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If Religion Poisons Everything, Then What Of Fantasy And Mythology?


AmIReallyThatBad
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Yo. For all those who don't know me, I'm a former Christian, a former fundy, a former conspiracy theorist, a former New Ager, a former occultist and recently, a (non-former) skeptic and atheist. Within this thread, I will open discussion about balancing skepticism and a love of fantasy and other styles of fiction in one's life. Below, I will also explain my full story and what I'm going through. If you wish to skip that part and get straight to the discussion, please ignore everything in bold and continue to the bottom of this post; however, if you did read it, thank you and please let me know.

 

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First of all, let it be known that I have an alarming problem obsessive-compulsive thoughts, worries and "what ifs" that I take medicine and see a psychologist for; some days are better than others, but only every few weeks do I have a day where I'm really unbalanced. Those days tend to be the ones that I spend posting on this website for a helping hand. :P

 

Okay, I love fantasy. I have since I was young; Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Anne Rice novels, Final Fantasy video games, anime about "magical" girls and aliens from space, etc. I grew up in a Lutheran household, but gave up my faith at about age 15. I do believe that my love for fantasy drew me in to the "New Age" movement and eventually, the occult when I was in my late teens. Unfortunately, I'm more gullible, more obsessive and less rational than the average person. I delved way too deep into it and believed everything I read, regardless of (lack of) sources or however fantastical or unlikely what I read sounded. Conversely, during a search for truth and a readiness for more commitment to what I believed when I was in my 20s, a string of coincidences (running into a Christian acquaintance at the library, then the next time seeing a Christian book called "The New Age Is Lying to You," then seeing my old Youth Pastor drive by and wave to me and tell me to come to Church to talk with him sometime) led me back to re-examining Christianity. One of my best friends had recently converted back to Christianity and at that point, I was having such a struggle that I was feeling physically ill and emotionally, I was in absolute turmoil. I was at my friend's house when he offered to take me to his Pentecostal Church on Sunday. I agreed and when I got there, the combination of kind people, powerful preaching, moving music and a call to go up to the front to give your life to Christ led me to do so and to tell God I was sorry.

 

Now, that just opened up an awful can of worms. My friend's Pastor had co-written a book about Revelation and other prophecy and what it all meant; tying it in to current events (what the Four Horsemen were, Communism, Capitalism, Catholicism and Occultism) and what the first 5 trumpets of Daniel were (WWI, WWII, unsure, Chernobyl disaster, Saddam "The Destroyer" Hussien) and how the 6th trumpet includes destruction of 2/3's of the human population. Talk of a New World Order and Veri Chips being the possible "Mark of the Beast" and Mikel Gorbachev fitting all the criteria of the AntiChrist mentioned in the Bible (though the book said that this only meant he could be the AntiChrist and that it is not certain) really frightened me, but also fascinated me. It also worked as "proof" for me that the Bible was the true word of God.

 

From there, I did an intense amount of study online about Christianity and the various denominations. Eventually I was working obsessively, nightly, interpreting the Bible and tying in all the loose ends. I found some very good websites explaining how each supposedly "contradicting" verse made sense in context (through my intense study, I still believe that many of them do, specifically the verses about salvation which I see no contradictions in after finding a few websites that clearly and carefully explain each verse in context). I came to believe in salvation by faith alone, through grace alone in Christ alone, and eternal security; rejecting Calvinism and Arminianism and seeing the holes in each philosophy. Ironically, this is the position of the Independent Fundamental Baptists who often support and preach of the aforementioned conspiracy theories in the previous paragraph. I got hooked on a few IFB websites, reading through the sites daily, discovering that all that I once loved is supposedly evil and that I must turn away from all of it; I read articles likening Yoda from Star Wars to an upside down pentagram, explaining why Lord of the Rings is supposedly Satanic, and A LOT of articles linking Harry Potter with Satanism, the occult, evil, etc. I had also come across some outlandish but equally fundamentalist doctrines in my "quest for truth" (Oneness Pentecostalism, including a book about the "true," never before known meaning of Genesis and how it proves God's existence, JAH's website, the man has his own version of the Bible and claims to be Jesus, I think; he even interprets Nostradamus' prophecies in ways that link together all of his theories and claims; conspiracy theories also are frequent on his website, etc.) that I feared could be true and which troubled me deeply.

