[part 1 of 2 ]
* readers beware, this is going to be a rather offensive piece.
Especially if you don't read it.
Oh, boy, that was a long time coming, wasn't it?
I always said, if I wasn't a philosopher, I'd be a preacher.
(or a`an archaeologist, possibly; but that's a story for another time).
After all, I was brought up by my grandma in a rather religious environment and took part every Sunday at Mass at the local church.
I was pure, naive, white dressed and absolutely unaware of everything I was celebrating.
As any kid, of any religion, is - before they stuff down your brain all their fancy stories until you're a grown up and it's already too late to do something about it.
But I'm already skipping forward, my bad. Lets go in order.
And I also need to clarify, is not like I was nurtured and raised in bigotry or religious fanaticism of some sort, not at all, I just happened to be born in Italy, pretty Christian country that hosts the center of the Catholicism itself, the Vatican; more specifically in a very small town where, like anywhere else, religion still had some kind of social relevance and a long tradition that goes a long way back in time.
My grandfathers were good hard working people coming from a generation where religion was still providing both knowledge and education, and social rules and moral codes in a era shaken by two world wars and the advent of technology and mass media as we know it.
Talking about changes.
So long story short, they were just products of their time, that possibly never questioned much the plausibility and logic behind their belief, mostly for lack of time and initiative.
I guess they were just too busy taking care of more pressing matters and fit in a conformed society.
Religiosity back then had also lots to do with appearance and respect, in a sense.
And that's the end of it.
My parents, on the contrary, as far as I know, never really cared much about it, or better, never gave the subject too much thought:
products of the 60's, they were baptised and when i unexpectedly came around, they went through the whole religious ceremony when they got married simply because that was how things went back then.
I'm not saying that now is much different, but the mentality is finally changing.
My father, mostly due to his rebellious nature and open views, is possibly the first person I remember swearing. Constantly.
He had earrings, tattoos, he drank and smoked like there was no tomorrow nor afterlife and I think he already knew that.
My mother, between the two of them, had a more spiritual and sensitive side, easily leaning toward paranormal believes and superstitions.
Astrology and zodiac signs, poltergeist and chiromancy always had a much more big impact on her life than the history of Christ or Moses splitting water, though I know her own upbringing had surely been way more religiously severe than mine.
To her, on top of a more annoyingly accentuated empathic side, I owe a bunch of irrational fears and compulsive behaviours and superstitious habits that I still,reluctantly, carry with me until now.
But my grandparents are the ones than more than anyone in my family truly incarnated the values of the religion they represented, so that you could tell by their actions what they stood for, and, I strongly believe, so that they could eventually fulfill the purpose of their faith. ( charitable actions and heaven and bla bla bla).
As for me, I learnt and absorbed all kind of information about those worlds, and as I mentioned before I actively took part in any sort of religious festivity or activity church-related. I would go there in the afternoon after-school, a few days a week, to find out about the Gospels, and to the function every Sunday, to help the priest out during the one-hour function.
The marbled stairs, and the smooth, shiny wood used for the benches, the golden cups, the Latin words spoken solemnly
and repeated by everyone around, all fascinated and slightly intimidated me. Until one day I reached the so called age of reason, which in my specific case can be dated back to my first high-school years (though a primordial, unclear stage of agnosticism took roots in early age as my curiosity, along a eager passion for reading, drove me to discover the existence of different religions, - and at the same time my mind couldn't quite digest some of the info preached by the various priests.)
I recognized and admired the power religion has over us human beings, and, since it's strictly interrelated with Art and, more factually, with almost any expression of Art you could come across in Italy ( and not only) after the fall of the Western Roman Empire.
It can be difficult to understand Michelangelo's Pieta', for instance, or Bernini's Ecstasy or Dante's work, just to name a few well known ones, if you take away the religious background.
Thousands of crucifixions have been depicted on canvas since the advent of Christianity, and you just can't fully appreciate the majesty and power of any of those, without knowing what The Galilean went through and why.
However, growing up I began to wonder, do I need to be religious myself in order to appreciate any religion-related Art (which makes up for most of world artistic heritage)? I don't think so.
Do I need to have an extensive knowledge of the subject? well, that helps for sure.
Don't worry, we are getting to the point.
I just want to make sure before I get down to the serious part, that it's clear why in order to criticize ANY religion (or appreciate the Art that came from it, on the flip side of the coin) it's mandatory, in my opinion, to have a deep understanding of the matter.
