Sorry to have been absent for a few days, but I’ve been reflecting on this post, and wanted to make sure I could write it without emotional distractions, and bring up some of the serious issues we face. The events of the recent Boston Marathon bombings drive home yet again how harmful and dangerous religious beliefs can be. This applies both to those that hold them, and unfortunately – also and especially to those who don’t.
And because those beliefs are created by mind viruses – highly charged with emotion and often indoctrinated at a young age – most of the people with these dangerous beliefs have no clue of the danger they pose to themselves and others. And have no idea that they are not acting rationally.
Some commenters on the earlier posts on this subject have chastised me for being judgmental or as dogmatic as the brainwashed religious cult members I am warning against. But this criticism does not stand the test of reason.
The goal of those posts was not to attack or ridicule people’s beliefs or their right to hold them, but to point out the lack of rational thought it takes to believe such things. They also serve to illuminate the subliminal programming which many of them have that leads to low self-esteem, worthiness issues and self-sabotage – and in extreme cases physical attacks or murder of others (as the Boston events just demonstrated). These beliefs are anti-humanity and thus, anti-prosperity.
The Greeks thought Artemis was the virgin goddess of the hunt, although she later was promoted to the moon goddess. The Romans had a counterpart in Diana. Likewise the Greeks had Poseidon as the god of the seas, and the Romans worshiped Neptune for all things maritime. When it comes to the supreme, supreme deities, the Greeks went with Zeus, while the Romans genuflected to his counterpart Jupiter.
As people became wiser and science helped unfold some of the mysteries of the universe, these beliefs faded away, becoming the grist of folklore, superstition and metaphors for superhero movie plots. (Although don’t think for a minute that there are still not people who believe in them. There are.)
For most people today, however, we look back on these myths, thinking they are quaint, and wondering how people could hold such illogical, irrational and outlandish beliefs. Yet if we look at the beliefs held by at least four or five billion of the world’s population today, they are just as bizarre and no less implausible.
You may think that these are just harmless personal beliefs, and if they console people and help them process traumatic events like the death of a loved one, or a bad medical diagnosis, they serve a beneficial purpose to society. But now we have to seriously question that assumption.
Because religion is killing people. Again.
Unreason, which is a polite way to say craziness, is running rampant in the world today. The fact that such a large percentage of the world’s population still believe in Sky-God superstitions – and these people are air traffic controllers, engineers, and even presidents and Prime Ministers – is certainly cause for trepidation. Even worse, none of them think there is anything irrational and absurd about the certainty they have in their superstitions.
Shit and Stuff…
The really ironic dynamic in all this is that everyone thinks their own beliefs are historical facts, and everyone else's beliefs are crazy delusions. It reminds me of George Carlin’s brilliant bit on stuff and shit. If it’s yours, it’s stuff. If it belongs to someone else, then it’s shit. As in, “Who left this shit here? This is where I keep my stuff.”
So we have Mormons who think their magic underwear protects them from evil, Christians who trust Noah brought dinosaurs on the ark, Hindus who believe Indra was born fully grown from his mother’s side, Scientologists who imagine they are extraterrestrials from a previous lifetime and Jewish Rabbis who fly on airplanes sealed in a hefty bag because they’re flying over a cemetery. Certainly no rational person not indoctrinated at birth or infected with mind viruses would exhibit any of these thought processes.
Probably you defend the rights of people to practice their faith and believe any of these things, as I do. Just as these people have no real proof their deities actually exist, I have no proof that they don’t. Most of these beliefs are quaint superstitions like Zeus, Poseidon and Neptune, and if they make people feel better, good for them.
The issue arises when the beliefs that these people are brainwashed with cause misery and suffering for them, and prevent them from reaching the prosperity and happiness that is their birthright. Or worse yet, cause them to attack and kill others.
Most of your core foundational beliefs about all the important things: relationships, health, happiness, prosperity, religion, sex, etc. – are set before you are ten years old. Sadly, only one person in 20 or 30 million actually does any critical thinking on this when they grow up. To live an enlightened life, you must be willing to analyze the beliefs you live by.
You have to ask:
These are questions most people simply don’t ask. They operate their whole lives on the programming they received with they were six, seven or eight years old. And if that programming teaches you that you are a sorry sinner, are not worthy, are meant to suffer in this lifetime, won’t reach enlightenment until another 44 lifetimes, or you’re reincarnated this lifetime to pay penance for a past lifetime – you’re pretty much screwed.
Unless you question your beliefs with a rational mind, and eviscerate the ones that are not serving you.
Otherwise, you will grow into adulthood with low self-esteem and worthiness issues, which prevents you from being happy and leads to a lifetime of fear. This can lead to self-sabotage behavior in your health, relationships and career. In extreme cases it can lead to suicide, as when young gay teens take their life because they’ve been programmed to think there is something wrong with them.
For the most part, the beliefs of these individual sects and cults only impact the cult members themselves. But there is an even greater danger today, and that is when religious zealots attack and kill people outside of their faith.
