2020s >> 2021 >> no-1401-may-2021

Would you Adam and Eve it?

Tall tales of Biblical proportions …

Jesus walks on water, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, Jesus feeds the five thousand and, my own personal favourite, Jesus turns water into wine. Just a few acts of magic and mystery performed by the son of God and ‘Virgin’ Mary that wouldn’t look out of place on the Penn and Teller stage show in Las Vegas – although not nearly as entertaining!

But where do all these shenanigans stem from? Did God indeed invent man? Or vice versa? Let’s try to find out.

As a child at the tender age of around five, I remember vividly the first time I saw a Church of Scotland minister entering my school classroom. A big tall scary man, dressed in a full-length flowing black gown and white dog collar, resembling a kind of caped crusader from an episode of Batman. With a deep, booming, almost sinister voice, he started to address the assembled children by wishing us all a Happy Easter and proceeding to tell us these amazing tales about a man who could perform all these wondrous acts and miracles, as I sat there both mesmerised and bewildered by his every word. This being my first ever encounter of what I eventually came to understand as organised religion.

This event took place every year throughout my primary education, with each story becoming more and more fanciful. However, the older I became, the more unbelievable I discovered these stories to be. All of these bizarre and absurd events that apparently took place a couple of thousand years ago, mixed in with the minister’s personal experiences and anecdotes within his own life, led him to make the most moral and sanctimonious of judgement calls in order to reach the kind of pure and self-righteous standards that he was trying to bestow on the rest of us, in order to stay on the straight and narrow road to becoming good clean law-abiding children who inevitably grow up to be adults.

Now far be it from me to single out this particular man of the cloth or Christian worship in general, as the only demon in the room. Organised religion comes in many different shapes, sizes and guises. From the do-gooding Gods that inhabit heaven to the most destructive of devils and entities that one’s imagination can conjure up, with just a little help from those who are only too willing to preach about these worrisome apparitions who might present themselves to us one day should we misbehave and step out of line. The nice ones willing to save your soul to a wonderfully angelic afterlife spent luxuriating in heaven, others just as keen to have you damned for eternity in a hell-hole of fire and brimstone, all depending upon your behaviour here on earth.

Thankfully nowadays more and more young people are continuing to question the absurdity of these stories that we’ve all been exposed to from such an early age, in much the same way as we all eventually come to realise that Santa doesn’t really exist. So too are we beginning to understand the motivation that lies behind the mask of religion – that a God-fearing society with all of its coercion and control, is a compliant society.

With church attendances dropping year upon year and more people either agnostic or turning to atheism, hopefully it won’t be much longer before all such religious preaching and activities become increasingly frowned upon as insane and dangerous indoctrinations that create more problems than they solve. Including acts of violence, war, and all too often, widespread death and destruction of varying degrees and severity throughout the world.

Middle East

Of course, Christianity is not the only religion with diminishing numbers. Two recently conducted and very comprehensive surveys in the Middle East and Iran, have come to similar conclusions: they both show an increase in secularisation and growing calls for reforms of religious political institutions. With the Arab states having major Muslim populations, varying from around 60 percent in Lebanon to almost 100 percent in Jordan and Saudi Arabia, the countries’ religious establishments also serve as governmental bodies, with governments playing a significant role in religious life, as they control prayers, media and school curriculums.

Of the 40,000 people interviewed by the Group for Analysing and Measuring Attitudes in Iran (GAMAAN), which researched Iranian attitudes toward religion, it found that no less than 47 percent reported ‘having transitioned from being religious to non-religious’. Tamimi Arab, assistant professor of Religious Studies at Utrecht University and co-author of the survey, sees this transition as well as the quest for religious change, as a logical consequence of Iran’s secularisation. ‘Iranian society has undergone huge transformations as the literacy rate has gone up spectacularly; the country has experienced massive urbanisation, economic changes have affected traditional family structures, the internet penetration rate grew to be comparable with the European Union, and we see an increase in secularisation and a diversity of faiths and beliefs’. Concluding that, ‘the most decisive factor is the entanglement of state and religion, which has caused [much of] the population to resent institutional religion, even though a majority still believe in God’.

