Religion is, shocker, a deeply personal thing.
Maybe you’re of the opinion that you’re following the One True Good™. Maybe you think that everyone is crazy with their belief in imaginary friends. Maybe you think all of humanity is just a sort of womb for a new god.Maybe you think all the gods are real, and made from the belief of their followers. Maybe you just don’t give a 💩 Maybe you give a 💩 some days, think it’s all a bunch of 🐂💩 others.
Ultimately, as long as it is a personal thing and you keep it a personal thing, which camp you fall in to doesn’t really matter. Unfortunately,
- Many religions view spreading the Word Of God™ as a key thing.
- Religion is becoming increasing tied to political ideology.(1)
- Religion is sometimes used to justify doing some really shit things
- Religion has the ability to make shit things done previously (often 500+ years ago) keep people very, very angry
- This anger is sometimes used by those with ulterior motives
- Some religions are predatory on those that fear death
Now, depending on who you are - which, if you’re on my website, I can make some good assumptions that you’re probably a young, middle-class, technically inclined person, and probably either atheist or at least not-Christian - you may be thinking “Why do I care? Those old white guys have their views, I have mine. Can’t change it.”
Well, if you are of the nerdy variety, the professional, nerdy community (engineers, programmers, etc.) is strangely divided. The ‘old guard’ is largely relatively conservative and religious, but as time has moved forward the younger generation taking these positions are largely liberal and not religious at all. If you’re going to interact with these people, it helps to know how they think and how to identify how they think and know how to debate in a productive manner. Similarly, if you’re a conservative Christian (and you’re still reading - which, props. I hope you do actually take my perspectives and think on them, even if you don’t agree with any when you’re done.) I suspect this will help you see the “other side”.
Before going any further though, I want to address a point a friend that reviewed this page for me brought up:
Like many people online, you blur three things I see as distinct: “religion”, “religious indoctrination”, and religiously-motivated action in the world. You try to separate some of the different aspects of these into what you do and don’t find problematic, but it’s a bit sloppy.
- jan pona
I actually agree with the comment that I blur these lines, but I think the lines are so blurred at this point anyway that talking about any one of them in isolation is like using a scalpel to mow a lawn: that is, it may be more precise, but it will take significantly longer and make it hard to see the bigger picture, if it can even be done at all.
So, before I go out painting in broad strokes, I do want to point out that, yes, there are positive instances of religion and religiously motivated action in the world.
Evangelical environmentalism is a thing. There’s quite a few LGBT religious organizations. I’m not trying to say these things don’t exist. I’m also very aware that there’s the possibility of an effect similar to that of the vocal minority going on, where the worst people in a large group, even if they’re a fraction of a fraction of a percent, can give the group a bad name.
The thing is, I don’t think it’s a vocal minority. Unfortunately, the statistics here aren’t the best, but let’s piece together what we can:
- According to The Washington Post, which, bias, obviously: “Today, roughly three-quarters (73%) of the Republican Party is white Christian, but fewer than one-third (29%) of the Democratic Party identifies this way.”
- Put the other way, from Good Faith Media, “More than three-quarters (78%) of white evangelicals identify as Republican / lean Republican, compared to only 17% who identify as Democrat / lean Democrat.”
- The Trump presidency happened and even at the end of his term - after the Jan 6th clusterfuck - he was still at about 40% approval.
- Trump - and I really didn’t think this needed saying - was a very, very, very devise president. He was hated by “the left” (and some of “the right”) for everything from mocking the disabled, to his treatment of women, to his incompetence in running a country with more guidance than what Fox News would provide.
- There are a lot of single issue voters for Abortion. About 30% of those that are pro-life will vote for someone out of two options for that reason alone. I could go find stats on that, but I think it’s pretty obvious that the pro-life and the conservative crowd are a mostly overlapping venn diagram.
The only conclusion I can see to this is the same one Shadi Hamid from The Atlantic did: Ideological intensity is rising as the US becomes more religiously divided.
Let me put it another way: My friend Soatok has a post If You Hate Furries, You’re Anti-LGBT where, uh, the title does the work for me. Clearly, the furry community has become so intertwined with LGBT community that saying you dislike one is a dog-whiste for the other. If we can accept that as fact, even though both straight and even nazi-furries (ugh) exist, then I don’t think it’s unreasonable to associate the other way. That is, we can imagine an article with the title “If You Hate Conservatives, You’re Anti-Christian”. Of course, you’re free to reject this premise. But even if you see them as entirely distinct things still, the above statistics don’t lie. There’s still a huge corrolation.
So, while, yes, in a perfect world “religion”, “religious indoctrination”, “religiously-motivated action”, and politics are all different things that should be talked about independently, we live in a world where they’re becoming a big melting pot of some mysterious, vaguely racist smelling substance that you really don’t want to step in.
