In Which David Cross Forces Me to Talk About Religion

2013-042

I Drink for a Reason

David Cross


Well, not “force” force.

It's just that I rarely think about religion if I can help it. It's one of the topics that can really get hairy in the blink of an eye.

I just finished David Cross' I Drink For a Reason, and though it's not my favourite thing in the world I'm still a fan.

He's quite the enthusiastic atheist, so the book reflects this, hence the “force” part.

So let's talk about religion.

I don't have one.

I mean, I can't say it outright, you know, because my sixteen years of Christian school brainwashing tells me that the moment I declare myself an atheist, the clouds will part and a host of angels will descend to tell me I'm wrong and that everyone else is going to heaven but me nyah-nyah-nyah.

So I don't say it.

Last Christmas I met up with some high school friends, and somehow the discussion led to religion, and someone asked me what I believed in, and I said, well, nothing.

There was a pause, and the same people who already know me to be a horrible stuck-up no-good person were SHOCKED.

Shocked.

I mean, they know I'm not a good person, but still they expected me to at least believe in something.

That's the same thing my mom says, which is why I rarely talk when she gets all religious-y. She's very accepting of other religions (she's Catholic), because she says what matters is that you believe.

Which is, of course, my dilemma.

I wasn't always like this. I was never devout, of course, but years of Christian schooling have made me prone to praying to Jesus whenever something shitty happens.

But you know sometimes your brain learns too much, and then it's now impossible to turn a certain idea off, and that's what happened to me.

It all began with school.

So I've always been ambivalent about religion, and even though I do have the knee-jerk “God help me” prayer I don't really think about religion all that much. I'm not a fan of some of the teachings of certain (most) religions, but I'm not one of those people who go around berating believers, either.

The thing is that when you study cultures, and you study history, and you study religions, you realize that religion is nothing more than a human construct.

Anthropology will tell you why Hindus find the cow sacred, or why Muslims can't eat pork.

You know how things are magic only until you discover how they actually work? That. Plus I've never been too religious in the first place, so it was really easy once I saw things in a very academic and clinical light.

How am I suppose to believe when I can explain to you the logical reason behind your concept of heaven?

One thing, though: I believe that I don't know enough of the world to declare a final answer. There might be a divine being. There might not be one.

Does it matter either way?

I really don't think so.

(Please don't call me an agnostic. I have reasons for not declaring myself an atheist as mentioned above, because I'm afraid of jinxing myself, and the only reason I mention the “maybe” part of a divine being is because I haven't thought things completely through yet.)

I know the history behind most religions. I know the founders. I know the political background (it's almost always political, because humans) behind the founding of these religions.

If you need proof that these religions are completely human inventions, just see how they treat women. It's not a coincidence that most religions support patriarchy.

I can tell you these things, and I can tell you that these religions are here not because someone actually has incontrovertible proof of a divine being. Sometimes it's because humans need comfort. Sometimes it's because someone wants power and the best way to get it is to feign divinity.

We have religions because humans are weak, and we need to believe in something bigger so that we can find some semblance of peace.

If you think someone up there's looking out for you, it makes life easier.

If you think your difficulties are just tests set up by a divine being, it gives you hope that enduring the pain will earn you your just rewards.

Believing in heaven and hell helps you get through the injustice of life.

It's a crutch, as Nietzsche points out.

But I accept that people need to believe. I am envious, in fact, because I no longer have that comfort that believers enjoy.

(Of course, if only the religious would concentrate on the happy parts of the teachings, like love your neighbor, instead of stone people who are not like you, then we'd all be a-ok.)

And that's what I think of religions.

PS: If you really have to make me pick one then I'd say I'm Buddhist, because it's more a philosophy than an actual religion. But that would be neither here nor there, because philosophically I am Daoist. I might be the most uptight Daoist on earth, however. These things are complicated.

 

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