Monday, April 05, 2010

An apology of sorts

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you may have noticed that I didn't have the kindest of words for Catholics on Friday. In fact, I was downright nasty at times. I have received some negative feedback from a few people, so I thought I would offer an apology of sorts to those who might have been offended.
To be clear, I do NOT retract anything I said. I always speak my mind and heart, without shame and without filters. Anything I said, I stand by. To retract it would be to deny my own voice, feelings, and thoughts, and I refuse to do so. I will however offer an explanation and clarification.
I am not anti-God. I actually do believe in God, although probably not in the same way as most of you. What I am is anti-religion. I believe that religion has done more harm throughout the history of mankind than good. In some form or another, religion has been at the heart of most of the worlds bloodiest wars, and the focus of the worlds darkest times. The Christians were behind the Crusades, which resulted in the massacre of millions of muslims, jews, and pagans over a span of 200 years. The muslims are behind our current "holy" war, targeted at the western world. Despicable things have been done "in God's name" for thousands of years, and I can't bring myself to believe that God would condone any of it, so I simply reject religion as a whole on the grounds that religion offers nothing more than humanity's flawed interpretation of their beliefs, and the human desire to push those beliefs on those around them.
That's not to say that religion is entirely bad, either. The Catholic church has easily done as much good as harm by bringing education to the worlds poorest places. Religion is also a great way to teach ethics and morality to the ignorant masses. It teaches a reward and punishment system that nobody can escape from. If you're good and follow the rules, you will be rewarded with an afterlife of pure bliss in heaven. If you're bad and break the rules, you will be punished with an afterlife of suffering in hell. But it's these very rules that inspired my rants this past Friday.
I consider myself an educated person, and enlightened by the understanding that ethics and morality are an important cornerstone in a modern society. Without them, we have lawlessness, violence, crime, and chaos. We can not survive as a society without these things, and I do my best to live life as a moral person. Religion offers an easy way to teach morality, as it can easily be extended into the home and neighborhood. But religion requires ceremonies, and stories, and dogma, and doctrines that are specific to that religion. They set the different religions apart from each other and provide an interpretation of morality that sometimes conflict with the interpretations of others. These conflicts are how wars get started.
These conflicts should be avoided, yet many religions have taken a different approach to resolving them. They prefer to eliminate the competition. They instill their own doctrines in the laws of the land. They indoctrinate an entire people by making their rules law. Those people who aren't afraid of the hell taught by that religion must still follow the rules of that religion or risk punishment in the form of prison. I strongly disagree with this practice of combining church and state. It is wholly unacceptable to me. And I was the victim of this practice this past Friday. Unfortunately for my Catholic friends and families, it is their religion who has installed its doctrine in Panamanian law, and so it was that I struck out at Catholicism as a whole.
Good Friday is an entirely Christian holiday. And I respect it. I even appreciate the fact that thanks to this Christian holiday, I was given a day off from my regular work routine. I had planned to enjoy my day off by taking a case of beer out on the lake and spending a quiet afternoon fishing. I didn't want to bother anyone. But my plans were ruined when I learned that the police were stopping all cars going towards the interior and checking for alcohol. The were not checking to see if the driver was intoxicated, but whether there was any alcohol at all in the car. In Panama, on Good Friday, thanks to Catholic doctrine, it is illegal to consume alcohol, and the Panamanian government enforces this doctrine in part by prohibiting the citizenry from transporting alcoholic beverages, under the assumption that it will be consumed at some point. Have no doubt. I was fully intending to break Panamanian law and drink on Good Friday. But I planned to do it in a way that would not bother anyone. However, since I could not go to the lake to fish and drink quietly, I was forced to choose between fishing and drinking. I chose to lash out at my persecutors by breaking their doctrine as much as possible, and I went on a bender. I got absolutely hammered, and I did it in the most obnoxious way I could without getting arrested -- by posting all of my ravings on Twitter and Facebook for the world to read.
And on Saturday I paid for it with a monstrous hangover. A religious person might call it a punishment from God. I personally don't think so, but I got my anger out of my system, and I feel better for having done it. As far as I'm concerned, the punishment was worth the crime.
So I end this letter with a brief comment to those of my friends and family who felt personally offended by my Friday ravings. Do not take any of my comments as a personal attack. I respect your beliefs. It would have been nice, however, if your beliefs hadn't affected my rights and caused me to feel like a victim.

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