This can, and should, be applied to pretty much anything in life, and summed up in a simple, effective quote such as 'know your shit before opening your mouth'.
In reality, it's sadly disappointing that I keep crossing path with friends and people of different faiths that seem to know very little about their own religion, be that Christianity, or Islam, or whatever made up belief is still hype right now.
The only difference is that Christians (at least in Europe, where the process of secularization* has already started long ago) know more or less that's is all fairy tales, the Arc of Noah, Jonah and the Whale, Adam and Eve and the Snake offering the Apple... they know is just a myth, but some of them still accept part of the Gospels as a good moral code to get through their life, so they go to church once a year, for Christmas or something, they get married in there because the ceremony looks great and you don't want to upset the bride with her silly 'white dress childhood dream', and the rest of the year they just don't think about it; while Muslims, due to the most 'rigid' practices required by the nature of their faith, are still very much involved with prayers and ritual and following the book.
Judaism doesn't concern me much, since due to its own close nature is already extinguishing itself, while Buddhism, though it has partially understood that our desires and ego are pretty pointless in this life, has never really had a major, brutal, violent impact on our world due the nature of its principles.
Unfortunately I'm also aware that half of the population in the United States is still, shockingly, Christian Fundamentalist and that really saddens me ( but hey, if you do believe the Earth is twelve thousand year old and the Bible should be interpreted literally there's no much I can do for you...except telling you to read my books, you may want to believe in something funnier and more real, at least), but it's still good to make my point so I'm just going to put these two big faiths together for the sake of argument.
I'm of course generalizing, but it's important to make this distinction because I honestly don't believe in 'extremism':
a religion** is supposed to be a system with moral codes and eschatological belief that you either accept or reject. Period.
When you are IN it, you can't just pick what you like and pretend the rest doesn't exist (which is what many loosely believers are in fact doing).
Extremist, in fact, is just another misleading word to describe someone that follows the teaching of his faith all the way.
Don't call them an extremists, call them for what they are, believers.
For example, you shouldn't point a finger and say this person or that person is a 'fanatic' because he prays two-three times a day, doesn't eat a certain type of food or has many other restrictions.
He's just doing what any religious person that claims to be such, should be doing all the time.
There is no extremism, once again, there is only 'in' or 'out.'
Religion is not a life-style or a diet or a pass-time that you can entertain yourself with whenever you feel like, or just pick out what you like the most. Once you decide to go down that road, at least you should have the balls and decency to do it all the way - and please, make sure you know exactly what you're signing up for.
I'm growing more and more tired or people that claim to be 'good christian' or 'good muslim' and they have never read the Bible or Quaran first handed and are absolutely unaware of some or their basics.
But have no misconception here, despite I find many religions fascinating, their narrative, their art, their historical evolution or simply their main points, that doesn't mean I don't hate them or reject them with all my heart.
You could say that the main reason I'm writing this little piece is because I'm sick and tired of Religion ruining the world and the mind of people, and you wouldn't be completely wrong. To be frankly honest I'm a little ashamed when I talk to someone that confesses to believe in this or that since it forces me in the awkward position of
A) lowering myself and my intellect in order to try and understand their reasoning - which is always, inevitably a bunch of bullshit passed down by the previous generation
B) consequently fighting the urge to shout on their face that they are bloody moron, and that they consciously refuse to use or numb their brain
C) feeling absolutely crushed by the amount of rubbish that people are willing to believe, just so that they could feel a bit better with themselves or not so scared by the actual lack of God, any god - whatsoever - and purpose in this existence.
Make no mistakes , there is no God, no one, nor many, never been and never will.
And this alone should sum up the whole point of this discussion.
But in order to understand what religion is, and why it's so powerful and dangerous, we need to first become familiar with how and why the concept or religion itself came around.
Facts! Facts! Facts!
So one last check before we get started.
As I'm writing this, there are currently over four-thousand religions or faiths all over the world (roughly 4200) but I'm gonna take in consideration mostly the three major monotheistic religions` for obvious reasons:
- they all have the same roots
- they have the largest amount of followers
- they are the ones that mostly affect(ed) this world and my life with it.
I mean, if that on its own doesn't buzz any alarm, you probably haven't been used your brain properly so far, or used it at all.
So carry on reading cause there's more to that coming up.
