Monday, June 10, 2013

Selling You What is Yours Already

"Homer! That mower is already mine!"
My friend Kevin shared with me a great podcast from Mormonexpression. In it, there is a round table discussion about how religion takes what is yours, repackages it, and sells it back to you with their brand name now stamped on it.

I saw an example of this recently. My son is part of a Boy Scout troop that is run by our Mormon Ward (as are most troops here in Utah). We were doing an overnight camping trip that was going to allow the boys to complete a number of badge requirements. One of the tasks was to learn compass navigation. Since none of the dads from the Ward had this skill, the scoutmaster had enlisted the help of his neighbor, who was proficient with a compass. This neighbor was going to be joining us later. The scoutmaster let us know, "He's not an active member (of the LDS Church).... but he is a good guy!"

Notice the underlying message. The default position of a church member is that they are good - generous with their time and willing to help. Someone outside the church might be these things as well... but it is stated more as an exception to the rule. I heard that kind of talk all the time as I was growing up in evangelical circles.

When someone hears that I am an Atheist, the first question they typically address is morality. They imagine that a lack of belief in their god must create a moral vacuum. This demonstrates how successful their religion has been in taking their morals, repackaging them, and selling them back. The simple, human desire to be courteous, kind, and just has been hijacked and declared to be only within the purview of the particular religion. I have been told no less than a dozen times, "Yes, you are an Atheist, but you still cling to Christian values!"

It reminds me of an episode of the Simpsons. Homer and his family are moving, so they have a yard sale.  Homer is trying to sell the lawn mower to Ned Flanders when Ned mentions that the mower, and half of the lawn equipment in the yard sale, was originally borrowed from him. Homer is confused as to what point Ned is trying to make.

Religion pulls in all the good humans do, and claims it for itself. The religious person is trained in passing along the credit. A doctor heals, but the deity is thanked. A stranger assists you, but it is a blessing from above. In the Christian circles I grew up in, it was common to hear someone utter something like, "There is nothing good in me except what Jesus brings".

The reality is, most people are good, friendly, courteous, trustworthy, etc. No religion brings these things about. Yet most religious sects have trained their adherents to assume all this goodness flows from, and is peculiar to, their religion.

However, when one removes the religious lenses, it is easy to see that good people exist in all religions, tribes, nations, and political persuasions. No one needs a particular religion to be morally upright.

In fact, one doesn't need religion at all.

It is really an excellent podcast and I encourage you to give it a listen.  Though the analogies tend to be LDS, the ideas carry over to religion in general.

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails