Author's Note: I will start by saying this is not going to be a wholesale attack on Religion.
Although those who know me will know that I have a habit of getting over-zealous in religious debates, I do not intend to do that here.
In saying that, I will also state that I think religion is archaic and wielded as a weapon by many of its proponents.
I knew from a very young age that religion was not for me. My parents never wanted to force any religion on me and my sister and we were never christened or made to go to Church.
My Gran, however, would have liked me to be religious and took me to Church pretty much whenever she got a chance.
When I was 5 or 6 years old, maybe a touch younger, I distinctly remember being in Church one Palm Sunday and being struck by the absurdity of it all.
Animooted and well worth watching!
Up till the age of 5/6 I went to a school that said The Lord's Prayer in Assembly and sometimes in class and I never liked to say it. I would sit there, eyes open, and wait quietly till it was finished, a practice which I still continue on those rare occasions I find myself in a Church, such as funerals.
Due to this I can say that I probably decided Religion was not for me at around 4 years of age.
That may seem ridiculous, that one so young could make such a decision, but it's the truth.
This is not to say I am against religion, per se, but I am against the way people use it.
A religious friend of mine is a very good case-in-point on the positive effects of Religion.
He volunteers his time at his Church and local youth groups, helps put on plays, writes a religious themed blog and does many good deeds.
He has taken the tenets of Christianity, such as 'Do unto others...' and 'Love Thy Neighbour', and run with them in the way I believe they were meant.
He doesn't do these things for money or notoriety. He does them simply to be a good person.
That is, to me, what Religion is about.
Unfortunately, most people are not like him. Most people use religion as either a catch-all excuse for their actions and the actions of others or as a club to beat those who do not subscribe to their brand of Sky-Man. If somebody disagrees with them, they are a heathen. If somebody is different to them, they are a sinner. If somebody should have the audacity to be of a different sexual orientation, they are a filthy beast.
This is caused by indoctrination and ignorance. These things are perpetrated and perpetuated by the Institutions. It is not individuals (for the most part) who lionise these reprehensible ideals.
Take The Catholic Church, for instance.
I find the Catholic Church, as an institution, absolutely deplorable. They are one of the richest corporations on the face of the Earth, yet they let the churches in smaller towns go to rack and ruin, worshippers be damned, even though they earn billions and billions every year, around the world.
They propagate hatred and encourage their followers to hold disdain for people of other denominations, lifestyles and sexual orientations.
Even those who attempt to do good in the name of the Catholic Church often do more harm because of the way Religion can limit your world view. The best example is not going to be a popular one but fuck it, I'm gonna say it anyway.
Although she did help many and her intentions were good, she encouraged the spread of AIDS by not allowing people to use condoms as it was against her beliefs.
Thousands of deaths are on her hands because of an arbitrary law taken from a text written many centuries before the invention of the modern condom.
That leads me on neatly to my next point. Abortion.
Abortion is a touchy subject to many people but I never shy away from touchy subjects.
Many Church leaders actively encourage people to picket Family Planning Clinics, even to the point of committing vandalism or violence against the staff.
Although they may not believe in or like the practice of abortion, the way they show it is utterly against the beliefs at the core of their religion!
What it comes down to is tact and consideration.
If you're a religious person of any description, good for you. That doesn't mean I want to hear about it. I'm also utterly disinterested in your opinion of me.
You may think I'm a sinner and a heathen but I honestly could not give less of a shit if I spent the entire rest of my day concentrating on nothing else but not giving a shit about your opinion.
I understand that you love your Sky-Man and want to spread that love and joy to others. That's fine, but let people come to you if they're interested rather than bombarding people with door to door visits, flyers, whatever.
If you must judge others, turn that judgement on yourself from time to time.
Just because you believe in your brand of Sky-Man does not mean everybody does. This does not make you better than them or vice versa.
The moral of this post is Live and Let Live.
We all have our own beliefs that help to shape who we are and we all think we're correct.
The fact of the matter is, we just don't know for sure. If you claim you do you are either a liar or self-deluded.
As a believer in Science and tangible evidence I could say I am right, but that is not the scientific way.
Question everything, always. If you blindly accept and never question you are not a true believer in anything. A true believer always questions what they believe, because only by questioning our beliefs can we re-affirm them.
And always remember, if the religion of others seems absurd to you, your religion probably seems just as absurd to them.
I leave you now with this video from the wonderful Mr. Tim Minchin.
Watch it all if you have time or skip to 4:12 for the song.