DEATH AND THE BIRTH OF RELIGION
Ah, death, my all time favourite subject.
That's where everything starts, or ends, depending on your point of view.
As a philosopher, I do understand the very human need to explain the world around us, the meaning of this existence and so on.
Also as a philosopher, and human being with a functioning brain, I do despite everything that clashes against any logic, rational and scientific reasoning.
In high-school, I was about fifteen, I wrote a piece of no more than a double page explaining how any religious foundation is based over some sort of eschatological concept.
Fifteen odds year later, I'm attempting to articulate better that thought, that here it goes:
Our planet, what we call Earth, has been around for just a little longer than 4.5 billion years.
Now, just a few thousands years ago, the first men able to organize themselves in a group or primordial society, started to enquire the nature of the environment they were living in.
At one point they could control fire, establish primordial communities , they were able to forge tools, but the world still looked very much like a scary place - and humans all in all have always been the same self-centered arrogant animals, ready to do whatever it takes to gain a momentarily piece of satisfaction (that even back then still involved pretty much stealing, raping, killing and getting someone pregnant more than occasionally.)
But too many other living creatures were dominating the arena, and they had to build more advanced tools to defend themselves and hunt'em down.
And the sky looked scary too, at times, and storm, and thunder lights, and floodings etc. it was all bigger than them, so they had to find shelter or build a place where they'd be safe.
Food and housing and procreating as you can see are still the same constant problem of the human condition. no matter how evolved we are.
Then something happened, as their brain kept evolving, and from a simple action-reaction pattern, we began questioning the reality and mechanisms of the world we inhabit.
The only way human mind has to deal with someone it doesn't quite understand is to categorized into another paradigma that helps maintaining the status quo.
It's a natural psychological reaction that serves the function of protecting our brain from what we can't or won't process.
it can also be easily seen in any case of trauma or emotional shocks on people that respond to it by denying and trapping themselves into a mental alternative reality were things still work according to the (just-gone) paradigma.
A parent refusing to come to terms with the loss of a child, a wife that decides to ignore the husband infidelity.
Paradoxically, it keeps our sanity, preventing us from dealing with a otherwise destabilizing news.
So the only way we had to explain the unexplainable was to create a 'better', omni-comprehensive paradigma that would incorporate any event we had no control over or basically everything we just didn't know.
The gods are mad at us, that's why the storm.
The gods want us to make more sacrifices, or sun and drought will spoil the harvests.
And so on, you get the point.
Death is obviously one the biggest mystery we've ever faced, the idea that life can express itself without a defined purpose - not a cause- that life is a self-contained motive on its own that naturally starts and ends no matter what, have always put lots of critical pressure on our frankly not-so-special existence.
So historically religion had its own reason to be created, as an explanatory belief that could help you get through your life.
And as such, it will follow the natural course of any human construction
It will naturally pass, though never too soon if you ask me, and evolve in something else or simply disappear, as it has done so far - moving from the creation of the first myths, to the various polytheistic faiths to the 'big' monotheistic religions.
So before we even get started analyzing in specific the absurdity, ridiculousness and non-sense of any religion, just bare in mind that that as any human made up story or system of stories, it will go away at one point.
We will have to go to.
It's the very nature of everything.
But don't be scared, don't be afraid, don't fall for any fantasy that can sugar-coat the reality of our existence, as tough, and miserable, and pointless as it sometimes can be.
Open your eyes.
Use your brain.
Think for yourself, goddamnit.
Think for yourself.
[ to be continued...]
* Secularization is the transformation of a society from close identification and affiliation with religious values and institutions toward nonreligious values and secular institutions. The secularization thesis refers to the belief that as societies progress, particularly through modernization and rationalization, religion loses its authority in all aspects of social life and governance.
Secularization refers to the historical process in which religion loses social and cultural significance. As a result of secularization the role of religion in modern societies becomes restricted. In secularized societies faith lacks cultural authority, and religious organizations have little social power.
Ps. yes, I'm just quoting this from Wikipedia, 'cause I can't waste time to rephrase something that should be common knowledge.
** I use here the word 'RELIGION' to describe any organized cult that includes a cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, world views, texts, prophesies, ethics, or organizations and other fancy beliefs, that relate humanity to the supernatural, transcendental, or spiritual - more specifically those who recognize one singular entity - or God- as creator and ultimate meaning to the existence.