The Delusion of Religion
I don’t frankly know the count of different religions on Earth. We usually hear about the top 5:
There are many more from various tribal spiritual beliefs to Shintoism, Zoroastrianism, Satanism and even Atheism which I say is actually a special religion of non-Faith or Agnosticism a special religion of non-Committed Faith. Besides these large buckets of belief are many shards or sects within each (eg. Catholic, Protestant, Sunni, Shia, Orthodox, Reformed, etc.) that further divide religion into almost countless parts, each one filled with its specific adherents, practitioners and worshippers—the flocks. Then within each flock there are people of lesser and greater discipline, lower and higher attendance, weaker and stronger belief to the point of each individual really practicing their own version of their own religion, whether they know it or not.
My first point of logic is this:
They can’t all be right, so some, or all, are wrong.
In other words, if I am a Muslim, I reject the Holy Trinity and Jesus Christ as God and if I am Christian I reject Mohammad as the last and most valid Prophet and if I am Hindu I reject Monotheism, etc. And thus each religion rejects various Core Precepts of other religions, often vehemently, even to the point of genocide at the extremes. Therefor logic tells the outsider, one or more of these is wrong, if not all of them, because if they were all right then it would produce absurd contradictions. Interestingly, many of these religions branched out of the same tree. The Old Testament is a common tree trunk between Judaism and Christianity as well as Islam, the latter two branching off in separate directions. Even between sects, there are fatal rejections of further branches from the main branch of the religion such as we see in the endless blood feuds between Shia and Sunni Muslims who bicker over various historical facts regarding Mohammed and his progeny. They can’t both be right either, so logic tells us one of them is wrong or both of them are wrong.
Put another way, if there are N religions on Earth, then N-1 of them are incorrect and misguided or all N are incorrect and misguided. So the best odds you have of belonging to the one true religion is 1/N and all the rest belong to the larger (N-1)/N. Yet, even against these odds, with no direct contact with the Cosmic Teacher of Absolute Facts, most religious people believe they are in the magical, blessed 1/N group deeming the larger group misguided, wrong and delusional which would mean that most religious people on Earth must be illogically delusional for having Faith in something that is not so.
Yet, we can’t blame folks for either being born into their belief system or gravitating toward some personally appealing aspect of a given religion such as the Unconditional Forgiveness of Christianity or the Cultural Richness of Hinduism or the Scientific Absolutism of the Atheist. Each religion does indeed offer many pearls of wisdom in its fundamental teachings and these can be very instructive toward an orderly and productive life. However, unfortunately each religion also can contradict it’s own principles and have internal cognitive dissonance which is usually conveniently glossed over or re-interpreted by the clergy.
Which leads me to the second logical issue:
Religions contradict themselves continuously.
Look no further than the Commandment Thou Shall Not Kill. This supposed Commandment came directly from the Voice of God to Moses. It did not include exceptions or quid pro quo’s. It was very simple and is actually a Universal belief in most every religion. Indeed, Christ seemed to reaffirm this tenant with His, “Those among you without sin cast the first stone” admonition which was His way of saying don’t throw the stones, you phony sinners.
The Quran states that to murder one person is to murder the world. Yet, within the Old Testament and the Quran are numerous prescriptions for stoning or otherwise slaying fellow human beings for various infractions creating inconsistent messaging at the source of the religion and leaving lots of room for interpretation. The interpretations have been so loose that not only do we regularly execute people but in the name of religion entire cultures have been savagely attacked and continue to be to this day. This shows another type, the delusion of interpretation, whereby adherents break one rule of God to fulfill another supposed rule.
It’s either forbidden to murder or it’s not. But this is merely one contradiction in one area and it’s too easy to come up with examples. It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a wealthy man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, spoke Christ. Yet, we see plenty of materially wealthy Christians who have borrowed from other parts of the Bible to support the pursuit of limitless wealth. One might suppose such folks have given up on the idea of going to Heaven since they are contradicting their Savior but they won’t see it that way because they suffer from the delusion of interpretation.
