When humans first invented religion—yes, we invented it; hard to remember, I’m sure—it was mainly to explain the unexplainable. We didn’t have microscopes or telescopes or any scopes, so we made up gods who were much like we were—jealous and horny and angry, only with much more power—who were in charge of these things. Why did Cousin Leon get smallpox, why did the drought hit, why did the invaders take over the land? Easy—the gods made it all happen.
Since we can explain so much more today than we could back then—not everything, of course, but much more—we seem to have turned to using religion for two main things: political control and radical forgiveness.
Most of us know how religion is used as a form of political control—from the Crusades to today’s battles over abortion, gay marriage, and putting the Ten Commandments on every cereal box, it’s a complete joke to believe that there’s any separation of church and state. In fact, thousands of evangelical voters will not only claim they are one—many will also claim that our founding fathers themselves were devout Christians.
The radical forgiveness, however, is something that I’ve only recently become aware of. A friend of mine told me about how a horrible relative of his suddenly became a Christian and everything he’d ever done to hurt his family was finally forgiven—not by them or himself, but by God. So since God says it’s okay and all is forgiven, now he can live with himself and believes he never did these horrible things.
I have been witnessing this very process occurring with someone close to me recently, and while I’m happy that the person now has something to live for, I am still deeply hurt by the past ten years of our relationship and would much rather have some kind of closure, some kind of therapy even, to deal with it rather than this sudden religious presence. It’s like the decade just disappeared for this person, wiped perfectly clean, while every pain still remains for the rest of us. I wish I had a magic potion to make me forget all of it myself, but I don’t, so I’m left still trying to figure this crap out.
It’s up to every person to decide whatever they believe in, of course; I just don’t think either of these things are good reasons to do so.