 

I started attending an IFB Church about a 40 minute drive away from where I live. I went through a 6+ month period where I had close to ZERO contact with my friends; when I did contact them, they speculated that I could be paranoid schizophrenic and that I was scaring them. When I was at the Church, I set up frequent meetings with the Pastor. He was a big time Hyles supporter and agreed with him about most things (rock music is supposedly evil, as are mainstream movies and most things "secular"). He said the hand of God was on me. I was attending every week, but eventually some big conflict within the Church kept the Pastor from being able to meet with me and eventually even led him to take a job as Pastor at another Church. This conflict within the Church eventually led me to attend less and then finally, not at all.

 

Slowly, but surely, my fundamentalism which I tried incredibly hard to stay true to, shutting myself out from every form of relief or entertainment for 6+ months, began to crumble. But I still believed the same salvation doctrines, which was difficult as the majority of websites/authors that espoused such beliefs were very fundamentalist. I eventually started posting on a Christian music forum with very lucid, articulate, non-fundy minded Christians. Though most of them differed with me doctrinaly, they helped me see the holes in the extreme fundamentalist way of thinking and conspiracy minded thinking (though there were a select few rogue, conspiracy-minded Christians within). Over time, my friendships began to mostly mend, though there was a bit of a gap in understanding and communication with my non-Christian friends.

 

Attempting to rationalize and rid my mind of all the innumerable conspiracy theories that I'd dived into headfirst and had information on scattered all over my computer and on DVDs and tapes around my home was possibly the most difficult thing I'd ever done in my life. I was finally feeling a lot like myself again, though not without deep emotional and psychological wounds. It's hard to pinpoint when my faith started to crumble. The hardest thing for me was the fact that my doctrinal beliefs did not bode well for most of my friends. Most of my Christian comrades where slipping "works" through the backdoor into their faith. You could always either lose it somehow or if you did too many bad works, you proved that you never had it in the first place. According to my doctrinal beliefs, these people did not hold to faith in Christ alone and hence, likely remained unsaved. This deeply bothered and disturbed me, and also highly confused me. I was just about as close to absolutely certain on my doctrinal interpretation of salvation as I could be. It was picture perfect to me, crystal clear. The Bible was not contradictory on salvation, though most people I knew still had their own way of rationalizing works into their faith while vehemently denying that they were doing it. I felt it could only be attributed to selfishness and the Devil; wanting to find some way to earn your salvation and take pride in it whilst still giving glory to God (having your cake and eating it, too).

 

I think my extreme confusion and the intense emotional turmoil that ensued because of it led me to research arguments against Christianity that were also informative about Atheism and skepticism. I remember when I finally "HAD IT" with Christianity and an eternal Hell and difficult to interpret (it took me intense, deep study in order to piece what the Bible said about salvation together and to understand what the message was; many who did intense and deep study came to opposite conclusions, perhaps foolhardily and not lead by the Spirit, but perhaps not), but furiously debatable doctrines and just ALL OF IT.

 

Now I've been out of it for almost a year. I'm still haunted by everything that my mind so foolishly (but with good intention) delved in to and studied and believed. I have certain extreme New Age beliefs that I'd read that also haunt me, that I worry about, that have their own fundamentalist views about practically everything being "evil" too that I haven't even touched on. Honestly, there's a lot I've left out. But this is the fullest view of my story that I've given online, thus far. I hope that you have a better idea of who I am and why I'm here now. And I hope you understand why extreme, fundamentalist viewpoints and possibilities seep into my mind, even as an Atheist.

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Many fundamentalist Christians warn that mainstream fantasy can assist in leading a person into New Age beliefs and the occult. What they don't tell you is that (I believe) it is almost equally likely that fantasy can reaffirm one's beliefs in a religion, including Christianity.

 

C.S. Lewis wrote fantasy with a Christian allegory. J.R.R. Tolkien fit Christian themes and Christian moral values into his Lord of the Rings trilogy. Anne Rice incorporated Christian figures into her vampire novels and heavily utilized Catholicism. Square Enix's "Final Fantasy X" video game borrowed frequently from modern Catholicism to create some of the in-game religious practices of New Yevon; it also named the ominous monster and villain of the story "Sin." George Lucas described "The Force" in Star Wars as "religion's greatest hits."

