BY SOFO ARCHON
By far the most frequent question I’m being asked by readers is whether I have a religion.
I’m not quite sure, to be honest. Perhaps it’s because of the name of my blog. Or maybe because of the content of my writing. Or possibly because of the reddish brown Jesus-like beard that I’m sporting.
In any case, I decided to write this article so that whenever people ask me this question again, I can simply send them to this post, instead of having to give them each time a new yet nearly identical in meaning answer.
As you must have already figured out from the title, I don’t have a religion. But before I proceed to telling you my reasons for that, I’d like to clarify a few things so as to minimize the possibility of being misunderstood.
Firstly, although I don’t have a religion, that doesn’t mean I don’t like people who do have one or I think they’re bad or stupid. I’ve known quite many religious people who’re smart, kind-hearted and brilliant in all sorts of ways. So if you consider yourself religious, please don’t take my words personally — I don’t intend to degrade or offend you or anyone else who holds religion dear to their heart.
Secondly, my aim here isn’t to ridicule religions or imply that they have nothing important to offer. For the last fifteen years of my life I’ve devoured tons of books on religion, and from my readings I have discovered that all the major religions contain kernels of wisdom. I know that religion is a very touchy topic, so again don’t take what I am about to say as a personal attack. I’m just sharing my thoughts here.
Lastly, I’m not trying to show that all religions are fundamentally the same. I’m well aware that religions are very different, even contradicting to each other, and like most people I value some religions more than others (for example, I value Buddhism over Hinduism and Hinduism over Christianity). In this article, my critique is by and large pointed towards the dominant, fundamentalist, and mostly Western religions of the world, which, although quite dissimilar to one another, share some core ideological commonalities that, as I’ll explain, are not only extremely unreasonable but also tremendously harmful. Hence, I feel a sense of personal responsibility to talk about them openly here, and possibly help a few people to escape from (or avoid falling into) their trap.
OK, now that I’ve made myself clear, here are the ten main reasons why I don’t have a religion:
1. Because I consider sex as one of the most sacred things in life.
Have you ever wondered why the vast majority of religions are against sex? We were all born out of the sexual act, and without sex we wouldn’t even exist. So how can sex be something bad? It is the source of life! Hence, in my view being anti-sex basically means being anti-life.
In some religions, such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam, sex is allowed only for reasons of procreation. In other words, you can have sex to bring new babies into existence, but you can’t have sex just for the sheer joy of it. If you or your partner happens to be wearing a condom during sexual intercourse, you’re both deemed to be sinners, and just because of that there’s an extremely high chance that you’ll be thrown to hellfire right after the moment you take your last breath.
One of the most beautiful experiences in life — that of orgasmic union with a beloved partner — is accused of being one of the most (if not THE most) despicable things in life. As a result, so many people who live by religious dogmas are being deprived of it.
Considering sex bad, wrong or evil, dogmatic religious people tend avoid it like the plague and do whatever it takes to suppress their sexual feelings. But suppression, as any psychologist would tell you, is a sure-fire way to perversion. No wonder they usually develop unhealthy mental and behavioral patterns that can harm (sometimes seriously) themselves and those around them.
Spiral Genesis, by Mark Henson
2. Because I don’t subscribe to the notion of total “free will”.
To the ego, that’s a tough truth to admit, but it’s a truth nonetheless.
The concept of total “free will” is just a myth that was made up a long long time ago by theologians in order to explain that God is right to reward those who follow his orders and punish the ones who don’t.
Think about this: If we didn’t have the freedom to choose, which loving, all-knowing God would reward/punish us for our choices? Only an imbecile/sadistic one.
The theory of 100% “free will” justifies God punishing and rewarding people, who are free to choose as they will, regardless of biological, psychological and social pressures. This theory, however, has absolutely no scientific basis.
The truth is that, although we do make choices, those aren’t entirely free. That’s because our choices are the result of a combination of biological, psychological and environmental/societal components that make up who we are, and which are mostly out of our control. In other words, your conscious, rational choices can’t be decoupled from the unconscious processes of your mind or genetic, social and environmental factors.
If, for example, you were born and raised in a Hindu family in India, you’d most likely be a Hindu yourself, or at least you’d have acquired Hindu values. It’s not that you consciously chose to be a Hindu — on the contrary, we can say that Hinduism chose you. But a Christian would likely say that you chose to be a Hindu, and for that you deserve to burn in everlasting hellfire (unless you repent of your sin).
Or, to give you another example, think of a person who’s addicted to drugs and lives in the streets begging for food and money. If that person possesses complete free will, then he obviously has chosen this kind of lifestyle, right?
