all photos by Rebecca Claire, libfemblog.com (CANON EOS 700D) // all rights reserved
Last week I tweeted to tell you all I’d be releasing my E-book as a series of blog posts, which actually seems quite a backwards way to do it, perhaps it should have started off as blog posts and been transferred across to the Ebook format. Either way, you all get to enjoy this lengthy piece of writing I published on Amazon on Feb 1st 2016. Here is the first instalment which in the e-book was entitled…
CHAPTER ONE : AN OUTDATED CONCEPT…
I am an Atheist. When I die, my body will be put into a box and burned to ashes. My ashes will be scattered in a place of my choosing or planted as a tree or launched into space. My soul will not move on or follow the light. I will not be remembered much and I will not leave a lasting impression. I wish I had the faith to think otherwise but sadly, science and logic have proven there is little beyond the grave.
Like any other millennial I have spent much of my life wondering if it has any meaning or greater purpose. I have tried faith and I have tried faithlessness. I settled on logic. Having grown up in the Home Counties with middle class parents and a good education, my exposure to religion was average. I had peers who went to church or who prayed at school but I personally never felt any attachment to any one religion.
There were a few years where I would have called myself Agnostic, meaning I did believe in a higher power but not necessarily an all knowing, all seeing, creationist god. The reason I believed in such a higher power was to bring meaning to the otherwise seemingly coincidental and mundane events that made up my life.
“Only religious faith is a strong enough force to motivate such utter madness in otherwise sane and decent people”
(Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion)
There is a certain ignorance that I associate with people who take the bible in a literal sense and I have a whole world of respect for those who manage to interpret the bible in a more intellectual way. There are many religious people I have met who follow their belief structure strictly yet manage to live a healthy and normal life without judgement and without arrogance. These days I find more solace in Buddhism than any other organised religion but I wouldn’t call myself anything more than a fan of Buddha’s teachings.
Since Christianity (Catholicism mostly), Islam and Buddhism are the three in which I feel relatively knowledgeable about, these will of course be the main three organised institutions that I will discuss throughout this e-book. I have used examples, quotes and cases which show a side of religion that does not necessarily reflect the norm. The norm being my friend Alex who will open his home and his heart to anyone no matter their background or past. The norm being my colleague Farhana whose faith keeps a smile on her face day after day. The norm being my friend Mary whose god gives her a life with meaning and purpose.
While writing this e-book what I discovered is that fundamentally, religion is not bad. It is man who has interpreted ancient stories and ideologies to suit what they want out of them. It is man who is sick and twisted and in parts of the world uses religion for nothing other than power. Shortly after I realised this, I was watching Bill Mayer’s 2008 documentary Religulous (which you can find on Netflix) and while he was interviewing a couple of total nuts, he left them stunned by asking the following question
“Are you ever bothered by many things that are in Christianity that are not in the Bible? Like original sin. Immaculate conception. The virgin birth is only in two of the Gospels- popes. Are you worried that these things came not from the founders, the people that wrote this book, but from- and this is indisputable- but from men, from human beings who came after?”
To me religion very much feels like a totally outdated concept. If I had never heard of Christianity and I was approached by a man of God telling me there was a bloke in the sky who had created earth, man and animals, I’d tell him he was absolutely mad. Likewise, if I told him he was wrong and that the earth is in fact around 4.5 billion years old, he would tell me the same.
I’ve always thought of believing in god to be a little bit like believing in Santa Claus (hear me out;) for one, to believe in something that you’ve never seen, touched, heard or been shown proof of is enough for the concept of religion to seem absurd. Secondly, I figured out that the Tooth Fairy and Santa were made-up when I was seven years old. Seven. I realised that people had claimed to see miracles and Jesus and God in historical religious texts but in the entire history of the invention of video cameras, not one person had captured him.
