Oh no! According to this video, the fastest growing religion in the world is “no religion.” 1 in 5 American adults have no religion and this trend is growing quickly among internet savvy Millennials. This surely means that everyone is now going to throw morality out the window, and much like the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah, we’re gonna start having sex with rocks, raping angels and having gay orgies with the Anti-Christ! The horror the horror!
I mean, isn’t that what life was like before Judeo-Christian religion ever existed, didn’t people just rape babies and cannibalize each other left and right? I mean, there certainly weren’t tolerant, sophisticated pre-christian civilizations in the world like Egypt, Rome, or China – am I right?
Hopefully you understand that so far, this post has been very sarcastic, although much of what I mentioned above about Sodom would make cool content for a metal video.
EDUCATED PEOPLE ARE BECOMING LESS RELIGIOUS
But yes, it appears that all around the world, in the areas where people have more access to the internet and education, they are becoming less religious. Yet the lack of “religion” doesn’t mean that people aren’t spiritual. Even several of the atheists I know take solace in practices like meditation and yoga.
Yes, I did make a post a while ago about how Paganism had one of the fastest rates of growth out of all the religions in America. Yet Paganism is still a very small minority, 0.3% of the population. In terms of rapidly growing religions with a large following, the religious “nones” are quickly booming.
So as I mentioned above, much of this development is because of education. Now that we live in a world where information about a plethora of religions and philosophies are available at the click of a button, people have a greater ability to think for themselves about what they think the truth is. The internet is also helping to bring people together at an ideological level. Before the internet, people were limited to their geography if they wanted to become part of a community, and of course, the central social network in most communities is the church. Many atheists felt isolated from a religious point of view. Yet now many of these atheists have found a sense of community among like minded non-believers on the internet.
THE WORLD THAT EXISTED BEFORE THERE WAS “ONE CORRECT RELIGION”
Is the decrease of religion a bad thing? Does this spell out the moral decline of civilization as we know it? As I sarcastically mentioned earlier, many of the world’s most advanced civilizations existed before the spread of Christianity and did quite well for themselves. If anything, the growth of non-religion will simply take us back to the natural order of things. Monotheistic religion was splinter, a minor aberration in the scheme of time. Why do you think that Pagan holidays such as Easter and Christmas persisted, even as Christianity was shoved down people’s throats at the edge of a sword? Why do you think ideas like hell had to be invented to keep people religious? If religion is so appealing, why do people have to be scared into it? It’s because it is an unnatural system with laws that are not consistent with the laws of nature.
Pagan ideologies were diverse, and they certainly weren’t perfect. But they were the natural outgrowth of a people’s spiritual connection to their surroundings and culture. Paganism represented man’s attempt to live alongside the laws of nature. People revered Gods who were strong, and represented ideals of survival and health. Today’s “religious nones” are not pagan, but as they learn more about science and the natural world, they will hopefully use rational thought and debate to come up with a moral system that exists closer to Natural Law, and represent more realistic ideas about the environment and human sexuality. Nature is the weed and religion is a manicured garden. You can use all the pesticide you want, but at the end of the day Nature and her followers will always win out.
The ancient world was a much more spiritually diverse and tolerant place than the world we live in today. I’m not saying that the ancient world was a nice place. Don’t get me wrong, it was a very brutal place in a lot of ways. The Romans killed a large number of Druids to subdue the Celtic resistance. Leaders like Augustus and Tiberius Caesar were also weary about the cultural influence of Eastern Religions – such as the Cult of Isis in Rome. Yet despite the fact that some ideas were preferred over others, people had the freedom to worship their own Gods as long as they followed the law and paid homage to the emperor.
In a debate about the morality of religion, it has also been brought up that people can develop a framework of values without having a religion that carves such values into stone. For example, the Chinese have followed Confucianism as a key moral ideology of their society for 2,000 years, and while Confucianism promotes good character and social order, it is not a religion.
NOT ONLY CAN YOU BE MORAL WITHOUT RELIGION
BUT RELIGION ITSELF MAY ACTUALLY BE VERY IMMORAL
Is religion dangerous? I think so. Is religion immoral? I think so. If you watched the video above, one person states that the number one book that convinces people to become atheists (even more so than any work by Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens) is the bible. It’s a book replete with genocide, rape, sexism, racism, homophobia, incest, pedophilia, and the celebration of slavery. Here are some wholesome verses for the whole family:
COMMIT A GENOCIDE OF THOSE WHO DON’T SHARE YOUR RELIGION:
“This is what the Lord Almighty says… ‘Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’” (1 Samuel 15:3)
…but what about “thou shalt not kill? ” Now I’m confused.
