The True Thief

The True Thief October 26, 2021

A wise man (who may have been either a fictional or composite character) once said, “the thief is come to steal, kill, and destroy, but I am come that they may have life and have it more abundantly.”

Before I unpack this, a little backstory…

When I was a young minister of “the gospel,” I was taught that this thief was “satan,” or “the devil.” This was my working understanding of this for many years and it made sense — or, at least I made it make sense — at the time. I mean, who else would be stealing from you, killing you, or otherwise destroying you.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), the wheels came off this understanding once I ventured into inclusionism and, later, universalism. Once I realized that hell was a figment of the religious imagination, I soon recognized that “the devil” was equally fictitious. 

So, if this “thief” isn’t “the devil,” who (or what) could it be?

When you look in the neighborhood of this verse (John chapter 10 — and I don’t quote “scripture, anymore), there is no talk of any spiritual adversary. It does, however talk about the priesthood and its supporting apparatus. When I read the bible and see structure around anything spiritual, I detect the stench of my nemesis: religion.

Yes, friends, religion is the thief, here. It took me a minute to recognize it but I’m fully persuaded that is it. Now, I’m no longer wont to ascribe any substance to the bible, I do recognize — like a clock is right twice a day — that there are truths to be discerned.

Please note, I said “truths,” not “truth.” If you’re still on the whole “the bible is the inerrant ‘word of god’” trip, this will, undoubtedly, rub you the wrong way. However, if you see the book as a collection of allegory, metaphor, and myth, you’ll catch my drift.

I don’t read the bible anymore but, when I last did, I saw the book divided into two parts — the first being humanity’s establishment of religion, ostensibly, to please god because we were separated from god and, the second, the story of one dude who saw past the religious B.S. and illustrated how humanity was never separated from god (assuming there is a god).

I believe religion exists only for one purpose: manipulation and control. If you can convince people there’s a higher moral authority than any in humanity, you can threaten them with punishment of an otherworldly nature. Through this, you are not only able to control people’s behavior but their very thoughts!

Process this: if you sexually assault someone (and get caught), you will likely find yourself at the business end of the criminal justice system and be subject to the full extent of human law. But if you even THINK about something sexual (not even assault), you run the risk of eternal judgment. And since no one really knows what happens to spirit and soul after death, it makes for a very efficient stick to dangle the carrot of “blessing” from.

Religion is very good at theft. It steals money, time, and joy. It extracts a huge penalty from the mere act of living. Religion engenders fear but demands faith. It creates a problem then sells a cure. Religion demands strict obedience and corresponding action. It steals logic and reason and convinces you that “faith” is an adequate substitute. Think about it, church is the only institution of learning from which you are never expected to graduate from. It is essential that you consistently submit yourself to the teaching of religion, otherwise you’ll never realize how “broken” you are and how desperately you need “fixing” or “saving.”

Lather. Rinse. Repeat. ’Til death do us part.

Religion is also an efficient killer. Through religion, many of the most heinous crimes against humanity have been committed. In the name of religion, inquisitions, purges, and “witch trials” have been performed without remorse. People have been murdered for “blasphemy” and “heresy.” Religion has been a cause or catalyst of many of the world’s conflicts, too. 

Most of all, religion is a destroyer. It has destroyed families and even entire civilizations. Through things like the enslavement of African people and Aboriginal genocide in the Americas and Australia, entire populations have been decimated and their cultures cast into the dustbin of history.

Bear this in mind, thieves act with subtlety. This is why religion is so successful. It lures you in by promising but — more often than not — failing to deliver blessings and favor in the temporal realm and incarcerates you with the promise of an afterlife exceeding anything you can imagine in this life.

But something extraordinary is happening. Humanity is now seeing religion for the subtle deciever, horrible taskmaster, and powerless bully it is. 

I frequently say the if what you believe cannot withstand a simple google search, it ain’t worth believing. And while the brunt of my pushback is toward christianity, this can be applied to any religion. Pretty much any religion can be picked apart online with a modicum of effort.

I believe humanity is on the cusp of a new age of enlightenment. This age is driven by information and a thirst for empirical, concrete knowledge. Indeed, this desire for knowledge will be the gatekeeper and information will be the tool through which ignorance is repelled. A robust gatekeeper and sophisticated weaponry is what is needed to keep the thief at bay.

Consider this, the concept of gods came forth when humanity was incapable of explaining natural phenomenon. This was further expressed when humanity was at a loss when it comes to what happens after death. Now, there are some that believe that religion serves a purpose by giving humanity something to believe in that’s bigger and beyond itself. I counter that our ever-increasing understanding of nature — particularly things like quantum mechanics — gives us a better understanding of nature and gives us a glimpse into the unseen, or what we deem to be “supernatural.”

This is the “I AM” that gives abundant life. When we discover that it is not anything external but what we innately possess, we find the key to fulfillment. Everlasting life is simply understanding that life, as energy, has neither beginning nor end and cannot be destroyed. When you discover your own “I AM,” you understand your very being, which will unlock the full range of potential of your own divine humanity. 

The next step in the advancement of humanity will not come in a single leap but in a series of baby-steps into the unknown. However, what is not known is possible to be known by application of scientific method and reason. This next step will render the superstitious both irrelevant and ignorant. There will be no need for such pithy concepts such as “spiritual warfare” when we are able to glean understanding of these things.

Once we take this step, we will not only stop the thief in its tracks but reclaim all that the thief has stolen from humanity. And what a glorious day that will be!

Derrick Day is the author of Deconstructing Religion. He is also one of the co-hosts of the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast and the host of The Forward Podcast on the One Institution Media Network. More recently, Derrick is a contributor to the new book, Before You Lose Your Mind, published by Quoir.

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