Religion as impediment
Today we live in a psychopathic civilization. It’s not a pleasant conclusion to arrive at, but perhaps it can spur us to build an alternative a thousand times better than the current planetary disaster. Why not? It’s within our reach. All we need is a concerted effort to revolutionize every aspect of life.
Why every aspect? Why not just reform the political system? Why can’t we tweak the economy and pass a few laws and be done with the revolution? The revolution must transform every aspect of civilization because everything is connected and no part of our civilization has a monopoly on corruption or idiocy. All the parts contribute to our dysfunctional world. Our jobs, our traditions, our religions, our economic policies, our laws and our education, everything works together in psychopathic harmony.
But, maybe not everything. A few rebels and dissidents among us are not cooperating. We want a revolution. The trouble is we aren’t ready for absolute and comprehensive change.
We point our fingers at others, at the psychopaths and kleptomaniacs in power, but what if such people are mere symptoms of a sick system? And, what about the environment? What about the absurdity that calls itself education? What about the injustice of a world that requires some people to labor for a lifetime collecting garbage and assembling guns? Do we want another socialist or communist revolution, or do we need something much more radical?
What social forces stand in the way of revolution? For instance, can religions promote moral and responsible behavior? An overview of the last 2,000 years shows that while religions do change, they do not produce positive change for people. Whatever the religion, the core psychopathic behaviors of empires do not. War, slavery, poverty, sexism, and environmental destruction are constants.
A re-evaluation of all religions is necessary because we underestimate their anti-revolutionary, status-quo, pro-imperial influence. Religion remains an almost universal feature of modern civilization and serves as bulwarks for the secular, profit-driven culture.
Moreover, religious beliefs exert a profound and lingering effect even among agnostics and atheists. What Karl Marx and most atheists failed to realize is that even if they renounce religion, its effects are long lasting and insidious. Renouncing a religion won’t magically undo the damage done by years of faith, and if you attempt to purge yourself of all non-skepticism, all blind trust and all learned indifference to mortality, you must still resist the influence of a culture that is steeped in them.
Exactly how do religions support our psychopathic civilization? Let’s examine how religions are anti-revolutionary forces that contribute to problems.
1. DANGEROUS: Religions are dangerous because they teach belief in immortality. This teaching blinds us to the significance of life and death and tempts us to live recklessly, for example by going to wars, building nuclear power plants, defying death on the roads, seeking out extreme sports, consuming harmful drugs, refusing to stop climate change, and so on. The concepts of Heaven, Hell, karma, Nirvana and reincarnation teach people to believe that justice comes after death and this can only tempt them to tolerate too much injustice in this life.
2. USELESS: Religions are useless because they fail to provide solutions to the real problems on this planet. They have no answers for how we can live in an environmentally sustainable manner, no answers to how billions of people can have safe and decent housing, no answers for overpopulation, no interest in true democracy, and no answers for the unhappiness and boredom experienced by billions of children. They have no answers for these problems because they are only concerned with illusions.
3. BORING: Religions either ignore or forbid the joys provided by comedy, children, art, gardening, food and sex, consequently they have unwittingly caused billions of people to prefer unhealthy and destructive pleasures such as shopping, collecting, possessing, hoarding, competing, and controlling.
4. PARALYZING: Religions are paralyzing forces. Historically they have always promoted submission to a ruling class, refused to encourage experimentation in diet and lifestyle, and discouraged the skepticism needed to question and improve one’s own habits and beliefs.
Perhaps this isn’t fair. Most of the above problems not only characterize religions but also most of our schools. They might not teach belief in immortality and postmortem justice, but they certainly teach children to think about everything except rampant injustice in their world. Also, our schools do not teach solutions to actual problems, only to numerical and hypothetical ones.
While the last point also applies to most formal education, intelligent young people have a long history of demanding revolutions and of experimenting with alternatives. Generally speaking, formal education has inherited the fatal flaws of our religions.
Peter Dudink earned a Masters of Literature from the University of Waterloo in 2002. He worked as a teacher trainer abroad and as a self-employed tutor and editor at home in Canada. Like many Canadians, he’s a European immigrant and the first in many generations not to live on the land as a farmer.