GO MURDER A BABY:
“Happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us – he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.” (Psalm 137:9)
…yes, because a merciful and just God glorifies the death of babies.
TIME TO GANG RAPE A HOE:
“So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight. When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. He said to her, ‘Get up; let’s go.’ But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.” (Judges 19:25-28)
…ah yes, good old gang rape, that’s some quality family values right there.
GOD SPARED ABRAHAM’S SON BECAUSE HE IS MERCIFUL, BUT FUCK JEPHTHAH’S DAUGHTER:
“And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord, and said, ‘If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, then whoever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return victorious from the Ammonites, shall be the Lord’s, to be offered up by me as a burnt-offering.’ Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah; and there was his daughter coming out to meet him with timbrels and with dancing. She was his only child; he had no son or daughter except her. When he saw her, he tore his clothes, and said, ‘Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low; you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot take back my vow.’” (Judges 11:30-1, 34-5)
…So God was nice enough to prevent Abraham from killing his son, but I guess the life of a man’s daughter is less important. I mean, women aren’t people – at least not in the bible.
SLAVES, SUBIMIT TO YOUR MASTERS!:
“Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel.” (1 Peter 2:18)
…Good old fashioned slavery.
ONE PROPHET, TWO BEARS AND 42 DEAD BOYS:
23 Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!” 24 When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number. (2 Kings 2:23-25)
…My personal favorite, this must be the original Goldilocks story.
You see, I’m one of those people who read the bible cover to cover. In fact, I didn’t do so as some atheist looking for a good source of snark. I actually did this back when I was still a Catholic. I was looking for answers and hoping to improve my faith. Instead, reading the bible and going to church are probably two of the greatest catalysts for my loss of faith. I ended up finding much more solace in Edith Hamilton’s mythology.
Thus, my read through of the bible made me realize that most Christians must not read the entire bible. Because surely this book of peace, love and wisdom that they discussed was not the same book that I was reading. And if they did read the whole bible, cover to cover, they must have done a triple back flip in mental gymnastics to assure themselves that the parts about not touching pig skin (a foot ball), or eating seafood, or marrying your rapist were simply metaphor, but the parts about gay sex were literal law.
Therefore, after reading the bible, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not only a silly book, but that anyone who truly follows its commands – down to the last letter – must not be a good person. A man named A.J. Jacobs tried one year of living biblically and even wrote about it. Yet the truth is that it was impossible for him to truly do everything the bible commanded. There is even one humorous part where he tries throwing rocks at people he sees as being guilty for sin.
Honestly, most people I know who follow a religion, even the very conservative ones, are ultimately picking and choosing which verses they are going to follow. What makes them pick what is a good verse and what is a bad one? They are ultimately using their own logic, rather than doing everything the bible says. Therefore, if they are going to use their own logic anyways, they might as well just create their own spirituality at the end of the day, instead of half heartedly following one they don’t entirely agree with.
You see, Religion is just an ideology like any other. Yet here is the difference. Most ideologies open themselves up to room for debate. Ideologies like politics, education, and philosophy can be subjected to the scrutiny of reason, so that they can be improved or altered to produce the best possible results. Even in China, a place where Confucianism was a key framework of morality, there was always the dialectic between Legalism, Confucianism and Taoism.
Yet Religion is different because it is an ideology backed up by a powerful Sky Daddy. It is not allowed to be debated, scrutinized or changed because it is a set of laws written in stone. Such an ideology can support the most murderous of intentions, and no one is allowed to disagree or else they are branded a “heretic.” It is no small wonder that the Roman Empire fell apart after its conversion to Christianity. Without the freedom to question who was in charge, and why things were being done in a certain way, the empire fell into a state of ignorance and decay.
As Christopher Hitchens once stated in a debate, it wasn’t the crusades that halted the power of Christianity, it wasn’t the bloody Reformation that brought about the deaths of millions, and it wasn’t the slaughter of indigenous people in the new world. What halted the power of Christianity was when the Christian nations finally controlled a majority of the planet in 1914. What was the result? Two world wars and a total destruction of the environment. Suffice it to say, people are not impressed, and now the influence of Christianity at a world stage is beginning to fade.
So am I scared of a world that is becoming less religious? No. I am hopeful. I am hopeful that there will be more chance for people to discover their own spiritualities, and find the best way of living through rational debate, rather than superstition and fear.
THE SONG FROM THE VIDEO ABOVE:
SCORPION FROG – BY INFECTED MUSHROOM
I don’t usually post techno/dubstep, but this song was catchy.
