Saturday, 15 October 2016

The meme we call religion

Every now and then I get asked whether I am religious, or what my views are on religion, often in light of my experiences the past decades.

On the first point I can be clear: I wasn't raised in a religious environment, nor did I somehow 'discover' religion along the way. At no point in the past decades did religion play any significant role, except for the negativity and rejection I encountered by Christians, both doctors and regular people.

To me religion is one of those oddities about humans, revealing a tendency to abandon independence, control and critical thought in exchange for blind faith, pointless rituals and a tendency to inflict horrible suffering upon others in the belief that one is doing the right things. Based on neurological evidence found during a number of scientific studies one can surmise that it does involve a type of neurological defect which may have its roots in human evolution.

While religion played no major role for me, what I did gain over the years was a strong belief in humanism. The notion that basically everything which happens to us on a daily basis is due to the actions of ourselves and others. None of what happened to me over the past decades was due to anything but the actions of others and to a limited extent my own, for example when I decided to take my own life, a few years ago now. Even that experience just made it more clear to me that it's just us humans.

All that I have seen were other humans. All that I experienced were humans being cruel, ignorant, uncaring, and sometimes gentle and understanding. I cannot conceivably define religion for this reason as being about something super-natural, spiritual or anything of the type. It's overwhelmingly shown itself as a purely human thing; contrived by humans and kept going by humans. There's no man behind the curtain, it's just... us.

To me religion is more of a Lovecraftian scenario. It's an Abyss which once one stares into it, it'll gazes back into one's soul, converting and twisting all of one's hopes, dreams and fears into an alternate reality inspired by the most primal and defective parts of our minds. Brought into a group, it begins to lead its own life, reducing individuals to merely insignificant components of a larger whole. It's essentially part of meme theory, whereby ideas and concepts can literally be treated as a type of virus, infecting others and forcing them to further spread the virus.

The past decade that I have fought to find myself and figure out the world around me. This process involved scientific and medical facts, as well as a very dark trip into the human psyche. I am still trying to figure out why it is that I was treated the way I was by doctors and psychologists, why scientific and medical facts were not paramount in their actions and decisions, but... something else instead.

It is this irrationality which frightens me the most in other humans. Instead of behaving rationally and displaying a preference for order, harmony and general happiness as would be expected, their focus instead seems to be inwards, involving the harbouring of some internal sense of misery and unhappiness. They then seem to inflict negative actions upon others for no perceivable gain, but to maybe temporarily alleviate their internal darkness.

Others seek to bury this feeling of unhappiness in the embracing of ignorance, ignoring their mortality, the suffering of others and the role they could be playing in the world.

Even as a child I felt burdened by the weight of being just a mortal existence amidst the sheer enormity of the universe, but learned to deal with it by fully embracing that which makes us truly human: science and the countless ways it can make life better for all of us. Thus, in effect, I negated the possibility of me ever contracting religion or similar by choosing to embrace reality and all the good that it can bring. All the changes that it can bring.

Religion does not change. It just is. Each instance is as firmly stuck in the past as the holy work on which it claims to be based. Science, however, is the book which we humans are still writing - and rewriting - every day, based on the small glimpses of the immense universe we strive to capture.

Science got me where I am today. Science allowed me to learn the things I now know about my body. Science is the reason why I am alive today. Science is what I will keep dedicating my life to, today and tomorrow, and every day that I will have after that.

For I am human.


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