I’ve talked about my disdain for organized religion before… most people of course accuse me of hating people who believe in religion. This is untrue… most people I know subscribe to one religion or another, and in fact my best friend is quite happily religious. I have no problem with people believing in god, for the most part… it’s the organizations of religion that I really have a problem with.
The reasons are many… they are the purveyors of the “great lies”, they assert truths without evidence, they offer forgiveness for abhorrent behavior by simply affirming belief, they harm progress by stifling independent thought, they stunt intellectual growth by promoting the concept of belief in things despite contrary evidence. They govern and control on a principal of fear of eternal and horrific punishment. And what’s worse, they can never be contented with keeping their beliefs to themselves. Almost all religions have the same goal: convert as many people as possible to your belief. The term “missionary” is one of reverence and respect to the religious, while all it is to me is an asshole who insists him / herself on other people whether they like it or not.
In addition, religion instills people with a false sense of hope, and a belief that problems can be solved without action, by simply praying. How can this lead to a productive, affluent, progressive society? Additionally, religion is notoriously exclusivist, and bigoted by its very nature. There are thousands of religions... in fact, according to the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (2006), there are over 38,000 denominations of christianity alone. And each one thinks every other one has got it wrong… so much so that despite believing in the same god and reading from the same essential 2000 year old texts, protestant and catholic members of the same god still actively kill each other over who’s fucking interpretation is more correct. This is the insanity that religion breeds in people. It removes objectivity and creates insular, ignorant followers who believe without question, and accept without consideration.
It’s with this preface I come to the case of the recent “miracle” at Lourdes. According to the Catholic News Agency, via a report from the Italian news agency ANSA, a woman who was reportedly wheelchair-bound, stricken with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), bathed in the waters at Lourdes and immediately was cured… and now she is walking and even running… all signs of her disease apparently completely gone.
Now, first of all, let’s attack the “miracle cure” thing directly… these things are almost never truly miracles. They nearly always end up having some mundane, if not medically cool, answer once looked into more closely. In this case, despite the quotes from her doctor, I’m left unconvinced that she was “cured”. What was her actual condition when she was at Lourdes? What was she doing just prior? She was apparently medically diagnosed with ALS, so was she participating in any drug trials? Was she mis-diagnosed? Was she examined immediately after Lourdes? No… “miracles” never have these questions available, nevermind actually answered. In fact, interestingly enough, there has been an ongoing medical trial for ALS treatment involving Lithium, which has shown the ability to halt or even completely stop the progression of ALS. Where has this trial been taking place? In Italy, interestingly enough. I have no direct knowledge of it, but would I be surprised to find out that this woman was part of such a trial? Nope… in fact I find it far more likely than the possibility that she was miraculously cured by magic water.
But for the sake of this discussion, let’s just take the claim of a “miracle cure” at face value. So she was cured, by god, at Lourdes. She alone, out of the hundreds of thousands that visited Lourdes this past year alone, was worthy. We’ll accept that premise for this discussion. Reports are that the crowd at Lourdes wept and praised god when the woman got up out of her chair. They were all grateful. GRATEFUL! This is what I don’t understand about christians, and the religious in general. At best, if this is a true miracle cure, does it not show god to be capricious and inconsistent? Millions of people have come to Lourdes… millions upon millions… many very sick, all believers. I’m sure many of the afflicted have suffered far worse and lived a far more pious life than this woman, and yet she was chosen to be cured? Why? What could be the possible reason that god would do this? If god has the power to remove pain and suffering instantaneously at his whim, why must one make the effort of going through ritualistic behavior like traveling to Lourdes, which may be painful and difficult, if not impossible for some, in order for that suffering to be alleviated? If this woman was worthy of being cured, why not just cure her? And if making a statement for god was the point, why make it so rare?
Additionally, if this woman was so worthy of being cured, why make her suffer the disease in the first place? And what of the others? Why are they unworthy? And why do they not ask this question of themselves?
I’ve asked these questions of the religious, and invariably I get the same answers. It's apologetics at its worst. The most common has to do with why god allows her and so many others to suffer. Invariably the answer is that we must suffer in this life to become closer to god and to enjoy the afterlife, or some bullshit like that. OK… fine. So god allows suffering as some sort of “penance”. So does that mean that this woman who has been cured and doesn’t suffer anymore will not be getting into heaven? If that is the case, I’d bet the woman would gladly take her ALS back to make sure she gets into heaven… if that’s not the case, then why not just remove suffering for all who believe in him? Why allow it for some and remove it for others? It seems capricious and arbitrary. If there is a god, then he’s a monster and I’d rather not know him anyhow.
Once the questions start getting tough, where the answers begin to contradict each other, most inevitably resort to the religious “ace-in-the-hole” catch-all answer: god works in mysterious ways, and you can’t know his mind, and to assume you can would be arrogant.
Great. Well that’s just great. So god can continue to be shown as a capricious, arbitrary, sadistic, petulant child with no consistency who insists on worship but refuses to show evidence for himself, and continually tests our faith just to prove how great he is, but we are to accept it anyhow because we can't know his mind? Fuck that. I want no part of it. Frankly none of it makes any sense, and the older I get the more clear to me it becomes that the only rational, reasonable thing to believe is that it’s all complete hogwash - ancient mythology that served to control populations and answer questions we didn’t yet have answers to. Every answer religion provides is so irrational, inconsistent, arbitrary and vague as to not merit consideration unless you have already been pre-programmed to accept a specific set of answers.
For too long, the term “taking it on faith” has been seen as a virtue. It’s not. It’s an admission of willful ignorance. The world needs less of that, not more.