Saturday, July 18, 2015

Christianity is Killing America

I figure if I haven't driven you away already, you're likely going to start burning me in effigy for this commentary.  No one wants to acknowledge the absolute damaging effect that religion in general, and Christianity in particular, has on the founding principles of the United States, not to mention the society that has grown up around us that's supposed to be based on those principles.


So, let's start with some background information.


Christianity, as a religion, did not start with Jesus.  Nor did it start with Paul or any of the other apostles.  Christianity actually started with Constantine I , who ruled the Roman Empire from 306 to 337 CE.  The Empire, which once upon a time had been a democratic republic but had long since become an autocratic, war-mongering military-dominated conquering state, was having a problem.  Namely, the Roman army, made up of men from all corners of the Empire -- men who rarely shared a language, certainly didn't share a background culture, and absolutely did not share much in common when it came to religion -- was having a problem fighting together.  The army brought together Germanic pagans, Mediterranean Jews, old-blooded Romans who followed the Imperial cult -- dozens of religions and dozens of cultures, all supposedly working together under the banner of the Empire, but in actually all rivals and hating each other.


So what was a war-mongering dictator like Constantine to do?  He knew he had to unify his armies somehow, and he knew that religion was the problem, all the while keeping his temporal authority as Emperor.  The old style Green paganism might work, but it lacked a central authority.  Judaism featured a central authority, but the Jews were never one to grant a human being that central power.


And then, suddenly, out of nowhere, a new group arose.  The people who made up this new group weren't particularly rebellious, like the Jews were, and they preferred a central figure ruling over them.  They seemed to willingly go to their death because they were promised salvation after death and not any sort of reward in this life.  They didn't fight and fret over the beliefs of other people, either, it seemed.  They were an offshoot of the Jews, who believed that a Jewish man named Jesus had been the son of God, and followed the supposed teachings of this man.


So, with all this in mind, Constantine made a choice that would best unify the various cultures and people under his rule -- especially those in his armies.  He chose to make Christianity the official state religion.  It was a brilliant and masterful piece of brinksmanship.  Not only would the people in his Empire all share a religion, it was a religion that taught the peasants to accept a life of misery -- because they were sinners by nature -- and only hope for something better in the afterlife.  And even then, they'd only get the afterlife if they behaved and followed the rules in this life!


Now, since they knew that his people would have a hard time simply dropping the pagan life they'd lived up until then, the leaders of the new official Empire-wide church worked traditional pagan chocolate -- the rituals and holidays enjoyed by the pagan people -- into their brand new Christian peanut butter.  The best example would be the story of the death and rebirth of the Greek god Dionysos.  It was was adapted by Christianity, with Jesus in the starring role.


And so the government of Rome created a brand new religion, which would serve for years to convince the people of the Empire -- of whom three-quarters lived in abject misery, oppression, and slavery -- that all the misery and servitude and death was not only acceptable, but to be expected, because they were inescapably sinners and thus suffering was their lot in life.


And as time passed, Rome moved further and further from being the democracy it was founded as and more and more toward an autocratic theocracy, until finally Christianity landed Europe in the depths of the Dark Ages, where religious dogma ruled and independent thought was forbidden.


Rome wasn't the only country to follow this program, by the way.  If you look at every single civilization on earth that turned from intellect and reason toward religion, you find the civilization in question diminishes and becomes more and more oppressive until finally it collapses in on itself.  Take ancient Greece, for example.  The government of Athens executed the great philosopher Socrates for teaching young people how to think critically, intelligently, and independently.  The formal charges made against him was heresy; that is, for having different thoughts, beliefs, and religious views than those approved of by the government.  He taught his students that they, too, could think as they wanted, and thus he was put to death.


Anyone who has read the works of Socrates today knows that there is nothing unholy about them.  Nothing evil or corrupting.  He simply taught logic and independent thought.  And the rulers of Athens -- a group of wealthy, war-mongering politicians known as "The Thirty" -- didn't like that at all.  But notice:  they didn't charge and convict him of sedition, or treason, or inciting rebellion against their rule.  They charged him with heresy.


Its a basic fact.  Religion has always stood against critical thought.  Independent thought.  Rational thought.


Always.


Consider the following.


