Religion

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WORK-IN-PROGRESS

As populations increased and the formerly unifying familial and tribal forces became less powerful, other forces such as religion filled the gap, providing people with a sense of belongingness and common purpose.

— Iyengar, Sheena, The Art of Choosing p. 33

Had it been the object or the intention of Jesus Christ to establish a new religion, he would undoubtedly have written the system himself, or procured it to be written in his lifetime.

— Paine, Thomas, The age of reason p. 18

Truth

The truth that religion claims is often mysterious in nature or beyond human comprehension. By this token, religion can claim any absurdity to be true so long as it is a work of God.

“Truth never envelops itself in mystery; and mystery in which it is at any time enveloped, is the work of its antagonist, and never of itself. Religion, therefore, being the belief of a God, and the practice of moral truth, cannot have connection with mystery.”
—Paine, Thomas, The age of reason p. 49
“The very nature and design of religion, if I may so express it, prove even to demonstration, that it must be free from every thing of mystery, and unencumbered with everything that is mysterious. Religion, considered as a duty, is incumbent upon every living soul alike, and, therefore, must be on a level to the understanding and comprehension of all.”
—Paine, Thomas, The age of reason p. 50
“When men, whether from policy or pious fraud, set up systems of religion incompatible with the word or works of God in the creation, and not only above, but repugnant to human comprehension, they were under the necessity of inventing or adopting a word that should serve as a bar to all questions, inquiries and speculations. The word mystery answered this purpose; and thus it has happened that religion, which is in itself without mystery, has been corrupted into a fog of mysteries.”
—Paine, Thomas, The age of reason p. 50

Religion can never be the determining factor in deciding what is true or false. Many illogical propositions have been asserted to be true by religion that when confronted are always answered with: it is not illogical, it is beyond human logic.

“Truth, in matters of religion, is simply the opinion that has survived.”
—Wilde, Oscar

Superstition

The belief in the supernatural system proposed by religion has led to many superstitions. In fact, the belief in supernatural beings and forces is the basis for all superstitions. All superstitions are marked by a lack of universal and repeatable evidence to support their claims. It is Christianity that has converted belief in propositions that lack evidence into a virtue called faith. There is essentially no difference between blind belief or faith in a religious notion and blind belief or faith in a superstitious notion. It is only the consistency of nature that can provide universal and repeatable evidence for the truth about any proposition concerning the nature of things.

“The truth of a book is always to be suspected in proportion as it deviates from consistency or the general laws of nature.”
—Palmer, Elihu, Principles of nature p. 60
“No doctrine ought to be believed because it is asserted by the learned, and professed by the multitude; but on the evidence whereby it is supported.”
—Balfour, Walter, Inquiry p. 107
“For every general system must be consistent, and also have all its parts properly filled up.”
—Priestley, Joseph, Disquisitions relating to matter and spirit p. 64
“All truths are consistent with one another.”
—Priestley, Joseph, Discourses relating to the evidences of revealed religion p. 412

Superstition is the result of an incorrect association between cause and effect; an effect is seen in nature and it is attributed to a supernatural being because there exists a gap of knowledge about the natural world. The only way to combat superstition is with scientific knowledge which is reproducible and consistent. In other words, the only way to rid ourselves of incorrect cause and effect associations is to educate ourselves as to what are the true causes of effects seen in nature.

“Many superstitions result from lack of knowledge of causality, others from unenlightened fears. Another word for superstitions is blind belief.”
“In proportion as man makes progress in physical knowledge, he ceases to be the dupe of superstition, and what before appeared marvellous, now becomes plain and intelligible.”
—Palmer, Elihu, Principles of nature p. 71
“The witches of antiquity have fled to the mountains; the prophets are no longer credited, and the possibilitiy of miracles is not admitted by the mathematical and physical reasoner.”
—Palmer, Elihu, Principles of nature p. 71

Miracles

The evidence whereby religious dogmas are supported are violations of the laws of nature called miracles. These miracles are one time, non-reproducible incursions into the natural world by supernatural forces.

“Here are, then, two kinds of evidence opposed to each other; the one human experience, and the other human testimony.”
—Palmer, Elihu, Principles of nature p. 67
“If we say that we believe the former extravagent accounts, we contradict the testimony of our own senses; we abandon the instructive guide of our own experience, and affirm that the testimony of a few men has more weight than our own positive knowledge.”
—Palmer, Elihu, Principles of nature p. 69
“If miracles were necessary to establish Christianity in the first instance, they are equally proper and necessary now; for proofs ought to be equal to all, where equal credence is demanded. To make the Christian religion consistent, it is necessary there should be a constant string of miracles in every age and in all countries; but this would destroy the very nature of miracles, by making them so frequent, that it would be impossible to distinguish between these events, and those which were produced by the common operations of the laws of Nature. It is, therefore, impossible to give equal proof to all those who are equally interested in the ultimate decision upon revealed religion.”
—Palmer, Elihu, Principles of nature p. 72

There is no good reason why the report of a person who has witnessed a miracle should be believed at face value. Furthermore there does not appear to be any way to distinguish between the report of a sane man and one who only speaks insanity; because both speak of truly incredible things. It is more likely that the true causes of miracles are hallucinations, delusions, or other environmental influences.

