The religious concept has always baffled me. In our science, all facts are demonstrable and observable by third parties. When the first diamond was discovered, I imagine that the explorer claimed that it was sparkling and beautiful. The others, too, who discovered the diamond and reported back information on it all said the same thing. Whenever a description of a foreign idea or object came to a native people, it was either confirmed or disconfirmed based on the findings of others who explored the same area. There was a conformity in the basis of opinion; all of these people are reporting back the same information, sometimes adding a little or sometimes clarifying an older part, so it is determined that they were generally all touching the same thing. When it comes to religion, however, individuals will venture forward to the what they believe is the spiritual realm, and when they come back with descriptions of what they have seen, there is absolutely no conformity of opinion.
Some of the people who experienced the supernatural claim that Jesus Christ is the one god, and even in this religion, there are hundreds of different sects that believe in different characters of their god; the Gospel of Thomas, for instance, speaks of Christ as a Vegetarian, while in the other gospels, he makes fish for men to eat. There are some who had the religious experience and claimed that it was Yahweh, the vengeful and cruel god of the Torah, the Jewish holy book, who is the only supernatural being; and even for this group, there are different varieties, with orthodox, contemporary, and reformed churches. There are some who made their voyage in to the unknown and came back with tales not of gods, but of millions of spirits, inhabiting every object and animating all life. Others come back to us with news about rebirth or reincarnation. The wiser poet philosophers have suggested that god was real at one point, however, he has since killed himself. Some come back with stories of many gods, each one representing a different theme of society, or with each god representing a protector of different groups, like the god of thieves. Others tell us about spirits that represent each animals, while others have spirits that represent each season, and others still for spirits that represent omens or foreshadowing of the future. We can only comprehend truth when it is based on what we understand from others and how we relate their knowledge to our own experiences. In all sciences, the results are demonstrable, observable, and applicable. Religion has produced only an endless variety of insanities, each one usually accompanied by an inquisition, prejudices, crusades, bigotry, witch hunts, ostracism, intolerance, corruption, or an endless sort of social maladies.
There seems to be such an enormous amount of willingness and hope on part of the believers of religion to prove it to those who would doubt it. Many of the faithful today will make their oppositions to the tactics of the Inquisition known. But, the Inquisition, like the witch-hunts, the holocaust, the crusades, or the endless amount of factions and sects battling each other, all of these things are representative of one true and undeniable attribute of religion: these people so strongly believe in their unseen creators, that they will sacrifice their life and those of others around them to satisfy what they believe is their divine duty. There is a great faith in all of these people; and its ultimate manifestation is usually coercive and oppressive. For those who are ambitious in the eyes of their god, it is rarely enough just to believe. There is that strong spirit in them to spread their gospel and to demonize anyone who would cast doubt on it. Their attention leaves the realm of the supernatural and becomes refocused on the non-believers.
It is rare to see a minister, a clergy member, or anyone affiliated with a strong religious organization that is not resentful of those who doubt their faith. It is not enough to just say that there are other people in this world who don't believe. They need to quote the Bible's famous passage, "And the fool sayeth in his heart, 'there is no god.'" (Psalms 14:1.) In days past, they would send such "miserable folk" to their death upon the flames. Why is it that religious fundamentalism breeds such a cruel, unfeeling, and unthinking attitude towards our fellow human beings? Christian evangelical today are hardly defenders of personal liberty or civil rights. Many of them are opposed to abortion, drug use, masturbation, homosexuality, all sexuality in general, interesting art, progressive music (jazz or rock and roll), alternative and non-western religious views, and adult-rated film or art. For a group of people who claimed to have found ultimate peace through their lord and savior, they seem quite concerned with what other people are doing in the privacy of their own homes. Until Protestantism broke the vile chains of the Catholic Church, the common believer was even under the impression that they could have no direct communication with god -- such a connection could only be ordained and filtered through a registered priest.
Where is all of this hate coming from? It is when these people, these who believe only they have found all the answers, those who believe that there is never a reason to doubt -- it is when these people start to manipulate the systems of education, politics, and economy, that society becomes a machine of madness and chaos. Religious groups have animosity for the non-believers for one reason and one reason only. To believe that there are other people in this world, who have read your scripture, and thought that it was worth little more than the paper it was printed on, to believe this is a threat to anyone's faith. When someone has dedicated their lives to a faith, have attached all emotional feeling to the existence of this unseen master, when such a person feels that their faith is threatened, they will always react strongly, thoughtlessly, and finally, coercively. "How is it possible that someone could know what I know about this religion, and then not fully dedicate their lives to its spread?" This becomes the thought of the fundamentalist at the sight of non-believers.
The fundamentalist, never shy to seek a simple answer to a complicated question, will often times play it off as their devil controlling the living. It is impossible for them to believe that person could make an informed and knowledgeable decision to doubt. They must believe, on the other hand, that it is the will of Satan, or Beezlebub, manipulating the minds of men and women from his realm in the underkingdom, cackling as he captures another soul away from the one true god(s). This is where their inherent coercion and violence comes from. In building their fires, in adding fuel to embers, in forbidding and banning books, in their attempts to emblemize their master of the universe in every public forum -- in all of these cunning attempts to proselytize and punish the wicked non-believers, Fundamentalists forget that they're dealing with other human beings. If there is a true spiritual force of this world seeking out justice for all, then it is only the most natural and evident of ideas that such a being would want every human being to have the right to believe and speak as they wish, without being forced to live in the non-peaceful environment of a religious fundamentalism-controlled society.
That all of this coercion is necessary for religion to exist should startle some of those doubts in the believers. Universally, god seems to be defined as an all-powerful and all-knowing being, a character truly fitting of being called master of the universe. And yet, the fact that he exists isn't the most natural occurrence to the average human being. One might think that, with such a description, it wouldn't take much to believe in the lord. Few wise men doubted the existence of the world's oceans, or were skeptical of its tall and unflinching mountains, or laughed at the descriptions of jungles teeming with life of every sort. All of these impressive and unbelievable things didn't require an Inquisition, nor did they require witch hunts, nor did they require the control and observation of the day-to-day lives of others, "to root out those who would doubt our faith." But, when it comes to god, the one thing these religious fundamentalists claim to be the most assured of, they will employ the rack, tax-exempt status for church property, and legislation that allows teacher-led prayer in public schools. When it comes to something so obvious and apparent, why should anyone find it necessary to employ such cruel and coercive methods in defending their religion? Because, for the most part, those who profess to believe in these religions doubt them the most, as such faiths will quickly and easily prove to be empty, hollow, and meaningless. The religious believer becomes threatened by someone who taps in to what they've already felt deep down inside, to those doubts that have terrified them on an inner level.
Humane thinkers will have difficulty digesting any religious ideas. The greatest contradiction of religion is that it seeks to prove the undeniably powerful nature of whatever spiritual force they may happen to believe in. And this becomes the greatest irony when they inflict endless misery and pain on those around them, all under the discretion of "that which feels and knows most." How could anyone imagine their savior of peace smiling and laughing when his followers succeed in hurting other human beings? To a rational thinker, it is unthinkable, but to a fundamentalist, there is no other way to believe.