I've been thinking about religion lately

  • Posted on: 9 August 2013
  • By: Jay Oyster

I was raised as a Methodist by my very pragmattic but good-natured parents. I went to Sunday school and church and everything, up until about the age of 16.  Then I spent about 30 years NOT thinking much about religion. 

Recently, for some reason, it's been in my mind. I'd say I've always had a rationalist tendency. My coursework as an undergrad, after all, was physics.   But the increasing signs of religious intolerance I've seen in the United States lately has me worried. I worry what all of these evangelicals will do if they ever get too much power in our culture. 

I recently came across a question in an online forum, "Why do many rationalists, humanists, agnostics, and atheists care about religion? Why do they spend time arguing with religious people?" 

My response was a bit strongly worded, surprising even myself. 

I said,

In 415CE, in the fading Roman Empire city of Alexandria, Hypatia was the most respected philosopher and scholar in the classical world. And although the old library of Alexandria had faded over several centuries before this, with the actual building long gone, the core of the actual writings were still there, housed in the Serapeum. As Carl Sagan often said, if the writings and tradition of the Library of Alexandria could have been preserved, humanity might never have suffered through the dark ages, and we may have reached the stars hundreds or even a thousand years earlier.  But the new power in Egypt at that time were some incredibly intolerant Christians, such as "Saint" Cyril and the nutjob desert monks thereabout.  Hypatia was a neo-Platonist . . . a rationalist . . . and the Christians didn't like that the governor would listen to her opinions. So one day a Christian mob dragged her from her carriage, into a CHURCH, stripped her naked, beat her to death, tore her body apart, and then burned the pieces.   

I care about religion because it is one of the most despicable of human tendencies, and it must be watched with an eagle eye lest it goes all nutjob again and starts killing people it doesn't like, as it invariably tends to do whenever it gains too much power in a society. You know that 'rude beast slouching toward Bethlehem' that the poet Yeats wrote about? That was Religion.
I looked at what I had written and was startled to realize that I believe every word of it. Odd, since I've spent almost no time arguing with reilgious people. I've spent most of my life avoiding these discussions. I'm not sure how much longer I can do that, though. I seem to care about this.