What I don’t get is that as a species we have explored the earth, invented planes and boats and cars and we visit other countries who have other very similar religions. It’s so abundantly clear they have all derived from the same place. If there are many other religions out there, what could make someone conceited enough to think theirs is the right one?
That being said, I am in no way suggesting that anyone who does have a genuine belief in God or Jesus or Allah is only as intelligent as a seven-year-old. Religion is institutional therefore, if you’ve had these beliefs drilled into you from the minute you were born, you’re bound to take the word of your peers, government and parental figure/s. I mean, look at religious extremist groups like ISIS, they have managed to brainwash their people into genuinely believing that they are on their lord’s mission to murder non-believers. Now either these people were born 100% insane or they have been psychologically violated to the point of insanity. So those who follow the much more sane and actual Islamic beliefs are not being ridiculous because if the whole nation believed in Santa then it would be difficult to deny his existence.
Although we can never pinpoint the creation of religion, it is clear why such a thing came about. Long before the invention of the armed forces, police and prisons, those who held all the power needed a method of controlling their public. Rather than threatening their people, the institute of religion was born; the concept that you must live by a certain set of rules and morals to avoid a fate of an eternity in hell. It makes sense doesn’t it? Have your people afraid of a higher power that doesn’t exist so that they don’t steal from the corner shop or shag each other’s wives.
People like to think that things happen for a reason although logically they can’t and they don’t. We are so convinced that life needs meaning that we not only invented organised religion but we have continued to use it until the age of science and computers in which it has no real validity. This need for reason within random events is one of the major reasons that religion is still practiced. People certainly like to feel that they live in a just world. They like to think that bad things will come to those who deserve it but sadly they very often don’t and that’s why more atheists suffer from depression.
When I was eighteen a friend of my boyfriend at the time completely shot me down for saying that I was ‘agnostic’ (meaning I thought there was a higher power but perhaps not necessarily the so-called god that most religions name.) His point was very much valid though. His mum has died of cancer when he was young and he knew for certain that his mother was both a good person and did not deserve to die. He argued that if there was a god, a god who gave his mother life, gave him life, then her life certainly wouldn’t have been cut short by such an insidious disease.
“So strong is our need to believe in a just world (since otherwise we, too – through no fault of our own – might lose our job, our home, our health, our sanity, our child) that we yield to the more comfortable delusion that bad things happen to bad people.”
(Cordelia Fine- A Mind of Its Own)
This ‘just world’ theory very much applies to the conceptual existence of heaven and hell. The afterlife allows those who have continuously practiced their belief to believe they will receive a just reward while also feeling just in that those who haven’t will be punished with eternal misery. It’s kind of twisted when you think about it though, using scare tactics.
In this day and age we have the intellect, resources and manpower to police our streets and prevent crime with the fear of imprisonment rather than fearing the afterlife. Religion no longer benefits society in the way it did hundreds of years ago. It is in some senses one of the largest causes of war, misery and other vile practices like genital mutilation and hanging.
Religion, of course, has its benefits. As a young child, I was extremely envious of anyone who had an honest and real belief in any sort of religion. I just knew from a very young age that it was all a myth. But, to those who believe, it brings hope. It brings joy and faith and positivity to their lives. Some of the most generous and caring people I have ever known are people of god.
When I worked in my local shop as a teenager there was a regular customer who always used to make my day. He’d take the time out to talk to me whether I was serving him, unloading stock or organising a display. Sometimes he would have his wife with him and the two of them would stop and talk to me for a good quarter of an hour. They always made my (retrospectively short) shifts much more bearable and those fifteen minutes were full of smiles and laughter and goodbyes and god blesses. After a year or so of our regular chats, I was at one of my friends’ houses and when I entered their lounge I was surprised to find the pair of them sat there with their usual smiles on. From then on I loved visiting that particular friend at home and years later, they took me in when I had nowhere else to turn.
To really believe in something that you hadn’t seen and touched though, and to genuinely think that there is something waiting for you beyond this life is both so so beautiful yet so so tragic.
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