The Power of Religion

Yesterday I penned a very difficult post that allowed me to maintain my commitment to writing about my battle with a psychological disease.  It did not take long for a true, true believer to say something we all could have predicted.

The good thing about my G-d is that I have someone that I can turn to when things overwhelmed me, when my demons came out and wanted satisfaction, I know that I could not help myself, but I can call out to Him and my life focus changes…Where do you turn for help? yourself? you already said that you are flawed, as are we all humans. No one ever cares for you like Jesus. He dealt with inner demons in one simple way He took them out with a brick through their window with His blood on it and they leave….permanently, no warranty work needed.

Understandably, several people jumped on him for his insensitivity.  I did not.  Not initially.

If what he believes is true, then he is offering me a cure.  His intentions are as good as yours or mine.  Of course, what he believes is not true, and so he’s not helping.  Instead, he’s capitalizing on another person’s suffering to spread a position that cannot be spread through evidence or sound argument and so must be thrust on the emotionally weak or the mentally underdeveloped (read: children).  He is a predator.

This is the problem with religion.  It allows people to stick their evangelistic thumb into a wound and think they’re helping.

It allows people to oppose equal rights for others…and think they’re helping.

It allows people to fly airplanes into skyscrapers…and think they’re helping.

This is not to say that good intentions are irrelevant.  After all, we must want to be reasonable before we can be reasonable.  But good intentions by themselves, absent the influence of reason, are not enough to make somebody a good person.  In fact, good intentions unchained from rationality are frequently perilous to ourselves and to the world we all share.  It is the doorway to well-meaning madness.

And that is the problem with religion, not that it corrupts people’s intentions, but that it corrupts their reason and thus often makes predators (or even monsters) of otherwise good people, like the callous commenter who saw opportunity in the wake of my agony.

Now let’s talk about his comment…

Where do I turn for help if not to an  invisible man who cannot be bothered to show up?  I turn to flesh and blood human beings I can see, hug, and talk to.  I turn to professionals employing the sum of human knowledge surrounding the operation of the brain.  Did you really need to ask?

you already said that you are flawed, as are we all humans.

And so we are, and so we can only do the best we are able.  But a material friend and all their virtues as a person with a willing shoulder for me to cry on, however flawed, is a damn sight better than an empty room and prayer.

No one ever cares for you like Jesus.

Oh stuff it.

Jesus has never held my hand while I shook.  He has never hauled me out of my house, cooked something, and forced me to eat it.  He has never dragged me to the doctor kicking and screaming to get the medicine that wound up saving my life.  He did not invent that medicine.  I have enemies that care for me like Jesus.

The care of Jesus is indistinguishable from neglect.  You should have a higher opinion of the care you deserve.

He dealt with inner demons in one simple way He took them out with a brick through their window with His blood on it and they leave….permanently, no warranty work needed.

Read the comments of the post you chimed in on.  Read of all the people who had a mental illness and were told to give their problems to Jesus and subsequently suffered much longer than they should have before giving their problems to a doctor.  If what you say is true, then Jesus must really love you and he must really hate them.

Which goes hand in hand with what I was saying earlier.  What you call help, in this case, is actually harm.  You’re prescribing a placebo effect in place of something that will actually help, and so you’re keeping sick people sick.  This necessarily makes you and your beliefs the enemy of compassion, and thereby makes them my enemy.  It has transformed what could be gratitude for your care into contempt for you as an agent of human suffering.

This is the ‘power’ of religion.

  • Aliasalpha

    The true power of religion is unity. It inspires us all to gather together as one and say “Check out that godbotherer, what a dickhead”

    • Nick Johnson

      Unity for the in group. Blind, rage-filled hatred for everyone else.

  • J

    This is an absolutely potent post. Most of yours are, actually. You slice through the crap and make them smell it like no-one else.

    [Lurker saying thanks.]

