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Adam Joshua Smargon
www.adam.smargon.net/religion

First and foremost, I need to state that the following is not meant to be offensive, profane, or disrespectful of any religious or spiritual belief. This is my opinion -- my thoughts and ideals on life and the afterlife, dead and the undead, forever and ever, amen. If you're happy practicing your religion, then good for you. If you're not happy with your religion, please do yourself a favor: pull yourself out of misery and go fishin' for a new religion. Just because you were raised in one religion does not mean you have to stick with it for life; your family will still love you if you make a change like this. Don't let the ties of family keep you in a faith that doesn't work for you.

Also, let it be absolutely clear that I have given this matter years and years of thought and introspection, and I am absolutely serious about what I believe in. Do not attempt to convert me to "the way I was," or to any other kind of organized religion; I will consider these efforts as a personal insult to my independence, my dignity, and my intelligence.

The Way I Was

The word "religion" and the word "ligament" have the syllable "lig" in common. That's no coincidence. "Religion" is defined as "a set of beliefs, values, and practices to live a life," and "ligament" is anatomically defined as "a band of fibers that hold the bones of a joint together." Do you see a trend in the structure of both words? I do; the word "religion" is supposed to mean "that which unifies your life, brings it together, and makes it whole."

In most occurences today, the word "religion" is usually taken to mean "organized religion" -- Christianity, Judiasm, Islam, Buddhism, et cetera. There are many people in this world who have been forced to use the word "spiritual" if they don't follow organized religion. (Maybe because the phrase "disorganized religion" doesn't work that well.)

I was born Jewish, and as a child, I really tried to be Jewish. I went to Sunday school, but I was not interested in most of it. I tried to learn Hebrew, and I did not care for it. I was bar mitzvahed at the age of 13, but only because my family expected me to go through that process. I tried to believe in the Old Testament, and I tried to understand what it meant to be Jewish. The experiment of me being a Jew didn't work, and so I decided to find something that would work for me. I never felt connected to the faith -- or to any organized religion. I have never felt pious, or religious; therefore, I never had the desire to attach myself to any religion.

And so, in January of 2001, as the new millennium truly arrived, I disconnected from the Jewish religion. I did not convert to any other religion... I deconverted. I simply left the Jewish faith behind me, and decided that I would be spiritual in the manner that I saw fit.

Now, I cannot truly sever the relationship I have with the Jewish faith. History and genetics will survive that. I cannot deny that my family is Jewish, and that if a Hitler existed today, I'd be considered Jewish -- because I was born Jewish. Nonetheless, I severed ties to Judaism because it failed to do for me what it was supposed to do -- unify my life, bring it together, and make it whole.

Religion has indeed done tremendous good in the world, and many religionists are good people -- but I think they would be good anyway. One downside is most religions have consistently resisted progress -- the abolition of slavery, the women's right to vote and choose contraception and abortion, medical developments (such as the use of anesthesia), scientific understanding of the heliocentric solar system and evolution, and the American principle of the separation of church and state.

The Way I Am

Okay, so I'm no longer Jewish... so what is my current status?

(1) If we were going to use the actual definition of "religion" as "that which unifies my life, brings it together, and makes it whole", then I would very easily point to Modern American Technologically-Driven Society as my religion. It's true: I use technology in every aspect of my life, and you probably do too. Digital alarm clocks wake me every morning. Cars (with all the electronic options) get me around town. Electronic mail and the World Wide Web are a very big part of my life. I let washers and dryers clean my clothes. I have telephones with Caller ID. I use televisions, video cassette recorders, digital video disc players, compact disc players (and the aforementioned World Wide Web) for entertainment... and don't get me started on all the gizmos in my kitchen!

(2) If we're talking about "religion" in the everyday sense... if you had to put a label on me... I would say that I am an atheistic freethinker. (I'll explain.)

Is something out there? I doubt it. Theism is certainly a nice idea, but I'd like proof. Whether or not that entity exists, I choose to call that entity "God." (I use that name only because that's the common name that most theists [and atheists!] use). Is being alive and simply existing as an entity good enough for proof of the existence of God? For me, the answer is no.

I am a freethinker, which is someone who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. To the freethinker, orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth. Truth is the degree to which a statement corresponds with reality. Reality is limited to that which is directly perceivable through natural senses or indirectly ascertained through the proper use of reason. Reason is a tool of critical thought that limits the truth of a statement according to the strict tests of the scientific method. For a statement to be considered true, it must be:

  • testable - what evidence or repeatable experiments confirm it?
  • falsifiable - what, in theory, would disconfirm it, and have all attempts to disprove it failed?
  • parsimonious - is it the simplest explanation, requiring the fewest assumptions?
  • logical - is it free of contradictions, non sequiturs, or irrelevant ad hominem character attacks?

