Evolving beyond religion

David Payne of Reno is an agnostic.

In the year 2000, there were 912.3 million who were atheist, agnostic or nonreligious, according to Encyclopedia Britannica Book of the Year. While that is the third largest group in the world after Christians and Muslims, a casual reading in the media might lead one to think we’re all but nonexistent. As a strong agnostic, it’s with some measure of sad irony that I watch the outpouring of grief and anger by many religious denominations over the WTC and Pentagon disasters on Sept. 11. We hear the anguished denunciations that the Islamic fundamentalist terrorists, fearless of death, don’t represent the “true Islamic religion.” Really.

Though there are examples of good moral teachings to be found in all religious books, there are also teachings found in them that can lead right to the acts perpetrated on us by the Osama bin Ladens, the neo-Nazi Christian right and the other fundamentalist followers of the Abrahamic religions, be they Christian, Muslim or Jewish.

Religious scholars often point to the “free will” argument to explain away this murderous and barbaric behavior by religious zealots. So let’s look at one disturbing example of God’s, not man’s, behavior—the great flood and Noah’s ark as told in the Bible’s book of Genesis. God drowns everyone but Noah and his family for their corruption. What sin and corruption did the babies and little children of these people, or for that matter the animals on this planet, commit? None. I guess they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, right? Is mass murder the only answer an omnipotent God had for this sinful behavior?

In our time, this would be called genocide. But for the true believer, it is the work of a just and merciful God? Not in my book. Of course, there are many who would interpret God’s actions differently, and that begs the point of this intellectual exercise. One can interpret the holy books any way one wants to, because there will be no intervention coming directly from God on this. There hasn’t been any direct intervention in man’s behavior in more than 2,000 years, has there? As long as there’s no direct action from God to prevent those that seek to take religion down the path of madness, death and destruction, we will continue to suffer from this barbaric behavior. Sooner or later, the worst of these groups will possess weapons of mass destruction, and they’ll use them in the name of God.

Genocide was good enough for God to use against those guilty of corruption, so following his example should be OK for the zealots, right? Religious warfare is, after all, as old as recorded history, still ongoing and apparently endless.

Humanity, not a mythical God, is in control of this planet and its resources. Isn’t it time to put the religious fables away and pursue our evolutionary path into the future? Humanity must use logic, reason and the rule of manmade laws to craft our future, not religious teachings that can be interpreted any way those in power want to interpret them.