Sunday, 25 June 2017

Guide To Life - Religion

I’m a little puzzled by religion, if I am brutally honest.

I was brought up a Catholic. I was baptised in a Catholic church at a time when I had no say in the matter. In fact I may have screamed as the Holy Water hit my forehead, which some people might have considered a bad thing – after all, don’t vampires scream when you throw Holy Water at them?

I had to endure confession, when I was a child and found myself struggling not to laugh as I lied to the priest about my sins simply because I couldn’t think of what I had done that was wrong. My penance was to say the “Our Father” and “Hail Mary” multiple times – there’s a lot of trust in this punishment because you can simply just sit there and think about what you are having for dinner tonight rather than reciting prayers.

First communion was strange too because I was a child and was offered bread dipped in wine – although initially I don’t think wine was involved because we were all underage.

I then acquired a new name as I was confirmed. I chose John because it was common – not because I admired John the Baptist as I told the priest when asked (another lie).

None of this made me a better person. Worse, there was no proof that any of the teachings I was indoctrinated with were actually true or based on fact. I started to realise that the teachings of the Bible were in fact rather contradictory, which is no surprise when you think about it.

The word of God was written by man and of course, as we all know, man has the uncanny ability to exaggerate to prove a point – I do it on this blog all the time. If you think about it, the Bible has been translated numerous times and even reinterpreted and modernised so some of the stories, as fascinating as they are, are bound to be enhanced for dramatic affect.

My scientific mind has been questioning the logic of what I was taught ever since I was a teenager and I have a relatively clear picture in my mind.

Some of the stories in the Bible basically teach us to be good to each other and not be arses. Whether you believe all of the amazing things that Jesus did is up to you. It’s a stretch to believe that he could turn water into wine, cure leprosy and raise a man from the dead but the words he supposedly spoke and his deeds are worthy of consideration.

I am therefore not anti-religion, despite my mockery of it.

On the contrary, if it makes people happy then I’m all for it. If you are a person who can made happier by spending an hour in church every Sunday praying to God and as a result feel a deep sense of fulfilment and happiness then that’s terrific.

The same goes for other religions too. For example, I have known Muslims who are lovely people and pop off to pray at regular intervals during the day and worship at their mosque. I know Sikhs and Hindus who are content with their religion and happier because of it.

If your religion can make you happy then that’s a beautiful thing.

What I don’t like, though, is when religion is used as an excuse to cause harm. Over the years, I have seen this happen many times. People who look down on me because I am a Catholic, for example. People who actually prefer to mock me for confessing my sins to an “old man in a frock” (their words not mine) are not helping anybody – especially themselves.

Worse, there are those who actually harm people in the name of religion because their views are different. This has happened throughout history and is happening right now.

Aren’t we all past that?

Most if not all religions are peaceful and promote moral ideologies. Yet there are people who interpret the teachings of their religion in a way that suits their twisted minds, even in some cases, harming people with supposedly the same religion, just a slightly different flavour.

And I am not singling out Islam here, by the way – Christianity has a bloody history of doing exactly the same.

The bottom line is that religion, if you choose to believe, should make you a better person, eager to promote happiness and a willingness to help others. It should make you happy in your own belief and if you can turn to it in a moment of despair for comfort and security then that is fantastic.

When religion promotes peace, happiness and prosperity then it is a good thing.

If it is used to oppress and harm people then it is a bad thing and people who use religion to exploit and harm others are using religion nefariously.

By the way, I do not count Scientology as a religion and that is a prime example of how a so-called religion has been used to control and exploit people. It is the opposite of what a religion should be.

I’ll just finish by telling you all that I haven’t been a practising Catholic for almost forty years. I wonder what I would say to a priest in a confessional booth? And how long would I be in there?

I’ll leave you with a joke by the late great Dave Allen. Like me, he was a Catholic and courted controversy with his jokes about religion. Here is one of them:

If you can’t laugh at religion then there is something wrong. I like to think that God has a sense of humour.


Elephant's Child said...

Love the Dave Allen skit. I suspect that if heaven is exists there are a LOT of walls.
I grew up without religion, and am happy that way.
Like you, I don't begrudge anyone else believing and finding comfort.
I do begrudge (and despise) those who insist that their way is the only way and are prepared to be violent about it.
I don't like having it forced down my throat either. As an aside I have never had anyone coming door to door in an attempt to convert me who wasn't a Christian.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi EC,

Attempts have been made to convert me to Evangelism, Jehovah's Witness and Scientology.

Imagine confessing THAT to a priest.




River said...

"Aren't we all past that?"
Apparently not.
:( :(

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi River,

Sadly you can't accommodate lunatics.