Many atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers make the challenge to prove the existence of (a) god, and others go one step further. Many claim to have proven, with the general use of scientific historical process, that (1) there never was a god, (2) there is no god, and (3) there never will be a god. For example, suppose a group of people believes in a tooth god, that they worship this god, communicate with the tooth god by chewing, that they know our prayers are answered, and that in the next life they'll become lower bicuspid molars if they live an ethical life now and worship the tooth god as we should. Now, prove that this is not true. Theists can't prove that isn't true, although it certainly sounds bizarre. You can erect any kind of god idea and god system of worship in your imagination and then turn to someone else and say, "Prove that this isn't so." Or, you can say, "Do you deny the existence of (my) god?" There must be some criterion for the proof.

If there is a God, then that god is probably of god of oneness, not sameness. Belief in a god should promote unity with diversity, and not diversity with dissension. Ultimately, belief in a god should promote discussion.

The future is not set. There is no fate but what we make for ourselves. Every decision you make changes the course of your destiny. Predetermined destiny cannot exist while we have the ability to decide.

I have to admit that life is full of strange coincidences, and people do not readily and consciously choose to get diseases, have miscarriages, have friends or family killed or maimed or wounded. A person has a certain control over their lives, unless "fate" intervenes. Fate may be a combination of chance and your actions (or lack of actions).

No matter what you do, you are going to do something... even if it's nothing. You do have to work for things to make them happen.

"If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice."
-- Rush, "Free Will"

I really try not to think about all this very often, because if I dwell on either side of this argument, I am likely to drive myself crazy. Some people make great decisions, and the outcome still ends up bad. On the other hand, sometimes hardship leads to something good. I don't know. I do hate to think that my life has been pre-determined for me. What an excuse for laziness, though...

"Religion convinced the world that there's an invisible man in the sky who watches everything you do. And there are ten things he doesn't want you to do, or else you'll go to a burning place with a lake of fire until the end of eternity. But he loves you! He loves you... and he needs money! He's all powerful, but he can't handle money!"
-- George Carlin

"I credit school with nourishing me in a direction where I could trust myself and trust my instincts. They gave me the tools to reject my faith. They taught me to question and think for myself and to believe in my instincts to such an extent that I just said, 'this is a wonderful fairy tale they have going here, but it's not for me.'"
-- George Carlin, New York Times, 20 August 1995, page 17

"If there really is a God who created the entire universe with all of its glories, and He decides to deliver a message to humanity, He will not use, as His messenger, a person on cable TV with a bad hairstyle."
-- Unknown

"It's a fact: people who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours with them."
-- Unknown

Please God: Save Me From Your Followers
-- seen on a bumper sticker

"I believe in the hospice movement, which says: 'No one should die alone.' A loved one should hold your hand and comfort you as you transition from one plane of reality to another."
-- Mark Victor Hansen

Theistic evolution is the acceptance that there is a God and that he created the whole evolution process. In this case, "initiated" might be a better term than "created". No, I don't believe theistic evolution is true.

Evolution is a fact, but (belief in) theistic evolution is flawed. Itís a convenient philosophy for those who do not want to abandon belief in God, nor accept the idea of creation. They do not realize that theistic evolution is an oxymoron. Evolution explains that life came about by chance -- that life is almost accidental. Whereas belief in God indicates that life has a purpose, and that life is no accident.

A scientist is able to question the world around him and go and find answers. Someone who blindly accepts the "God must have done it" theory is happy for answers to be invented for them. Why are people so scared of the complexity of life around them?

When a scientific idea is called a theory, that means that that it has a lot of real evidence to support it. If there is a lack of evidence, but the idea is being put forward as an explanation to a problem, it is called a hypothesis. An example of another theory is the theory of relativity. An example of a hypothesis is the Gaia hypothesis.

I am a recent fan of ReligiousTolerance.org; this web site provides fair and unbaised information about every religion, faith group, and belief system. They tackle controversial religious and moral topics from multiple points of view in an objective, balanced manner. They could use some help paying their website bills; they are worth supporting.

Copyright © 1994-2005 Adam Joshua Smargon (adam@smargon.net)
Religion Page v.1.27 - updated 29 January 2007