The infamous Westboro Baptist Church is en route for Portland. They plan on picketing Jewish community centers and Grant High School. I’ve been wondering what’s their motivation for this — it’s my theory they’re just attention whores who’ll say anything to get the attention they crave while being completely apathetic to the damage they cause. If they get hated on or simply criticized for their actions they become martyrs. For them it’s a win-win situation.
Pretty much any time you get a group of people (or aliens) together, there’s going to be a religion involved or invented. It’s an inherent part of the human psyche. We have this inevitable urge to try to explain the world around us, to give it meaning and reason and order, and when we don’t have an explanation for how something in the world works, we invent a reason, usually in the form of a religion. We do this for a bunch of reasons, all of which are correct and none of which can be singled out as the “main” reason why we have religions in the first place. We like to have reasons for why things behave the way they behave, even if we have to invent a god or two to be that reason, but we also use religion to give the society structure, to give it a moral code, to explain what happens after we die, and to give us hope for something good or something better out there, something we can strive for. We also invent religions to help explain evil, to personify the randomness of the “bad things” that plague us, even if those “bad things” aren’t human in origin, such as earthquakes and plagues of locusts.
His post about this ‘need’ for religion is well written and thought provoking —
— and for me that’s a starting gun.
I concede that there’s a basic human tendency to need — or desire — to believe in Something Larger than oneself. But that doesn’t automagically mean a religion will arise from that desire or need. Maybe a school of philosophy would be born, instead, or the beginnings of science could be birthed by those first, vital questions about human existence and purpose.
And maybe they were — and maybe they were pulverized into oblivion by ‘religion’, wielded by those who fear Free Thought and Critical Thinking,…
… Dark Ages, anyone?
But I’ve always seen ‘organized religion’ as an artificial social construct for the control and/or exploitation of the masses, by those who feel it’s their right to do so. And it’s too easy to excuse behavior by insisting ‘the Evil One made me do it’, or justify abuses in the name of religion — not exactly a sign of mature thought or personal responsibility, is it?
Not every culture has this thing called ‘religion’ — despite its various forms it isn’t global, much less universal.
A truly civilized culture might have no ‘need’ for ‘religion’ — it could be evolved beyond a necessity for external monitors of one’s conscience. Acceptable behavior could manifest itself without the manipulative threats of expulsion from the herd, or the cruel and sadistic promises of an eternal punishment [and what sick mind came up with that notion?]
Candidly, I have witnessed — and received — superior conduct and manners and courtesies from atheists than I ever have from any religious zealots. The argument that religion makes better people through intimidation does not stand up to the argument that thinking people know how to respect each other.
That’s my take on it. But then I’ve never been happy with anything or anyone who presumes a prerogative to stand between me and my maker.
(the bulk of this was originally posted on my ex-blog 4/4/08)