Religious Misunderstandings

Religions are predicated on some profound or miraculous event that requires blind faith to believe in. From an objective point of view, these events are usually quite incredible and sometimes sound plain silly. Did you know that…

  • Christians believe that Jesus was born to a virgin mother and that the universe was created in 6 days
  • Mormons believe that God lives on a planet near the star Kolob and that the Garden of Eden is in Missouri
  • The Kaaba – that Muslims walk around – contains a black stone that they believe is a special divine meteorite that fell at the foot of Adam and Eve
  • Hindus believe that every 40 billion years all things dissolve and nothing exists for an equivalent time – then it all begins again
  • Hindus also once believed that the Earth rested on four elephants and those elephants stood on a giant tortoise floating on the universal ocean
  • Buddhists believe that all life is suffering and that the only way to escape suffering is to eliminate all desire and attachments by becoming a monk and meditate
  • Xenu, according to Scientology, is the dictator of the Galactic Confederacy who, 75 million years ago, brought billions of his people to Earth in a DC-8-like spacecraft
  • Wiccans believe in magic that can be manipulated through the form of witchcraft or sorcery

A religion is more than just a belief in the incredible though. I haven’t found a single case where there isn’t a strong sense of community. Most people are just looking for a place to belong and a way to give their life some meaning. Most of our lives have very little meaning so it’s no wonder we are attracted to the fantastic with promises of another life, after death, that will be much better than this one. Though each religion may be based on a myth that requires a stretch of the imagination, what you get in return is not so bad, is it?

Mormons believe that God was once like humans and that humans can become like God. How empowering is that? Christians believe that we all have the power to be saved and go to Heaven after we die. Muslims believe in a rich afterlife and are required to give a portion of their income to the poor. Scientology has rallied against the power of pharmaceutical companies and also setup some of the best drug rehabilitation centers in the world. Hindus have developed a religion and cosmology that is remarkably close to modern science and cosmology.

Of course, depending on where you were born and what language you speak, someone else’s religion always seems a little silly. But remember that your religion also seems a little silly to them, too. Instead of condemning one another for not believing as we do, it seems better to embrace these differences in the marketplace of ideas. In the end, they are all trying to accomplish the same thing – to give your life and your eventual death meaning in a universe that often feels completely meaningless.

Comments (10):

  1. phil

    May 14, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    > Instead of condemning one another for not believing as we do, it seems
    > better to embrace these differences in the marketplace of ideas

    Why tolerate any organisation which claims their unfounded, unevidenced, ridiculous, magical, fantasy is an absolute truth of our reality?? If people have stupid ideas or do stupid things, don’t we normally call them on it? So why make an exception for the insane, delusional ignorant ideas spouted by religious organisations?

    Religious organisations find this false ‘mutual respect’ between themselves beneficial because it protects ideas that they KNOW are not debatable using evidence, logic and reason. A christian, muslim and hindu all arguing for the existence of yahweh, allah and brahman, each without any evidence whatsoever, of course have to end in a stalemate of false respect – ‘well, you respect mine and I’ll respect yours’. It is this insidious protection of these silly ideas that helps their nonsense to perpetuate.

    Now, be sure – I don’t care about personal belief; individuals should be able to be as ignorant as they wish. But it is just plain wrong to allow religious organisations in our society to make these outrageous claims unchallenged, and to commandeer special protections, privileges and socio-political platforms. They don’t even deserve courtesy, let alone respect.

    > to give your life and your eventual death meaning in a universe
    > that often feels completely meaningless

    Rubbish! Raising a family properly, helping out in your community, creating art, music or literature, doing your best at all times, using your brain to its capacity, feeling happiness and elation, and experiencing the amazing things on this planet, are NOT meaningless! They are the hallmarks of a fulfilled, useful life!

    It is a non-sequitur that all this should somehow become meaningless if there is no supernatural afterlife. If anything, these things become *more* important in the absence of afterlife, not less.

    Reply
  2. Matthew

    May 14, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    Most people in the world do believe in a God of some sort. Your view is held by a very small percentage of the population. To insist that you are correct and that believers are wrong is based on no evidence. It amazes me how militant atheists can be toward religion when there is no evidence either way. Atheists have their own set of beliefs, practices, and even faith – faith that there is no God.

    I agree that God should not be required to make life amazing but for some people it is a requirement. Why try to take away that joy? It’s funny that you apply the term “non-sequitur” in a discussion about the irrationality of religion. Of course it does not follow. Religion and spirituality are not rational otherwise there would be no need for faith. Phil, in the end your arguing for a position that is just as irrational. Without evidence, not believing in God is just as rational as believing.

