Since the beginning of the year I've started using Facebook and through that social networking site and the magical powers swirling through the tubes of the internet I've been able to reconnect with quite a few people. Truth be told, I'm a pretty nosy guy. If you have me over for dinner I will rifle through your medicine cabinet and blog about its contents without remorse. So, upon my new discovery I am flooded with an irresistible impulse to look through all their pictures and read their profile top to bottom. What I found used to send me face-palming every time. Without fail these middle to late twenty-somethings always fill in their religion as either: Christian, Christ-lover, Child of the Son, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran or, my personal favorite, Jesus Freak.
I'm always amazed at how deeply the disease of religion stays embedded in a person even as they age. It seemed to me that I brushed organized religion away as easily as dandruff but the escape velocity of superstition appears to be stronger for some and weaker for others.
As I kept reading and thinking the real disturbing personal category isn't religion -- it's politics. More often than not my former classmates and colleagues self-apply titles like "Conservative" or even "Maverick" (I shit you not) with the occasional "Liberal" or "Progressive" label rounding out the bunch. This, my friends, is so much scarier than you realize.
Think of all the different concepts you consider as "evil" floating through this world. It could be Corporate Greed, Unions, Religious Faith, Class Conflicts, Illegal Immigration, Gender Inequality, Racism, Tony Danza, etc... The state is like that only on steroids. In fact, the state can take that evil and amplify it beyond any natural level. For example, the corporation. These greedy motherfuckers want to turn a profit out of everything. They'd sell tickets to a puppy-stomping parade if they knew people would queue up, yet, in a free market they're unable to because of social sanctions, voluntary customer support, reputation and so on. If they aren't born with a high amount of altruism in their blood they at least need to fake it in order to be invited to the dance to begin with. Throw all that out the goddamn window when governments get involved. Politicians will just extract property from citizens and subsidize private enterprise willy-nilly. So much for the organic checks and balances that arise from free exchange.
The same can be said of religion. I'm sure you've heard about some tiff in the Middle East recently caused by Muslims. I'm not one to say there aren't demented little fuckers who want to annihilate everyone who won't praise their own fevered delusions, but let's have some perspective. American foreign policy made that wack-job fringe look a whole lot more attractive through years of painting the walls of their Mosques with the intestines of their children (See: Eisenhower Doctrine). Doesn't foster a lot of inter-cultural good will, does it? And why do you think Jesus-Camp Christians started getting political, because they're bored? Hell no! Governments give out goodies, it's as plain as that. It's hard to believe that people still take men like Christopher Hitchens seriously. A man who harangues against the soft target of religion until he pops but then enthusiastically signs the roster of supporters for the War on Terrorism which has killed a million Iraqis, displaced millions more, ethnically cleansed parts of the country and caused four million to become food insecure. --the fuck is wrong with this asshole?
At least with religion, if I can say anything nice about it at all, is that it provides communitarian support. A warm environment, somebody to take care of you when you're sick, a social safety net and a place where everybody knows your name. Let's see a government compete with that with its bloated, lumbering welfare system.
My point is Westernized Christians probably won't go out and kill over their religion except if they join the armed forces, and in today's world other extreme religious viewpoints would only be able to build up a fighting force based on their own moxy. Without the aggression of the state evil loses its backbone.