Agnosticism vs. Religion
"Brother, can you see those birds?
They don't look to heaven,
they don't need religion,
they can see."
- R.E.M., "Undertow"
I've always been perplexed how people can believe in something that not only is completely unprovable, but has such incredible amounts of evidence against it.  This is religion: a belief in something that's unprovable, illogical, and requires constant reinforcement.  Inductions into religion happen either from birth, so that the person never has a chance to learn otherwise, or during a moment of mental weakness, when the mind readily accepts even the most impossible hopes in order to achieve stability.  Conversely, egression from religious beliefs, though rare, occur when an individual with an open mind has limited exposure to religious dogma and is allowed to explore new ideas and draw logical conclusions.

People often ask me what my religion is.  When I tell them I have none, I get one of these 4 responses:

  1. "Hey cool... I respect your decision and am not going to judge you for it, regardless of my own personal beliefs." (The world needs more of these people.)
  2. "Oh, you're a filthy God-hating Atheist (or Satanic) heathen, then?"
  3. "No religion?  No, you misunderstood... I mean, what sect of any number of modern day socially-popular religious spin-offs are you a follower of?"
  4. "Oh?  So what awful event in your life turned you away from the True Light that is Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?  Please tell me, I am your friend, I want to help you see the Light and Know Love and Know that He Loves You No Matter What Even Though He Will Send You To Hell for not believing that He died for your sins!  And once you're all better I want you to join our church and help support the mind-narrowing hate-perpetuating religious hierarchy!"
OK, so I paraphrased (a little).  And of course, my counter-response is usually one of these four:
  1. "Thank you for respecting my beliefs and not judging me based on yours."
  2. "Eat shit and die."
  3. "See you in Hell."
  4. Example letter (similar to #4 above) and thoughtful, well-rounded reply (both real).
My point is, I don't NEED a religion.  And neither does anyone else.

“An agnostic is somebody who doesn't believe in something until
there is evidence for it, so I'm agnostic.” - Carl Sagan

Where Did Religion Come From?
Religion, historically, was a way of explaining the unexplainable.  Imagine if you will: the date is 50,000 b.c.e. ("before current era" for the unenlightened), and a group of primitive villagers, sitting around to dinner around the ol' campfire, witness a bolt of lightning streak across the sky.  The villagers are perplexed, amazed, and above all, afraid (of the unknown), but then the shaman of the tribe steps in to explain this phenomenon, for, after all, that's what she does.  But, instead of telling them that the great streak of light was the result of two electrically charged air masses colliding and releasing gigawatts of charge, she tells them that it was the God of Ugg getting pissed off at them for not offering them a portion of their yak brain chowder.  Obviously, the shaman made up this little tale -- she doesn't know what it is either, but she doesn't want anyone to think she doesn't know or she'll lose her control over the other villagers.

One hundred years later, however, the current tribal shaman, taught by his predecessors all about how the God of Ugg makes lightning, truly believes it himself.  It's what he was taught, it's what he knows, and the original shaman died with the secret that it was all just part of a big lie, invented to ensure that she and all of her prodigies would continue to control how the tribe acts, and since no one has the smarts or the balls to challenge the idea, it sticks.  "Sacrifice your daughter to Ugg, she has been defiled."  "Give your leg of mutton to Ugg, or he will strike you with lightning."  And most importantly, "Come to my church, pray to Ugg, and give me your valuables, so I can tell Ugg to send you to the great hunting ground in the sky."

Now here's the ironic part: 52,000 years later, we know what makes the lightning strike.  Yet we still believe in Ugg.  God, Allah, Buddha, whatever you want to call the mythological omnipotent being of our own creation, he's still around.  Science has explanations for almost every question we ever had, and yet we still have "faith."  We still believe that there is some "great hunting ground in the sky" that we will go to if we follow the shaman's advice explicitly.  And we still believe that someout there, in that vast expanse of space, someone gives a shit.

"I condemn false prophets, I condemn the effort to take away the power of rational
decision, to drain people of their free will--and a hell of a lot of money in the bargain.
Religions vary in their degree of idiocy, but I reject them all. For most people, religion is
nothing more than a substitute for a malfunctioning brain." - Gene Roddenberry

If there is really some God out there (and I never dispute the remote possibility that there may be), then this being is way too powerful and busy and wouldn't care if you are good to everyone, go to church, say your prayers, tithe until you're broke, and die with the firm belief that you're on your way to Easy Street.  Likewise, this being wouldn't care if you kill your family, rape your pets, paint swastikas on synagogues, burn churches, torture children, or even (gasp) renounced the teachings of some Jewish extremist nutcase who got himself nailed up 2000 years ago.  In all likelyhood, the "miracle" of humanity is probably no more miraculous than the existence of other parasites on earth's surface: we're a cosmic accident, and our existence is neither determined nor guaranteed.

"By simple common sense I don't believe in God, in none." - Charlie Chaplin

Agnosticism vs. Christianity
"Dear God, don't know if you noticed, but
Your name is on a lot of quotes in this book
And us crazy humans wrote it, you should take a look
And all the people that you made in your image
Still believing that junk is true
Well I know it ain't and so do you,
Dear God."
- XTC, "Dear God"
Normally, I wouldn't focus on one particular religion, since they're all equally wrong.  But Christianity is unusually flawed and destructive because it's based on intolerance of others and is practiced by such a large chunk of the population.  Actually, it's not so much the religion, rather the many followers of it who seem to think they're Holier than the rest of us, and therefore can control our lives for us.  Not all Christians are grossly intolerant, probably not even the majority, but as the moderates are doing nothing to temper the ferocity of the extremists, they share the guilt equally.