I really, really want to isolate them, to be a scientist and separate the variables. Unfortunately, that task has long since become impossible, at least in my mind. It’s a real shame too, because the result is this post coming off more insensitive and less informed.
I know it absolutely isn’t fair to wrap up the good with the bad, but it’s happening regardless of if I try to act like it isn’t happening on this page or not. People are seeing religion and politics( Christianity and the amorphous blob that we call “The Right” or everything-but-Christian and “The Left”) as one thing. Worse yet, while everything I just said is about Christianity, at least for me, the mental framework I use to think about the most popular religion absolutely infects my views of others. Even if I don’t want to, I see other religions and assign them a political leaning mentally, even if the two should be entirely disconnected. Oddly, the same is even true of atheism itself, as it has a liberal connotation now.
Of course, that ignores many gray areas too. Again, from the same friend
You have people who are tolerant but draw the line at atheism because we “have no moral compass”, and you have two Xtians I know (one in person, one on the internet) who consider Jesus Christ to be the west’s Confucius: a quasi-historical figure of great wisdom to emulate, but nothing more “religious” than that (including the literalness of the Father he talked about).
- jan pona
But humans compartmentalize. We have prejudice. We see patterns. It’s just how we work, so while we can acknowledge it as a fault and fight it - and we should - it’s worth recognizing that we do this. We do assume a Christian is right wing. We assume an atheist is liberal.
Here’s where things take a turn.
The same representatives that are getting elected because they’re
Pro Life all for forcing women to give birth are largely responsible for legislation that has negatively impacted copyright law, access to information (like book banning), funding for research and development of new technologies that aren’t for war, policy for renewable energy, and the proliferation of tech giants which stifle competition, … You get the idea. So, even if you don’t care about religion directly, the knock on effects will matter to you, because, to quote a dead greek dude:
Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.
To wrap up this intro, religion is interesting for its own reasons(2). but the political ramifications of religion in modern societies is what is most likely to affect you directly. Still, it’s best to address the cause and not the effect, so lets look at how religion do what it do.
To keep things simple, I’m going to pick on Christianity for the most part. There are other religions that are hugely involved in the politics of their dominant regions, but Christianity being the biggest religion and the one most of the readers of this page are likely to be familiar with, makes the most sense to talk about. Still, I’ll try to keep things as generic as possible.
- How religions keeps their numbers
- How religion got to be so intertwined with politics
How Religions Keep Their Numbers* #
* Ignoring the historical context of forced conversion and modern day regional religious requirements in some regions
Okay, before we get into this I must engage full on rant mode.How 👏 the 👏 fuck 👏 is it this hard to find an unbiased source for statistics regarding religion? I’ve searched for data on the efficacy of different methods of evangelism or the methods by which people came to be religious in at least 50 different ways and can’t find jack shit, doesn’t matter if I’m perusing academic journals or Google. It’s just not there.The best I could find was this Reddit thread “How do religions spread?” and Ask Reddit: How did you choose your religion? but both still lacks real data, obviously.We’re talking about one of the most import decisions to how people live their lives and the data is either basically non existent or beyond the reach of someone with experience in digging up incredibly specific information from search engines. Either way is unacceptable.Hell, even for those with strong faith, you’d think this is an important question. Wouldn’t they want to know how best to spend their time to convert people? If door knocking or public preaching isn’t effective, wouldn’t they want to know so they can redirect those efforts?Anyway, the end result is there’s basically no data for me to work with here, so I can’t make any claims about the efficacy of different methods of evangelism or show any data breaking down how people came to be religious (born into it, from a group event, etc.)The best I can do is make some educated guesses.
Individual’s Spreading the word #
Individual to Individual #
First thing’s first, I know this will be preaching to the choir, but…
If you push your religion on ANYONE you’re an ass. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to “Save their soul” or you just think “Wow, I sure am more confident and happy with God in my life, you should come meet God too!”. You may think it’s harmless and you’re helping them not spend eternity in Hell and/or making their life better. Unfortunately, it’s not harmless. Why?
- The person you’re talking to may be a part of a group a large portion of your religion hates (LGBT, Liberal, etc.)
- The person you’re talking to (or their family/friends) may already be of a religion that has had past reasons to be fearful of your religion - Witch hunts, anyone?
Now, you personally may not dislike the person for who they are, hell, maybe you are LGBT or whatever alongside them. Great! Then you know full well why they may be disinterested and should respect that. Let them find your religion on their own. The only exception here is if:
You have known the person a long time AND They’ve already expressed some interest
Similarly, you personally probably haven’t gone on any Witch hunts or killed a million Jews. Again, sure, but ya’ think that maybe someone might hold a bit of a grudge for their ancestors pain? Again, all it takes to respect that is to - and I can’t state this enough - shut the fuck up.