 

I love many of these stories. I am highly inspired by them and very much just a giddy fanboy for them. I love them. I love fantasy stories and stories with some fantasy elements in them, be them in novel, film, video game, comic book or anime form. These fantasy elements can either be "paranormal" or religious in nature. As a skeptic, I do not believe in the paranormal or religion; in fact, I'm sick of all the extreme "woo" and outlandish/fundamentalist beliefs that their followers preach. "This is evil! That will cause you bad vibrations and upset your inner energy! This will keep you from ascending to a higher plane! That will send you on the road to Hell!" But I love all of these stories dearly, even so; I love my fantasy. And I fear that Atheism and Skepticism will now somehow try to take it all away from me, too.

 

If religion poisons everything (as one of the most lauded books linked to on this site proclaims; note that I have not read it), and religion/the paranormal are involved in fantasy, would it not follow that fantasy is poisonous or poisoned, meaning "BAD" or "EVIL" for me? Surely, at least some atheists/skeptics will argue this and wholeheartedly believe it. So, is that an extreme moral absolute (fundamentalism *cough*) that is being espoused? I am f***ing SICK TO G*DD**N DEATH of extreme moral absolutes!!!!!!!!!!!!! In atheism/skepticism, one would think that I could find peace and liberalism and an understanding that life is full of grey areas and things aren't so black and white. But nope, sometimes even atheist/skeptics writers just HAVE to tell me what's good for me and what's bad for me.

 

And because of my obsessive compulsive thoughts, worries and troubles; because of my extreme psychological damage that has been plagued upon me by supposed extreme moral absolutes, I still worry and wonder if these people are right or if those people are wrong or if this is evil or if it's bad for me to like this because I'm a this and they're a that, etc, etc, etc.

 

I. DON'T. KNOW. WHAT. TO. THINK. OR. BELIEVE. OR. WHO. TO. F***ING. LISTEN. TO. OR. TRUST.

 

I just want to love what I love and be who I am. I really don't care why I love what I love, I just do and I want to be happy with that. If it somehow conflicts in some way with what I believe and/or what "the truth" is, then I don't know how to be myself and how to live. I am who I am. I like what I like. I've tried to change, tried harder than I've ever tried at anything and I ultimately failed. I found that I didn't want that, that it wasn't me and wasn't what I believed. But even now, I'm torn and confused.

 

What do you guys think? I will not disparage any of your opinions, nor do I view any of you as bad guys. I'm actually a very trusting/friendly person, it's brought me several wonderful friends but also a whole heap of snake oil salesmen. Please help me out in my attempt to balance these things in my life and see things from a rational, liberal perspective. Thank you.

 

- AmIReallyThatBad.

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I love fantasy, too. I love to pick up a good book (or even watch a handful of really good TV shows) and get lost in some, crazy incredible world. And I don't see a conflict with atheism. After all, they're stories. I can enjoy Star Wars, but not believe in the Force. I can read Stephen King's Dark Tower series (as I'm currently doing) without believing that King's writings come to life in a series of alternate dimensions that are linked and held together by a mysterious and ominous tower.

 

And knowing they're not true doesn't mean I can't be inspired by them, or use them to help shape my own thinking. These fantasy worlds are created by real people, and through them I can explore issues related to real life.

 

To my mind - no reason to give up your stories. I certainly have no intention of giving them up. I love them as much as ever.

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Agreed. The important thing to remember is that the book is fiction. It probably says that it is somewhere on the cover or spine.

 

You're not supposed to believe that it's true, or be anything more than entertained.

 

Sure, some authors explore morality, and other issues in their books, and you can learn things from them. You're also supposed to understand that they are not real, never happened, and are not supposed to be accurate representations of facts.

 

George Lucas does not like the idiots that think that the Force is real. He's said several things to that effect, and while he's generally not insulting, he's done about everything but call them morons.

 

It's just a matter of keeping perspective. Jurassic Park was based on real hypothetical science, with a bit of fudging in some areas that aren't generally known. MC was fond of doing things like that in his books.

 

It can be very good to be inspired and learn lessons from fiction. However, there is a difference between being inspired, and accepting fantasy as reality.

 

You're not supposed to think that the Force is real. You're not supposed to think that the Elven language in Lord of the Rings can really invoke magic, you're not supposed to believe that there's a School of Wizarding in Scotland and that waving a stick about can allow you to perform magic if you've 'got the right blood' or anything of the sort.

