I don’t know if I believe in a higher power. I mean, obviously, in some sense, there must be something of a higher power than us out there. The universe is infinite and there are so many variations just on Earth alone.
In the sense of a creator or omnipotent being, of that I have no solid opinion, nor do I think it matters a whole lot. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: human beings trying to understand the will of something so powerful and intelligent as to be able to create everything in the universe/infiniverse/multiverse/whatever we want to call it, would be like amoebas trying to comprehend quantum physics.
It’s just an order of intelligence so far above ours as to yet be incomprehensible, if it exists.
And while I would never insist that all individuals who believe in religion are by necessity evil or stupid or both, because I think what people get out of religion varies greatly, I will suggest that religion itself can act as a sort of virus. A cancer that can quickly metastasize across the nations, cultures, even entire worlds, when used as anything other than meditative comfort.
I was going to say moral compass, but that’s an entirely different argument. For example, I follow the Dalai Lama and Reverend Rob Lee on Twitter. Their moral compass generally equates good with kindness. Bad is oppression, persecution and violence. That makes sense to me.
But we don’t need religion to believe that being nice to people is a good thing. In fact, if the only thing causing us to act like a decent person is the dictates of some organization, then perhaps we need to self-examine. Only organizations with vested interests in undermining our ability to make our own decisions and our belief in ourselves start with the assumption that without them, we’d be deceitful, violent, exploitive heathens.
Prayer can act like meditation which is good and certainly, in some respects (though certainly no more so than in secular belief systems), religious doctrine can keep people behaving like respectable adults operating with a sense of cooperation and kindness.
But more often than not, it’s perverted as a power structure, to control and manipulate people, to grift off their earnings and hard work, and subjugate their minds.
Look no further than the “Christians” who love the second amendment, Donald Trump and gassing migrant children. I’m pretty sure Jesus might have a few words for them about that, and not kind ones. Look how easily the Christian Right was perverted into fascism. How quickly a religion supposedly built on kindness turned into a pathological and violent display of blind hatred.
Islam has numerous examples of religious perversion, and despite the reflex of those also on the left to brand any dissent on the religion of Islam as phobic, these accusations are just as true in some parts of Islam as they are of some parts of Christianity, and warrant discussion on the validity of religion as a whole.
What do we get out of it?
Community? We have thousands of other ways to find community these days – sports clubs, fandoms, hobbies, mastermind groups, yoga classes, dance studios, gaming sites, among a few.
Morality? Look how easily the preaching of kindness by Jesus Christ was twisted to allow for tear gassing children and mothers trying to escape a terrible life. It’s practically being celebrated on Fox News. No thanks, if the morality of religion allows for such things.
Besides, and again, if an external decree is the only thing separating us from The Purge (itself a rip-off of a Star Trek episode back in the Sixties), then we have bigger issues. Personally, I believe that someone who comes to the conclusion that being kind is worthwhile for its own sake, unconnected to any decree, is essentially more moral than someone only doing it because someone else told them they should. The former certainly understands why better.
As I mentioned, we’re amoebas in a world of quantum physics when it comes to the will of an omnipowerful being. It would be idiocy to believe what the amoeba turned around and told us was the morality behind quantum physics (oh, and ten percent of our personal income, please). The amoeba doesn’t understand it. It just wants control. It just wants our money.
I believe spirituality and religion are two separate things. We can be spiritual without believing in fictions, ghosts or other unnecessary hoodoo. We can be spiritual and not have to go to church on Sunday or wear special underwear or worship a spaghetti man in the sky. We can be spiritual and not bring food to the temple for the elephant god, or assume that Buddha was anything other than a wonderful human being.
All the trappings, all the rituals, all the money and rules and time demands of a religion are to distract us from the fact that we have our own brains, our own hearts and that our community is the world around us, all of it, and that to truly make the world a better place, it’s to recognize that and act accordingly.
Personal responsibility is what we need to be better humans; not faith in an institution. Not belief in men in the sky. No god is responsible for our behaviour; we are.
To pretend otherwise is to abdicate our responsibility for our lives and our actions.
And any morality that preaches that is a corrupt one, and cannot lead us anywhere good.