“Cogito ergo sum” – René Descartes
So tonight I want to talk a little bit about perceptions of reality.
To start I’d like to say what this post is not going to be about, the idea that perception equates to reality. There are many charlatans out there who will try to teach you a various forms of solipsism, the belief that the only thing which we can be totally sure of is our own perception of reality. This isn’t necessarily untrue however it gets muddy when this form of subjective reality comes into contact with objective reality. Nearly all forms of new age spiritualism and religion attempt to equate their own subjective realities with actual reality and that is the point of this article.
When I was a minister I could look at anything and come up with numerous reasons why it reminded me of God. I would claim that any time I was sick it was due to evil forces attacking me and attempting to keep me from doing god’s will. Each time I recovered it was miraculous and only due to the power of god coursing through my veins. In other words I lived almost completely the subjective reality that I had chosen to reside in.
Many would say that there is no harm in allowing people to live in their own subjective world of delusions, however I can tell you first hand that it is dangerous. I have autism and never would have sought out psychiatric care while I was a member of the faith. Psychiatry was seen as sinful and a worldly obsession bent on drugging the masses and preventing us from seeing and doing god’s will. I believed for a long time that I was oppressed by demons which prevented me from being social, kept me focused on very narrow interests, and didn’t allow me to experience the world in the same way that everyone else around me did. It wasn’t demons though, it was simply that I had been born with autism and now that I know that I enjoy life much more fully.
My story isn’t the worst of these scenarios. Mothers and fathers let their children die because of the belief that modern medicine is unnecessary and that god has the power to cure any illness. Every day parents abstain from having their children vaccinated because of the false belief that those vaccines cause autism or any other number of ills. Numerous cats have been killed due to their owners attempting to feed them a vegan diet even though they are carnivores and cannot survive on a plant-based diet. Children kill themselves because of the guilt they feel simply by being born gay and having been taught of a god that considers them an abomination.
The truth is that regardless of what you believe, reality exists, and attempting to live outside of actual reality can be and is dangerous in many ways.
Christopher Hitchens is known for saying that “Religion poisons everything.” I agree with this quote but would like to state that the majority of religious people are fine and upstanding human beings who will never harm another person outside of their own indoctrinated faith. Now indoctrination is bad alone however it is benign compared to what religion can do in the mind of someone who is already mentally ill.
In the book of Genesis we read of the story where Abraham is told by god to kill his son Isaac. Now the end of this story is of course that god spares Isaac due to his father’s faith and obedience. Yet, I wonder how different would the story be read if Abraham actually had killed his son Isaac? What if Abraham had never heard god give him the second message? Would believers then view this story differently? A quick google search will come up with numerous people who have been murdered over the years because god told them to do it. If we are to accept Abraham’s story as truth then why don’t we view these others in the same way?
Many believers will say that God never intended Abraham to kill his child and that it was always a test. Either the story would have gone as it did in the Bible or Abraham would have refused and god’s blessing would have went to the next person who was obedient. However, another story in the bible tells us that god has no problem with a parent killing a child.
In the book of Judges we read of Jephthah who was “a mighty warrior.” Jephthah promises the lord that if god will allow him to slay the Ammonites, then the first person he sees upon his return home will be sacrificed to god. God is totally into this idea and allows Jephthah to win the battle. Upon returning home Jephthah is distraught when the first person he sees happens to be his daughter, an only child. God being merciful allows the daughter to live for a time but eventually the story says that Jephthah does what had to be done in order to appease god. Why is this story not taught as often as the story of Abraham? Both stories teach of obedience, faith, and trust in the lord, however in one story the child lives and in the other god enjoys the sweet smells of burning daughter flesh. I would say that the reason this story is not as well-known is due to the fact that we all understand that child killing, no matter who requests it, is not a good thing in any sense. We all, or at least the vast majority of humans on earth accept this as being objectively true.
Is it any wonder why we now view those who believe god asked them to kill their child or some other person as being mentally ill? Those who do not view reality in the same terms that we do are understood to have some form of malfunction, they can be dangerous to themselves or others. Yet, religion is often times exempted from this scrutiny. There are churches where it is taught that drinking poison and handling snakes isn’t dangerous as long as you have enough faith. There are churches and new age gurus promoting the idea that vaccines are dangerous which puts everyone at risk. I would wish to live in a world free from these forms of dangerous indoctrination.
1 Corinthians has a scripture that will always stick with me. Even today it’s words are as powerful to me as an atheist as they were to me when I was a believer.
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” – 1 Cor 13:11
It’s time that humanity puts their childhood behind them. In so many ways we have grown and progressed as people, still in others we attempt to hold on to our toys and childish beliefs. The majority of us from the western world were raised to believe in Santa Claus, yet to find an adult who still earnestly believes in Santa would not only be shocking but would make you question that person’s sanity altogether. This mindset though is exactly what people of faith find themselves in today. The whole world of science is telling folks, “Santa isn’t real, there is no evidence of Santa, no matter how hard you believe there will be no presents under your tree unless someone else buys them for you.” Yet people still hold on to this belief that Santa will one day return and fix all the worlds ills, mainly by tormenting all of the naughty children for all eternity.
Religion is dangerous and it does poison everything. We could have a world away from the childish superstitions of humanities past. The world is becoming more secular and religious faith is waning, all we need to do is put away our childish things and become the grown humanity that we are meant to now be.