When we're young we're taught what to believe by our parents, teachers, friends, community and continue to believe these things until we are educated otherwise or begin to question these beliefs on our own. Aside from learning that turkeys can't fly, the other big take-away from one of my favorite shows as a kid, WKRP, is to imagine what it would be like without religion....
As kids we are lead to believe: there is a jolly middle-aged Santa that flies around the world on one night bringing every kid that is good a present; there is a giant Easter Bunny that brings eggs and sweets each Spring (still not sure the meaning behind this act of generosity, but why question baskets filled with candy?); and a Tooth Fairy that will pay us money for our discarded teeth (I'm not even going to ask what a fairy needs with all those children's teeth).
As adults we know these are harmless tales told to motivate kids to behave, to carry on some fun traditions, to make the trauma of loosing parts of us ok and even something to endure a little pain for so we can have a reward in the morning.
Parents can become furious if they find out a sibling or even worse some random kid on the playground burst the bubble of belief in Santa & friends for their child. Why? To tell them the truth takes away their innocence and the fun of playing along.
How long should children believe in magical beings and mystical fantasies?
How long should adults?
I know quite a few people who think Scientology is a crazy cult and would probably agree the same about the origins of Mormonism except it isn't related to Tom Cruise and John Travolta so why bother reading up on it. Sure it is possible our next President, who as Commander in Chief will have the nuclear codes, believes in a magical angel sent down in the 1820's with golden scrolls and that when Jesus returns to earth he'll be landing in Missouri, but since Romney seems clean cut and successful why worry about his logic and what he believes.
It is impolite to discuss politics, religion, and sex at dinner parties or "in polite company" and so I mostly avoid making other people feel uncomfortable by not doing so. But when does politeness lead to world destruction? When we have people being killed and political anarchy over a single stupid ridiculous YouTube video and that said 14 min clip spread so fast and caused such destruction that it might provoke acts of war. Or how about when World Leaders go infront of the United Nations threatening each other with redlines or refusing to recognize the existence of each other at all? How about then?
If we can't tell the truth about the basic fundamental tenants of religion how will we ever get to the truths of the other things that divide us: racism, poverty, violence, etc. Where is the integrity? We would probably all agree a woman who believes her cat is speaking to her is delusional but we think nothing of congregations full of people worshipping something they've never scene with their own eyes or claiming their clergy have a relationship with God. At least we know the cat is real.
And why do I not believe in an all mighty God? Simple... I refuse to believe in a God that would force St. Jude's Children's Hospital to beg for money to save innocent children with cancer while Donald Trump is walking around gold plating and naming after himself anything that is not nailed down. Why God would let children have cancer in the first place is beyond me to start with. And yes, I get the irony of using a hospital named after a saint in this chosen example. Now I do understand why people find refuge in religion- there is the sense of community, of support, of comfort, especially in the belief in something beyond us and after life here on earth. But can't that not also come in the same construct minus the absolutes in doctrine?
My fear of offending anyone has been overcome by my fear of WWIII. It is time for an adult conversation about how religion is not saving the world but instead jeopardizing it. If you can't even imagine your God, Prophet, religion is not true how can anyone else? It's the absolutes the folks fight over. My skin crawled when I was watching a Charlie Rose interview with Thomas Friedman and while discussing Syria Tom said he had no idea how the conflicts could ever be resolved because the oldest ongoing civil war is based on a 7th century conflict regarding who is the proper heir to the Prophet Muhammad. He has both Sunni and Shiite friends and can't tell the difference and wonders if they ever ask themselves: Why are we fighting with each other? Over what?
When religion starts wars vs ending them don't we have to question what it's all for?
Ask yourself, is your religion worth sending your children into a WWIII over?
I have to believe if there is a God, he sent WKRP across the airwaves, he made me a non-believer, and he has you reading this post right now. I guess I do believe in this: God if he is out there has a sense a humor, is not so fragile he can't stand a little good debate about his existence, would choose peace over fanatical praise, and would rather us discuss him and find some common good amongst his children then blow up and destroy his finnest creations.
Update: Always up to changing my mind if shown new info. Willing to convert to Believer if Donald Trump donates $5 Million to St. Judes by October 31, 2012. Dare him to prove me wrong!