Sadly, this is what people who subscribe to the ideology of total “free will” think. “He’s a moral failure.” “He’s just too lazy to work.” Yeah right, that’s exactly the case when you ignore the traumatic experiences that led him to develop an addiction as well as the socioeconomic conditions that deprived him of a decent life.
3. Because I don’t believe in Heaven and Hell (at least not as they’re commonly understood).
Here in the West, there are two main reasons why people believe in religions.
The first one is the fear of hell. From the moment we’re born religions are trying hard to make us believe that if we don’t act as we’re prescribed by the scriptures, we’ll end up in serious trouble. In fact, quite possibly in eternal trouble — namely, hell. Afraid of being thrown into hellfire, people start believing all sorts of things that religion tells them, regardless of how unreasonable those might be.
The second main reason why people believe in religions is the desire for heaven. Each religion tells us that if we live according to its dogma, we’ll be rewarded with everlasting heaven. And many of us are willing to sacrifice our lives so that we can enjoy ourselves in the afterlife. For example, religion tells us: “Don’t have sex now, and you’ll have the best sex ever in heaven.” (Fun fact: Did you know that in the Islamic tradition men in heaven are said to be rewarded with eternal erections and eternally young (and, of course, non-menstruating) female virgins with swelling, pears-shaped breasts? I know, it sounds far-fetched, but the scriptures can’t be wrong, right?)
To me, that’s total nonsense. Hence, I don’t believe in the notion of heaven and hell as propounded by most religions. I could only accept heaven and hell as symbols representing states of our consciousness. For example, when we are hateful and agitated, we experience a state of hell. On the contrary, when we’re loving and peaceful, we experience a state of heaven. But this isn’t as fancy as religious people would like heaven and hell to be.
You have two options: 1) Listen to ACDC songs and be thrown to hell, or 2) Listen to Led Zeppelin songs and be transported to heaven. Which will you choose?
4. Because I view animals as sentient beings worthy of love and respect.
According to the Abrahamic religions (and plenty of others), God created animals for one basic reason: So that people can exploit them. In the view of those religions, animals don’t have a soul — in other words, they are non-sentient beings. They are just pieces of meat put together, functioning like machines and being unable to experience happiness and sadness, pleasure and pain.
Not surprisingly, a lot of people who subscribe to those religions tend not to care much about animal justice and welfare — except, perhaps, when it comes to “their” pets. In general, they have no problem exploiting or even killing animals (whether directly or indirectly). This is quite obvious, for example, by the fact that they tend to unnecessarily consume animal products — that is, products that are the result of exploitation, abuse and often murder — without feeling any regrets. “If animals have no soul and God has created them for us to use,” many religious people think, “there’s absolutely no problem in exploiting or depriving them of their life.”
Of course, as any sensible persons knows, animals aren’t machines. Just like us (non-human animals), they have subjective experience, a rich and complex emotional world, and the desire to live and avoid pain. If you don’t believe me, just ask any zoologist and I’m pretty sure he/she will tell you the same. So instead of using animals as soulless objects, why don’t we start treating them as living beings deserving of compassion and respect?
If you’re consuming animal products, here’s a video I made a couple of years ago showing what animals are usually forced to go through before they end up on your plate. Additionally, you might want to read this article that refutes the most common arguments people have against giving up animal-derived food products.
For more eye-opening videos, subscribe to my YouTube channel.
5. Because I consider all people, regardless of their race, sex, gender, class or religious ideology as equal.
What the vast majority of religions around the world have done is divide people according to the race, sex, gender, class and religion — among other things — they belong. Let me give you a few examples:
- In India, there’s a social stratification class system based on Hindu ideology that goes back in ancient times, which divides people into a hierarchy of social classes called “castes”, where the higher classes have the “birthright” to oppress the ones below them.
- In Buddhism, for centuries women were considered unable to reach the blissful heights of consciousness that men can, and because of that they weren’t allowed to become Buddhist nuns and pursue enlightenment.
- Christianity looks down on homosexuals, believing that they are victims/worshippers/devotees of the devil, and hence condemns them to hell.
- According to Islam, atheists are one of the worst kind of sinners and in certain Arabic countries where Islamic faith is very strong, they are even punished by death.
Again, these are only a few examples among countless others. (In case you don’t believe me, just read for yourself the scriptures of the dominant religions of the world and you’ll see exactly what I mean.)
To me, all people deserve equal opportunities in life and shouldn’t be discriminated based on superficial differences such as the ones I just mentioned. Hence, if we want to see a world where people are allowed the freedom to be who they are and do what they want (provided, of course, that they don’t harm others), then we need to do away with obsolete religious values that breed oppression and inequality.
6. Because I don’t want to accept “truths” there’s no viable evidence for.
In my life I’ve heard countless reasons why people should adopt religion, but I’ve not yet found any reason that’s convincing. On the contrary, I’ve found them to be senseless and, in most cases, appalling.
