A friend of mine and I were talking about death today.
Actually, the conversation started with celebrity gossip. I found a funny icon on a gossip site that said "Scientology: Making celebrities pay for god since 1950," and shared it with her. The same post contained a video of Scientologists accosting a camera crew that was trying to enter a "Scientology Street Fair." Neither of us could watch the whole thing due to its high levels of blindness and stupidity; the cult members are irrational and confrontational, and the level of nonsensical delusion is painful. It's hard to understand what makes someone join a cult, especially one as patently ridiculous and corrupt as Scientology, but people have been flocking to cults since people were people.
Even more difficult to digest is that there are many millions of blindly devoted people in this world adhering to obviously false and hurtful doctrines, including political movements such as the one America has been experiencing for the past 8 years or so. It boils down to the same thing: corruption. Corruption thrives on insecurity and delusion.
In the video, one of the Scientologists asks the reporter "Did you take a break from beating your wife to come down here?" and they repeatedly accuse of him being "afraid of Hubbard" and only being there with a camera to "hide his crimes." None of it makes sense, and the reporter makes a mistake in trying to argue with them at all.
I don't think you can join a cult without at least a profound insecurity complex. I also maintain that it's one thing to join a cult, but it's a whole step beyond to raise your children within one. One does not have to point much farther than Jonestown or Waco to see that, but I am not even talking about such extreme events, I am talking about progressive damage to vulnerable psyches on a day-to-day basis.
Because for me, it's not just raising your children in a cult that concerns me, it's all religions. I think that such indoctrination at such a young age, before children have a chance to experience anything else, can lay groundwork for unnecessary psychic pain in the future. Giving them a lens before they have worked out how to see on their own can lead to therapy and a lifetime of clearing out the clutter of the church. When you have been raised in a religion, your perspectives will always be a bit tinged by that religion, no matter how much you reject it. Even in rejecting it, you are responding to it.
There's a lot of discussion going on these days regarding religion and god, from questions concerning its evolutionary role to experiments regarding brain function and electro-magnetic waves, and I applaud it. While I do not expect atheism to become the new "black," I applaud a few prominent thinkers for bringing non-belief into a positive spotlight. Putting "faith" under the microscope can only do humanity good, I say.
It's also very strange to me how one dead guy can hold so much of the world in such a thrall for so long. Personally, I think that Thor was much more interesting, not to mention the fascinating choices ancient Greece offered us. But there's something about the concept of salvation and eternity that really grabs the human mind. With the development of consciousness came the development of self and the understanding of mortality, and then came the fear, and thousands of years later, we are still killing each other over our fear of death.
Along the way, we have removed ourselves even more from the actual experience of death and made our lives more antiseptic, making it an even more unknown and fearful prospect. This while we see more and more death filtered to us through television, movies, video games, and the news.
I had not made the connection between religion and death until one of my friends found out that I am an atheist. His only response was "But then what do you think happens when you die?" I found this question to be illogical. What did that have to do with anything? I brought it up to Pete, expecting the same bafflement, and instead found that it made perfect sense to him; I started to realize that death must be what it's all about.
People need god in order to believe that they will live forever in some manner. Apparently, accepting that you will not live forever and living your life as such is not an option. I guess that's fine as long as you leave everyone else alone. Thing is, a lot of believers can't seem to do that, and their belief winds up expressing itself in repression, violence, suffering, or death.
Do I want to die? Not really. Am I afraid of death? Sure, on some level: it's unknown, and it could happen at any time. But my death would be of no consequence to me, being dead. When I think about dying, I think about Pete and about my family and friends, and what pain my death would cause them. God is not going to help me with that. If a belief in god is there to help some of them, then so be it.
I just wanted to point out that my obsession with celebrity gossip can come in handy sometimes.
(special thanks to Marina for the conversation and insights)