 

You are supposed to sometimes understand the characters, their motivations, moral beliefs, and some of the lessons they learn. However, how you use that is up to you.

 

Then again, there are also stories in fiction where you're not supposed to understand those things. Where the wrong choices are made, and things go sometimes horribly wrong. It's a matter of the tone and perspective the author is trying to convey.

 

Sometimes the bad guy wins, sometimes the hero turns out to be the villain, sometimes bad things happen to good people, or good people make one bad choice that snowballs.

 

At the end of the day, Fiction is just for entertainment above all else.

 

You read it, enjoy it, and that's all there is to it.

 

Sometimes you can relate to a particular character, or find inspiration in them and their actions. That doesn't mean you should think that spiritual bunk and new age ideas are necessarily true. The authors usually don't, nor are they trying to convince you that they are in most cases. Even if they are, you don't need to accept their views. C.S. Lewis wrote the Narnia Series to promote Christianity for example.

 

It's very imaginative and I enjoyed the series. However, I also didn't find Christianity any more or less appealing because of it.

 

Telling a good story is the real goal in fiction at the end of the day.

 

Reading one and having it inspire your imagination is a good thing. However, you've just got to remember that it's your imagination, and not necessarily a reflection of what really is, or anything more than a fun way to think about something sometimes.

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I was always inspired by fantasy. LoTR was always held more sacred to me than the bible. The reality is subjective - the feelings it invokes is real, the images you see in your mind can hold a lot of real meaning. Its a part of being human to imagine things that are not real, and to tell stories that have meaning without been factual. The difference between fantasy and religion is religion tries to claim the meaningful stories are also factual and have objective basis and power. I do think that religion poisons things. I like the way the Dune series depicts this, as well as Star Gate SG1. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, that goes for stories and mythology as well as people.

 

I did read your story and I feel bad for you. I can't imagine how difficult it must have been to get out of all that. Sometimes that is the problem with fantasy - the plot is all connected, everything has a purpose and each event is meaningful. Sometimes that creeps into our thoughts about real life, that everything has a meaning and each event is significant. Rather than being despondent about this not being the case, focus on the positives. You are the master of your own fate.

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AmIRallyThatBad:

 

I came out of an Independent Baptist background. It really messes with your mind, and as you have found, creates a certain "all or nothing" or black and white way of thinking. It is important that you can see this. I think that you have made much progress in finding your way, even through all the frustration.

 

Any sort of fantasy fiction or anything like that was absolutely condemned by the Church. It was opening a door to demons. I realized how absurd that was when I continued to read things and see movies and TV about fantasy and horror, and nothing happened.

 

I don't take the extreme view that "religion poisons everything". There are different religions. I say that the twisted kind of religion that fundamentalist Christianity is, is almost completely harmful because it turns you against yourself. It makes you doubt that you can ever make decisions for yourself and it effects your self image in a very negative way. I still struggle with this. You feel guilty for doing things you really want to do because they are "forbidden". You know its crazy in one part of your head, but you still have this idea that is imprinted that you shouldn't be doing it.

 

I really think that I do understand where you are coming from. I don't really have any advice except to continually fight for your own freedom. You are in the driver's seat of your life, no one else.

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  • Super Moderator

Fantasy is escape but religion advertises itself as reality. Big difference.

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Fantasy is escape but religion advertises itself as reality. Big difference.

That statement is a gem!

 

I was wondering how to say that, but it would have taken me several pages to do so. IMO, religious beliefs are harmless to the atheist. Let me explain. I know all about religious beliefs. They're bullshit and I know that too. It doesn't hurt me to read apologetics, sermons, or listen to Sunday Morning Televangelists. I am immune to religious beliefs. Religion and religious believers however are potentially dangerous.

 

Fantasy is harmless to me as well. But then I think the same is true of those who love fantasy. They're harmless (unless totally insane).

 

So to say that "Religion poisons everything" does not refer to the beliefs themselves (e.g. ancient Greek religious beliefs), but to the hierarchy and power of religion and that includes the potential actions of the believers.

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On the other hand, not all religious folk are literalist about their beliefs.

 

Even many christians are non-literalist about many of the stories in the Bible. Of course they are still very literalist about the existence of a Creator and about the Jesus dying and resurrecting thing.

