As I write this, on Thursday, 26th July, nothing new has happened regarding the book. It may be that, by the time this is posted, something has changed. But I’m offline until 1st August, so this post has been scheduled to appear at the normal time.
I’m continuing the short series of posts on why I include certain themes in my novels. I’ve looked at language, here, and sex and nudity, here. The next question I’m often asked is to do with religion, and I’ll tackle that now.
I’ve been accused of being irreligious, blasphemous, insensitive to the feelings of those with a faith, and of being a Satanist. The reality is that I class myself an ‘evangelical agnostic’, a phrase I’ll expand on later. I accept I’m irreligious, though I was brought up a church-going member of the Church of England, was a choirboy, and even considered joining the priesthood at one time. I accept I may seem insensitive to those who profess a faith, but I prefer to describe my attitude as a passionate stance against myth and for reason. As for blasphemy, such a crime is illogical and meaningless for anyone with belief in no god. And I reject totally the accusation of Satanism, since that would require an acceptance such an entity exists; I no more believe in the Devil than I do in God.
Okay, I’ve now lost the majority of those who profess a faith: generally, people who allow themselves to believe in a divine entity that has a personal interest in their behaviour, thoughts and concerns are incapable of hearing, let alone accepting, an alternative view.
I can now take it that those still reading this are at least open to discussion of the topic. Many, as readers of science fiction, will agree with my thoughts.
God and religion shouldn’t be confused: they have little to do with each other. The concept of a god is a route used by many to explain the inexplicable, to find a reason for tragedy and indiscriminate catastrophe, to have a superior being to blame, or thank, for those things we’re unable to control. But religion, almost without exception, is a tool to manage people. The reason the Bible, Qur’an, Talmud, and all those hundreds of other books of rules and mythical explanations of history (almost every culture in the world has both a ‘creation myth’ and a ‘flood myth’) exist is to set out a code of conduct their writers wish to impose on others. The spiritual content is entirely secondary to the control mechanism, and is included as a way to make the whole appalling construction palatable.
It’s noticeable that those who create, and therefore worship, a cruel deity are generally cruel people. Those who are kind by nature tend to tease out the bits of their guidebooks that reflect those qualities and ignore the more distressing prohibitions and examples of man’s inhumanity to his fellow beings.
I’ve been asked why I’m so violently opposed to religion. For those with a faith, this is a valid question needing an explanation of an attitude they often genuinely cannot understand. All children of religious parents are inevitably indoctrinated by their beliefs, often unconsciously on the part of the brain-washers, who were, in turn, similarly programmed by their parents, ad infinitum.
The only way to break the chain of enslavement to irrational beliefs, which are often based on fear and anxiety, is to take the courage to examine the links for their weaknesses. Even a very basic scrutiny of the Bible, Qur’an, and most other so-called sacred works, will expose internal contradictions, absurd rules, impossible constructions and accounts of insurgency wrapped up as acts of ‘holy war’ to justify their violence. The Bible contains many instances of such activity, attempting to defend the actions of a nomadic people set on making their home in a land already populated by others (what’s that Commandment regarding ‘coveting…’?) And Islam was founded on a warrior approach to the spread of its teachings in which hundreds of thousands were killed in the name of their particular god. If you don’t believe me, please read some history.
If such behaviour isn’t a reason to dislike religion, I don’t know what is.
There’s a fundamental flaw in the teachings of most religions: they require adherents to suspend disbelief in reality and to rely on dubious claims of divinity that stand up to no real examination. That’s fine if people want to believe in such unlikely events and beings. But it has a serious knock-on effect on society. It positively encourages belief in the unproven, unverified and mythical over a more rational belief in those things for which there is evidence. Therefore, it bends the minds of adherents to allow them to believe the promises of politicians, unscrupulous businessmen, and leaders of extreme sects. People raised to accept unsupported beliefs find it difficult to question other philosophical ideas of the same type. It’s no accident that the Bible Belt in USA is largely right-wing in attitude: the wonderful hypocrisy of a religious group, whose prophet condemned profit and veniality, supporting and encouraging a social structure based on profit and respect for money seems to bypass these worshippers completely.
And one is forced to wonder why, if God is eternal and has always been around, the many gods created through history (there have been literally millions) only came into being when mankind developed enough intelligence to invent them.
So, I dislike religion because it accepts lies as truth, it controls without concern for the damage it does, it encourages the continuation of legendary belief over factual matters, and its many ‘sacred’ texts are so open to interpretation that any extreme group can find justification for their violence therein. Religion is also exclusive in its outlook: many religious groups exclude those who fail to accept their version of events, and those who believe in a divine afterlife suggest that non-believers will be left out, as their god, who apparently made us all, won’t welcome those curious enough to search for the truth.
As for god, I go back to my ‘evangelical agnostic’ stance. My reasons for non-belief are simple. If there is a god, that is, an entity that’s eternal, omniscient and omnipotent, a being so capable it created the entirety of everything we know and experience, a being so ubiquitous it inhabits and understands the minds and hearts of over seven billion sentient beings, then such a being must be so far beyond our understanding as to be incomprehensible. If, however, such a being fails to have any of those qualities, it isn’t a god.
We can’t know whether such a power exists, we can only speculate. We’ll never know. Since speculation is the best we can do, I consider it best to remain open-minded. Any religion that defines their god is, by that very act, reducing, and even insulting, the capability and capacity of the being they claim to worship. We cannot understand such a being, we can only create our own version of it. And that’s what religion does, with all the resulting misunderstandings, disagreements and divisions such a creation must encourage.
So, there you have it: a truncated version of why I write about religion in my books.