“Religion is like a knife: you can either use it to cut bread, or stick it in someone's back.”
― Desmond Tutu
What’s that old saying?
Religion is like a penis, right?
I think that’s an apt description.
Religion is like a penis.
It’s okay to have one.
It’s okay to be proud of it, I suppose.
It’s not a bad toy to play with, all things considered. It serves a useful purpose. It makes a lot of people feel better, it gives them release and relief. And it’s been known to make some people very happy. Like the banana, it is ergonomically pleasing – as artwork throughout the ages can attest. Many words in song and poetry have been dedicated to descriptions of its phallic glory.
Some might even consider it divine.
But like anything else, it can be – and often is – abused.
It can give joy and contentment, or it can cause the owner a great deal of pain – and no end of problems. And let’s be honest, in a certain light, from the wrong angle, when you throw cold water on it, well, it’s a little ridiculous.
When you start obsessing over your organ, worshipping it, preening and polishing and comparing it to others, you’re just jerking off – and you know what religion says about blind self indulgence.
If you pull it out in public and start flogging it around and demanding that everybody else bow down before your rampant magnificence, most people think you’re just being a dick. Though, of course, people being people, there are always those who will drop to their knees and swallow whatever it is that you’re handing out.
And when you start sticking it into others without their permission, well, my friend, that’s called rape.
A post of mine on Facebook led to a conversation about religion and politics. You know, the usual. In the course of the discussion I made a lengthy comment regarding my particular view of religion in general. A number of folks asked me to turn those comments into an essay here so that they could share it more widely.
You ask, I deliver.
Over the years, given the things I write here, certain people have gotten it into their heads that I’m anti-religion, or that I’m some kind of militant atheist, or that I hate all religious people.
None of that is correct – though I honestly don’t much care if you think so.
I don’t have any particular problem with the idea of a deity, or deities plural if you prefer. The universe is a big place, if we manage to survive long enough as a species, sooner or later we’re going to encounter entities indistinguishable from gods – if we don’t transform ourselves into such beings first, that is.
I certainly don’t profess to know for certain if there is a god or not. And I mostly just don’t care. God stays on his side of the universe and I stay on mine. If he (or she) needs something, he knows where to find me – but I don’t heed mumbo jumbo and I have no use for proxies, if he’s got something to say to me, he’d best show up in person and speak plainly. You tell me you’re speaking for god, you’d better have a signed power of attorney in hand or other such proof, otherwise I put you in the same category with magicians (I might enjoy the showmanship, but I know there’s a trick).
No it’s not the idea of god that I have a problem with, it’s religion.
Now, I don't have anything against religion per se. Everybody believes in something, and like the aforementioned penis, so long as you keep it to yourself unless invited otherwise, you and I are good.
Where I have a problem is when people use their religion as a cudgel to beat others over the head.
And just for the record, I feel the same way about militant non-believers.
You believe? Fine.
You don't believe. That’s fine too.
But you start acting like a raging dick about it, then we're going to have a problem.
This is a defining criteria with me. I am pathologically incapable of suffering fools, or dicks, gladly. I don’t want to and I don’t have to. You stick your religion, or your cock, in my face and you can expect to get kicked in the balls.
A few days ago, a reader complained that I seem to talk about religion a lot. And I do. But, see, here’s the thing, if you don’t want me to keep harping on your religion then quit bringing it up.
You may not believe this, but I never set out to offend believers (or non-believers for that matter). Unless they ask for it.
Again, it’s like a penis, you pull it out in public and start waving it around, then you’d better be willing to accept the resulting critical analysis. Don’t like what people say about your pride and joy? It hurts your feelings and makes you feel bad? Then keep it in your pants.
People like Westboro Baptist Church? They're asking for it. Those people stand on the corner waving their dicks at the public every single day. The US Constitution gives them the right to do so, but that doesn’t mean I have to respect their virulent hatred – and I don’t.
Evangelicals like Michele Bachmann? She's asking for it. The Constitution might give her the right to act like an ignorant dimwitted bug-eyed screeching Jesus freak, but that doesn’t mean I have to respect her hateful stupidity – and I don’t.
Superstitious loons like Rick Perry? He’s asking for it. The Constitution might give him the right to command Texans to pray, foam at the mouth and roll on the floor, and lift up their arms to heaven asking their god to make it rain, but that doesn’t mean I have to join in – and I won’t.
TV preachers who offer salvation in exchange for dollars? They're asking for it. The guy on the corner waving his holy book and screaming at traffic? He’s asking for it. Politicians who violate their sworn oath (an oath, by the way, that they swear on the Bible and end with “So help me, God”) by attempting to impose their religious beliefs on the rest of us? They’re asking for it. Glassy eyed lunatics who knock on my door on Saturday morning and try to shove some religious tract into my hand while damning me to their hell? They’re asking for it.
