Friday, January 13, 2012

How religion taught me to hate

I was baptized as a Christian in the United Church of Canada, which probably is the most laid back, liberal, easy-going sect of Christianity you're likely to find. Anyone familiar with this church might find themselves wondering how in heck could a church that includes the marriage of same-sex couples teach anyone to hate. It's not anything specific in the teachings of Christianity, but rather is something inherent in religious belief itself, which I will explain in this blog post.

With Sunday School being my first exposure to education, I was taught to believe the basics of this religion, which were: 1) God created everything, 2) God is the one who is "In Charge" to cause things to happen (or not happen) as He sees fit and according to His plan, 3) God is a fair and just God, 4) We go to church to thank God for providing us with everything He created, 5) By virtue of going to church to sing the hymns and say the prayers that God likes to hear, God will be happy with us and answer our prayers delivered through Jesus Christ whenever we need something. Perfectly logical to a 4 year old mind.

I spent my early childhood believing in this. I would pray for something good, but maybe it didn't happen because maybe I wasn't good enough; so I was encouraged to become more pious. As it happens, I was a student of the public school system, which is, by it's nature, secular, and therefore inclusive of people from different beliefs, including those who have no religion. Advancing through the different grades exposed me to different people from different backgrounds. I had assumed that everyone held the same beliefs as I did, because that is what I was taught. Then I learned that there were people who didn't go to church, who didn't pray, and perhaps they didn't even believe in God, or if they did they showed no reverence for the almighty.

I assumed that these godless people lead empty, meaningless lives. They were probably the poor, the drug addicted, the sick and the lame. If only they believed in God like I did; if only they learned about being saved through Jesus Christ, maybe their lives would get better. I would pray for these people. Then a funny thing happened. I learned that there were other kids my age who did not believe and, by all outward appearances, were better off than I. When I say better off, I mean more than just money. These kids got better grades than I did, had more friends than I had, always seemed to get whatever they wanted, didn't have any issues or problems, and had all kinds of varying talents and much more freedom. They were creative and funny. They were all the things I wanted to be.

When a person is raised to believe that a fair and just God created everything and is the cause of things that do and don't happen, and when one is raised to believe that the act of going to church and paying reverence to this God is the path to happiness, and when one sees the success and happiness that one seeks in the outwardly godless, one becomes resentful and hateful towards the godless who are flaunting their good fortune. It's no different than, say, when a colleague in the workplace who's been obviously slacking off gets a promotion over you when you've been busting your butt for that same promotion. Except when it comes to God, it's worse because we can expect our bosses to make mistakes; they're only human. The Lord doesn't make mistakes, or so we're taught; it's our fault somehow, so the resentment becomes even greater.

There are tricks that religion plays when a believer feels this discontent. Perhaps the Lord is testing me and other believers by bestowing good fortune upon the unbeliever, but in the end, I will go to heaven and the heathen will burn in Hell! Or at least not get into heaven and just die; let the heathen have his good fortune now and I will have a greater reward later. Again, the natural outcome of this belief is hateful, malicious thoughts. It's completely unavoidable for the believer if they are going to continue to believe, and we see it time and again when certain sects of Christianity lash out at homosexuality, Atheists, and generally anything that causes them to feel less than what they believe their potential should be.

Many Christians today wear a thin veneer of love and understanding, but I've been inside the mind of a believer, because I was one. I know what goes on under that thin veneer. As an atheist, it's easy to accept that good things can happen to bad people, bad things can happen to good people, because there is no god in control of things. I do not feel bitter resentment at those who may be doing better than I in certain aspects of life, because, as an atheist, I am free to direct my life towards the goals I set for myself. I am no longer tormented with thoughts questioning whether or not a god is interfering with my affairs.

It's ironic that religion which is supposed to teach love and compassion has the opposite effect, and I feel sorry for those who are trapped in the hate-inducing cycles brought on by the unsatisfying circular logic offered by religion. Hopefully those people can find their way out of religion and away from the hateful thoughts inherent with their beliefs.

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