Monday, March 17, 2008

Big Love, or, Religious Rant Numero Tres

I have a few things to say about theology, and none of them are particularly loving. I’m sparing no feelings today, but it’s not like I have that many readers yet, and hopefully none of you are particularly religious. Not any of you who actually know who I am, anyway. Not that I’m making excuses. Wait, let me start over.

The other day, I got an e-mail from a friend of mine, an ex-theology professor, let’s call him “Big Love,” asking for biblical quotes from his friends, Christians and atheists alike. He has a Christian website that he’s been chipping away at as a person retirement project for years.

I, in all my youthful atheist ignorance, I thought I’d respond with a quote I felt speaks for hate-filled propaganda the bible is, adding a footnote that I wouldn’t be offended if he simply ignored it.

If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

Leviticus 20:13

Translation: Kill all gays. Homosexuals have been hiding from their own friends and loved ones, affeared and ashamed of themselves, because of religious bigots whose minds have been twisted by passages such as this.

Obviously, Big Love opted not to use it. It doesn’t exactly suit his paradigm. His exact words:

Thank you for this. Your verse won’t make it in my project :o)

One thing, if I may. The Old Testament is absolved and accomplished by a man called Jesus of Nazareth. It’s over. He took care of it.

So reverting back to a verse belonging to a different dispensation is never good. You are simply not up to date in Revelation (if indeed Revelation exists). In other words, you may be lacking, dearest, some info. I probably sound paternalist and that is the last thing I would want to do. So if so, do as you asked. Ignore this email.

God did reveal Himself in a progressive fashions through men. The Christ brought it all up to date.

Now, I probably should have known better than to send my friend Big Love the quote in the first place, but I know a potential religious fight about to start when I see one. There are so many ways I could respond to this, but I don’t want to, because even though I don’t respect his religion, I do respect his feelings as a person. Not that his resolve would waver in any event.

His religious motto, and foundation upon which everything revolves is actually rather sweet. “God is love,” he explained once, as we sat at a campfire. And as far as religious people go, Big Love is far from the enemy. In fact, I’d venture to say that if all Christians were like this man, there would be no war. However, he isn’t reading this, and I really do love ranting against religion, so here goes.

For starters, I wasn’t aware you could pick and choose which books to obey and which ones not to ignore. Who’s to say some other jackass can’t come along and throw out your new books too, and say this is the even newer one, with an updated forward by Douglas Adams, and 187 colorful illustrations by Yoshitaka Amano. Oh yeah, Mohammed already did that, well, minus the pictures and forward, but he didn’t have the resources then that we do now.

And if the old testament is “absolved” now, then why is it still in there? What passages say that the old bible isn’t valid anymore? And think about it. This is the conversation these books are having:

Torah: “I am the one true text. Any future text comes from a false god. The messiah will come at the end of time.”

New Testament: “The old text was false. I’m the real text. Oh, sure the messiah came, but time didn’t end. Next time he comes, then time will end.”

Qur’an: “That wasn’t the messiah. It was just a prophet. And here’s another prophet. And he’s the last one, really. End of time after this, I swear.”

Blackheart: “Come on, guys. This is getting a bit silly.”

Anyway, Big Love, don’t you think that dodges the issue? The New Testament is just as homophobic as the Old Testament. I found a number of quotes in both the old and new testaments, it just so happens that Leviticus 20:13 is the most unabashedly belligerent and hateful of homosexuals, or “Sodomites.” (Actually, I don’t think the tale of Sodom and Gamora is even about homosexuality at all, but rather about abuse, piracy and bullying, but that’s a rant for another time. I’d prefer to keep this as short as I can.)

Religious people will use any strange rationale to justify whatever they want. This is part of why I won’t argue with them. The argument I’m now trying to avoid with Big Love is one I had years ago with a different younger friend of mine. His theory, (or rather the one he was regurgitating at me), was that animals are robots, designed by God. Sure they have instincts, and can feel hunger and pain, but they don’t have souls because they don’t have a concept of right and wrong. Forget all the evidence that supports the theory of evolution. Forget how similar human and dog DNA is. Even if they embrace the possibility of evolution, which they won’t obviously, then humans evolved with a soul, and dogs evolved without them. Why? Because a miracle happened, or something, they’ll say.