Which leads me to the third logical issue:
Faith is based on the unknowable and the unseeable.
Scripture interpretations aside, all Faith’s have in common a self-certainty based on an internal feeling that leads one to Believe what they have been told, almost no questions asked. Questioning in fact can lead to a world of trouble so most folks won’t bother with it. Yet if we examine the source of the Religion, any religion, it is based on a story that is told, not direct observations. Most commonly, the story is written down in a Tome which represents the absolute Word of God. That tome has been compiled, interpreted and handed down over generations where the Chain of Custody can’t even be proven. Even in the case of Islam which claims an absolutely known chain of custody, it was written down/transcribed by someone who got the information in a cave with no witnesses so His word was taken as the Gospel Truth for all time even though it was uncorroborated.
This again is no one’s fault. We are given what we are given and told what we are told about things we never saw. Nonetheless, this shows us the delusion of actuality, whereby a person completely relies on a story to formulate a rigid belief of the true nature of reality. This is so odd and dangerous because it causes people to act in the most barbaric ways imaginable based solely on an account of an unverified story with a questionable chain of custody.
Of course, the scriptures are merely a placeholder for something much larger and even less seen—the completely hidden God or Gods behind the stories. This is one of life’s greatest mysteries, how people will have absolute Faith in a Being so great, so omnipresent and so powerful as to create every galaxy, black hole, star and planet, every plant and creature great and small, yet to have never interacted with nor seen this being directly. If one claims to do so, generally this will be dismissed as insanity or psychosis for it is to put oneself on a level that is capable of interacting with a Being that is literally beyond imagination.
Yet, as The all-powerful and mighty Creator of the Universe and every galaxy Hubble and Webb telescopes have seen so far, this Being chose to communicate in a form that didn’t even exist until the 15th Century when Gutenberg invented the printing press—a book. Really? Why a book which, as I say, has serious chain of custody issues, translation issues, interpretation issues, omission issues, etc? Especially a book that was compiled from writings from so many different sources and authors over many centuries. Great Big Creator, tiny little confusing, one-time book drop. Makes no sense to drop something no one could agree on or interpret the same.
In my humble opinion, the only “book” God would ever write is the Universe itself which is perfect and contains all we need and is basically the only Temple or Church we need too.
In this way, the agnostics and atheists have the most sane approaches in that they either claim inability to comprehend or dismiss as completely non-existent any concept of God since none has been provably observed. It is indeed true that what can not be seen by the eye nor by the mind’s eye through observation of effects can not be completely relied upon as an infallible basis for all worldly actions and behaviors.
I have laid out three strong points of logical contradiction and several delusional aspects of religion for a sum total of near complete delusion. This in no way means that every religion is wrong, only most OR all of them. As to which one is right and the True Religion, I’m afraid I can’t get you any closer to that goal due to the nature of the problem and dealing with so many hidden things and cosmic mysteries.
I personally have an intuition that there is Divinity out there and is on display in the beauty and majesty of the World and the Universe. I think this feeling is common and gives us permission to indulge these feelings by participating in them formally through religion. That is not necessarily a bad thing so long as it remains personal and positive.
Where you lose me is when you allow your interpretation and your personal beliefs to harm others and to take drastic measures. We see so much harm in the forced practice of religion such as in Afghanistan where the Taliban uses their harsh interpretation of Islam to cage women in burkas, depriving them the free air and dignity of normal existence as a human being, simply for being born female. I despise this translation of a story into cruel acts.
Each and every religion must eventually become much more humble in its practice and leave it entirely up to the individual to believe or adhere to its rules and practices. No one should be forced to suffer for the delusions of another. Yes, maybe Marx was right and religion is the opiate of the masses as he said. In which case we need a lot of rehab and addiction intervention to get the world back in balance and harmony and shared morals.
Take the best of each religion, balance it out, throw out the silly stuff, the mean stuff and the delusional stuff and find the common ground that binds humanity together.