Former Christian Minister Leaves Christianity and Starts Atheist Church (Alternet, 11-6-14)
(Happy Late Imbolc everybody! I was going to make this post sooner, but got too caught up actually celebrating Imbolc – so now I’m doing this late.)
Imbolc is not technically the first day of Spring in the modern calendar, the first day of Spring is officially on the Spring Equinox (March 20th). Yet Gaelic festivals in ancient times did consider Imbolc the first day of Spring. For us modern folk, we can think of Imbolc as a day when nature begins to show the first signs of Spring. Imbolc is a transitory period. The snow on the ground is starting to melt, the birds are becoming more vocal, and new plants are pushing through the frost. It’s certainly not a coincidence that Imbolc is shortly followed by Groundhog’s day – the day when the groundhog determines whether Spring is coming early or not.
The key patron of this holiday is the ancient Goddess Brighid as well as Saint Brigit. Brighid was a triple Goddess of healing, poetry and smithing. She was so popular in Ireland, that the Christians could not prevent her worship. The Catholic Church ended up converting her into a saint and calling it a day. I’m not stating that Saint Brigit wasn’t a real person. This is a matter that has been the subject of much historical debate. Apparently there are 11 people with whom Saint Brigit is associated, and the lives of these 11 women may have been amalgamated into the life of one person (this is a theory). There is also a theory that the aspects of the Ancient Goddess Brighid were synchronized with the Catholic Saint.
Her duality as a Goddess and Saint is interesting when you consider the transitory nature of the original Goddess herself. As a liminal lady, she was born at the exact moment of daybreak. She and her husband, King Bres, were from two warring tribes and hoped that their marriage would bring these tribes together. Unfortunately, marriage did not do the trick. The tribes ended up fighting and Brighid’s son Ruadan died in battle. Brighid’s grief was so powerful that her lamentations were heard throughout all the land. Her grief moved the two battling tribes to negotiate a peace with one another, which is part of the reason why Brighid is a Goddess of healing and peace. She is associated with healing wells, but also with the fires in the forges of black smiths.
Brighid is a lady who stands on the threshold of winter and spring, warfare and life, water and fire. As a Liminal Goddess it is not unreasonable that she would also represent the marriage of two other warring tribes: Christianity and Paganism.
In the early days of the Catholic Church, there was much syncretism between the Old Pagan traditions and the new Christian ideas. This is not to sugar coat what was often a brutal and forced conversion process. The druids who were driven out of Ireland certainly didn’t approve of the union. But rather, my point is that we need to recognize that people live in a nuanced world where ideas and cultures often intersect – rather than being just one thing or another.
The duality of Brighid is highly relevant to the religious environment of the world today. Many modern Pagans were not born into their path, most were born into Christianity. As Pagans transition out of their Christian backgrounds into a new but ancient faith, they often wonder if they are representing this ancient faith accurately. Some groups like Reconstructionists try to emulate the Ancient Ways in complete accuracy. At the other end of the spectrum, there are paths like Druidry that allow one to blend different paths together (I’m not saying all Druids do). There are even Christian Druids who reconcile the Pagan Faith of the Ancestors with the Modern Christian faith we have today.
So in the Imbolc season, as we stand on the threshold between winter and spring, we must think about the myriad of cultural transitions taking place around the world. This is a time of change, renewal, creativity, healing – and possibly destruction. Perhaps Brighid is connected to the fires of the forge and the healing waters of the well because destruction begets new life and new life begets destruction. The creative process itself is one where stagnant ideas are crushed and new ones evolve.
Brighid represents the idea that we cannot all stay the same forever. This is why she is both fire and water, for both are elements of change. Fire is a destructive change and water is a healing change. Speaking from my own experience, Imbolc is usually a time of tremendous upheaval. Brighid brings about positive changes in my life, but she doesn’t guide me from the kiddie pool into the deep end with baby steps. It’s more like she tosses me into the brisk waters of a shark infested lake and shouts at me to “sink or swim!” This is often how dramatic changes happen in life. One minute everything seems normal. The next, the sky is falling and the earth is ripping apart.
Yet much like the death of Ruadan, two warring tribes can end up negotiating peace after a period of tension and anger. May Brighid bless us with healing and renewal as we transition out of the stagnation of winter into the vitality of spring.
As a Pagan people often say my religion is something new:
Jesus Christ is a young “whipper snapper” compared to the Gods and Goddesses I worship.
This Jesus boy of which you speak is 2,000 years old.
The Gods I worship stretch back tens of thousands of years.
Some might say to the beginning of civilization itself.
They embody principals of the natural world: Strength, Courage and Survival.
The natural world – which is billions of years old.
That’s about as traditional as it gets.