Okay, ranting aside, this really doesn’t do that much for conversion. Statistics are, unsurprisingly, basically non existent.
Still, it’s pretty safe to assume (See the the big box above pointing at the lack of data) that the majority of people don’t come to a new religion by having random conversations with single people unless it’s their family or very close friends. And even then, it’s not common. So, it’s probably safe to assume the majority of people don’t come to their religion via door knocking or conversations with strangers. Friends and Family, maybe, but the impact will still be limited.
The one exception I see to this is in relationships, that is, while it’s more common for two people to be together if they already share religious views, if they don’t it’s not unlikely that they will with time.
Individual to Group (Street Preaching) #
Based on what r/Christianity has to say, it’s both ineffective and generally makes people less interested in the religion.
Now, of course this depends on if it’s done with at least a modicum of taste, but the only time I, personally, have seen it done well was when the infamous Brother Jed with chart topping hits such as ““I don’t know how the whorehouses in this town stay open — all of you sorority girls are giving it away for free!”” and ““A masturbator today is a homosexual tomorrow.”” pissed of the preacher at Lutheran preacher enough that he set up shop near him with a sign saying “Come talk to me about how God loves you” and proceeded to actually have engaging, open, non-judgmental conversations about how God, Christianity, The Church™, and he himself view hot topics like LGBT rights, sexuality, abortion, etc.
All of that said, It’s pretty safe to assume that street preaching isn’t about to convert the masses.
Bringing in kids #
And now we get to the big un’.
If someone has kids, that family relationship definitely means they’ll have known each other a long time, and kids get curious (or, are just told it’s right to begin with).
Someone might think, “I had a GREAT time in the Church, I want them to experience that too!” - I’m sure they would have a great time. Missions are AWESOME (for the people going on them, significantly less so for the places they go) and it’s a tight nit social group. This is great… until their son realizes oh, that boy over there is kind of cute, and then feels repulsed by his own feelings, talks to a religious leader, suppresses those feelings, then winds up in the hospital when he uses an object not made to go in his ass for anal play because he’s too ashamed to buy a butt plug.
My point isn’t that a conservative religion is bad, it’s that because of the intertwining of the two ideas and kid’s lack of an ability to separate the two, situations like the above are bound to happen. While that particular story is fiction, you don’t have to look far to find stories of real harm. I don’t think I need to cite a source on it being unreasonable to expect a child to separate what ideas are from their religious beliefs and what are political.
All of this amplified when you consider just how completely horrific and adult most religions are. Have you READ the bible? This isn’t a book for Kids. Hell, even the central story of Christianity - nailing some dude to a cross - is already pretty fucked up. So, naturally, let’s have them re-enact it in a little play. I’m sure that won’t end in some kid being actually nailed to a cross by his friends some day.
This isn’t meant to be an attack on Christianity. Wicca? Satanism? Buddhism? I don’t care what you’re going with, it probably has some pretty adult things in there.
This will probably be one of the hottest takes on this website, but I really don’t think religion is for kids.
Okay, wait, I see you opening another tab and googling “Child Christian indoctrination” - so let’s look at one of the first results, helpfully from focusonthefamily.com, I’m sure that’s a fair, unbiased source. Let’s just skip to the bottom, shall we:
Here’s the bottom line: if you hold back from fulfilling your spiritual responsibilities as a parent out of some vague fear of “indoctrinating” your kids, you’ll only be doing them a huge disservice. Moms and dads who withhold instruction from their children and allow them to “decide for themselves” what they’re going to believe are almost guaranteeing that they’ll “decide” to turn away from the faith and embrace “what seems right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25). That’s a mistake you don’t want to make.
Wait, hold up? Did this actually just site the book I’m saying is used for indoctrination saying “nah, it’s fine, really!” as their source? You think a cult wouldn’t be constantly putting messages that say “Not a cult, we pinky promise!” in all of their reading material? Moreover, this literally says that people wouldn’t come to Christianity on their own. So… someone who goes out of their way to research and look into information, explore alternatives, etc. isn’t going to decide (willing choose to) join the religion? That sure sounds like “Teach your kids Christianity early, or they might try other things and realize it’s 🐂💩”* to me.* again, I’m not saying this just about Christianity, it’s just the easy target being the biggest religion in the world. Plus, I feel less bad painting it in a bad light given its size. Furthermore, talking vaguely about all religions makes this much harder to write.
Also, in case it wasn’t obvious when I joked about it being a biased source, the website literally ends with a phone number to call a pastoral counselor.
Okay, what about the 2nd result on Google is Journey Free: Recovery from Harmful Religion, which, uhh, hmm. Boy, I wonder if that might be written by someone with a chip on their shoulder. This page agruees Christian children will experience developmental delays and constantly have recurring trauma as they fear Hell. Sure, there’s maybe some really extreme Christian groups that are this bad, but your normal Church probably won’t do this either.
