El Penski, March 2012
Religion is a culture, belief and/or "world view" that relate people to one or more of following: symbols; spirituality; a cause; awe; comforting beliefs; constructive moral values; struggle for wealth, attention, fame, maximum reproduction, or power; hate or love; or criminal values. Everyone seems to stubbornly cling to a faith in their own “world view” that they cannot totally prove, always justify, or easily articulate. Some people only associate with people of similar views, only read material that confirms their beliefs, and their "world view" becomes more like a parent's love for a child without regard what the child does.
I have slowly come to believe everyone has a religion which at extremes either empowers or enslaves them. When I was a child, my parents dutifully taught me about religion and made me read the King James Bible aloud regularly, but they also taught me to be skeptical of many aspects of religion. They taught me to question the bible, not to accept it verbatim, to focus on the teachings of Christ, to use him as role model, and not to trust priests and ministers blindly. I became an old man before I recognized what an excellent job they did.
I spent most of my life working as a scientist and appreciating the value of science. On the other hand, from my studies of history, law, government, psychology, current events, theology, and sociology; I have been made fully aware that omnipresent religions have in the past and are presently having an enormous sway on every aspect of human life – both extremely positive and tragically negative.
Differences in individuals’ viewpoints come from powerful life experiences: poverty or wealth; illness, healthiness or toughness; friends; parents; education; infatuation with charismatic leaders, criminals or entertainers; environmental and psychological factors; et cetera. Different “world views” are a natural characteristic of humans in a very complex society.
I see no benefit for anybody to be ignorant of the subject of religion. President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “A thorough understanding of the Bible is better than a college education.” William Penn, a Quaker, said it concisely this way, “If we will not be governed by God, then we will be ruled by Tyrants.” Professor of Public Policy, Robert Putnam (Harvard) and Professor of Politic Science, David Campbell (Notre Dame) have pointed out that religious Americans are four times more generous to charities than secular Americans.
For twelve years, I worked as a volunteer in a soup kitchen that gave free meals, cloths, and bags of groceries to anyone once week. I packed bags, shelved groceries, hauled foodstuffs with my truck, designed printed matter, and accepted groceries from contributors. Since I am inquisitive and wanted to know about the best kind of publicity for helping poor people, I frequently asked generous contributors and hardworking volunteers why they were helping. No one ever said, "Because I am an atheist." or "Because I am a secular humanist." The only answer I ever got was, "I am a Christian."
Atheist neuroscientist Sam Harris supports moral values and moral duties based on logic and science instead of a deity, but he ignores that most of humanity that have not been taught logic and science or do not choose to study logic and science. He just refers to their logic as stupid.
Most militant-atheists and critics of religion, describe evil acts and words found in the Bible as evidence of the problems of religion or Christianity while deliberately ignoring the teachings of Christ that contradict those words. It is very simple logic that Christ's teachings and Christ's example should define Christianity not the actions of Moses and not other religions' teachings. Also, I believe that critics of religions are not examining carefully the full consequences of their sermons on people who are perilously struggling with life threatening problems. Critics and militant-atheists seem oblivious to such problems.
Most governments, institutions, religious organizations, and large businesses seem to slowly degenerate into tyrannies despite trying to avoid it. Attacks on religion are part of that process. On the other hand, religion has been an empowering tool of the people who oppose tyranny. William Tyndale was strangled, impaled, and burned at the stake in 1535 just for empowering common people by translating the Bible into English. Tyrants and their supporters nearly always oppose religions that they have not successfully integrated under their domination. Any other religion is a source of authority that they fear will interfere with their control.
Timothy Geithner admitted to his error of not paying $35,000 in owed taxes for the years 2001–2004 before he was appointed to 75th United States Secretary of the Treasury. Since his appointment, Geithner frequently gets invited to testify to Congress about major scandals in the financial industries. They might better invite educational leaders, church leaders, prominent atheists, media moguls, publishing companies CEOs, and political leaders. Then ask them who is and should be teaching ethics and how we can make our ethics more effective. Government cannot afford to find, train, and hire enough government workers to effectively police and regulate this very complex nation, let alone an international economy where business people are being lucratively trained to legally get around the laws and where a significant number of people prefer a lawless culture. If the majority of people do not obey the laws and regulations voluntarily, societies lack the resources to enforce more than a token number of violations. On the other hand, positive religions have been shown to generally encourage compliance to legally valid and fair laws, thereby increasing the success of a civilization without prohibitively costly unproductive legal systems and without massive law enforcement.
Small companies, small institutions and individuals not associated with hierarchical organizations are the hardest for tyrants to control, but little tyrannies can be found in unexpected places. Several times I have been told by ministers and elders that I did not fit into their church or meetings for asking too many simple questions like, "Do members have a vote?" I have found such simple questions can result in extreme anger. That kind of behavior is an informative warning that they are nervous about something and only want unquestioning and pliable people as members. Nevertheless, I still have a soft spot in my heart for those churches and meetings that I attended for short periods, and I still believe most positive religions play a very helpful role in making a successful society and engendering self-esteem.
Home to El's Research Studies