Whether there is a deity or not, that deity, or any of the multiplicities of deities, or different manifestations of the same deity, did not create any religion or denomination. People did, usually men. Those prophets, founders, or administrators may claim that they follow the “word of god,” but I only know of two references to actual physical instructions to worshippers. Supposedly, Moses received the stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments, and LDS documents declare that Joseph Smith was given brief custody of gold tablets so that he could transcribe the Book of Mormon from them. Whether or not these stone and gold tablets actually existed has become a matter of faith, as well, since no physical evidence remains, and there may well be references to physical objects containing instructions from deities in other faiths, but I’m not conversant with such.

In any event, the actual “word” from deities is, shall I say, less than exactly overwhelming, while the amount of proscriptions, prescriptions, theology, beliefs, and approved and disapproved practices from human prophets is indeed overwhelming. And in older belief systems, what one set of prophets or seers or revelators declared often conflicts in greater or lesser degree with what other and later such individuals have declared is the word of the deity or various deities.

In short, religion, no matter what various theological fonts of authority and/or doctrine declare, is a human construct designed to shape human behavior to a desired “theological code.” And the difference in the codes followed by differing groups, even supposedly in the same religion, is often considerable. Yet each is convinced of the supremacy and purity of its interpretation and practices, to the point, where at present and over the course of history, many have insisted on death to unbelievers or those who follow the “wrong” theology.

Now… this might be understandable if a given deity had appeared and leveled a city of unbelievers with lightning bolts while appearing miles tall in the sky. But this never happened. Instead, one group of believers or another decided to take matters into their own hands and unilaterally declare, on pain of death or with some other threat, that those who did not believe would suffer and/or die if they did not acknowledge the “true faith,” an example of might attempting to establish theological right.

Thousands of years of conflict and warfare strongly suggest that this approach has considerable failings, even when a given doctrine or religion manages to gain control of the government and the armed forces. Yet the examples of history don’t seem to offer much discouragement to wars of religion.

Could it just be that there’s something wrong with the entire institution of religion, at least in the most common forms practiced on this planet over its human history?

No… it can’t be that, could it?

12 thoughts on “Religion?”

  1. JakeB says:


  2. JakeB says:

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

    More seriously, your post brings up why punishments for blasphemy and heresy seem among the most horrifying human actions to me. That one might use these constructions generated entirely by other people to torture, maim, imprison or kill others, merely for thinking differently — it’s monstrous.

  3. Frank says:

    From a structural point of view, I think the absolutism that is inherent in religion is both the source (or, at least, the power) of the historical tendency to such dangerous and destructive extremes.

    Descartes’ theory of agency, albeit somewhat contrived for defense of Catholicism, at least had the advantage of taking the irrefutability of “God’s” perfection through the “humanizing” agency of us mortals. It seems that religious scholars only see what they want to see, even from their own.

    1. Tim says:

      @Frank. Your last sentence is spot on. Religious scholars are subjective (to their faith) by definition. I met a humanist recently and her views had the same intransigence. So it would appear humanism is also a religion.

      However, someone once asked me : do you have such low self-esteem that you believe you are an accident of DNA, rather than put on the Earth for some divine purpose?

      I will admit that was a good question 🙂

  4. Phineas says:

    People have used almost every ideology and no ideology as an excuse to force their views on others. No doubt some ideologies are better than others, but it seems like the problem goes deeper than that. It also suggests there may be a problem with judging an ideology solely on actions of its proponents which occur in every human society.

  5. R. Hamilton says:

    The flip side is that many of the religious codes have much in common, and the human propensity to fight over differences often is applied to trivia and neglects how much they have in common.

  6. darcherd says:

    To quote Robert Heinlein once more, “Of all the strange crimes that humanity has legislated out of nothing, blasphemy is the most amazing – with obscenity and indecent exposure fighting it out for second and third place.”

  7. Frank says:

    I find it interesting, humorous but true most of the time…that the most astute quotes on real life come from Robert Heinlein, Mark Twain and Yogi Berra.

    1. JakeB says:

      Frank, you’re not saying that just because you’re from Missouri, are you?

      1. Frank says:

        Not from Missouri…actually from Bethesda, Maryland.

        I just find it interesting, ironic and definitely amusing that some of the best commentary on real life comes from a (great) SF writer; a (great) fiction author; and a baseball player/manager, who in his lack of formal education seemed to be able to use language as a medium of communication that was effective even as it ignored most grammatical rules and laid waste to what is taught in school.

        Nothing deeper or more astute than that.

        1. JakeB says:

          Sure, I was just tickled that the three people you picked were all from Missouri, the “Show Me” state.

          I’ve always hated the Yankees, but I loved Yogi.

  8. CEC says:

    Meh, people often want to be crappy to other people, and any excuse will do. Religion has often been a convenient excuse, but plenty of other excuses masquerading as reasons (ex.s: nationalism, language, land rights, fishing rights, birth rights, form of government, etc.) have been used throughout history.

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