Addicted To Religion
Growing up in America in the 20th century came with certain inevitabilities: the basics like Democracy, the American Dream, and Religion… specifically Christianity. Few of us ever heard of anything but Christianity and the Bible; just ask yourself when you first became exposed to a religious viewpoint other than this in your life.
Unless one went to school to study comparative religions, exposure to alternate spiritual disciplines was highly unlikely; Oh… you might have run across the occasional Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness or even Moonies, but except for the last one, those could be considered branches of Christianity anyways.
The point is, the vast majority of people in America, prior to the 21st century, knew only Christianity, and then, most likely, the specific denomination in which they were raised.
It is a poignant fact that in any nation, not just America, society tends to favor a single religious tradition over all others. Even Communist Russia (the former Soviet Union) was not without a state religion. And this is most curious, considering that Communism was supposed to be basically Atheistic in philosophy!
But even when, as in the USSR, religious choice is forbidden, there is still the idea that “Religion is the Opiate of the masses”, to quote Karl Marx. Many of America’s founding fathers are quoted as saying that religion is essential to the morality and order of society.
So this is the philosophy with which we, not unlike the children of any given family in any given nation on earth, are raised and taught to cherish: that we must cherish the religious beliefs that have been handed down from generation to generation and that we hold these beliefs to be superior to all others.
And it is this last part that is so natural and effective for the propagation of religion. In fact, it rarely crosses the mind of the believer that there could even be an alternative to our dearly held beliefs that does not appear to be wholly insufficient for life as we know it. We are taught that the truth is inherent in our sacred scriptures; all others are imposters, liars, or foolish.
But the bottom line is always belief. I wrote in my autobiography that the two key elements to belief are fear and guilt; but a third is equally damaging to an honest evaluation of our NEED to believe; the flock mentality. It is the interaction of these three elements that secure the vast majority of believers in the chains of their faith.
I would dare say that the human race is caught in an addiction to belief- acceptance of a divine revelation in the form of a religion or creed.
There is a common addiction in entertainment lately that follows hard on the heals of another addiction that simply boggled my mind; I speak of the Zombie craze, which came shortly after the Vampire craze, both made popular in theaters in recent years. I am only slightly amazed that young people (although many adults found themselves enthralled as well) flocked to these spectacles like moths drawn to the flame. But I soon realized that this is simply another symptom of the addiction principle upon which our religious thirst is nurtured.
I have come to realize that Americans, and surely all humans in general, are easily addicted to whatever is popular (and that happens much more quickly in this day of instant internet access). Just as the vast majority of homes now have a microwave oven that often gets more use than a real oven, so our society tends to opt for the most addictive and instantly gratifying Belief System available. And that, of course, is the one that is “home-grown”.
It is no wonder that we favor what is most common within our own society, community, and home. It is much more difficult to understand the inner workings of a “foreign” religion or philosophy. These often come with generations of a tradition that was built on far different values and/or lifestyles.
Mankind has shown a propensity over the centuries for one thing above all else- a desire to fathom the great mysteries of the universe, or at least the world as they see it and interpret it. All too often, this has led whole societies to embrace mythologies or superstitions as the means to understand that which defies explanation. And there has always been no lack of “teachers” who will give the masses what they crave.
The people, for their part, have also shown a willingness to follow the charismatic lead of the “experts”/”authorities” no matter how incredible the claims and rituals. And these are the primary factors in the propagation of a superstition or religion, for without the sheep to follow their lead, the leaders would be alone in their quest.
But this has rarely been the case. Preachers and charlatans will always find willing ears in the chaos of society. Few are willing to be “left behind”, and sacrifice whatever reason they possess to be including and accepted as part of the collective.
The human race is nearly hopeless in their addiction to philosophies handed down on silver platters. It takes so much less effort, time, and energy to accept a system of belief without question or reservation. Millions spend a lifetime devoted to one system, sure that it is the only answer to life, while millions do the same for another system, equally assured that theirs is the only belief system on earth that makes any sense of life.
