can’t deny personal experience.  I can, however, point out that such a person’s interpretation of a personal experience is unlikely and/or is inconsistent with a lot of other stuff (not the least of which is other people’s personal experiences).  And I can direct such people to a study of psychology and physiology, which would provide alternative explanations worth considering.  (Ever wonder why such visions and conversions usually occur to people who already believe in God, or who are in a state of extreme stress or weakness?)

Let’s face it: Christianity is a superstitious cult just like any other we so quickly condemn and then rush to save our children from.  Unfortunately, because it’s a cult that has brainwashed entire societies, from birth, it’s safe from such criticism (and therefore more dangerous).  Haven’t you ever thought how coincidental it is that most people believe in the religion they were raised in?  Doesn’t that spell ‘brainwash’ to you?  If people freely chose Christianity from among half a dozen others, at the age of maturity, with none having had a headstart, well, that would be different–in that case, I doubt there would be so many Christians around.

And actually, I doubt that there are.  Except for fundamentalists, fanatics, and a few others who do choose in adulthood, who are ‘born again’, religion is less a belief than a habit.  And habits are hard to break.  Especially life-long habits which have become security blankets (if only because familiarity is comforting).  Saying ‘I believe in God’ is such a life-long habit.

It’s especially hard to break a habit if you think you need it; and most people mistakenly think religious belief is a prerequisite for morality.  I think this explains the outrage at atheists: to say ‘I don’t believe in God’ is thought to mean ‘I’m immoral’ or at least ‘I’m amoral’.  But let’s be clear here.  One, to be Christian entails a lot more than being good; and if Christians had the honesty to recognize that, frankly, they’d be acting differently–they would be cutting off their hands, or they’d be doing anything they want because all is forgiven, or they’d be in a deep depression because they did everything they wanted and are now damned to hell (did I mention that Christianity is full of contradictions?).

Two, being good does not require that you be Christian; it just requires that you have an ethical system.  And there are several, in addition to Christian ethics, to choose from: values-based ethics, rights-based ethics, consequence-based ethics, etc. (And the key word there is choose–make a conscious decision.)

Next time you cross yourself, or chant a prayer, consider the nature of superstition, and habit.

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