“No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish.”
—Hume, David

Sectarianism

The belief in political and religious dogmas has often divided mankind. Religion has probably led to more divisions among men than any other force and often the faithful look to this division as to confirmation of their own righteousness and the righteousness of their god.

“The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and greatest miseries, that have afflicted the human race, have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion.”
—Paine, Thomas, The age of reason p. 145

The history of the church and religion in general has shown that as scientific knowledge increased, errors were discovered in the dogmas and doctrines, which gave rise to even further churches, religions, and sects.

“The sectarian divisions are so numerous, that it is impossible to determine which is the true church. They continually dispute with each other concerning the truth of their doctrine, they anathematize one another, and are liberal in the charges of heresy; they are all heretics in the estimation of each other, and they have no standard to determine with certitude their theological differences.”
—Palmer, Elihu, Principles of nature Gb. 121

When the absurdity of multiple gods became evident, new religions were formed around the notion of one god. It was in this way that religion itself was modernized. It was an advancement of knowledge, the exposing of error and corruption, which brought about the transformation. Yet there still exists many religions where multiple gods are still worshiped. In every age where there was found in a error there were also those who were too ignorant to look at the evidence for themselves. There are many sects that are hundreds of years old that exist today only due to continued ignorance.

“Most people are just too damn lazy to look at evidence before they decide on what they think is true or not.”
—TommyPaine
“Every new sect discarded some of the absurdities of that from which it had separated, and passed a general sentiment of condemnation upon all those who were in the rear of this long and religious train.”
—Palmer, Elihu, Principles of nature Gb. 240
“The different religious sectaries all reject each other's doctrines, and too frequently hate and detest each other on account of difference in opinions; while the scientific mind, rising above early prejudices, perceives the errors of all parties, and pities the ignorance, which binds man to such stupid and senseless doctrines.”
—Palmer, Elihu, Principles of nature Gb. 211

Psychology

In Transactional Analysis, patterns of behavior that are borrowed from our parental figures are part of the Parent ego state. It is this ego state that often imbibes the religion or traditions held by our parents.

“In groups, this is most dramatically seen in religious or political fanatics, where the excluding Parent takes over all the pathways of expression, and rides roughshod over the Child and Adult as well as all the other members of the group.”
—Berne, Eric. M.D, What Do You Say After You Say Hello p. 366

In other words, in religious and political fanatics the patterns of behavior formed from parental traditions ride roughshod over any form of critical thinking or objective analysis.

Fear

The fear of death is a powerful motivator and religion uses it as a tool for growth and manipulation. Many successful marketing strategies utilize fear as its driving force and religion is no exception. Those who can calm our fears or pretend to have an answer to one of life's greatest questions can draw to themselves the pocketbooks of many disciples. It is necessary to ensure a positive cash-flow for the improvement or maintenance of any religion. If it were not for the willingness of individuals to donate money, religion would have fallen by the way-side as a rudimentary philosophy of the world written with the rudimentary knowledge of the ancients.

The height of fear marketing in Christianity was with the advent of hell-fire sermons. At the time, pastors all across Christendom ratcheted up rhetoric to market their product: everlasting life and salvation from everlasting fire. For a temporal fee, whether it be obedience or money, men were promised an eternal gift. It is the best product any marketer could have to sell as there is no obligation on the part of the seller to deliver what was actually promised; it is up to God's arbitrary will to deliver the goods.

“The idle and foolish stories of nurses, and the still more ruinous tales and doctrines of priests, are calculated only to corrupt the heart, and bury the human mind in the gulf of the most destructive prejudices.”
—Palmer, Elihu, Principles of nature Gb. 206
“It is a common complaint among theological doctors, that the world is growing worse and worse!... those who controvert these assertions must have forgotten or never knew the names of Alexander, of Nero, and Caligula; of the numerous ecclesiastical despots and persecutors, with which the history of the Christian Church presents us, anterior to the commencement of the 16th century; nay farther, they must have neglected the reading of the Holy Scriptures, and have lost sight of the character of Moses, that eminent murder of antiquity.”
—Palmer, Elihu, Principles of nature Gb. 132-133

Hope

The promises of religion are the carrot and the stick that are used to keep followers obedient. The catch is that the carrot cannot be consumed in this life but only in the next. The potential loss of the promise causes fear while the hope of the promise causes comfort. Sadly, parishioners spend their entire lifetime hoping in promises without scientific evidence that those promises will ever be fulfilled in this life or the next. The only evidence of the fulfillment of any promises are stories written thousands of years ago by infantile man.

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live... The imposed narrative, even if it is trite or sentimental, serves an important function by allowing us to make some sense of our lives.”
—Didion, Joan & Iyengar, Sheena, The White Album, The Art of Choosing p. 20

Difference

The belief in a supernatural system should make no difference in how men should live their lives. Nor is a belief in a god necessary for a moral life. If morals are dictated by religion shrouded in mystery there is the possibility of those morals being illogical and absurd.

“It is not denied that this religion contains some good moral maxims. But it is denied that it contains any thing like a pure system of genuine morality.”
—Palmer, Elihu, Principles of nature p. 42
“I think it makes sense to believe in God, but exactly what decision in your life you make differently because of it, I don't know.”
—Gates, Bill, RollingStone
“Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking.”
—Jobs, Steve