Let us examine for a moment that extraordinary claims require the same in proof. What would it take to convince the average believer (let’s assume Christian for argument sake) that they have believed a lie, or even a half-truth, at the hands of their beloved minister?
Let’s take it a step further; what if this believer were confronted with evidence that the most cherished story- the Resurrection of Jesus Christ- had been a fake and stood on no evidence at all?
What believer would admit that their whole life and belief system was a big, fat, lie? I can tell you that the number would be a very small percentage! The problem is that the believer has been convinced that fantastic fables are true stories, revealed through supernatural means to human instruments. The very basis of belief requires a suspension of reason and physical observation in favor of blind faith!
Every story told in Sunday Schools across America is clear mythology from any other perspective… except for those who have invested their lives in belief of the impossible.
Let me say that again with emphasis: EXCEPT for those who have INVESTED their lives in belief OF THE IMPOSSIBLE!
But Christians are ADDICTED… to a talking snake, a talking donkey, inanimate objects taking action and defying natural laws, heavenly bodies moving out of turn, and a thousand more incredible phenomena that absolutely require the suspension of all reason to believe that the stories have any credibility at all.
This is nothing more or less than an addiction, just as much as smoking, drinking, and pornography are addictions. We can watch magicians perform all day long, but at the end of the day, we have done nothing but try to figure out how they “pulled-it-off”.
Do you know anybody that believes that the magician actually performed a supernatural feat of magic? Would you think that such a person was sane and serious in their belief?
Yet millions believe that Benny Hinn actually does miraculous works of healing in the name of God. Millions believe that a statue of Mary cries real tears. Millions believe that traveling to Mecca every year shows honor to their God.
This addiction is not restricted to religion; is it not amazing that millions will vote for the politician who promises the most benefit from the public coffers and promises to best represent the people of their district?
Do we not, as a rule, believe that if we work hard enough for the boss that we will be rewarded for our faithfulness to his business? Do we not believe that merchants and advertisers would be honest and fair in the marketing and conduct of product and service alike? We are addicted to belief! Addicted to the idea that what you see is what you get!
People are less willing to use their God-given sense of reason, discernment, and diligence than they are to spend their hard-earned money to sit and idly absorb a ball game or a movie. Society, as a general rule, would rather accept mythology and superstition than accept responsibility to form a cohesive belief system minus the fear, guilt, and ridiculous claims of religion. Addicts are lazy and live in denial of their addiction.
Homo Sapiens is the only species capable of such thought. We are blessed and cursed to have the capacity to analyze the meaning of life and how we are connected to the rest of the cosmos. We have it within ourselves to make our world what we want it to be. And thus far, humanity has overwhelmingly chosen religion to express that meaning.
All too often, humanity has also endeavored to squelch those who would break out of the prison of religious thought. It is those few, the Deists, who have truly devoted themselves to the exercise of their God-given reason. Deists are those who simply cast-off doctrine and dogma to focus on the reality of the universe and the creator of all that is.
It is Deists like Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and Albert Einstein, that have endeavored to fan the flames of reason over blind faith in the world of philosophy.
Deists, like myself, march to a different beat… the beat of the footsteps that go against the flow of the religious addictions of societies and men. We cannot abide the myths and creeds that bind the souls and minds of the masses in fear and guilt.
We have a different addiction- an addiction to critical thought and clear observation of the real world. Deists will not follow cleverly devised fables that fly in the face of reason and eschew evidence in favor of authority and tradition.
Our belief system is clear to our reason. It is confirmed by our logic. Belief need not sacrifice common sense and decency and justice. We do not believe in a God who asks us to do as he says, not as he does. The Gods of men are tyrants and sinners, much like the men who create them. They violate their own laws.
There is no honor in subservience to mythical creatures (or creators). It is only an addiction.
It is in Nature’s God we trust, because he has entrusted to us the honor of serving with minds wide open and senses on full alert. Will we be judged for whom we serve, or for how we serve our fellow man?