I had an encounter with a religio-goober recently that reminded me of something I was told years ago. When I was seventeen, I worked as a telemarketer. One of my co-workers was a Baptist deacon and was an all around nice guy. One day he told me that I live by the word of god and I didn't even know it.
At the time I wasn't as acutely aware of my identity in religious matters, so I just went along with it.
Now I'm here more than a decade later and I'm thinking about values and religion. As I've said before, outside of some isolated reading assignments, I wouldn't know the bible from the satanic bible. I've never been compelled to read the bible and I certainly can't conjure up any coherent memories of my "church years". I know about Jesus Christ in the same way that a 65 year old farmer in Montana would know about Darth Vader.
I'm not a criminal. I don't kill, rape, or steal. I do my best to not annoy the people around me or cause troubles. I don't even go out of my way to kill bugs. I just try to be a decent guy.
When I hear some evangelical nutbag talk about the only thing keeping humanity from a display in hedonism and other forms of anti-social behavior is the fear of god, I have to shake my head and give a chuckle. First, the claim isn't even true. Humanity has managed to engage in those behaviors regardless of whether a mystical threat of whatever the hell it is is hanging over their head or not. Hedonism and anti-social behavior has been a staple of human society since there was a human society. It doesn't matter what the superstition dujour is. As a matter of fact, religion has aided and abetted this kind of stuff since it's inception. Do you really think that Pat "Blood Diamond" Robertson really believes the shit that he sells to the rubes every Sunday morning? Are those predatory pedophile priests that get bounced around from church to church, committing their crimes over and over again really afraid of hell? Apparently the threat of hell isn't quite the deterrent that we've been told it is.
Secondly, why does there have to be a god involved at all? It seems to me that empathy is a much stronger value than fear will ever be. Why let my decisions be guided about whether I'll get to go to heaven, when just helping people out in a tough situation because you feel for them is a far more nobler cause? We can all be good human beings and make the world we live in NOW a better place if we stop worrying about a pretend stick and carrot and just try to have empathy and compassion for the people we share the planet with? Who knows, maybe the only thing preventing us from making a real heaven on Earth is religion.