Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Essence of Religion

What is the essence of religions

You might consider the answer to be "God" (or "a unique, all-powerful God with no equals or superiors," if you were feeling pedantic and were describing a monotheistic religion).

You might consider the answer to be "faith," where faith is defined as the belief in something despite lack of evidence or even in the face of evidence to the contrary.


Some might dispute that definition of faith, although it is essentially how faith was defined by the fathers of the early Christian church.

You do not need faith to believe in observable facts. For instance, you believe that you are reading this post on a computer monitor; you do not need faith in order to believe that.

Nor do you need faith to believe something that you have previously observed and have reason to believe still exists. When I last visited the toilet I observed that the bowl was undamaged (and needed cleaning); in the absence of the sounds of an explosion coming from the direction of the toilet I have every reason to believe that the bowl is still undamaged (and in the absense of the sounds of anyone else in my home I have every reason to believe it still needs cleaning).

You need faith to believe in something for which there is no evidence. Like God, angels, the tooth fairy, the easter bunny, etc.

Even more so, you need faith to believe in something which is contradicted by the evidence. It is said by religious people that God sometimes answers prayers. They cite as evidence the fact that people with cancer undergo remissions after they have prayed (but usually make no mention of the fact that the person was also undergoing medical treatment for the cancer). They cite even more enthusiastically cancers which go into spontaneous remission (with no medical treatment) after prayer, however it was known hundreds of years ago that some cancers go into remission if a person suffers an infectious disease (this is a promising form of treatment that became neglected once pharmaceutical companies grew large enough to suppress it). However, no matter how hard and how often they pray, God has never healed any amputees. You therefore need faith to believe that God heals people who pray, and faith to ignore the fact that God apparently hates amputees.

To put it bluntly, faith is believing the unbelievable. And religious people do this because they have been brainwashed into believing that they must believe in God and Heaven or else they will face eternal punishment in Hell (which they are also brainwashed into believing). And what is such brainwashing also known as? Thought control.

And there you have it. The very essence of religion is thought control. Without years of brainwashing as impressionable children, most adults would no more believe in God and Heaven than they would in Santa Claus. Yet, as children, they saw actual evidence for the existence of Santa. The reason they no longer believe in Santa is that past a certain age their parents revealed the truth and stopped brainwashing them. Religions never stop brainwashing their faithful because they cannot afford to lose people from their congregation nor to lose pennies from the collecting plate. Without constant reinforcement, people would start to wonder if what they've been brainwashed into believing is a crock of shit.

Once you realize that the essence of religion is thought control, you understand that religions don't have to have a God. In fact there are at least three main categories of religion, which differ in when the bulk of their rewards are supposed to appear:

  • God-based religions. Although you may get immediate rewards (like being healed if you pray, except it's nothing more than coincidence), the real reward comes after you die. Since nobody ever comes back from years of being dead to say how good Heaven is (or how bad Hell is) the faithful believe in the scam. You do the church's bidding, and contribute to its coffers, in order that you will go to Heaven. You'll never know it's a scam because you'd have to be dead to benefit and once you're dead you cease to exist.

  • Tyrannies such as Communism. The rewards here may come in your lifetime (if the next 5-year-plan goes as promised) but if not then you are engaged in a heroic struggle so that your children will benefit. You do the regime's bidding in order that your children will, perhaps not in your lifetime, benefit. Again, you'll be dead before you learn that it's a scam and that your children will be no better off (and possibly worse off) than you were.

  • Psychiatry. The reward is meant to appear in your own lifetime. But psychotherapy is never-ending (at least if you're rich and paying for it). The illusion of reward is always there, you just have to work a bit harder at it. Of course, for the recalcitrant cases there is electro-shock treatment, mind-numbing pharmaceuticals and lobotomy to reduce them to drooling idiots capable only of uttering the divine mantra of psychotherapy: "Me happy. Psychiatrists good!"

Thought control, necessary to make you believe the unbelievable. Rational people of the world unite and throw down your bibles and communist manifestos: you have nothing to lose but your gullibility.

Oh, and cancel your psychiatrist appointment too: a statistical study showed that the same percentage of people recovered from mental health problems whether they had psychiatric treatment or not. One possibility is that all those who recovered with psychiatric treatment would also have recovered without it, therefore psychiatric treatment is unnecessary except for the financial benefit of psychiatrists. The other possibility is the psychiatry managed to help some of those who would not have recovered without treatment but also damaged an equal percentage who would have recovered without psychiatric treatment. Either way, psychotherapy is yet another religion the world is better off without.


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