“There is nothing that is too obvious of an absurdity to be firmly planted in the human head as long as you begin to instill before the age of five by constantly repeating it
with an air of great seriousness.”
– Arthur Schopenhauer
“Since it is obviously inconceivable that all religions can be right, the most obvious conclusion is that they are all wrong.”
-- Christopher Hitchens
“Society attacks early, when the child is defenseless.”
-- B.F. Skinner
Religion is exempt from taxation. It is exempt from ridicule or even skepticism in the mainstream media (except the Net, of course). And, very importantly, it is exempt from the normal criteria for reality.
There can be no tangible proof of religious events, no historical record (separate accounts of floods don’t count), and no intersubjective verification. A believer can very definitely feel God’s presence right now, but I, standing right next to him, can’t. You’d think God would be all up inside my head, ordering me to believe. But no. Silence.
Banging heads – and the real world
Objective vs. subjective reality: Believers and skeptics will bang heads for all eternity over this.
But beyond philosophy and in the real world, religion comes dangerously close to being a mental illness, and here we find another of its exemptions. People can have delusions, as long as they are the accepted ones, just as people can consume drugs, but only the government-approved ones.
However…when the delusions lead to what would otherwise be criminal acts, the law is hard put to distinguish the evil/insane from the religious.
A holy day
Consider the case of Brent Troy Bartel, a Texas man who carved a pentagram into his son’s back and actually called 911 to report that he’d “shed some innocent blood.” “I’m sorry?” was the operator’s completely natural response – and mine too. WTF???
Well, he did it because 12-12-12 was “a holy day.” He didn’t say what religious doctrine says that, but I’m sure you can find pentagram-inscribing, Satan-worshiping wackjobs somewhere on the Net. He was charged with a crime. Do you think his defense attorney will argue that his right to practice his religion was being abridged?
The most obvious religious parallel is child mutilations like clitoridectomy and circumcision. I think both are atrocious and appalling. Circumcision has been big with the Jews from the beginning. Oddly, it is not specifically commanded in the Torah, even though there’s a ghastly story in Genesis 34 about how one of Jacob’s daughters is raped, the men of the other tribe agree to undergo circumcision, and the Israelites massacre them as they’re recovering. Nice.
God does lay claim to the first-born of everything (Exodus 13:1-2), so this is a way of buying him off. But why the sex? Why not a piece the earlobe? Just wondering.
I know circumcision is controversial, hated by many, its medical benefits are debatable, as are its contributions to (or degradation of) men’s sexual experience. I also know it’s fanatically defended by most Jews, including the disgusting, disease-spreading (and therefore possibly illegal) practice of the moel’s sucking of the little penis after the cutting. Judaism at its most barbaric.
Actually all of it is pretty primitive, from the rabbi’s plume-hatted, silk robed High Priest/High Holiday vestments to the holy scrolls in their magic place with their cheesy breastplates, to the barbarity of circumcision and ritual buying-back of the child.
Forgive me if I don’t see a big difference between pentagram carving and circumcision. One’s officially sanctioned; the other isn’t. Nobody asked the kid’s permission to violate his/her own body: truly one of the ineradicable evils of religion. Society attacks early.
Second case in point: Another judge splits the difference even more finely. As reported in Funny Times’ "News of the Weird" (from mainstream media), Florida Judge David Glant rejected an insanity defense by a multiple murderer who had been certified nuts (insane/paranoid schizophrenic) by 30 psychiatrists, just because the killer believed in a Jesus-like resurrection after death, a vision which, the Judge said, is not “so significantly different from beliefs (that) other Christians may hold so as to consider it a sign of insanity.”
Yes, a direct quote that draws a bright line between defensible insanity and religious belief.
Imagine it: You could actually kill someone and avoid the death sentence by pretending you believed in resurrection!
But does the Judge arbitrarily cut it off at Christian insanity? Suppose the guy was a Hindu who believed he’d be reborn as an elephant or an ant? Insane or religious? Just how much insanity is the law willing to excuse?