By Gayleen Cornelius
Life does not come with a guide or manual, we are born naked and subjected to nothing but the plight of our parents. Countless generations of ancestors before us established culture and norms based on what they learnt or thought. We always forget that they weren’t any much different from us when they thought it was a good idea to let men be the sole heirs of family wealth or that we should attribute all the gaps in our knowledge to superstition and religious authority. It took us a while to differentiate the stuff they got right like Isaac Newton’s Principia and everything they got wrong like some Palestinian Bronze Age nomad’s Bible. Ignorance coupled with human ego has led people to value whatever their ancestors said or thought regardless of their lack of information or honesty more than the plight of real people who are alive today.
This confusion has entangled our integrity in a web of conflicting values. The Bible for instance has very misogynistic laws and messages yet women are the most religious people in the majority of Christian communities. It endorses rape and slavery except for when it is Jews and people who claim to get their morality from it will go to great lengths to deny this reality. Their knowledge of the immorality of these practices is proof enough that they do not get their morality from the bible. There are other amoral aspects of human life like sexuality or diet that the Bible claims to be immoral. In reality, anyone’s sexuality or diet has nothing to do with morality hence it is neither moral or immoral. Unlike the obviously immoral aspects like murder, rape and slavery that the Bible endorsed and cherry picky Christians dismiss, these amoral aspects immediately fall victim to religious prejudice. The average Christian takes advantage of their apathy in the moral sphere. For Christians and many other religions, it is either obviously moral and if it is not a moral aspect and the Bible disapproves, we’ll just list it with obviously immoral aspects, especially if it doesn’t inconvenience men. This is how religious dogma causes bigotry.
The Bible, just like everything we take in authority from our ancestors despite them getting it wrong also tends to minimise our ability to learn. God or superstitions are like place holders for things we don’t know yet in our minds. The appetite for wonder that drives science to increase human knowledge and devise solutions for pressing human problems is lost in fundamentalist Christians or anyone who holds dogmatic cultural beliefs. This is unfair for children who are pressured by their parents to uphold a religious worldview and it affects their ability to learn. Their cognitive abilities are compromised as they grow. It also explains why despite so much evidence and even medicines being created from its understanding, many fundamental Christians dismiss the scientific theory of evolution without even reading about it, let alone understanding it. They’d rather buy a story about a garden with a talking snake because it is more familiar to them from their religious upbringing. Unfortunately, policy makers continue to make decisions that affect real people based on a bronze age fairytales rather than facts. Questions about what needs to be done about climate change, women’s access to safe abortions and stem cell research are good examples of how this religiously induced ignorance could be harmful to society.
Besides women, children the worst victims of religious dogma. Violent or horrific movies and stories are usually rated 18 because they traumatise children’s developing brains. It is outrageous that Christian parents still scare them with stories of hell, wars, and the numerous accounts of horror and gore documented in the Bible. This is serious child emotional abuse and it negatively affects their development. Making a child scared to think outside religion is heartbreakingly ruthless.
Our personal experiences and relationships determine what is relevantly important to us, not the views or experiences of long dead ancestors. Inorder to learn and grow, we need to free up the space in our minds that is occupied by the toxic placeholders and do what’s best for us. If we value reason over dogma, perhaps the plight of our society wouldn’t all be doom and gloom.