As I was going through the bizarre offerings on YouTube to find a video to update my Atheist Blog, I once again was struck by the similarity of the religion-infected sheeple. They're all so certain there is only one way to wherever it is they think they're going, and if you aren't along for the ride, well...let's just say things like inquisitions and burnings at the stake seem like reasonable solutions to them.
But through the hilarity, disgust, and mind-boggling astonishment over what some people believe, there was also a sense of familiarity. I've seen that same glow of the true believer sense of rightness, that same fervor of my way or you suck attitude, that same we're going to get your ass for being different threat, in people who don't believe the fairy tales the sheeple embrace in their pathetic ignorance, but they have adopted the same means to promote their own agendas. They just don't refer to it as "religion."
Let me be clear here. I'm not talking about Fascists or other moronic cults. I'm talking about so-called average people, those who even define themselves as alternative thinkers, as free spirits, as spiritual new age believers in rainbows and pretty ponies dancing with unicorns for the benefit of humankind. The kind of people who are appalled by religious propaganda and hate mongering, yet fail to recognize how it infected them and how they perpetuate their own version of it.
From several decades of interacting with different groups, populations, and classes, I can always tell when someone was raised in a "religious" household, no matter how adeptly they think they've managed to run from it. Throughout my life as an unwavering Atheist, I often explored what else was out there just to make sure I wasn't being just another sheeple embracing another cult called "Atheism." And also because I'm endlessly fascinated by the world I live in and I want to know as much as possible about it.
Due to this insatiable curiosity, I submitted myself to various groups in order to gain a better understanding of my place on the planet. For varying amounts of time and involvement, I was part of groups who embraced Shamanic rituals, New Age woo-hoo-ness, Arteeste communities, political movements, The Joy of Hippies, antisocial geekiness, both serious and tragically funny writers, hardcore and wannabe Scientists, spiritual seekers and lost souls who enjoyed not knowing where the hell they were going.
Unlike the religious sheeple, I subjected what I believed to input from other people's beliefs. In my life, I've read the Bible--both old and new testaments, the Book of Mormon, the Koran, and various Buddhist and Zen treatises. I talked to people about what they believed and why. I took part in their circles, their prayers, their dances, their spiritual endeavors.
And I came through the other side still an Atheist, probably even more of one as a result of those experiences. I also came though the other side vastly disillusioned with these groups because it was rare for any of them to exhibit any curiosity, other than judgement or condemnation for what I believed or didn't believe. I was there to be converted, to embrace what they believed one hundred and ten percent or nothing. It didn't matter if they were Christians or New Age Hippies. The dogma smelled the same.
I also learned that no matter how one tries to run from their religious upbringing, it hangs on them for life. It's a deadly, infective virus nearly impossible to eradicate because most people don't know they are carriers. Here's some examples of how it infected some of the so-called escapees:
They made a religion out of everything. I'm talking about people who formed circles to worship nature and then made a whole list of rules on how to go about it and you didn't dare deviate from that list. They justified it by saying things like "rituals are important" and other things lifted straight from their early religious training. I knew my time around these kinds of folks were at an end when I found myself moving rocks and sticks around on their altars just to fuck with them.
People who grow up with authority-based religions are easy prey for anyone with an agenda they wish to inflict upon others. All they have to do is frame it in updated terms that make it seem they can help "save" someone or something from an unspeakable--and defined by others, evil. They make someone or something the enemy and then everyone bonds around the idea of destroying the enemy (devil).
I've seen this most often in divorces where sides are formed and you're either for or against one or the other--and you'd better be for or against the 'right' side or you become the enemy, the other, the bad guy. It's religious wars reduced down to the personal. It's people believing the only way they can show loyalty to a friend is by trashing their soon to be ex partner, just like one religion does to the others. Who needs those kind of friends or cultish beliefs? I ran from them the same way I ran from the religious cultists as they felt and behaved the same.
The most frightening and disgusting thing I saw that was a direct result of infectious early religion were the "morality" gangs who were so convinced their point of view was the correct one, they were willing to destroy people, careers, friendships just to inflict it on everyone else.
But they never did the dirty deeds themselves. Priests, Gurus, and Political heroes always make sure their own hands remain clean so they recruit those willing to blindly believe and whisper scary words to them and call it truth. They then send these recruited minions to do the dirty work with disgustingly malicious gossip as their versions of god's word, just like in the good old inquisition days when gossip was the rule of law used to sentence people to death.
And by assigning it to a whole like "morality," "the greater good," "justice," and other high and mighty sounding terms, they never had to blame their behavior on their own individual biases and issues. They never had to allow a chance of rebuttal, an opportunity to interject facts and truths into the stream of endless shit coming from the holy center. There was no other side. It was their one way or not at all, just like any other inflexible religious cult.
Over and over again, these groups who thought they had left religion behind, created situations where you were either for or against, or you were ostracized by all sides.
And nothing was too repulsive to the Borg mind. In one situation I had a couple true believers pretend they were interested in my friendship just to gather ammunition against one of my acquaintances for someone else's personal vendetta. No matter what I said, what topic of conversation I brought up, they awkwardly and annoyingly steered the discussion back to that person, just like those crazed bible thumpers who keep quoting bible verses no matter what the subject. They were on a mission and the facts were inconvenient things that got in the way of their beliefs.
I think back on those people and others and I see something else they had in common with religious cultists: nothing was ever their fault and whatever they had to do was justified by the greater mission. They learned that from religion, that no matter what they did, no matter what evil they committed, it was justified by their version of god/deity/mentor/authority figure's teachings on what was good and what was evil. That made it okay to lie, to use, to spread horrible gossip, to destroy the infidels who weren't part of their cultish cliques.
And like good little religious cultists, they excelled at handing out punishment by shunning and ostracizing those who believed differently or who behaved in manners that didn't fit their rigid set of communally defined rules. They did this because at the heart of who they were, at the complete core of their beings was the ultimate truth: they were and are control freaks.
I'm convinced that is what makes people turn to religion and other clannish/cultish behavior. They're control freaks who suddenly find themselves with the ultimate weapon to inflct on others: dogmatic truth with not a speck of breathing room for any variations. And guess who's in charge of defining and handing out the punishment? Why, them of course, the true believers, the religiously tethered, the moralistic punishment squad, the judgement police.
And they never have to take a bit of responsibility for their actions, they never have to apologize, they never even have to consider the pathetic and pitiful excuse for human beings they are, because they always have their version of god/goddess/spirituality/religion to blame it on. Having religion means never having to say you're sorry for being a total asshat dickwad to another human being.
That's the gift of religion that keeps on giving long after most people thought they escaped from it, and that's why I will fight against it until the day I die and become ash on the wind. I consider it my obligation to helping make a healthy planet for future generations.