In order to finally become a true democracy, England had to actively reject the influence of the Church of England on politics.  France today has strictly secular laws that enforce a separation of Church and State that even the United States could learn from -- but they had to go through the Terror -- a very religious, very conservative time when Maximillian Robspierre and his Jesuit cronies sent every person who dissented with them or disagreed with them to the guillotine -- before they embraced rationality again.  Italy, a nation that is perhaps the most stereotypically religious country in all of Europe, exiled the Pope to to an independent "nation" smaller than the city of Rome itself, and thus is a secular democracy.  Even Israel keeps its religion separate from its state as much as possible just to encourage democratic thought.


On the other hand, you have those countries where religion and government are irrevocably intertwined.  Iraq.  Iran.  Saudi Arabia.  Oppressive dictatorships, every one.  Because in reality, religion and freedom are directly opposed to one another.


Which bring me to the United States of America.


Right now, as I write this, the popularity and influence of Christianity has been ascending for about the past 30 years.  Since the Reagan administration, religion has replaced secularism as the American norm.  Americans have handed over their previously remarkable talents for critical thinking, rationalism, and independent thought in exchange for faith-based acceptance of ideas that are not grounded in fact and absolutely are not in their best interest.


The modern Republican party has, in fact, been transformed into a group of preachers, teaching dogma and catechism to their followers instead of political thought.  Republican "policy" is based on a fundamentalist understanding of Christian teachings.  This dogma is spouted from countless sources of propaganda, and rather than discussing it, criticizing it, and molding it using reason and rationalism, the rank and file simple accepts it without question.  They simply swallow what their political leaders -- who are becoming more and more similar to their religious leaders -- tell them, no matter how non-factual, how untrue, and how unbelievable, based on nothing more than faith.


And before you think I'm being one-sided, let me tell you -- the phenomenon is happening with liberals too.  Just more slowly.


The source of nearly every single problem facing American today is the fact that the American people have abandoned critical thinking en masse.  The idea of questioning the popular wisdom and analyzing it based on facts instead of dogma is frowned upon.  Normal people just accept.  They take things on faith.  They don't analyze, they don't examine, and they certainly don't raise doubts or contradict "what everyone knows".  Every single problem faced by the people of the United States right now was easily foreseeable, but only by people who think independently.


Christianity tends to punish and excommunicate independent thinkers.  Christianity tends to shame those who express doubt, or who question the "Word" as given by those in authority.  Christianity tends to discourage education and seeking knowledge for its own sake.  Christianity tends to encourage ignorance and the acceptance of whatever nonsense is handed down from on high.


At least, a certain segment of Christianity does.  Unfortunately, that segment is dominant in the United States right now.


And so, the United States has been slowly, gently been turned into a nation of unthinking peasants.  When their bosses tell them that from now on, they'll be doing the work of two people but won't be getting paid any more than they already are.  When they are given the smallest amount of vacation time of any country in the First World.  When they work more hours but are less and less able to make ends meet.  When all of this happens, the American people accept it, because the Christian dogma they are addicted to has taught them that the problem is them.  The problem is each person, as an individual.  They are sinners, and deserve to be mistreated.  To be enslaved.  If they speak out or stand up they'd simply be whining about things mandated by God.


Talk to your average working-class Christian American.  Ask him why American workers shouldn't be paid more, or be given more vacation time, or why Americans shouldn't complain about how many hours they have to work just to get from week to week and you'll hear rote responses about how Americans are better than those "socialists" in Europe who are treated like human beings by their government and their employers.  Why only losers seek to take better care of themselves and educate themselves.  Why only dorks and weirdos care about things like fairness and quality of life.


To these people, the purpose of the American worker is to slog on without complaint, even as they accrue more and more debt, as they become less and less healthy, as they die younger and younger for easily preventable reasons.


We seriously need to get out from under religion if we are going to survive as a culture.  We need to get back to the days where we embraced intelligent, independent thought.  Where we celebrated intelligence instead of ridiculed it.  Where "great men and women" weren't overpaid athletes or celebrities who were famous merely for being famous, but were men and women who achieved greatness through intellectual prowess:  inventors, scientists, philosophers, explorers, and leaders who were not afraid to question the common wisdom.


America has a Christianity problem.  As a nation, we'd better start doing something about it, or we'll be just another Third World theocracy before anyone here notices.


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