Tuesday, October 8, 2013


I find myself thinking about religion lately, but not in the sense of wondering about the existence or nature of God. It's more about how and why people come to it.

I think a lot of people pick it up because there's comfort in belief. To be certain about your role in the world, your place in a community and even what to expect from a specific set of actions is comforting. Stability, certainty are things to rely on. That might have been part of the message of that line in the Bible about Jesus building his church on a rock: this is a stable house, a reliable institution.

Actual miles may vary, of course...

Some people gravitate toward religion because of insider knowledge. They dig that --knowing what nobody else knows. It's one of the reasons why people join fraternities and secret societies, like the Masons: the promise of inside information on how it all works.

I think they're usually disappointed. I joined a fraternity while I was in college and I can promise you the least interesting aspect of that group was the club secrets. The magic words weren't particularly magical. The secret handshake didn't really make me feel like I was part of anything special. Only the costumes that went along with the ceremonies were really notable and that was only because they were fucking creepy.

Others immerse themselves in religion to make a kind of armor against thoughts and actions that repulse even them. I've heard of pedophiles, perverts and self-loathing homosexuals joining the clergy because they think that surrounding themselves with God is a way to imprison that thing in them they fear or hate.

Apparently, this doesn't work so great. 

On the other side of the spectrum, I think some people use religion to steel against their own appetites for wealth or capacity for wrath. It's easier not to be a greedy bastard if you've taken a vow of poverty. It's easier to keep your temper if you cling to a religion's message of kindness, love and charity.

They all pretty much say be nice, don't hurt other people and give what you can when you can.

The new thing, for me, is thinking about people turning to religion because maybe they're terribly shallow and kind of stupid. They pick it up because devout people are often seen as wise and they want to be taken seriously as the kinds of people they wish they were.

Preachers, priests and rabbis are assumed to live in a deeper world than the rest of us. They dwell on the nature of the soul. They plumb the depths of compassion, grief and every good and bad thing that might weigh on a human soul.

We defer to them based on this, I think. We assume they have insights we don't and grant them more credit than they deserve sometimes.

I've seen men and women, as dumb as rocks but deeply religious, who hide behind scripture rather than work out the meaning of what is in front of them. They play act and pretend to have some sort of authority on matters well beyond their very limited knowledge.

I have no idea where they come up with their shit, but they they say the craziest things, believe and spout the most outlandish lies --but they're good people. They're sweet, God-fearing/Christ-loving people.

They're just kind of shallow and stupid.  

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