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Meditation 914
Critique of Religious Faith
Religious Beliefs Are Harmful (Part 10)

by: Fred Leavitt

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The Persistence of Religious Faith

Religious beliefs, by which so many people define themselves, are resistant to challenge. Being disabused of the belief that Venice is the capitol of Italy might embarrass but probably not cause serious discomfort; being disillusioned about deeply held religious beliefs might devastate. Most religious people are saved from devastation by Bible stories, catechisms, and other lobotomizing techniques. So, although children eventually outgrow their beliefs in Santa and the tooth fairy, maturity is, as often as not, associated with increased religious fervor.

The Old Testament recounts an argument between God and Satan. The devil claimed that Job was a good man only because God had blessed him with a loving family and material wealth. So God, ever the Fair Minded Sportsman, granted Satan permission to torment Job. Satan took away his livestock and servants, caused the deaths of his children, then afflicted him with horrible skin sores. The cumulative misfortunes finally wore him down and he cursed the day he was born. His friend Elihu cheered him up by explaining that God inflicts pain so that the sufferer can fully appreciate His love and forgiveness upon recovery. God appeared to Job in the form of a whirlwind, and Job acknowledged His unlimited power. God, notoriously susceptible to flattery, gave back Job's health and property and blessed him with new children. The death of a loved one or other tragedy may cause people to question how God could be so cruel. Their spiritual advisors, that is, the ones who divvy up the proceeds from collection plates, recount the warm, fuzzy story of Job. What a deterrent to disbelief.

The inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah were wicked, so God destroyed their cities. But first He sent two angels to Lot, commanding him and his family to flee. The angels said to Lot, "Escape for thy life; look not behind thee." Lot and his wife and daughters hastened away, but Lot's wife looked back. God, pissed off at such a horrible betrayal, turned her into a pillar of salt. The message is, "Don't question authority."

Believers are occasionally exposed to the thoughts of doubt-provoking heathens. They are reassured by the Creation story, a particularly insidious neuron destroyer. Adam and Eve lived a blissful existence in the Garden of Eden until Satan, in the form of a serpent, approached Eve and convinced her to eat from the forbidden tree of knowledge (forbidden, because God wanted to keep them ignorant). Eve gave some of the fruit to Adam, and he ate too. God eventually found out--apparently even the omniscient are occasionally caught napping--and His blood pressure soared. He banished the miscreants from the garden. The moral is clear: The more sensible-seeming the heathen, the stronger must be the resistance. Knowledge is the devil's work. Rationality is evil. Apostasy is treason. Believers dare not resolve the crisis by seeking meaningful evidence. They must dismiss enigmas and anomalies by recognizing that the Lord works in mysterious ways (although every preacher in every tiny church all over the world seems to know precisely what He wants).

Continued > Summation