  • Nick Johnson

    Jesus gave me far more pain and mental anguish than he ever did any sort of solace or hope. I would not know if I have ever had any sort of mental illness because I’ve never been to a doctor to be evaluated. I can say this though, I have struggled through a lot of crap in my life and every time I turned to Jesus nothing happened or it just got worse. When you realize that you have to rely on things that are real, like people, life gets so much better.

  • VeritasKnight

    JT…if you ever make a “best of” section, this post simply must go in it.

  • Ganner

    A very great post. I really like the personal perspective of your blog.

  • Sithrazer

    This is not to say that good intentions are irrelevant.

    There is a proverb that I quite like, despite its religious overtones, which this reminded me of. ‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions.’

  • comicsan12pt

    “This is the problem with religion. It allows people to stick their evangelistic thumb into a wound and think they’re helping.
    It allows people to oppose equal rights for others…and think they’re helping.
    It allows people to fly airplanes into skyscrapers…and think they’re helping.
    This is not to say that good intentions are irrelevant. After all, we must want to be reasonable before we can be reasonable.”

    I beg to differ. Religion doesn’t make it ok to stick any evangelical thumbs anywhere any more than atheism allows one to lump all religious into one group. I have struggled with mental illness for longer than most of your readers have been alive. I take my meds. I study physics. Jesus doesn’t make excuses for me when i screw up. The only reason why i’m still walking around is due to a pretty good therapist who showed me how to handle a lot of what i would face.

    The guy who wrote to you wouldn’t have made it my crowd either.

    Reasonable and religious are not mutually exclusive terms no matter how much some would like to believe they are. I am not opposed to fighting fundamentalism in all its hydra heads. But i do take issue with being painted as unreasonable, unscientific and harmful. I take issue with being told i oppose equal rights (the biggest proponents i know for separation of church and state are religious). Mostly, however, i oppose being lumped together with people whose parents didn’t teach them a general sense of respect for people and knowledge.

    All i ask is a general acknowledgement that not all religious are unreasonable and i’ll keep from saying all atheists are angry white men who need a course in feminism.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      “All i ask is a general acknowledgement that not all religious are unreasonable”

      Give me a good reason to believe in god and you’ll get it. Until I see a religious person produce a good reason to be religious, you won’t.

      You might be a smart person. You may be reasonable about a lot of subjects. Kudos. But I assert, without apology, that you are failing your obligation to reason on the subject of god.

      Like I said, there is an easy way to relieve me of this opinion. Go for it.

      • comicsan12pt

        I’m not asking you to believe in god. I’m asking for respect as a human being regardless of my beliefs-what i have been taught by my religion to give to you. I’m not reasoning about god because i have a fairly untraditional, evolutionistic view of the whole thing. I, frankly, have less interest in what you believe and more interest in how what you believe makes you behave. I just feel that if your atheism makes you bigoted, it’s not really progress.

        • John-Henry Beck

          I think you’re conflating some things.
          If you’re believing in some invisible sky daddy, then you’re not being scientific or reasoning, even if you are generally scientific and reasoning about other things.

          And that’s not bigotry. Nor is JT’s original post.

          Making an exception for believing one thing without a good reason opens the door to believing other things without a good reason. There also tends to be other beliefs following from the first. And those lead to problems as your beliefs conflict with reality and so your actions end up causing harm even despite intent.

    • VeritasKnight

      “All atheists are angry white men who need a course in feminism.”

      I think Jen McCreight, Ophelia Benson, Rebecca Watson, et. al may disagree.

      Also: http://www.blaghag.com/2010/01/large-list-of-awesome-female-atheists.html

      • comicsan12pt

        Veritas, I don’t really think that. I was using it as an example of the stereotype of atheism-just as lack of reason is a stereotype for religious people. Thanks for letting me clarify the point.

        • Noah the epistemic pinata

          Veritas, I don’t really think that. I was using it as an example of the stereotype of atheism-just as lack of reason is a stereotype for religious people. Thanks for letting me clarify the point.

          There is such a strong history of atheist-feminist thought that the “angry white men” stereotype is ridiculous. I mean this literally: the concept should be ridiculed. If you are an American, you should at least be familiar with historical figures like Susan B. Anthony and Margaret Sanger. Or take a few minutes and enjoy all of the atheist-feminist blogs here.

