WASN’T it hilarious how World Youth Day was an attempt to make Catholicism appear all modern and trendy, but what it achieved was to highlight how deluded and anachronistic the religion is?
The cavernous gap between the fresh-faced young teenagers and the old blokes in frocks and party hats was never more apparent than when the words “pilgrim” and “texting” were used in the same sentence. Repeatedly.
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I had to laugh when I heard that “Ratzinger Rules” had been spray-painted on the Hyde Park War Memorial. And when I saw pilgrims chanting, “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Oi! Oi! Oi!” I can’t help wondering how the teenage pilgrims coped with their hormones and no condoms and what the consequences will be in a few weeks’ time.
The fusion of wild youth and religious rapture is a complicated reality. A complicated reality I assume was responsible for the GOD ROCKS! graffiti I saw on an old stone church yesterday.
I don’t give a stuff what people believe in, but it won’t stop me poking at it or prodding it. Why should religion be any exemption? Telling me I’m going to hell won’t bother me because I have the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the Invisible Pink Unicorn and Bertrand Russell’s Teapot in my heart. Google them if you are in the market for some red hot enlightenment.
Over the past couple of weeks Catholic-bashing has been elevated to the level of an extreme sport. Put your hand down at the back there, I’m allowed to. I spent every Sunday for the first 18 years of my life sitting in a medieval torture chamber listening to a bloke bang on about his imaginary friend who did magic tricks. Then the next 20 years massaging, editing and pruning the brainwashing into something that fit until suddenly I woke up one day and realised I was an atheist.
I wasn’t searching for anything. I wasn’t dabbling or questioning. I wasn’t having any kind of spiritual breakdown. I just opened my eyes one day, looked around and realised that I had once been standing in a house and one by one the walls had collapsed and there was no longer a house there. I was standing out in the open. It was very liberating.
Funny though. For a while I would go to pray and then remind myself that I didn’t believe. These days I send out wishes. I know, just as crazy.
I question some of my progressive, believing mates about if they believe in Noah’s ark, the Immaculate Conception, Adam and Eve, the Resurrection, even heaven, and they squirm a little and try to change the subject. They get vague, defensive and then start muttering something about faith and mystery and a power of love that unites us all.
Sure, it would be easy to torture them, but they’re adults and it’s their life. I just can’t see why it’s so difficult to have a rigorous discussion about it. I feel no need to convert them. I just want them to know that if you are brave enough to place your hand through the invisible electric fence there’s a bigger world beyond.
It’s been a revelation to me a year since my “epiphany”. I feel as if I’m walking through life with the blinkers off. Suddenly all the religious mumbo-jumbo jumps out as so bonkers. Wearing certain things, eating certain things, mumbling certain things at certain times so some imaginary friend will let you into a club in the sky when you die. I want to do my living now, thanks. I’m not afraid of dying. I’m afraid of never having lived.
There is a school of thought that suggests atheists should not call themselves atheists but just say we apply rational thought to everything and religion is no exception.
As Sam Harris, author of The End Of Faith, puts it, “I think that ‘atheist’ is a term that we do not need, in the same way that we don’t need a word for someone who rejects astrology.
“We simply do not call people ‘non-astrologers’. All we need are words like ‘reason’ and ‘evidence’ and ‘common sense’ and ‘bullshit’ to put astrologers in their place, and so it could be with religion.”
I don’t care what people believe in, but I do care that religion impacts on political discourse, public policy and that it stunts the ability of people to think for themselves and question. And that it kills people and causes suffering. But most of all I care that the invisible electric fences that are wired in the minds of children brainwashed by religion are difficult to remove. And impossible if you don’t even know they’re there.
A quote attributed to Stephen F. Robert sums it up for me: “We are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”
Peace be with you.