    Reply
  3. Chandra Shekhar Das

    May 17, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    Thanks you so much for the post. For those of you who want an in depth sight into the comparisons of Science and Religion, I would like you to read Christopher Hitchens’ book GOD IS NOT GREAT: HOW RELIGION POISONS EVERYTHING

    Reply
  4. Kevin Graham

    May 21, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Hitchens is a moron and a bigot. There is no war between religion and science.

    Reply
  5. Damien Coran

    May 26, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    Fortunately, that is not the point Hitchens was trying to make. He was simply pointing out some of the mutual exclusivity that exists for followers of either discipline, and how confusing that is when one gets some education about the foundations of religion.

    Unfortunately, there is a war on Atheists and Agnostics being waged by people of faith. It seems for many believers there is no room for alternative thought, a mighty judgemental and non-christian way of thinking. Hitchens goes to great length to point out the travesties perpetrated in the name of religion, religious faith, and by people of supposed faith, primarily upon peoples of differing belief systems than their own. (Christians vs. Africans, American Indians, Turks, Muslims, Indians, etc)

    While I have a lot of respect for the power faith has in the lives of believers, there is nothing I have learned from any religious leader that has convinced me of the existence of God. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe, I just think most religions, if not all, are really playing on the fear of the unknown that all humans carry. Nor do I discount the power of prayer or of those gathered in faith – much has been written to attest to the power of positive thinking. I just know that for my money I have better things to think about on Sunday mornings than the stories King James thought should be in the Bible.

    Instead of calling Hitchens a moron, try to accept the fact that no one really knows which religion, if any, has the message right, and that some doubt in the face of absolute statements made by religious leaders is downright healthy. He definitely has respect for people of faith, and his book really brings forward some powerful information and raises real questions.

    Reply
  6. Kevin Graham

    June 11, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    === Instead of calling Hitchens a moron, try to accept the fact that no one really knows which religion, if any, has the message right

    I have no problems accepting the latter while maintaining the former. All religions could be wrong, and yet Hitchens will still be a moron.

    Reply
  7. Susan

    June 21, 2009 at 10:41 am

    Good thoughts, fascinating debate! The overpowering theme here is the freedom to have different beliefs and ideas yet be able to express them openly and honestly. I celebrate everyone’s opinion and honesty.

    Reply
  8. Dave

    July 19, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    Scientists have discovered that the human brain is “hard-wired” to believe in a higher power. They have conducted studies of brain activities of people praying or in some sort of “religious experience” and have found that there is a ton of activity in the limbic system, one of the most primitive parts of the brain in charge of sex-drive, and things of that nature. I believe in a higher power, or energy, but do not necessarily take sides. What if I profess to be a Christian and Muhammed and 40 virgins throw rocks at me when I die? I think the means justify the end in this case. Most religions lead you to the same place, they just differ on who your tour guide is. I believe if you’re a shi* your whole life, you’ll pay for it one way or another. I think if you try to do your best by people, you’ll be rewarded as well. Abraham Lincoln had a plaque on his wall that said ,”When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That is my religion.”. I tend to agree with Mr. Lincoln.

    Reply
  9. Ryan

    December 26, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    Did you know that some believe in things called the ego and superego? that somehow these things reside within man and influence his actions. now that is silly.

    Reply
  10. Susan

    February 15, 2010 at 4:09 am

    To anyone that wants to know is there a God? Religion can not take you to God or give knowledge of God and religion can not save you. God is and that’s all. When He allows you to know of His presence which can be but a short period of time will you know it will you at that time acknowldege Him and cry out for mercy? Religion is for men /women that have a need to superficially know a God that will leave them alone in their desire to live their life as they see fit and not chastise them for their life choices. Is God a God of Peace and Love and Accepting of everything (homosexuality and abortion) and everyone? No God uses wars and the violence of them to shape the future and God protects His people as He allows men to hammer out with hate and greed their own desires. God allows wars because men war, God allows some to die early and it hurts for the ones still here but God is not in time and this life of ours is for Him ultimately to be returned back to him for profound purposes we can’t imagine. Continue to search for God, He will not be tangible, but you can know Him through His word and revelations. If you don’t find Him it’s not because He’s hiding but It’s because of you needing to touch and see the thing you worship not having the faith to belive that which you can’t see. You don’t need God you need religion and all the trappings that go with it. There you will find your god.

    Reply

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