Divinity or Bovinity: shame-based fear, guilt and obedience to dogma

Divinity or Bovinity: shame-based fear, guilt and obedience to dogma

Victoria Standard: December 2013

Please excuse my exercise in constructive blasphemy. I take things quite a bit farther than humanistic skeptic Kevin Smith. The myriad names for “god” merely exemplify humanity’s various and desperate attempts to establish both a collective and individual identify. While this holds true for all religions; spiritual philosophies like bhuddism, shintoism and taosim are more practical. Such philosophies, particularly the Oriental variety; encourage humble introspection and harmony with nature. Conversely, the major religions are global cults of shame-based fear, guilt and obedience to dogma.

Christianity’s jesus, islam’s allah, judaism’s yahweh and hindu’s pantheon are usually presented as “holy”, “sacred” and beyond criticism. Why is this true and why must major newspapers devote entire pages to primitive superstition, fairy tales and mythology? True, these publications give some space to atheists and skeptics but faith critics are held to an absurdly high standard of decorum in their critique of religious absolutism.

The public’s general reverence for priests, imans, rabbis and pastors has always amused and mystified me. Those who presume to “interpret” the so-called “word of god” for their addled flocks serve their ego more than the need of others. Are spiritual matters really so complex, or; are clergy similar to academics who create arcane vocabulary to mystify the public and protect their privileged positions? If jesus really is “god” he must either laugh or cry at this nonsense.

As scientist Richard Dawkin wrote in the God Delusion, “[it seems as if] religious faith is especially vulnerable to offense and should be protected by an abnormally thick wall of respect…” I both challenge and oppose the practice of paying excessive respect to those who lead cults of obedience, mythology and primitive superstition. Further, I find the privileging of ill-substantiated supernatural beliefs and practices to be both bizarre and dangerous.

As Sam Harris wrote, “We have names for people who have many beliefs for which there is no natural explanation. When their beliefs are extremely common we call it religious; otherwise, they are likely to be called mad, psychotic or delusional. Clearly, there is sanity in numbers. And so, while religious people are not generally mad; their core beliefs absolutely are.”

To conclude, there may well be an organizing intelligence in the universe. The major religions may even be on the right path. Who knows? One thing is for sure; highly-religious people do good in spite of their absolutist beliefs rather than because of them. Humanity’s kindness and wisdom constrained and distorted by the fear-driven dogmas of formal religion. The inherent fragility and danger of blind religious faith must be exposed as a travesty and betrayal of humanity.