Saturday, 10 January 2015

The turbulent waters where religion meets reality

I was exposed to religion as a child, but never forced into anything. My mother was the only one from a religious background, but even as a child she had been more interested in the social and humanist aspects of it all. Growing up, I learned about the world's religions and most importantly I learned to form my own opinion, with my mother making it above all clear to always treat others how you'd want to be treated yourself. I still feel grateful about having had a youth like this, especially considering my later experiences in life.

I'm not religious at all, or even mildly spiritual. I fall firmly into the 'agnostic' camp, with the acknowledgement that there is insufficient evidence to decide either way on the existence of gods. This made it interesting for me to end up living in the Netherlands' Bible Belt for a few years. It was there that I first had to deal with religious people directly, in the sense that all three family doctor offices in the city I ended up visiting were staffed by Christian doctors.

As far as these family doctors go, I can be pretty brief. The first office I started off with in 2005 had one of their doctors denounce me for thinking that I could be intersex and another doctor monologued me for about an hour in 2011, trying to convince me to stop trying to pretend to be intersex, stop looking for medical help and try to live a 'normal' life. Also in 2011 I tried two other offices, with the first doctor refusing to take me on as a patient during the first appointment on basis of my intersex condition making her feel uncomfortable. The second office's doctor sent the police after me when I kept reminding them about promises they had made [1].

Honestly, I don't like religion and I dislike it strongly when people let religion influence the way they treat and view others. I can see no benefit to religion existing. All I have seen is that it makes people less humane and more prejudiced. That I had to flee the Netherlands to find refuge in Germany is something I feel I can also at least partially blame on religion as the Netherlands is a highly religious country, with conservative Christian morals determining much of the intolerant attitude towards those who are different. Germany fortunately isn't so eager to embrace 'Christian values' after last century's experiences with the NSDAP. For me personally this translates into an environment where people are in general tolerant, non-judgemental and accepting, even welcoming differences.

After the recent events in Paris - only a few hours away from where I live - I find myself more than a little perturbed by the aggressive, violent responses aimed at whoever dares to associate in some way with the Islamic faith. Although the 'Je suis Charlie' response in some way is the best response imaginable, the attempts to hijack this movement and turn it into something negative and oppressive is astounding and more than a little frightening.

The thing which most disturbs me about this is that people are apparently so willing to denounce others for things they think. Not things they have done, but the mere thoughts and opinions they have. The way I have learned it, just thinking a certain way doesn't make you a bad person as you can still realize the flaws in one's reasoning and change it. It's only when you intend to act upon such opinions that you cross the line. Many Muslims, Christians and Jews hold very outdated, offensive views on how to treat others, yet only a few decide to act upon this. Not every religious person has the same opinions. No religion is a single, coherent thing, instead with each split into many variations until ultimately one arrives at singular minds.

Seeing so much anger directed at Muslims in general recently, makes me question just how civil and educated the average person behind this anger actually is. It's no surprise that at least here in Germany the most anti-Muslim support comes from people in areas where the fewest Muslims live. One also has to question in how far it can all even be put on just 'religion', with a pronounced anti-homosexuality and anti-transgender attitude in the US and Russia as well as certain European countries. What is religion after all but just another fantasy conjured up by the mind? What's the essential difference between believing in magical sky fairies and believing that homosexuality and transsexualism are somehow 'unnatural'? Both forego logic and reason, instead opting to assume dogma as the truth in the overwhelming absence of evidence.

I believe it is that which humankind struggles the most with: not religion or sexual/gender preferences, but the acceptance of logic and reason. The human mind is quite the opposite, after all, preferring quick assumptions and snap judgements over careful reviewing of the available facts before arriving at a reasonable conclusion. This flaw invites the acceptance of dogma, which should be seen as poison to critical thought.

As critical thought dies, so does logic and reason, and with it any chance of a humane outcome.



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