And that is where Islam comes into the picture.
The Qur'an is very specific in its instruction for believers regarding non-believers: Non-believers are infidels who must be converted or killed. And Muslims who read and believe the Qur'an is the verbatim word of Allah are not only dangerous to themselves, but society as a whole.
It apparently was those beliefs that led Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to detonate the explosives that would kill and maim dozens of innocent spectators at a sporting event. Like the 9/11 attacks, the victims were of many faiths, even Muslim. How can you quantify the mind viruses that cause people to blow up an 8-year-old boy, cause his 7-year old sister to lose her leg, and even injure believers of your own faith, and believe you are conducting a holy war?
Muslims who take the Qur'an literally believe that by committing such cowardly and heinous acts, they will receive 72 virgin maidens in paradise as a reward. And this is where Islam jumps the shark…
Some dismissed my earlier posts as “Islamophobia,” (a charge I see being leveled against Sam Harris recently as well). That accusation does not pass the logic test. Islamophobia would suggest an irrational fear of Islam.
But the events of the last 15 years have demonstrated that non-believers have many very rational reasons to fear Islam...
Islam certainly isn’t the only religious cult to operate on folklore, myths and superstitions. I think most if not all do. And Islam is not alone being based upon premises no rational person could believe if they were not infected with memes. What makes Islam the most dangerous religion in the world today is its teachings on martyrdom, jihad, and killing non-believers.
To be fair, the way Islam discriminates and ostracizes women, non-heterosexuals and non-believers is not unique. Mormons banish non-heterosexuals, the Bible says they should be stoned, and the Torah prescribes the death penalty for homosexuality. But truth is, you won’t find a lot of Mormon deacons, Jewish rabbis, or Catholic ministers actually preaching to kill homosexuals today. But in the Islamic world, homosexuality equals a death sentence, and there are many Imams preaching this.
The way the Muslim world treats women is simply unconscionable and barbaric. Even “Game of Thrones” wouldn’t fantasize something as preposterous as killing girls simply because they wanted to get an education. It wouldn’t pass for a credible plot in an epic fantasy like “Thrones,” but this is the actual reality in many Muslim countries today.
And it doesn’t stop with the non-heterosexuals and women…
Many Muslim clerics advocate attacking or even killing anyone who ridicules their religion. These “spiritual leaders” issue death fatwas on authors and incite riots in response to comics. And there is a strong and growing faction in the Islamic world committed to a jihad to convert or kill all “infidels.” The Boston bombings and the plot to derail a Canadian passenger train are just the most recent examples of attempted mass murder done in the name of Islam.
Islam is certainly not the only religion to kill people in the name of God. There are many examples throughout history, notably the Catholic church during the Inquisition. And while this was as vengeful and barbaric as the fundamentalist Muslims are today, there’s a very big difference in the potential impact: While the Inquisition was at its peak of violent extremism, there were no tools of worldwide manipulation like the Internet and satellite TV. Nor did weapons of mass destruction exist.
This all leads us to three very important issues, in terms of prosperity:
First, be mindful of what beliefs you’ve been indoctrinated with, and then being able to rationally analyze them. Do they pass the rationality test of someone who isn’t infected with memes? Do those beliefs serve you or enslave you?
Second, recognize that “religious tolerance” and respecting the beliefs of people who want to kill you doesn’t end well. A central tenet of prosperity is knowing your own value, setting boundaries, and protecting your interests.
Finally, we need to really think about the role organized religion plays in the world today. Instead of leading to self-awakening and enlightenment, it seems to be leading people to be satisfied with not knowing answers, instead of searching for them.
Fundamentalism now often serves as a code word for hate and intolerance. When religions become catalysts for killing, it’s time for some serious re-evaluation.
P.S. Based on some of the questions and comments below, let me add some additional thoughts. I have read the Qur'an. I have spent time in Dubai, Malaysia, and Indonesia numerous times and found the people there to be delightful. I was always treated gracious and welcoming, and am happy to have many Muslim friends from those countries, Egypt, and here in the U.S.
I think some of the Muslim beliefs are preposterous, but no more so than many of the beliefs held by devout Jews, Christians, Hindus and many other religions. Personally I find the Qur'an to be filled with savagery and barbarism, but we can certainly say that about other sacred texts, including the Bible.
The difference is you don’t see religious leaders in those other faiths directing their followers to continue the iron and stone age savagery, but many Muslim clerics and heads of state still do. The other issue is when Muslims practice such behaviors, people suggest that they are extremists who don’t follow the Qur'an, when in actually, they are devout Muslims who are following the Qur'an quite literally. Lets at least be honest and acknowledge the real nature of this sacred text.
I’m not on a crusade to rid the world of Islam, or any other religion. (Although the question of whether the world would be better off without them is a fair one at this point in time.) The purpose of this post is to point out the danger that arises when people blindly follow dogma and doctrines without practicing critical thinking. Everything goes back to the three questions I pose above, and whether you have the courage and rationality to ask and answer them.