“You cannot know how much I do *not* want to have this discussion about religion. Can’t we just agree to disagree and leave it at that?”
This was the start of a letter I wrote a logical intellectually sound friend who had been somewhat spiritual before but recently started investigating the Catholic church and was I presume hoping to warm me to the idea of being less religiously cynical. The rest of my letter to him (and anyone else who wishes to play devil’s advocate for religion) follows.
"I have been solidly on the side of faith, God, Jesus and whatnot. The first 24 years of my life I was adamantly devoted not only to embracing the “Good News” message but passing it along to anyone who seemed even remotely willing to listen. I know how that feels to be on fire the way you feel with it. I've also felt the other side of being disappointed and then just disbelieving.
I have to state first and foremost that you cannot use “holy scriptures” as evidence to support the catholic church or any religion. It’s like using a word to define that same word. It just doesn’t work.
Furthermore, the Old Testament contradicts the New Testament. Both contain information that supposedly happened before written history (so they were oral histories before people learned how to write characters?) and were either scribed from the voice of god (really?) or apparently the memories of really old men. The Four Gospels were written close to 50 years AFTER Jesus’ death. How on earth could these 80 year old men be trusted to remember in such detail the words (verbatim even!) and actions and events that took place SO much earlier?
You know how stories change over time with the telling. Just ask your grandpa (or anyone’s grandpa) what is was like when they were a kid. You know the whole walking to school six miles in the snow uphill both ways thing? It’s only funny because it’s preposterous and the tellers of these great tales TRULY remember it happening that way!
Then there is the fact that history books, political books and religious books alike are written by those who won, are in control, wish to seek control or influence and are always, always biased. Add to that, that books like those are edited, re-edited, translated and re-translated so many times the original content (if it’s any more trust worthy to begin with) starts taking on a life of it’s own and changes over time.
Then there is the fact of interpretation. God only know how much of the books have been tweeked and altered to fit the needs of a olden era or political push by a new religiously driven government (England changed from protestant to catholic every few decades over thousands of years) and therefore, all of the info is suspect and not to be trusted.
No one can prove scientifically that a heaven or a hell exist or that there are supreme beings who govern them. No one can prove scientifically that any of the books written for the purpose of improving people or teaching then how to worship a god or about the nature of god are anything but people’s personal opinions and imaginations on the subject.
You can look at religious books to garner what that religion is influenced by AT THAT point in time, but it CANNOT be used as imperial evidence of any fact or truth the way a science experiment can.
It’s simply the popular abiding opinion (or myth). Aside from the stuff put in the books to serve the purpose of supporting the motivation of a political/religious organization, I see the Bible as just a collection of old journal entries, genealogy records and some good advice. Quoting the Bible is about as valuable as quoting William Shakespeare’s plays.
In fact that’s a REALLY good comparison because research has shown that while William Shakespeare WAS a man who lived a long time ago during the times the plays were written, he WAS NOT the actual author of the plays. Another man who stood to lose his political and economic position in society if his identity were revealed at the time, paid William Shakespeare to let him use his name and identity to publish under. There is a fascinating book that explains this all, in great detail and with lots of evidence.
So anyway. You are welcome to believe whatever you want.
“A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still.”
I cannot sway you to reconsider religion as an opiate to the masses, a political weapon of controlling society in classes and ranks, and pacifier for those who would speak out against the control, or need to make sense of the chaos of life, answer the unanswerable questions about our existence and after-life and have a sense of justice in an unjust world.
And you cannot convince me that uptight people who surround themselves and others with narrow minded thinking, prejudices, holier-than-thou pride, nonsensical rules and restriction and quite literally unearthly expectations should be allowed to dictate others lives.
I won’t rule out the possibility of becoming interested in religion at some later point in my life. Right now though, it’s not for me and not something I buy into.
So I ask again. Can’t we just agree to disagree and leave it at that?"