 

But there are other faiths (hinduism and paganism for example) where many of the followers are completely non-literalist in their approach and even the gods are seen as metaphors and symbols.

 

That kind of non-literalist faith really is the same as fiction. It can be inspiring and edifying - believing it literally would be foolish, but so would rejecting it simply because it is not literally true.

 

Religion can be used in much the same way as we use fiction. And then it can be like the greatest of fiction - life-changing, thought provoking and a moral compass.

 

However religion taken literally is a very, very dangerous thing. A menace in fact.

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On the other hand, not all religious folk are literalist about their beliefs.

 

Even many christians are non-literalist about many of the stories in the Bible. Of course they are still very literalist about the existence of a Creator and about the Jesus dying and resurrecting thing.

 

But there are other faiths (hinduism and paganism for example) where many of the followers are completely non-literalist in their approach and even the gods are seen as metaphors and symbols.

 

That kind of non-literalist faith really is the same as fiction. It can be inspiring and edifying - believing it literally would be foolish, but so would rejecting it simply because it is not literally true.

 

Religion can be used in much the same way as we use fiction. And then it can be like the greatest of fiction - life-changing, thought provoking and a moral compass.

 

However religion taken literally is a very, very dangerous thing. A menace in fact.

Awesome post. :3:

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Thank you for your post, especially the description of where you are coming from. I feel like I understand you very well, because I followed a similar path. I gave up religion around the age of 15 because it made no sense. Then in my early 20's, I dated a girl whose Aunt was an Assembly of God minister. Long story short, I became re-infected with the religion mind virus. Although I didn't delve into religion with anything close to the depth that you did, it did derail my mental processes for about 15 years; I was very torn between my experience that it (xianity) didn't make sense and my fear of hell and was very tormented.

 

If religion poisons everything (as one of the most lauded books linked to on this site proclaims; note that I have not read it), and religion/the paranormal are involved in fantasy, would it not follow that fantasy is poisonous or poisoned, meaning "BAD" or "EVIL" for me?

I have read the book. The title is more of an exaggeration than an accurate assessment of a book's message - you can't represent an entire book in 4 words. A more accurate representation might be, "Religion Tends to Be Damaging to Those Who Take It Seriously", but that doesn't sell as many books.

 

 

So, is that an extreme moral absolute (fundamentalism *cough*) that is being espoused?

No, it's just commercialism in action -- an attempt to have a clever mime that sells books.

 

I. DON'T. KNOW. WHAT. TO. THINK. OR. BELIEVE. OR. WHO. TO. F***ING. LISTEN. TO. OR. TRUST.

 

I just want to love what I love and be who I am. I really don't care why I love what I love, I just do and I want to be happy with that. If it somehow conflicts in some way with what I believe and/or what "the truth" is, then I don't know how to be myself and how to live. I am who I am. I like what I like. I've tried to change, tried harder than I've ever tried at anything and I ultimately failed. I found that I didn't want that, that it wasn't me and wasn't what I believed. But even now, I'm torn and confused.

I understand your conflict and confusion (from my own experience). For myself, with the help of a therapist, I was able to see that I have a tendency towards seeing things more black and white than they are. I recognize that tendency in what you have written here and in what you have gone through. If you want to read more about it, the tendency has its roots in a defense mechanism called "splitting". At any rate, this tendency makes it almost impossible to reconcile differing points of view. Unable to reconcile, I became confused and afraid. I wanted to look outside myself and find an authority to tell me what to do. But in the end, one cannot do this. In the end, you have to trust yourself.

 

Start with what you said: "I am who I am. I like what I like." ... This is YOUR truth. You can look to others to see why they came to believe what they believe. You can compare the reasoning on both sides of each issue. You can ask, which side has the better logic; which side has the better heart; which side is most consistent; which side do I most respect? But in the end, you can only depend on yourself.

 

In my process, I came to a very similiar realization that you did, namely: "I am who I am. I can only believe what I can believe." I found the xian mythology to be so far fetched that no matter how hard I tried, I could never believe. My skepticism was not a choice; it was the essence of my being. If there was such an entity as god that created me with such skepticism and then consigned me to hell because of it - so be it. That was the script of my existence. I can't pretend to believe something which is unbelievable.

 

I think you are on the right track now and I'm glad that you have found this web site. You just read too much into that book title.

