Today’s sermon is a further attempt by Mickey to say something coherent about religion. I am trying to be a humor writer, and religion is a difficult topic to commit acts of humor against. People do not take it well when you put the heat of thoughtful questions to the personal mythology that they adhere to. They are afraid it might all burn away and leave them with nothing. It is the main reason nobody plays George Carlin’s comedy albums in church. And my atheist friends and acquaintances always get upset when I slip and make a statement like, “Atheism is a religion too. After all, it is a difficult act of sincere faith to believe in nothing.”
But religion is important enough to being human that it merits some daily and, at the minimum, weekly attendance to the fundamental ideas of it. After all, what is the reason we always have had and still have some form of religion?
Religion serves an important function in the lives of human beings. It is the guiding principal that keeps us from wigging out, being self-destructive, or going on a killing spree. Religion sniffs out the borders of our behavior. It gives us a sense of where the lines are that you should not cross. Of course, by itself, religion is not enough to save us from ourselves. It only provides the warning. The girl who hears the admonition from the pastor to not have sex before getting married can still go ahead and have four children before reaching the age of eighteen. Religion does not (or rather, it should not) provide the punishment for crossing the line. It just gives us the warning about the consequences.
I like the metaphor that Joseph Campbell always used in his insightful books about mythology. He suggests that if our lives are the hardware, our shared myths are like the software that makes it operate properly.
Our religious software has to be used with caution, however. Because, just as George Carlin so often used to gleefully shout, “Religion can be stupid enough to really hurt you.” It is hard to deny the truth of that statement with things like the Westboro Baptist Church, the Spanish Inquisition, Salem Witch Trials, and the Methodist Church Ladies who saw your kid running around naked in the yard.
But there is a reason that some religious extremes are dangerous and counter to the basic purposes of religion. There is reason why more atheists are generated by the Catholics, Baptists, and other fundamentalist religions than by more tolerant sects like the Midwestern Methodists and the New-Age Crystal-wavers. Intolerance. If you are too insistent that your religious way is the only path, and all others burn in Hell, then you have taken religion too far into its own dark corners and scary, deep crevices.
There are many acceptable forms of religion that have many good things to offer. I have never been bullied by a true believer of the Buddhist faith. Christians, if they are tolerant, believe in a religion founded on love and forgiveness. Nudists are sun-worshipers who believe in positive body images, communion with nature, and freedom of self-expression. Quackatoons believe in the power of Donald-Duck cartoons to make you wise and capable of laughing at anything. Okay, I haven’t actually established that last religion in the real world. But it could happen, in the very near future. We are going to need it if Donald Trump (not Donald Duck) gets reelected in November.
But the simple point of all this is simply that… we need religion. There is a spiritual aspect to all human thinking, and especially when interacting with others. We need to keep it simple enough for even the most simple people among us to guide their lives and their children’s lives with it. And yet, we need to also be tolerant enough to suffer fools like me to think they are atheists who believe in God.
So, to put it in simple terms, “Here endeth the lesson.”