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Friday, April 10, 2009

Enough Already!

Semana Santa, holy week means lots of religion, lots of processions, lots of people actually going to church (for the first time all year for most Spaniards, I would assume), and lots of the Pope on television. There are still quite a few nominally Catholic people in Spain, although they aren’t really believers, and many are probably outright atheists. The problem is that traditions—especially those that have been around for centuries—die slowly. A lot of folks just pay lip service to religion rather than take a stand opposing it. They will cross themselves automatically when entering a church, even for reasons of tourism. It’s the way they were brought up, it was the way I was brought up, but that doesn’t mean that is the way it should be.

To my credit, I have never, ever believed in God or Jesus or life after death. My first thoughts on the subject steered me towards atheism as I felt that any other concept was just too farfetched if not totally crazy. Virgin births (the idea for which came about because of a faulty translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew to Greek), miracles (your miracle is my coincidence), rising from the dead (sure thing, pal), and all of the rest of the stories told to me in my forced religious education just didn’t sit well with the skeptical nature I inherited. My parents insisted that I attend Catholic mass very Sunday and I was also coerced into weekly religious indoctrination called catechism. Catechism was the absolute most boring education I have ever endured in my entire life. I was so bored during catechism that I often felt like fainting. I was too bored to even challenge the stupidity of Catholic doctrine or the tenets of Christianity. I just wanted it all to end.

My father died when I was 15 years old and I never attended mass or went to catechism again. I had stopped going to mass years before his death when I just lied to my parents and told them I was going to the 09:300 mass on Sundays. They always went to the mass at 11:00. I would skip out of the house at 09:30 and go play baseball, ice skate, or do whatever the hell was in season at the time. When they went off to church I would come home and watch television with my thug buddies from the neighborhood, and perhaps my younger brother who was at least as big of an apostate as I. This was when I discovered the movies of the Marx brothers. Later it was kung fu theater. It sure beat the hell out of the Catholic mass, but that’s not saying much. Mowing the grass was better than going to mass.

Not only have I never believed in god, but I refuse to acknowledge organized religion’s authority in any matter having to do with the individual. Even Spain is supposed to be a secular state although they still grant a lot of weight to Catholic matters. Back in America freedom of religion should mean freedom from religion, if that is what you choose. As an atheist I have been asked to give countless prayers to a god that doesn’t mean a damn thing to me. I have never coerced anyone into considering just how stupid their religious beliefs are if they were to only give them a cursory inspection. I resent people who say that atheism is a religion. That is a stupid statement and it’s like saying that not collecting stamps is a hobby (not my quote, unfortunately).

I recently watched a BBC series called Francesco’s Mediterranean Voyage about a Venetian retracing an ancient trade route from his city to Istanbul. I loved all of the scenery as I had lived in this corner of the Mediterranean during my Air Force days. What I didn’t understand is how a modern, supposedly educated man can give lip service to all of the religious bullshit that has been handed down to us for centuries. The host, Francesco, talked about supposed miracles and seemed way too impressed by the might of the church throughout the Venetian dynasty that lasted over a century starting in 700 a.d. I hated how he crossed himself upon entering ancient churches built with the blood of medieval peasants. He is about my age and still holds up as truths a lot of stuff I never believed in as a four year old.

I think that it’s way past time for educated, modern men and women to stop pretending to respect the Bronze Age myths of the major religions (or the even dumber creations of Mormons or whoever). This means we need to stop ourselves from laughing out loud whenever the Pope shows up dressed like whatever the hell he dresses like. This means not taking seriously people who spew insane religious doctrine—and most religious doctrine is insane. This means not allowing religion to pollute the minds of our young people by accepting religious censorship in scientific education. This means having rational people finally saying, “Enough already, there is no such thing as angels or saints or miracle, just like there is no such thing as leprechauns or ghosts. One person’s religious procession during holy week is my idea of crazy people dressing up in stupid costumes. I’d rather wait for the Gay Pride parade if I want to see outrageous behavior and funny get ups.

I only wish that I had used my time in a more useful manner as a child rather than waste away hours and mind-numbingly boring hours reading bible stories. I fantasize now about a childhood spent reading about the absolute wonders of evolution. Instead of the Bible I could have been taught stories from Richard Dawkins’ The Ancestor’s Tale about the true origin of life on our planet. Of course, that book wasn’t around when I was a kid but I pray that there are some parents today wise enough to inculcate their children into the beautiful world of natural science instead of the foolishness of religion.