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I appreciate all of the quick responses. You are all very insightful.

 

I feel like no one has touched on the basics of my post, though. If religion poisons everything and the belief in "God" is like a virus, then would it not follow -

 

A. Religion poisons everything.

B. Religion poisons Fantasy.

C. Poison is bad.

D. Fantasy including religious poison is bad.

 

A. The idea of "God" is a virus.

B. This virus spreads throughout our culture.

C. Our culture is permeated with fiction and fantasy.

D. Fiction and fantasy are infected with the "God" virus.

E. Viruses are bad.

F. Fiction and fantasy infected with the "God" virus are bad.

________

 

That is the logic that goes through my head, and that discourages and confuses me. If both "A's" are true, would it not then follow logically that "D" and "F" are true. Naturally, all of you believe that "D" and "F" are NOT true, but that both "A's" are true. So, where is the flaw in my brain's logic.

 

I don't want to believe "D" and "F." I hate perceiving things in such a black and white type way. I hate extreme moral absolutes; saying that all fantasy and fiction that borrows from religious ideas and ideals is bad is certainly an extreme moral absolute. But, I can't find holes in the logic I presented above.

 

The closest thing I can find to a hole is that poison is not always bad and viruses are not always bad; however, it is generally excepted that they ARE bad, that they aren't good, and at the very least, they just do not harm or help. Or, another hole could be that somehow fiction and fantasy are immune to metaphorical viruses and poison because they are not real and we don't believe they are real; that poisonous thinking and the "God" virus are acceptable in fiction because we know they are not real.

 

But, then why am I and why are we as a species drawn to this fiction and fantasy? Why do I love fantasy that is permeated with poisonous thinking and the "God" virus, but reject and dislike poisonous thinking and the "God" virus in reality?

 

Or, is there a distinction between real religion/God-belief and fictional religion/God-belief? Is it that real religion/God-belief is always poisonous/virus-like, but fictional religion/God-belief is not always poisonous/virus-like? This generally appears to be the common belief in this forum. But, if this is true, then consider this -

 

If a fiction world containing religion/God-belief became reality and our reality became fiction, then would the fictional world's religion/God-belief become poisonous/virus-like and would our reality cease to be poisonous/virus-like? If this is the case, then ultimately it would all come down to whether or not something is real and whether or not we know it's real.

 

A. As long as religion/God-belief is real, it is poisonous/virus-like.

B. As long as religion/God-belief is not real, it is not poisonous/virus-like.

 

But, if this is true, one is lead to think even deeper. In fiction, religion/God-belief is often not portrayed to be poisonous/virus-like. In fact, it is often portrayed very powerfully and positively. In Star Wars, "The Force" is a miraculous entity that can be tapped into for good and evil, though only through using it for good can one ultimately prevail and be free. In Lord of the Rings, the God of Middle Earth guides the good guys to victory; prayer for well being and for good triumphing over evil is not uncommon.

 

And yet, we all love these stories. In fact, we love Star Wars even more because of "The Force" and we love Lord of the Rings even more because of it's amazing fantastical/supernatural elements. Why is this? In a similar way, we love fictional films/stories that include violence, betrayal and many other kinds of conflicts; all the while rejecting or at least attempting to avoid these things in real life when they are not necessary.

 

My theory is that deep down, we must wish that paranormal/supernatural beliefs and occurrences were not so poisonous. We must wish that one man could believe in a God or follow a religion while another man believes in another God and follows another religion and that they would not only both live in peace, but that neither of them would be wrong. We want to believe that if God is real, then he would put an end to all of this confusion and strife that is caused by extreme opposing religious beliefs. He would guide each person to be liberal and open-minded in their beliefs, and to not hold such extreme views on things to the point that he/she would want to hurt another person. Certainly some people do want that. Ironically, it is often the religious who despise confusion and strife and senseless violence and betrayal the most. And the non-religious often will hold a more liberal approach to these things and who will embrace conflict as a natural part of life; in fact, many will say that it ironically is what makes life interesting and enjoyable. If there were no conflict, many would say, everyone would be perfect and life would be extremely boring and not fulfilling.

 

But if a human being does not want to live without the bad, the conflict, if he even perhaps revels in chaos, then would that not make man inherently bad or evil as the Bible says? Who was it that said that "comedy is tragedy happening to someone else" and does that not ring true, to a point? Do we not laugh when someone else falls down or does something poorly beyond expected? Is most humor not built upon the folly of human beings?