"Christianity is the most ridiculous, the most absurd and bloody religion that has ever infected the world." - Voltaire

America is an especially interesting case, as it has a certain little document called the Constitution.  This is the rag upon which some long-dead old farts created blueprints of a country that quite quickly became the greatest nation on earth (or so's the general concensus of Americans anyway).  Now, in these old blueprints for democracy, certain principles are layed out: bicameral congress, three branches of Federal government, all that rot that no thinks twice about.  But, there's also a little addendum at the end that sets a few things that these old guys thought of as important -- basic human rights.  These little "amendments" guaranteed a lot of things: limiting the Federal government's authority, the right to protect one's self against self-incrimination, all that crap that we now take for granted.  They also guaranteed something else, something important enough to earn the first slot: the right of Freedom of Speech, and Freedom of Religion.  Why?  To attempt to prevent the pattern of religious persecution against believers of dissimilar religions that governments have been guilty of for millennia.

Unfortunately, this Freedom of Religion has never fully manifested itself, since various Christian morals and values, ranging from mostly harmless to utter raping of the Constitution, have wormed their way into many different lawbooks over the last couple of centuries.  Today it's particularly grim, since in the old days, politicians mostly kept their religious views confined to their private lives, and that behavior has changed.  Listening to any election-year Republican (and sometimes even Democratic) candidates' debate, you'll no doubt hear the candidates flaunting and exaggerating their supposed religious beliefs, throwing around the name Jesus indiscriminately and whoring themselves to the small but powerful Religious Right.  The consequences for future legislation concerning things like personal freedom and choice when these bozoes get elected simply cannot be good.  Everytime I see them emphatically declaring their totally mindless submission to their make-believe deity, I feel close to vomiting... I am perpetually aghast that more people don't understand the gravity of a politician running for office in a sovereign Republic who freely expresses their willing slavery to their "true king."

Now, Christians (in the U.S.) say they are pro-America, One Nation "Under God", purple mountains shedding grace all over the fruity plains, etc.  Yet, they don't seem to actually care about the Constitution.  Here are just a few of their anti-Constitutional beliefs:
  1. "This country was founded on Christianity."  Any historian worth his K-mart sweater and clip-on bowtie knows that the Founding Fathers were mostly Deist and Unitarian, meaning that they belief only in God as a sort-of scientist that created the universe and then buggered off.  Christianity didn't swing in to any real extent until the early 1800s.  And no, the Pilgrims don't count, because all they really founded was America's perpetually shitty treatment of the red man, as well as our totally ludicrous fear of sexuality.
  2. "There should be prayer in schools."  The basic concept of "Separation of Church and State" means that there should NOT be prayer in a state-run education system that requires children to attend; or if there is, it should be held after hours.  No in-class time can be given for "optional praying", as it makes children who don't pray feel like there's something wrong with them.
  3. "We need to elect politicians that will pass moral laws."  Morality is highly subjective.  The last thing this nation needs is the government controlling our thoughts.  This country was founded on the basic principle of practicing whatever religion or moral system you want, as long as you do so in a community-friendly manner.  Legally imposing one set of moral beliefs violates the principle of Freedom of Religion, even if it's a moral code shared by the majority.
In short: Christianity is the biggest threat to freedom, intelligence, creativity, and progress of all kinds of the last 20 centuries, this century, and beyond.

Fun Facts About Christianity:

"What was it that Adam ate that he wasn't supposed to eat? It wasn't just an apple - it was the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The subtle message? Get smart and I'll fuck you over -- sayeth the Lord. God is the smartest -- and he doesn't want any competion. Is this not an absolutely anti-intellectual religion?"
- Frank Zappa

Is There a Cure for Religion?
"I told the priest, don't count on any second coming
God got his ass kicked the first time he came down here slumming
He had the balls to come, the gall to die and then forgive us -
No I don't wonder why, I wonder what he thought it would get us."
- Concrete Blonde, "Tomorrow Wendy"
It depends.  Take this simple test to find out the malignancy of your religion:
  1. Are you willing to give up all the lies your parents, religious leaders, and peers have been feeding you from birth about how, if you're good and do exactly what they say, you'll go to a nice pretty place full of toys and games and happy people floating around in the clouds which doesn't exist?
  2. Are you willing to put up with all the crap that people will undoubtedly be giving you for not being a mindless zealot like everybody else, going day to day supressing your true emotions in the belief that it will somehow fool God into believing you're a good person, worthy of going to heaven?
  3. Can you deal with the fact that, once you're religionless, your narrow-minded and brainwashed family and friends may ostracize you?
  4. Are you really ready to start believing that once you're dead, you're dead, your spirit will cease to be, and the only thing that will remain are a few memories and some records that will both be lost a few dozen, maybe a hundred or two years after you croak?
If your answer is "yes" to all of these questions, your religion is curable.  Maintaining spirituality can be (and often is) healthy and productive, but you don't need to blindly follow the religious dogma concocted by shamans and sham-artists thousands of years ago to be a good person and lead a productive, healthy, happy life.  Agnosticism is the truest freedom there is... the freedom to say "I don't know."