I think there is a fundamental issue I have with the religious traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

It is not what you think it might be. Or rather, it is not solely what you think it might be. It is not solely the lack of intellectual rigor that goes into the theology. It is not solely the absence of evidence for the claims. It is not solely that they turn their adherents into mindless sheep.

The problem I have with them is that, at their core, these religions are not vehicles for gathering a deeper understanding of the universe or ourselves. Rather, they are systems of morality aimed at controlling a population.

Think about it. In the beginning, or at close enough to it, there was God and Adam and Eve and a garden. There was no religion. There was, however, a rule. Humanity’s existence was from the get-go bound by rules, according to these traditions. That rule was to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And once that rule was broken, religion had to be created to keep people in line.

Let’s compare the Abrahammic traditions with both Eastern religion and modern-day science. If you listen to gurus or monks of Eastern traditions, you sometimes hear them talk about Christianity and the Western religions. How do you think they talk about them? Unlike Western religion, which seeks to demonize and drive people away from other religious schools of thought, Eastern religions embrace the language and more esoteric teachings of Western religions when the audience would find it useful. Eastern religion does not express superiority, but encourages empathy, compassion, and most of all perhaps, opening one’s mind to new ideas.

This analysis is similar to what one gets when they compare Western religions with science. As Carl Sagan said, “there are no forbidden questions in science, no matters too sensitive or delicate to be probed, no sacred truths.” You are free to investigate whatever interests you. You are free to follow the evidence wherever it leads. But this is not so if you are an adherent to one of the Abrahammic traditions. Some things are off limits. Some things should not be thought about, and especially not told to others, lest you damage their faith. And if you are too curious, you will be branded as different, as an outsider.

But you can’t learn anything within the Western religions, either. Not anything you don’t already know, anyway. You sit in church every Sunday and all you are told is what you shouldn’t do (drink, gamble, have sex for fun, use contraceptives, get abortions, etc.), what you should think (about what you shouldn’t do and about current events), and what you shouldn’t think (anything that would lead to doubting your pastor). Yet society is already a sufficient guide for what you should and shouldn’t do. Everyone already knows, to varying degrees, how to be a “good member of society.” Going to your weekly worship workshop in the Western way is simply a way to declare yourself to be part of the “in group” and to meet others in the “in group” that you may together ostracize the “out group.”

Why is this? Why do the Abrahammic religions discourage learning and compassion of other groups so? It is because Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are not, as I said, systems one uses to gain knowledge. The systems are meant to be forms of social control, the glue that keeps the structure of society together. “Strength through Unity. Unity through Faith.”

Because of this, Christianity and the other Western traditions are merely moral systems, a set of rules under a pseudo-spiritual figurehead that allows for in-group-out-group mentality. Intellectual curiosity is not allowed because you may learn too much. You may learn about other systems and what they teach, or even (gasp!) that the religion you were born into is false. You are not allowed to know about other systems, and are especially not allowed to like them, because this defeats the purpose of us versus them. Having someone to hate boosts group cohesion.

It is from this that all the problems people have about “religion” (by which people usually mean Christianity, Islam, and sometimes Judaism) stem. This is why less than half of the United States believes in evolution. This is why gays can’t marry. This is why atheists are widely believed to be Satanists. This is why abortion clinics get bombed and doctors get shot. This is why. And this is my problem with the Abrahammic religions.

~peace, RR

I welcome comments and suggestions. Comments can go below, suggestions to radiantreason[at]gmail[dot]com 🙂