So, is there an actual, researched moderate view? Well, clearly I’m not the guy to write that. But I did find The Psychological Processes and Consequences of Fundamentalist Indoctrination by Josh Cuevas, a professor at the University of North Georgia. Which as TL;DR basically agrees that at least religious education is indoctrination “because it asks the child to bypass reason and evidence, and instead accept something as truth that is not known to be true by the authority figure.” and that “This also creates greater possibilities for extremism and violence.”, though, really, go read at least the Conclusion (only 8 paragraphs) for yourself. It also helpfully mentions how Islamic communities are affected as well.
I think it’s pretty safe to assume the vast majority of religious people are religious because it’s how they were raised. It’s effective, it’s normalized, and (3) is a guaranteed route for growth.
Look, for this one I just can’t sugar coat it, Missions:
- Historically, have spread disease
- Yay! Smallpox!
- Cover up or distort the existing culture if effective, which, is the point, and still pretty messed up IMHO.
- Oops! We did an Imperialism!
- Are often used for their domestic clout chasing “Look at all the good we did!”
- … When just donating money directly would do much, much more good.
- Send often untrained people to do work they shouldn’t be doing, but pretend to be better at
- Like when one girl killed 105 Ugandan children due to her lack of training
Unfortunately, getting what I can from the (lack of) data I have, it appears that they’re probably the next most effective method next to popping out more kids, as according to some data from the Mormon church, its missionaries baptized 233,729 new converts in 2017. For comparison, they claim to have 6,763,019 members. So, that’s a significant amount of growth. However, given the size of the Mormon mission program compared to other religions, extrapolating this data may be unwise.
The Trial of the Monarch - The Venture Bros. [S01E12]
Death Religion & Taxes
Justifying Shit Things #
[TODO] using the broad scope of religious texts to read whatever agenda you choose.
If You See Something,
Say Something Call out the bullshit.
From the Inquisitions to 9/11 and School Shootings; from largely supported actions to rouge actors, religion has been used by both groups and individuals to justify shit things. That isn’t going to stop any time soon. Each of those shit things may be a tragedy in its own right. But they also add up to people seeing each other as the enemy. This isn’t just from one religious group to another, either: The Left™ is increasingly seeing not just The Right™ as an enemy, but the religious organizations - Mostly Christian - that under pin it.
Hell, if you’re Liberal you probably just went “Well, yeah. Those bastards took away Abortion access, try to ban books, …”
If you’re Christian, you probably thought “See! You see us as a monolith and think all our views are all bad!”
Now, I could try to take the moderate view here and say, “See, both sides have a different perspective.” But, yunno’, fuck that, it’s my website and I’m not going to sugar coat it: Yeah, if you’re trying to ban abortion and books, make trans people use the wrong restroom, and voted for a guy that brags about his past sexual assaults, well, you’re the asshole. If you’re a Christian and go to Church with people that do this and don’t call it out, you’re still the asshole.
If this is the first time this is occurring to you, well, you could probably stand to watch a mix of videos from everything from Philosophy Tube, Zoo Bee, Innuendo Studios, AntiCitizen X, and TMM; read A Sick Giant; and talk to some people about how religion has been used to make their lives worse. To be clear, I’m not trying to say you shouldn’t be religious! I’m saying if you’re participating in a Church where the norm is being anti-LGBT, supporting abusers (even if they held the highest office in the US), and people claim Critical Race Theory is destroying the nation and you don’t regularly call them out on it or leave, then you’re part of the problem and hardly any better than they are. If anything, watching content that challenges your views and makes you think should help you be a better Christian.
As for the particulars there - maybe you are staunchly pro-life, anti-LGBT, etc. It’s worth looking into the counter points from religious leads. What do pro-choice religious leaders have to say. What do pro-lgbt leaders have to say. Be informed and look at multiple interpretations of the text before you follow it. Most of all, decide to what extent you want to let your religious views impact your political ones! You can separate them back out. As a general rule of thumb, if someone has used a line like “I love you, so I want to save your soul” or similar to justify the view, it’s because they don’t have a reason outside their religious beliefs. If you value the Establishment Clause (the Separation of Church and State) (or equivalent/idea of it, if you’re not a US citizen) then this is a conversation you really should have with yourself.
The Fear Of Death #
- Hint, hint - this post is a weee bit US centric. Still, this is a thing globally too.
- it would probably be worth your time to look into the basics of most world religions, as nerdy, professional positions are increasingly held on a global field where you will have no choice but to work with people from diverse backgrounds across the globe, that's just not something I want to cover here. Wikipedia is a thing, go nuts.
- ...assuming the population of that religion is having babies exceeding the replacement rate and conversion-away-from-that-religion-rate