Dogmatic religions require people to accept and believe in all sorts of “truths”, no matter how illogical, unscientific or plain silly they are. For example, some religious people believe that God is floating somewhere in space and can see and know all that’s going on in every single person’s life. They also believe that a virgin woman was impregnated by a ghost (after God told him/it so) and that she later on gave birth to the very son of God. They even believe that God wants male children to have a piece of flesh chopped off from their penis (i.e. the foreskin) so they can prove their love to him.
I could go on forever giving you similar examples, but you get the idea.
Just because religions claim something to be true or right, and that something has been accepted by people for hundreds or even thousands of years, doesn’t make it true or right. And, considering that nearly every religion claims to be the only right one, which religion (of the thousands that exist in this day and age) should one follow? I don’t know about you, but I choose not to follow any religion whatsoever.
7. Because I prefer to stay open-minded (but not so much that my brain falls out).
People who fervently believe in religions can’t think outside the box of their religious ideology. They become attached to a particular belief system, which prevents them from changing their mind when presented with information that contradicts their religious beliefs. In other words, their mind is locked in an ideological cage from which they won’t escape as long as they don’t doubt and thoroughly examine their beliefs.
I want to be a freethinker and not a prisoner to any belief system, so I choose not to identify myself with any religious ideology. As I mentioned in the introduction of this article, I do enjoy reading religious scriptures (including the Bible, the Dhammapada and the Bhagavad Gita) and have found immense wisdom in many of them that has helped me to live a more meaningful and fulfilling life. At the same time, however, I’ve also found in them tons of bullshit information and utterly abhorrent advice which I totally reject and make sure not to apply in my life.
In short, I keep an open mind to receive new information but I make sure to examine it thoroughly in order to reach my own conclusions (instead of accepting it on belief alone (as religious people tend to do).
8. Because I don’t like to be obey or command anyone.
Organized, dogmatic religions tell people to obey a set of rules. And if they don’t, they’re warned that they’ll be punished for that.
“Here are the Ten Commandments — follow them or else you’re going to burn in hell!”
In other words, religion manipulates people by instilling fear in them. Priests, gurus and all so-called religious teachers who’re power-hungry know this extremely well. Hence, they exploit people’s insecurities in order to control and benefit from them, whether financially or otherwise.
To me, growth and wisdom are derived from our personal experiences and understanding, and not from blindly following scriptures or obeying authority figures. Therefore, I don’t like to have others tell me how I should live, just like I don’t like to tell others how they should live.
Image credit: havemercylord.com
9. Because I don’t want to experience chronic shame.
From a very early age, most religions try to brainwash us into believing that we’re not good enough as we are and that we should strive to be very different.
Christianity, for example, teaches us that we are sinners by birth, and that should die to our sinful selves if we wish to be accepted by God and go to heaven in the afterlife. And this, of course, can be accomplished only if we completely surrender to the will of God and fully obey the dogmas found in the Bible.
According to Christianity, it’s a sin to trust our heart, mind, and gut instinct. Not surprisingly, we’ve been disconnected from our emotional world and haven’t developed the capacity to think critically. We blindly follow scriptures, but we’ve lost touch with our inner voice.
But the problem gets even worse: When we think or feel something other than what God supposedly wants us to, we feel bad about ourselves. We feel that we’ve gone against God and that he’ll punish us for our sins. We feel ashamed and unworthy of love, respect and compassion. We even feel hatred toward ourselves.
So why I would I want to feel this way about myself? Although I know very well that I am far from perfect, and that there’s plenty of space within me for self-improvement, I also know that the key to finding inner peace and contentment is to fully accept myself, regardless of my flaws or imperfections.
10. Because I see humanity as one family, and want to live at peace with my brothers and sisters.
It is often claimed that religion brings people together by preaching peace and love. But does it really? In my experience, the opposite is the case, at least when it comes to most of the dominant religions of the world.
Here’s why: Most religions distinguish people between good and evil. According to each of those religions, the good people are always those who are faithful to them, whereas the evil ones are those who don’t.
But when you see other people as evil (and that merely because of the religion they adhere to), how can you love and live at peace of them? You can’t. Rather, you want to protect yourself from them. And many times, the best way to protect yourself appears to be fighting against them. That’s exactly why people of different religious groups have been constantly fighting against each other for thousands upon thousands of years.
I want to see people living in peace. For that to happen, however, we need to stop dehumanizing our fellow humans and start seeing our species as a single family that shares the same home (i.e., the Earth). In other words, we need to stop fighting and start loving each other.
Religions, as we know them, are obsolete and sooner or later will (hopefully) disappear. Then, a new “religion” will emerge — that of genuine love, trust, respect, care and compassion.