Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Root of All Evil

British scientist Richard Dawkins made a two-part documentary titled The Root of All Evil? in which he looks at religion -- particularly fundamentalist religion -- as possibly being evil, or, more like a predatory virus corrupting and warping our world, rather than making it a better place.

What came through in a number of the interviews Dawkins conducted with zealous adherents to Christianity, Judaism and Islam, is that some people -- more than we'd care to realize -- follow society's laws and refrain from such things as murder and stealing, only because they fear hell, or that they have a holy book that expressly forbids such actions (though usually condones such actions in selective, abitrary cases).

Reader of this blog, why do you not murder? Why do you not steal or maim people?

I'm pretty much an atheist, and believe adherence to any religious text -- any single text of any kind, really -- is a sign of fear in a person, a sign weakness; it is that person clutching to irrationality because they cannot face rational reality.

I don't murder people because murder is wrong. How do I know murder is wrong? What tells me murder is wrong? The notion of it just feels wrong. Sure, I get angry with people, frustrated and mortally disappointed, but the idea of actually murdering the person who fires such feelings in me is not something that enters my mind.

I'm aware that murder exists. If I were being attacked, or my family was in danger, I would take my shillelagh and flog the gray matter out of any miscreant's head. Self-defense is not murder. Allowing yourself to be murdered is as irrational as committing murder. Any fool knows this.

To kill someone because they believe something I don't believe is utterly ridiculous. A mindset that embraces such thinking cannot even be called primitive, but truly other.

Stealing? Well, I'd hate it someone stole from me. Yeah, I'm an atheist but I can certainly appreciate the wisdom in the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." I also believe that people reap what they sew. But generally, I don't steal because it's wrong. The same intangible something that tells me murder is wrong tells me stealing is wrong, too. When there is some object that I really want and cannot afford, I save my money and wait to buy it. Not because I'm virtuous or afraid of jail or hell, but because for the most part, I like how our society works.

If you actually wanted to commit crimes, you would likely go uncaught and unpunished. A police officer once wrote to me after reading one of my books. He and I met for coffee and had a great chat. He told me that if people saw how close to actual anarchy our city streets were, no one would sleep at night. He said that the only thing keeping us from sinking into a complete lawless free-for-all is that most people simply choose to obey the laws.

So, what keeps you in line? Fear? Virtue?


An O, so interesting postscript to Richard Dawkins' documentary is that he interviewed evangelist Ted Haggard regarding Haggard's views on evolution vs. creationism. Haggard did his phoney-smiling-best to appear magnanimous while indulging Dawkins' admission to being an atheist, then did his furrowed-brow-best to appear forthright when chiding Dawkins to not be arrogant in his views. Of course footage from Haggard's sermons was predictably interwoven showing him literally dictating to his flock what to think and what drone back to him in response to his rhetorical questions during services.

With regard to the accusations made against Haggard, he has gone from completely denying that he carried on a three-year homosexual relationship with a male prostitute, and that he imbibed methamphetamines to now admitting the male prostitute gave him a massage and that he, Haggard, purchased methamphetamines from him -- which he then threw away.

I wish that Haggard would just own up to his own evolution and be whatever it is that he is. If he's homosexual, cool, be homosexual. If he's straight and strays, that's between him and his family. But if he is going to posture as some kind of moral compass for his community and literally preach at his flock how to live, he might consider getting his own shit together first.

At the end of the day Haggard proves my belief that these conservative moral titans have multifarious skeletons in their closets. They make the attempt to set themselves above those around them and dictate codes of morality they themselves cannot live up to. They are hypocrites to the core, screeching about family values and "character" during every goddamned election. Meanwhile, they have neither.

So, Ted Haggard, Godspeed my publicly flayed man. You're reaping what you have sewed.

I hope the man addresses the log in his own eye and stops making a career out of tending to specks in the eyes of others.

1 comment:

Jackson's Scraps said...


Please forgive me saying that I read your blog RELIGIOUSLY. ;)

We disagree about the existence of God, I am definitely in the FAITH camp, but I also find myself in your camp when it comes to the hypocrisy of fundamentalists who project an image for themselves of holy superiority, speaking in stentorian tones to their congregants and the world at large while secretly getting their monkey spanked at the local 'crack/bath-house.' They are a twisted and wretched lot, more in need of 'salvation' themselves than the preaching of it. I long ago forsook organized religion because of the scourge they bring to the table, happy to humbly commune with God in my own prayer closet, at home, with no middle men to distract, but a bottle of good wine handy. Yeah, I drink with God quite a bit. It's better than drinking alone.

Great blogging, Matt. As always.