If you've followed my musings on this blog since I started it in November 2004 -- and shame on you, you churchless sinner, if you haven't! -- I can see why you might think that I've mellowed out, anti-religion wise.
Indeed, it's true that my most rabid rants against religiosity were written in the early Church of the Churchless years. Now I'm more inclined to ignore dogmas than to foam at the mouth about how ridiculous they are.
In short, I don't take religions as seriously as I used to.
What irritates me the most are the effects of fundamentalism and blind faith -- such as prejudice against gays because the Bible supposedly says that homosexuality is an abomination.
(Of course, the Bible also says that slavery is fine, so it's absurd that Christians selectively pick and choose their scripturally-based morality.)
Religion is a joke. Yet since billions of people take it seriously, I do too.
Every day countless atrocities and injustices are committed in the name of an imaginary divinity. Until the world is rid of make-believe gods, those of us who worship at the altar of reality have to be cognizant of the dangers lurking in the faith-based shadows.
Laughter, though, is an entirely appropriate response to true believers who prance about pompously, proclaiming how superior they are because of their special relationship with some invisible supernatural entity.
Mental hospitals are filled with people who harbor similar delusions. However, when a delusion is shared widely, cultures call it "religion" and offer up a free pass against accusations of insanity.
The ridiculousness of religion can be seen more clearly through the lenses of the many parody religions.
With some parody religions, only ex-members of the specific group being parodied may understand it or be interested in it. Other parody religions are aimed at highlighting deficiencies in particular pro-religious arguments — the thinking being that if a given argument can also be used to support a clear parody, then the original argument is clearly flawed (an example of this is the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which parodies the equal time argument employed by intelligent design creationism).
Several religions that are classified as parody religions have a number of relatively serious followers who embrace the perceived absurdity of these religions as spiritually significant, a decidedy post-modern approach to religion. For instance, in Discordianism, it may be hard to tell if even these "serious" followers are not just taking part in an even bigger joke. This joke, in turn, may be part of a greater path to enlightenment, and so on ad infinitum.
Before coming across this Wikipedia article, I'd never heard of Discordianism. Naturally my first stop to learn more about it was another Wikipedia article.
Discordianism is a "Ha Ha, Only Serious" 'joke', using humor to subversively spread what its members regard as a valid philosophy. To keep said beliefs from becoming dangerous fanaticism, they rely on self-subverting Dada-Zen humor, with varying degrees of success. It is regarded as a joke religion, though to what degree is disputed.
It has been likened to Zen, based on similarities with absurdist interpretations of the Rinzai school. Discordianism is centered on the idea that chaos is all that there is, and that disorder and order are both illusions that are imposed on chaos. These are referred to, respectively, as the "Eristic" and "Aneristic" illusions. Discordianism recognizes the positive aspects of chaos, discord, and dissent as valid and desirable qualities, in contrast with most religions, which idealize harmony and order.
Not surprisingly, the home page of the Discordian Society doesn't offer much evident help in understanding what Discordianism is all about. I was met with "There is no definition" and "As you learn more you will understand less."
Reading a few pages in the unholy scripture of Discordianism, I liked what I saw. Heck, what's not to like about these opening paragraphs:
You hold in your hands one the Great Books of our century fnord.
Some Great Books are recognized at once with a fusillade of critical huzzahs and gonfolons, like Joyce's Ulysses. Others appear almost furtively and are only discovered 50 years later, like Moby Dick or Mendel's great essay on genetics. The Principia Discordia entered our space-time continuum almost as unobtrusively as a cat-burglar creeping over a windowsill.
In 1968, virtually nobody had heard of this wonderful book. In 1970, hundreds of people coast to coast were talking about it and asking the identity of the mysterious author, Malaclypse the Younger. Rumors swept across the continent, from New York to Los Angeles, from Seattle to St. Joe. Malaclypse was actually Alan Watts, one heard. No, said another legend -- the Principia was actually the work of the Sufi Order. A third, very intriguing myth held that Malaclypse was a pen-name for Richard M. Nixon, who had allegedly composed the Principia during a few moments of lucidity. I enjoyed each of these yarns and did my part to help spread them. I was also careful never to contradict the occasional rumors that I had actually written the whole thing myself during an acid trip.
Wanting to learn (but not understand) the ultimate secret of the cosmos as quickly as possible, I clicked on the final chapter in the table of contents: Salvation. Hey, sounds good to me.
The human race will begin solving it's problems on the day that it ceases taking itself so seriously.