These people go around attempting to jam their dicks into every orifice they see. I find this offensive and obnoxious, and it tends to make me offensive and obnoxious in turn.
But that doesn’t mean I think every religious person is a prick, or stupid, or ignorant, or deluded, or obnoxious – because I don’t. Not at all. In fact, I have a great deal of respect for religions, Christians for example, who actually live the tenets of their belief. Jesus, if what we know of him is accurate, seems like a guy I could respect and call a friend – heck, I betcha he’d be a regular here on Stonekettle Station.
I know a lot of religious folks, including a number of ordained clergy, and they don’t go around acting like raging hard-ons.
The problem I have with religion, and evangelical Christianity in particular, is when others insist that I live up to their beliefs ... when they don't themselves.
You claim to be Christian, a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, but you only preach the Old Testament and ignore Christ's very explicit orders to give up wealth, to feed the hungry, to clothe the poor, to heal the sick, to do unto others, to reserve judgment for God, to attend first the beam in your own eye, and above all to be kind. And not only do you ignore those commands, but actively dismiss them and rationalize them away when they are brought to your attention, then you shouldn’t be surprised when I mock your hypocrisy.
Honestly, if you can't live up to the requirements of your religion, then why should I?
If you don’t respect the commands of your own prophet, why should I?
When you insist that I respect your beliefs, but you show no respect whatsoever for mine in return, then you shouldn’t be surprised by my loud disrespect. You don’t get to damn me to your hell, you don’t get to judge me or anybody else for that matter – and that’s in your Bible, you can look it up.
If you want me to respect your religion, then be worthy of respect.
It’s really just that simple.
And here's the rest of it: when your religion demands equal time with science, then it should have to meet the exact same burden of rigor as science if you want me to take it seriously.
I don't have a problem with creationism being taught in public school, so long as it's taught in mythology class right next to Thor and the Loch Ness Monster.
But the minute you want to insert your religion into science class, you'd better be bringing along the same, the exact same, degree of scientific rigor as physics or chemistry or astronomy or biology or whatever field of inquiry you’d care to name.
And I don't think that’s too much to ask.
In fact, it should be simple, shouldn’t it?
After all religion claims all of creation, from the beginning of time to its end across the width and depth of the entire universe. Now surely, out of all that, from creation to man lives inside a whale to the loaves/fishes to angels destroy a city to burning bushes to one guy builds a boat the size of an aircraft carrier out of sticks and fills it full of animals and rides out the end of the world to resurrection itself, surely out all of that, you can find something that can be tested to the exact same degree of scientific rigor required for publication in any reputable mainstream scientific journal.
I think that's fair, and I'm not asking for anything that I don't demand of science.
And as long as we're on the subject of "equal time," you want your religion taught in public school? Then "equal" means you're willing to accept the teaching of science, say evolution by a certified evolutionary biologist, in religious schools. No? Then don't talk to me about equal, because now you're asking to be mocked in public.
I don't have a problem with religion until it insists that I believe without proof, until it attempts to force others to comply.
And that's exactly what you’re doing when you insist that this is a Christian nation. It’s not a Christian nation and never has been. Just as it’s not a Jewish nation, or a Muslim one, or an atheist one. It’s a nation where Christians, and all other beliefs, are free to live their lives without fear of persecution so long as they don’t harm others. But that doesn’t mean you get to claim the whole goddamned nation for yourself or use your religion to beat the rest of us about the head and shoulders.
And that is exactly what you’re doing when you attempt to force your beliefs on others.
When it comes to things like homosexuality, if you don't like gay marriage because it makes Jesus soggy and hard to light, then don't get gay married. If you don’t believe in birth control because some doddering old virgin in a pointy hat says it’s bad, then don’t go around sticking your dick in things. But you don't get to make other people comply with your religion. Don't like it? Too fucking bad, go complain to Jesus or Thor or Cthulhu or whoever it is you give your money to, but I don't want to hear it.
And if you keep preaching at me, if you keep attempting to force the country that I live in into your church, if you keep attempting to shove your cock in my face, then you'd better be prepared for what comes next.
Finally, and because I was asked, yes, frankly I do often find certain militant non-believers to be just as obnoxious as fanatical believers.
I'm not saying the two are equal, I’m not saying they are the same, I'm saying dicks come in all flavors (yep, I did that on purpose).
You can be a non-believer without being an obnoxious jerk about it. But that’s how I feel about most things. Adults can disagree without being dicks, many don’t, but it is possible.
Next, of course, you'll ask me what label applies to me.
The answer is "none."
I'm neither a believer nor a non-believer.
There's no label for me, just as there’s no label for people who don’t believe in Leprechauns but honestly don’t mind if other people do.
There’s no label for me and I like it that way just fine.
“Religion is like a pair of shoes. Find one that fits for you, but don't make me wear yours.”
― George Carlin