Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Religion in the Age of Intelligence

Religion – it is arguably one of the most heated topics out there. Its very mention can turn a pleasant conversation into a fiery debate. For centuries it has divided nations, and been the cause for many civil wars.

I want to start out by saying that this article is not going to attack any particular religion, or for that matter glorify one over another; I am not a preacher. What I will strive for is to explore my own thoughts on world religion, and how it relates to the 21st Century.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Ah yes, the famous first line found in Genesis 1 from the Bible. I’m referring to the central text of Christianity, a book that has sold so many copies the dudes who wrote it would be turning in their graves for not signing a publishing deal. From my limited understanding of the topic, the Bible is like a makeshift rulebook for a Christian. Followers read it, or go to church to hear someone read it to them, and then apply it to their lives. The wisdom found amongst its pages gives millions of people strength, hope, and often a newfound passion for life. So far so good right?

Let’s ponder this with a hypothetical. Imagine for the sake of argument that the year is 1970, and I am born into a poor family, living in a housing commission on the south side of Chicago. Throughout my youth I am involved in gangs; I sell drugs to get by, and eventually am arrested for being involved in an armed robbery. My life at this point seems to be at a low. However there is something that pulls me through the hard times. Luckily, I was raised to have faith in God, to never give up, and to believe that Jesus Christ is my saviour. Having knowledge that I believe in something good gets me through my jail sentence, and upon my release from prison I begin my new life as a carpenter (a skill I learnt whilst serving time). My life is now complete; I consider myself a happy man.

That was a nice story right? Yes, it was. I’m sure there are instances all over the world where people seek answers in there own God’s, and are able to turn their lives around because of it. But you know what? I wasn’t born on the south side of Chicago, growing up in the 1980s in the American Midwest – a place where there are churches everywhere, and the majority of people are Christian. Oh no my friends, I grew up in the 90s/00s in Australia, and didn’t go to church every Sunday. Furthermore to this point, I am a very sceptical person – and if a question is put to me I need an answer.

Sticking to the Christian faith (don’t worry, the others will get a mention soon), it is believed by many within this religion that on the first day God actually did create the heavens and the earth. According to them, God not only created the heavens and the earth, He created light and darkness, and called them “day” and “night”. I don’t want to be childish about this, so I won’t be. We all know, and a lot of Christians also know, that God actually didn’t possess a human form on Earth and say these things. They are more like folklore within the religion. The words shouldn’t be analysed as themselves, because that is too easy a way to attack Christianity.

However, I will say that even though there are many facets of the Christian faith that has sociological benefits, there are certain scientific claims that I just can’t let slide. Again from my limited knowledge, Christianity all started with Jesus of Nazareth, born sometime around 4 BC in Bethlehem. In the faith, Jesus is the son of God, and one part of the Holy Trinity. Some say he is the Messiah. I have no doubt that there was such a man named Jesus, or Yeshua, and that he did posses great wisdom. The time that he lived in though was very different to today; that was 2000 years ago, a time where disease wiped out entire villages. I don’t think anybody can obtain the state of mind people of Earth would have been in at this period. Just thinking about it blows my mind. So if there was the most influential personality living amongst me, with claims of being the son of God, I would believe him. Not only would I believe him, I would write about him, I would follow him wherever he may travel, and spread the word of his existence. And to see this man sacrifice himself for his cause that he truly believed, I would make sure to continue his legacy.

Now for the controversy – my own opinion is that that is what happened. I don’t know for sure, but either does anyone else. The same applies for many other religions, whether it be Hinduism, Islam, or Judaism. They are all beautiful and fascinating in there own right, and I love each and every one of my brothers and sisters of the world that places their spirituality in these narratives, symbols and ways of life. The only religion that I can connect with is Buddhism. I’m not going to go into why, because that should be reserved for a person with a greater knowledge and passion for the topic, but I can relate with many of its teachings.

Coming back to my earlier hypothetical, I believe that religion is a worthwhile factor for many communities. It can bring people together through the sharing of a common faith. I know many people who are brought up within this environment, and continue to believe in their Religion because it is their comfort zone – it is where all their family and friends are. My character from Chicago used his comfort zone to get out of jail, and turn his life around.

On the flip side of this coin, religion can be a very dangerous tool to brainwash people into either perpetuating their insanity, or to create terror organisations. I have been in many situations where people try and recruit me to their respective faith, a majority of the time this is Christianity given the size of its members. I understand their plight, but sometimes I just want to be left alone and go listen to Black Sabbath.

The year is 2009; we are almost at the end of the first decade of the 21st Century. The human race has come a long way since 4 BC. We are not necessarily more intelligent as someone who would have lived in those times, but the amount of information that is at our fingertips is endless. Even in the past 50 years our knowledge of the Universe we live in has expanded exponentially. There still exist wars, genocide, hunger, disease and poverty, but these things will never go away. We are humans, we are fucked up.

So let me end it. If you have faith in a particular religion, I’m happy for you. I want you to ask yourself a question though, is your faith your own? Do you think organised religion and the mixing of church and state is useful or detrimental to society? I am happy living my life without the burden of having to answer those questions. If we have love then organised religion shouldn’t be necessary. I am smart enough to know though that organised religion does exist, and it is here to stay.

Religion is a very complex topic, and shouldn’t be snarled at; make sure that you are in touch with yourself before you look for answers somewhere else, and all the pieces of the life puzzle will fall into place.

- Russell


  1. Nice write dude, its a tough task to talk seriously about religion without offending people. Good effort

    "If we have love then organised religion shouldn't be necessary"

    great quote right ther

  2. Yeah man I agree with Eden.

    I like this: "... make sure that you are in touch with yourself before you look for answers somewhere else, and all the pieces of the life puzzle will fall into place."

    I think that touches on buddhism nicely. I don't really know too much about it, but I'm of the understanding that Buddha was enlightened by 'looking for the answers within'.

  3. At that meditation camp I went to, they bring up a cool point about religion and devotion to a God or person. Jesus for example, 'the Son of God'. What is God? God is love, truth, compassion, forgiveness and joy. You cant disagree with that (whether he has human form and sits on the clouds bitter about what lucifer did back in the day is another point). But surely Jesus with all the good he did was the son of love, truth, compassion, forgiveness and joy. Even after being betrayed, tortured, humiliated and abandoned, and literally hung out to die, he still asks God to forgive them cos they know not what they do.

    Now if this is the same dude that inspires people to go to the funeral of a gay soldier and condemn him to hell for his sins then I think that something went wrong when they read the Bible...

  4. Very cool article, we have to let our life experiences answer the questions sometimes. Its sad when people start seeing their reality as truer than someone elses.

  5. dat shyt was tight mang

  6. religion, religion it's nowt more important than a pigeon. all you need is the beatles - rm.