And this is part of the largest problem with religion, isn’t it? The whole forget-about-the-evidence thing. “Just go back to the text. It’s all in there.”

Another friend of mine says his chief problem with atheists is that we’re not “rigorous.” He thinks we’re lazy, and that’s why we’re atheists. We just can’t be bothered to look at the text. Now, while I’ll be the first person to admit I’m lazy, that isn’t why I’m an atheist. Even I want a little credit there. My problem with theology, to counter his against atheist, is that no matter how rigorous you are, you’re doomed never to make progress, because all you’re doing is interpreting and comparing and contrasting incomplete texts. These texts don’t read as though they were written by a divine being. They read as though they were written by brainwashed, inexperienced writers.

You know what I liken theology to? The rigorous, but highly illogical and unscientific study of a fresh, steaming dog turd.

“Hmm… It sure smells like a dog turd, but a man I respect has insisted that it is not, so I had better take a closer look. I know in my heart that isn’t dog shit. It sure looks like it, but it’s not. I already know that it isn’t dog shit, even though it looks like it is. I just have to twist logic until I can prove it. I know. I’ll take a bite out of it. Augh! Pah! Gross! Well, it certainly tastes the way it smells. But that still doesn’t mean it’s shit, because God may have made it taste like shit to test my faith. Therefore I can throw out the evidence of sight, smell and taste, because they don’t support the conclusion that I already know to be true.”

And this is exactly what makes me angry about how “rigorous” they insist we need to be when it comes to our religion. We can’t seriously be expected to investigate every outrageous claim that comes our way. Whether it’s a theory that there are ten invisible Martians living in Dolly Parton’s cleavage, or whether the universe revolves around Donald Trump’s Hair, it doesn’t take much of a brain to say, “nuh-uhn. That’s stupid.”

To theologians, the lesson isn’t obvious. You have to work hard to “interpret” the text.

Yeah, right. “Interpret.” Like interpretive dance. Like that painting Voice of Fire was “interpreted” to be worth 1.8 million dollars. It is the idea that if you interpret the text in just the right way that it will somehow all make sense.

You know what? No. If reading it cover to cover doesn’t make sense, I can’t imagine what will. I don’t care how many times you pray to it, bow to it, place flowers around it, or do an interpretive dance around it. It looks, smells, and tastes like shit because it is shit. How many other pieces of garbage literature could we waste our entire lives debating about? Why the Holy Bible of all things? It’s not like it’s particularly good literature. Every fourth sentence seems to be “the Lord our God, praised be He.” Doesn’t that seem a little tedious to you guys? Why don’t we debate about whether or not Lord of the Rings happened? It’s just as long, but overall a better book, with better characters, cooler villains, and stronger themes. Who died and said the book we need to study this one?

“Jesus did. I’m sorry to sound paternalistic, but if you’d read the bible you’d know that.”

“Aaaaaaahhhhhhh, bahahahhahahahahaha!” I scream as I run away, laughing and pulling out my hair, and lighting my trousers on fire. Now I feel like I’m going crazy.

Anyway Big Love, I love ya, man, but you have a lot to learn about logic.


ema nymton said...

I had a thought after reading your last religious rant that scared the heck out of me. What will the religious nuts do when/if aliens finally contact us ridiculous earthlings? The aliens, in all likelihood, won't worship the same God (or Gods) that humans do. In fact, they probably won't have any idea what the hell we're talking about when we try to explain the concept of the Big Invisible Guy in the Sky. I like to think that this advanced race will have some cool, interesting, and more logical, developed theories as to how and why the universe came to be (heck, they might even KNOW), but I really doubt that their theories require them to cover their females (or whatever they are) in sheets, wear funny hats, or blow each other up. What scares me about this is the fact that the religious nut-jobs will probably interpret this lack of belief as a tremendous sin and promptly declare war on the visiting extraterrestrials, thereby destroying all hope of getting along with the most important event in the history of humankind. Either that, or, like the Raliens or the Scientologists, they'll start worshiping the aliens as gods.

