This I Believe

Kendall - Williamsport, Pennsylvania
Entered on October 19, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
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This I believe: Religion is the worst invention of mankind

I believe that religion is the worst invention of mankind. When I was a young child, my grandmother stopped me from playing with some friends of mine. After asking her why, she told me they were Jehovah’s Witnesses. This meant absolutely nothing to me, but to her, my playmates and their ilk were undesirable. Her reason was that they believed differently than we did.

By the time I was old enough to vote, I had witnessed many curiosities concerning religion. I saw kids being forced to go to church. I had friends who were forced to memorize Arabic verses from the Quran. They didn’t know what they were saying in English. Incredibly, their parents didn’t care as long as they parroted the words. In high school there was a fight between Muslim kids and Christian kids, with some kids being forced to choose a side, just like a street gang. I saw archaic religious dietary rules being mandated by my friend’s parents. From sexual orientation to styles of dress, I noticed how religion influenced people’s outlooks and behaviors. My little cousin became Muslim. He stopped eating Tastykake lemon pies because he said they had pork enzymes in them. I asked what an enzyme was. Not surprisingly, he had no clue.

The strange things I saw pertaining to religion piqued my interest. I started studying religion and religious persecution. I was stunned to read about the horrors of the Crusades, or the terror of the Native American religious human sacrifices. From the persecution and the execution of Socrates in ancient Greece for heresy, to the anti-abortion lunatics who killed doctors and vandalized clinics, I was amazed by the mania. When I discovered that American slavery of Africans was justified by a plagiarized and fictional Biblical story I was incredulous. According to this story, blacks were the cursed descendants of Ham, who laughed at the drunken state of his father, Noah. Amazingly, in the 20th century, author Salman Rushdie had an assassination fatwa put on his life for writing a work of fiction. This was by a Muslim head of state, no less. In the former Yugoslavia, Catholic Croatians, Greek Orthodox Serbians, and Muslim Bosnians, killed their own countrymen. This reminds me of a quote from Richard Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion . He said, “Only religion can make good men do evil things”.

The really remarkable thing is the death and torture of millions of humans is caused by an obviously man-made institution. Supposedly intelligent, top-of-the-food-chain primates, fight over who has the coolest imaginary friend. Religion is also temporary. The religion of one age becomes the quaint myths of the next age.

We should appreciate that the human mammal has evolved enough to start to understand the universe, without the need for revelation from a super being. All the atoms in our bodies were made inside stars. In this sense, the universe itself is our creator. It has no favorite tribe or people. We are all variations of the same animal. Religious labels are artificial, just as racial labels are superficial. I believe we should discard religion, and with it the intolerance and bigotry it fosters.