Religion is a system in which one group of people (who have no idea) tell a second group (whoadmit their ignorance) what's going to happen after they die. In Western culture, we're told there'llbe an eternity of either reward or punishment, based on how we lived this life. In Eastern culture,they're told they'll be reborn as someone or something else, with the quality of this future lifeagain depending on the fulfillment of certain moral duties in their current, actual lives.So, as a believer, you're taught to anticipate heavenly choirs XOR hellfire or rebirth as a moreprivileged human being vs. a rat or something. Most religions further advise you to submit toworldly powers, give tithe, and send your kids to Sunday school /
/ whatever they calltheir youth program. In other words: pay your taxes, pay us, train your children to do the same,and you'll be rewarded. Although not in this lifetime.It's almost laughable if you don't take into account the human capacity for superstition. We'revery gullible when it comes to those who claim to know what happens after death, for they offer us relief from that worst of all fears, the fear of the unknown. Even if they do replace it with thefear of getting eternally poked with pitchforks for touching yourself.Both Eastern & Western religion promise a preservation of the essential self, that Who You Arewill continue to be, forever, somewhere. It's a powerful suggestion, one which contradicts theapparent truth: that Who You Were will soon enough be forgotten, and your physical structurereclaimed by the earth. I guess it's just less pleasant to imagine, slowly becoming dirt.But what's so wrong with being disassembled into one's component elements and recycled asfertilizer? Personally, I think I'd get bored with myself sometime between now and eternity. Andwho wants to live this life based on the hope or fear of what might lie beyond it? Shouldn't wespend our time here making things as pleasant as possible for our descendants, rather thanwasting it on futile efforts to placate our egos? As Isaac Brock puts it: someday you will die somehow, and somethin's gonna steal your carbon.No human, to our collective knowledge, has ever escaped this fate – why are
so fuckingspecial that Jesus is going to come down from heaven to give you a perfect, immortal body?Think if you chant enough mantras, you'll become an ideal person, escape the cycle of birth &rebirth? Get over yourself. What a selfish crock of shit.If, however, you admit you don't know, and infer inductively (from the fact that many others, whohave no reason to lie, admit they don't either) that probably nobody does, then we've got a basisfor communication. Oh, you're scared of death? Me too. But we're both almost certainly going todie anyway (again according to good old inductive reasoning). So let's make the best of it and tryto leave this place at least as nice as we found it.Instead, though, we focus on preserving our lineages, on trying to make sure our children havean advantage over everyone else's children, on nations and fortunes and labels like “American”and “Christian”. We want to make sure, it seems, that succeeding generations grow up in theshadow of the same shibboleths which stood between us and the light, spend their lives chasingthe same vain hopes while denying the fundamentally obvious.Religion can sometimes offer a wonderful sense of perspective and immediacy. Humility andcharity and the attempt to be a better person are not futile practices. But far too many churches,far too often, get suspiciously worldly. When someone claims to represent God on Earth, thenfollows that up with a request for money, shouldn't a thinking person question it? Believing insomething and being a sucker do not have to go hand in hand.