Whichever way you slice it, it's scary shit.

Mother Shebubu said...

I think that the biggest mistake ever made in the holy books is that they were not prefaced by an explanation that shows how an imperfect being can interpret a perfect beings thoughts. If one truly believes that God is perfect and that whatever holy book you believe in, is perfect and directly from God then you must look at it as trying to do math without the number 1 and 9. And a few other numbers in between depending on how you apply your faith.
The saddest things are those people that make an outward show of their religion in hopes that God will take notice.
I think personal faith is exactly that: Personal and faith.
There are also atheist who are pushy and just as condescending as religious types. I think it's more of an attitude rather than a belief.

Malice Blackheart said...

I hope aliens never bother with our psychotic planet, because if they do, and they have any common sense, they'll exterminate the lot of us, and good riddance too.

The problem with God as a perfect being, is that in theory, we are made in his image, which might suggest we too are perfect. One thing I find annoyingly obvious as an atheist is that it’s actually the other way around; man, in all his arrogance, created “God” in man’s image, which means that by design, God is an imperfect being, and His teachings equally imperfect.
I like to follow the principal of Ockham’s Razor. The bible reads like clumsy literature written by regular people who didn’t know any better, not because it was written by a divine being who works in mysterious ways, and actually knows better, and saw all this coming, and is testing us, but because it was written by regular clumsy scribes who didn’t know any better.

mother shebubu said...

It's really too sad that there are so many jerks ruining religion for a lot of people.
Occam's razor is hard to apply to religion because simple can mean so many things. And so many different assumptions are made as a first step. And the simplest application of the principle would be either: There is no God because it can't be proven, or There is a God because things occur that can't be explained.
Personally I subscribed to the idea of a "God" or greater being or creator or grand architect or superior intelligence simply out of thankfulness. There were too many wonderful things that people hadn't screwed up and too many interesting coincidences.
I think the biggest problem with religion is that, unlike science, it is a very personal thing. It's not what we know but what we believe. And I think all the troubles that come out of the science vs. religion arguments are that either argument cannot use the style of argument that is normally applied to one or the other. Science is about things that apply universally or can be generalized, whereas religion is strictly on an individual basis. I think it's because there is no way to reconcile those two styles that causes such trouble. And of course, all of us being imperfect humans, emotions and personal issues get involved.

Malice Blackheart said...

Here’s my problem with religion as a personal thing. The way monotheism is designed, it’s actually quite conformist.
“We believe in one god, and if you don’t believe in our god, you are a heathen, and you must die, and then be judged before our one god. We are all judged by the one god, the same, and here is a list of ten things he doesn’t want you to do.”
Polytheism is a lot more user-friendly, in that you are allowed to choose your own god.
“We believe in many gods, and for all we care, you can spend all your days praying to the god of fertility for fuller tits and a larger cock.”
If the prevalent religions of the world were polytheist rather than monotheist, I think it really could be a lot more personalized and a lot less threatening. Unfortunately, fortune favors the religions that demand you believe in their one god or die. Who ever heard of a non-believer being killed in the name of say, the pagan fertility god? None. Frankly, that sounds like a bit of a contradiction.

Tlaloc said...

Well... Kali demanded sacrifice. As did a whole slew of American Gods.

Malice Blackheart said...

Fair enough. I'm no expert on religion, but I'm fairly certain nobody was ever killed in the name atheism. Atheists don't have a mean-spirited god to blame for their actions.

Karl Marx's underpants said...

I'd have to disagree about atheists. Many millions have died on the altar of Socialism and Communism because they believed in a God. Jews, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, and Hindus have all been persecuted by Communist atheists. I think it's fair to say that whatever belief systems humans are involved with people will die. Kind of dark, but if you believe in the human spectrum, that is that people are apt to do as much good as bad, then I guess one can stay sane.