Resisting social control by the Church
The Church in search of power through the state and the family
By analogy with biology and ecology, it is cultural diversity, including religions, that offers the best opportunities for the adaptation and evolution of civilisations. Development needs freedom and benefits from the plurality of beliefs. It is not religious diversity that is a source of tension, but intolerance. Currently, the West is better characterised by democracy than by Christianity.
It is dangerous to give free rein to a determined religious ideology without opposing it with the counter-powers of plurality and freedom. It is necessary to flee from organisations working to establish an ideologically homogenous society. To guard against this, young people must be informed about the weight of religion on previous generations.
Clericalism in French-speaking Switzerland
It is commonly accepted that religion is a personal matter to be dealt with as a matter of conscience. Very well, but that doesn't really correspond to the current situation, and not at all to what I've experienced.
For decades, I have been subjected to massive state interventions in religious matters in French-speaking Catholic cantons. During my five years of primary school, I had to recite the catechism every day and go to Mass in column of two. During the three years of secondary school, religion classes were compulsory. Then, because I wanted to become a teacher, I was obliged to spend another five years in a boarding school run by a religious congregation. I was required to be a committed Catholic and a school catechist.
My feeling is that religion was, and is still in a non-negligible measure, a matter of state against which I feel obliged in conscience to resist.
The state must welcome all citizens equally, whether Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, non-religious or other. Consequently, it cannot take sides with particular communities, for example by proclaiming itself Christian or declaring that certain religions are entitled to a privileged status. It must display, including in public education, its neutrality with regard to beliefs.
No religion in the functioning of the state !
In Western Europe, we see that age-old religions are crumbling while others are infiltrating. Certainly, we are far from finished with the zealots of True Revealed Faith, which has the oddity of being plural. From it emerges the image of a God who hides, delivers contradictory messages and presents a dissociative identity disorder. The diversity of beliefs reveals that they are cultural constructions devoid of objective foundations. It is unreasonable to obey the propagandists of such an ill-defined God.
Why does man cling to so-called beliefs about the afterlife that are in fact beyond all plausibility? The answer is to be found between our two ears - O revelation -, that is to say in our brain. Religion is a side effect of the illusion that we are immortal. To be content with arguments of authority is a capitulation of the mind.
Religions work to dramatize existence: the eye of God that observes us, sin, Judgement Day, hell (or reincarnation into an inferior being), eternal life, ...
Religion does not provide access to inner peace, as it develops a rhetoric of intimidation that puts the faithful under pressure and demands more and more of them, without end. Whoever does not put up a defence is phagocytised.
Beware of a religion that sanctifies subjugation and obedience: believing will make us captives!
It is not enough to resist a little to avoid extremist drift; it is necessary to resist firmly to avoid the gears of subjection.
The method of religious teaching consists in dramatizing existence: the eye of God watching us, sin, the Last Judgement, hell, eternal life, etc. The aim is to enclose the mind in a system of thought that gives the Church power over your conscience.
Wouldn't it be better to play down the drama of existence? It is better to develop creativity and critical thinking rather than fidelity to a religion or tradition. This principle also applies to the teaching of philosophy.
To have the courage to oppose injustice in the name of dignity and solidarity, one does not need to believe in deities. Feeling part of the human community can be enough.
The sacred is a feeling, halfway between self-censorship and taboo, a component of which is a paralysing fear. Religious institutions cultivate it in order to numb the critical spirit, reinforce docility, promote subjugation and avoid any questioning.
Only human rights are "sacred", and the Church has paid little attention to them, both in the past and today, for example in relation to gender equality, remarriage, homosexuality and paedophilia.
An institution which, throughout its history, has flouted human rights cannot be "the" moral benchmark. Progress has not come from a movement of the Church itself, but has been snatched from it by the demands of modernity.
Belief, the believer
The believer holds it to be true that he lives according to God's will, whereas he endorses a ready-to-think established by very human ideologues. It is said that faith moves mountains, but it must be pointed out that these are mountains of human rights deliberately evacuated.
Belief would not be a problem if it were limited to the dictionary definition. Unfortunately, the believer feels held in consciousness of being missionary. It commits the state to supporting certain religious communities, which leads to unequal treatment and exposes non-believers to one-sided and unwanted religious publicity.
Ecclesiastical tax is a remnant of clericalism. The State does not have to interfere in the religious life of citizens by organising the financing of the Church.