Compared with Iran’s 99.5 percent Shiite census figure, GAMAAN found that 78 percent of the participants believed in God — but only 32 percent identified themselves as Shiite Muslims. Figures show that 9 percent identified as atheist, 8 percent as Zoroastrian, 7 percent as spiritual, 6 percent as agnostic, and 5 percent as Sunni Muslim. Around 22 percent identified with none of these religions.

The sociologist Ronald Inglehart, Lowenstein Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan and author of the book Religion’s Sudden Decline, analysed surveys of more than 100 countries, carried out from 1981-2020. He observed that rapid secularisation is not unique to a single country in the Middle East. ‘The rise of the so-called ‘nones’ who do not identify with a particular faith, has been noted in Muslim majority countries as different as Iraq, Tunisia, and Morocco’ (bit.ly/3bwoD3z).

Self-belief

So why do we in the Socialist Party take such a critical view of religion in general? Well, the answer is simple, it is our belief that our fellow workers (the real wealth creators) should have more faith in themselves, rather than in some figment of their imagination that has been planted there through years of indoctrination and brainwashing that usually begins during those early school years.

The reality is that religion is probably the most coercive and damaging instrument of control that the state and the church have on one’s ability to think clearly, constructively and open-mindedly about all that is going on in the world around us. And they’re not afraid to use it.

There are many negative effects of religion responsible for destroying people’s lives that can eventually cause many people to become afraid of life itself. For example, in order to avoid being thrown into hell, religion demands that people prove to God that they are worthy of heaven by following the dogma of religion. Naturally, when they are put in such a situation, they find themselves in a continuous state of fear. They are always afraid of whether their actions are right according to their religion or not, and if you believe that you are being constantly watched by the all-seeing eye of God, you have to act in certain ways to please him. The fear of hell is always on your mind, filling you with worry and anxiety. Religiously indoctrinated people can become neurotic, and in some cases, even psychotic. With often harrowing and dire consequences.

If you fail to do what God has ordered, you start hating yourself. You begin to accept the idea that you are indeed a bad person, corrupted, unworthy. And once you do so, your mind becomes filled with hatred, bitterness and resentment – a true hell on earth.

If you accept the idea that you are a sinner, you start seeing those around you as sinners. You may fear that those you meet want to harm you. They are evil, ill-willed, enemies of yours. You may not tolerate religious ideologies that are different from the one you hold. Identifying with a particular religious ideology and believing it to be the only truth and way to live, might lead to many negative effects and actions, including prejudice, bigotry, and varying degrees of violence – just think of how many wars have been fought throughout history in the name of God and religion.

So, when you have grown up conditioned to believe what is right and wrong according to religious dogma, and you’ve been taught that to doubt the religion you were born into means to go to hell, naturally you become afraid of seeking knowledge. You stop searching to find truth, and hence to educate yourself and grow as a human being. Knowledge and wisdom are incompatible with dogmatic religious ideologies. Instead, religion is confining people’s minds to the darkness of ignorance, and those who do question reality and the truth, are ultimately condemned by religion.

This way, religion keeps people blinded by all sorts of beliefs that are not based on any factual or scientific evidence, which only serves to stunt their intelligence. To blindly follow religious ideology, simply means to restrict your perception, suppress your thoughts and emotions and leave you in a state of mental angst, misery and subjugation.

Freedom of choice.

Of course, life is made up of choices, and to make the right choice isn’t always easy. Once an idea is firmly implanted in your mind, it can be difficult to break free from its grasp, believing that the word of God is the ultimate authority. But until we stop allowing any authority to tell us what to do or what not to do, we will never be free to live the way we could and should.

In a world society where we are all equal and able to organise ourselves genuinely democratically and for the benefit of all. One where we are truly in control of our own destiny and not limited or restricted by the irrational ramblings of any religious maniacs who want to control our minds and therefore our ability to think freely and without the fear of some maverick spirit or holy ghost influencing how we think, the decisions that we make, and the way in which we arrive at them. Put simply … A world socialist society, built by each and every one of us according to our own self-defined needs and abilities. It’s there for the taking.

PAUL EDWARDS

Leave a Reply