          As for the “stereotype” of the religious as unreasonable, supernatural and/or spiritual beliefs are a feature of religion. It’s included in most definitions.

          From Princeton Wordnet:

          a strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny.

          From Google:

          the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods

          If you have not discovered any logical or empirical evidence for the existence of the supernatural and/or spiritual, then a theist position doesn’t come across as particularly reasonable. As JT mentioned earlier, you need a reason to believe. So yeah, absent a reasonable argument for the veracity of religion, it makes sense to say that the religious are unreasonable.

  • quantheory

    This is such an annoying thing about Christianity. I’m more mentally healthy now than I ever was as a believer. And yet, if I ever talk about my mental health issues around the wrong people, there’s always the concern that they are going to perceive a connection between those issues and my “loss of faith”.

    Of course, the reason that I can talk about said issues is that I understand them better and take them seriously now, something that wasn’t possible under a moralizing, faith-and-discipline-cures-all Christian worldview. It is, no pun intended, maddening.

  • Anonymous

    “He has never hauled me out of my house,
    cooked something, and forced me to eat it. He has never dragged me to the doctor
    kicking and screaming to get the medicine that wound up saving my life.”

    Considering your negative reaction to an establishment offering financial incentive for attending church, it seems inconsistent that you would really appreciate this kind of forceful violation of your rights.

    • JT Eberhard

      Say what?

      • Noah the epistemic pinata

        The commenter is implying that if Jesus really did look out for you, you would complain about religious intervention.

        Would you really appreciate it if Mace Windu, Aayla Secura, and Luke Skywalker broke into your house in the middle of the night, put you in a rucksack, carried you off, and force-fed you?

        Personally, I’m not entirely sure how I would feel if Poseidon suddenly showed up one morning and cooked me an omelette. On the other hand, I’m not too worried about it.

  • comicsans12pt

    So because I believe in a “sky daddy” or a flying spaghetti monster, I am allowed to be subject to accusations of not believing in equal rights and flying airplanes into buildings? Excuse me if I can’t see how that is not bigotry, and that maybe I should start looking for pogroms. 

    • Compuholic

      I assume you are a perfectly reasonable person in pretty much all other part of life. But when it comes to believing in a god you are most definitely not. I don’t think anyone here suggested that you would fly airplanes into buildings but we did suggest a connection between religion and such actions.

      Ask yourself the following question: What motivated the people why flew the planes? They genuinely believed that what they were doing was God’s will and that they would be rewarded in an afterlife. That is precisely the thing we are talking about here.

      Not all religious people will actually do those things. Most of them (probably like you) are perfectly nice people. But religion provides a path that allows them to justify evil things.

      And since you are believer, you most likely believe in some sort of afterlife. A belief that is completely irrational but nevertheless has real world impact on your actions. If those actions are good or bad is not the point. The point is that your actions are in fact influenced by it.

      maybe I should start looking for pogroms. …And save your Godwin and take the paranoia out with your therapist.

    • Consters

      I’m not sure what everyone else who would say to your question but here’s what I would say about it:

      First of all, usually bigotry comes in the form of attacking or stereotyping people in a group simply being in that group. What we’re trying to attack here are ideas that a group of people by definition have. It’s not bigotry to attack ideas. Yes, we’re are saying that if you carry the belief of a “sky daddy” there is some baggage with that idea that points to the accusations you wish to move away from.

      If you are a part of any of the Abrahamic religions, you are by definition saying that you believe in such holy books that not only advocate for the existence of a “sky daddy” but also such things such as not believing in equal rights by virtue of the verses in them. Even if you are not a part of those religions, unless you have some evidence for you belief in a “sky daddy”, you are saying that believing without evidence is an acceptable and/or respectable position even for questions as important as what created the universe. If you can do it to believe in a “sky daddy” then others indirectly get license to use belief without evidence in other things such as flying planes into buildings.


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