In the cantons of Fribourg, Jura and Bern, one can be exempted from church tax on leaving the Church. In the cantons of Valais and Vaud, after leaving the Church, one can apply for reimbursement of the parish share of the tax. In the cantons of Geneva and Neuchâtel, Church and state are separate. There is no Church tax.
Ecological awareness will only be able to progress once mankind has truly understood and accepted that nature is not limited to our environment, but that we are an integral part of it. Humanity is a conscious part of the universe.
About the "Islam and Society Swiss Centre", Fribourg
The state has greatly reduced the social control it used to exert so that individuals are subject to religion, especially in education. Nowadays, it is the family and relatives who are in the front line, using their influence and, at times, exerting pressure in a shameless manner.
Indoctrination is also carried out through religious instruction in denominational institutions.
Resisting religious faith
For the happiness of those who believe in pure spirits, everything that is unverifiable is compatible with reason
Many feel that they are not very indoctrinated because, as social pressure has diminished, they do not feel pressured. However, they perceive life through myths such as paradise and hell, original sin, the existence of a Saviour, the Last Judgement, etc. They do not feel constrained. This is precisely what I call "being indoctrinated". Before we complain that others are too indoctrinated, it would be good to take an introspective look at the indoctrination that our culture has imbued us with.
Rather than adhering, by chance of birth, to a voluminous catalogue of traditional beliefs, reason, according to the principle of parsimony, asks us to adopt only a minimal set of necessary rules.
"Do you believe in God?" is not the most fundamental question. In the first place, it is not the first one, because, if our death is definitive, its interest is limited. Then, in the event that our soul would benefit from some form of survival, a God who would not judge us and distribute neither reward nor punishment would not worry us.
Faith is built on the belief that a "Supreme Judge" weighs our actions, rewards or punishes us. On earth, a father who would say "If you are wise, I will always love you; but if you disobey, I will reject you and you will go and live with the evil ogre who makes you suffer" would be qualified as unworthy. By transforming a tale of this kind into a divine decree, religions indulge in moral blackmail. He who believes himself immortal lives between the anxiety of Judgement and the hope of recompense. "God's love" is a formula that expresses the hope of the clemency of the Judgement, but Hell remains a possible and anguishing way out. Religion powerfully dramatizes life and death, but I do not believe in the God of the carrot and the stick.
The fundamental question is therefore "Am I immortal?". According to established knowledge, the answer is clearly no, because the death of any living being is total and definitive. From then on, with or without faith in God, the threat of Judgement vanishes.
In what image of God can we trust? Is evil a by-product of freedom?
God would have sent us a Saviour 2,000 years ago. However, the human being, more precisely Homo sapiens, has existed for about 300,000 years. Isn't it strange that God let mankind macerate in ignorance and error for 298,000 years? Waiting so long before launching a rescue operation does not correspond to the idea we have of a Saviour. Lack of readiness to help does not fit in well with the Church's teaching on God's love and makes the story of redemption dubious and not very credible.
As the Christian episode represents less than 0.7 % of the history of humanity, it is far from being representative of spirituality.
By transforming myths into truths, religious doctrines are undrinkable. Believing is neither a matter of course, nor a duty, nor a necessity. I can legitimately, as a matter of conscience, refuse the religion that has been infused into me.
In Allah's Paradise, every faithful believer will have 72 virgins to deflower. As there is no reason why the God of Christians should be less generous than that of Muslims, jealousy is out of the question. This is nothing to rejoice about because, spread over time, it is infinitely less than one virgin per billion centuries. What frustrations in perspective!
While referring to a hope disconnected from all reality, believers affirm that their faith is necessary for them. This posture is rich in teachings, not about God, but about the springs of human psychology: it is expectation that arouses faith, renamed Hope. In the religion that sells us dreams and mirages, there is something that irresistibly evokes Don Quixote.
The menace of hell
Some avatars of the French adage "He who loves well punishes well" are flamboyant.
Churches praise God's love without insisting as much as in the past on the intimidation that accompanies it:
[Matthew 13:41-42] "The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
Believers hold their breath, but find it right that God resorts to eternal torments. One would have expected a justice more concerned with proportionality, for on earth, even inflicted by the worst sadists, every punishment has an end. Moreover, justice that respects human rights does not resort to punitive torture.
What a striking contrast with the message of forgiveness:
[Matthew 5:44] "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you".
Unfortunately, any approach that falls under the principle "Do as I say, but not as I do" is unconvincing.
This is an internal contradiction whose enormity seriously discredits the Bible and clearly shows the logical impossibility that the Christian doctrine of the Last Judgement is Truth.
More circumspection should be shown in the face of preconceived ideas. We know that many imaginary and absurd stories are circulating. Hell is one of them, and undrinkable moreover. The appetite for faith must be restrained by the need for coherence.
In religious thought, rites have magical effects. But to avoid criticism, it is prudent to locate supernatural manifestations in a beyond that is beyond any possible verification. The same applies to the sacraments, especially the Eucharist.
I too have supernatural powers. An archangel appeared to me in a dream-vision and gave me the title of "Organiser of the Elected Officials' Agenda". I can arrange a private and intimate meeting with the person you desire as soon as you and the chosen person are both in the afterlife. This service is offered to you free of charge, but I will give you my bank address in case you wish to express your gratitude.
Obviously, that Jesus Christ is a divine person is a myth, certainly functional since it leads to subjugation and obedience. Seeing God in him is a revelation: that of the effect of indoctrination. Measured by reason, Christian teaching is as extravagant as that of a Brahmin who enumerates the epithets of Shiva.
Since religion is a cultural matter, reference to the truth is merely propaganda rhetoric.
We must escape the totalitarianism of those to whom "the truth" has been revealed.
Rebuttal of the Pascal's wager
- Four arguments against "Pascal's wager"
- Objection to the Pascal's wager
- Objection about the probability of the existence of God
- Refutation of Pascal's wager
- What minimises loss, Christianity or atheism?
Faith, science and epistemology
Nothing is worse than faith that gives the illusion of ultimate knowledge, for example Catholicism's claim to be the depositary of Truth. Becoming aware of our ignorance leads to a more modest attitude which is also more in keeping with our human condition.
The agnostic believes that there is no proof of the existence or non-existence of a creator (or creators) and generally rejects constituted religions. However, as he admits that God may possibly exist, he must consider the possibility, not established but not excluded, of being subject to divine judgment. This is why his position with regard to the religion he has left - or that of his social environment - often remains ambiguous and uncomfortable.
De-dramatising death to alleviate life
"If there is nothing after death, then there is no point in living". This statement suggests that life is a kind of work that deserves pay. Being convinced that I am not endowed with immortality, I could not take the fruits of my actions to the afterlife and the morality of reward-punishment is inoperative.
Religions work to dramatise existence. In addition to death itself, the believer has to face additional trials such as the Last Judgement, and is then directed towards Paradise, after a possible stay in Purgatory, or towards Hell. The verdict is valid for eternity, and it is very frightening. In other religions, Hell is replaced by reincarnation in an inferior being, but the problem remains the same.
My secular heart does not tend towards such a "hope". When religious concerns lead to negative feelings such as fear, it is a measure of mental hygiene to distance oneself from them.
For the atheist, death is a natural event, devoid of the stakes linked to immortality, and therefore de-dramatised. It brings the definitive end of worries and torments. I very much appreciate that life is neither a contest, nor an exam, nor a test with winners and losers. Atheism brings peace of mind, not only in the face of death, but also in everyday life.
One major obstacle, however: this path to serenity is steep for those who believe themselves immortal. Only those who have the mental strength to free themselves from the trap of religious faith have access to it.
Freeing oneself from the grip of religion
When a believer moves away from religion, he or she may experience negative feelings such as guilt or shame.
The truth cannot be established, but the error can be ruled out, which makes it possible to identify the field of research. In order to respond to my need for coherence, I pursued the goal of chasing away contradictions, which led me to reject religious fictions fuelled by the writings fallen from the sky. One must return to the school of common sense and rest both feet on the ground. The exercise of free thought, in particular the opposition to all dogma, requires acceptance of a great diversity of ways of looking at existence. More fundamentally, I aspire to religious indifference. Unfortunately, because of the weight of religion in my environment, this ideal is out of reach. I support in solidarity all attitudes that encourage resistance to religious indoctrination.
Instead of whining that we live in a society without values and putting our hopes in another world, let's give meaning to the world we live in. Let us reserve our commitment to what is universal, away from the circles of believers. We want to be characterised by values that are more open and more general in scope than the cult of credulity in a communitarian setting.
Let us return to the foundations of our Western culture: humanism inherited from the Enlightenment, with human rights, democracy, secularism, the search for the common good and the primacy of reason over faith. Infinity exists in what we can build, create or love.
Let us base school education, not on the authority of the Church, but on the development of reason, critical thinking, independence of mind and intellectual autonomy, within a secular framework.