 

Please do not accuse me of being a Christian in disguise, trying to convert people. I am not. I am only explaining my dilemma, my thoughts, and hoping that someone out there will help me put it into perspective and understand all of this.

 

Is it right for us as human beings to enjoy comedy, though it is based the folly of human beings and not their righteousness? Is it right for us to enjoy gripping drama and exciting, fast paced action, though it is also built upon the foundation of human conflict and not human peace and understanding?

 

These are the questions that circle through my head. I know that I love, LOVE comedy, drama, action and many types of fiction and imaginative fantasy, even though the majority of it is built around conflict, folly and human imperfection. I understand why religion can be so extreme and fundamentalist, because if conflict and folly and imperfection ("sin," as the Bible calls it) are wrong, then it would follow that everything I said that I loved is wrong and sinful. Deciding what to believe and attempting to understand my human desires (the Bible calls them "fleshly") vs. my desire to be moral (the Bible calls this the guidance of the Holy Spirit) is my great inner conflict. Do natural human desires work opposed to universal morality? Does universal morality (which would imply a "God") exist? Should it exist? It's so hard to know what to believe. Every fiber in my body seems to be torn. I don't know if it's "the lusts of the flesh" vs. "the guidance of the Spirit" or if it is merely my natural human desires vs. years of religious brainwashing and misguidance. First, I lean one way, then I lean another.

 

Very much so, I want the latter (natural human desires vs. years of religious brainwashing and misguidance) to be true. But overall, I want to follow the truth. So if the other one is true ("the lusts of the flesh" vs. "the guidance of the Spirit"), then I regretfully want to follow it because I want to follow truth. Or do I? Do I really want to follow truth or do I just want to do what makes me the most comfortable? If Hell doesn't exist, if there is no eternal punishment for wrongdoing and no universal morals, then would I not obviously just do what I want to do instead of what an omniscient being told me to do, even if I knew it was the truth?

 

I think there's a good chance that I would. Does that make me a bad person? I really don't know. Does that just reiterate the the supposed "truths" of the Bible that we all, including myself, are totally depraved without God? Or, again, does God not exist and is it natural and beneficial for me to follow my desires and to do what makes me the most comfortable? Am I inherently selfish and is that the way it should be? Is even a "selfless" act that I do really selfish because I am hardwired to do it for the betterment of the species and to find joy in helping others and find pleasure in facing and overcoming conflict? Both seem to make sense, I really don't know what to believe.

 

If you have read all this way, thank you. I really just poured out my heart and emptied some thoughts that have been stirring in my brain for a long, LONG time. I ask that you please carefully consider all that I have said and give me your honest, thoroughly thought out response.

 

Thank you.

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Wow, if half the people who open this thread read through everything I wrote in my massive opening post and my odorafarus, ofolactogil emancipation that is my recent follow up post, it truly would be a miracle worthy of a supreme being! :P

 

Here's a treat for those who have such supernatural fortitude (and basically anyone else who has a sense of humor) -

 

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AmIReallyThatBad: I guess I only thought where you were coming from. Sorry to say it appears I have no clue.

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I appreciate all of the quick responses. You are all very insightful.

 

I feel like no one has touched on the basics of my post, though. If religion poisons everything ...

 

But that's just it. Reread my post. It's just a book title. It's not a "TRUTH". The title doesn't accurately describe the contents and nuances of the book. You are letting yourself fall into to absolutist, black and white thinking.

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I know. Your post helped a lot with my original thoughts in this post. You did touch on what I was saying and were very helpful. I didn't read your post until after I posted my most recent BIG post. Thanks again for your help.

 

Now, if anyone can tackle the deeper issues that I explore in said BIG post, I would be very appreciative! I'm sorry I'm asking so much!!

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AmIReallyThatBad: I guess I only thought where you were coming from. Sorry to say it appears I have no clue.

 

Why did you change your mind? Haha. I enjoyed reading your post and appreciated relating to you. I agree that it's best to keep fighting for one's freedom as a human being.

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I appreciate all of the quick responses. You are all very insightful.

 

<snip>

 

Or, is there a distinction between real religion/God-belief and fictional religion/God-belief? Is it that real religion/God-belief is always poisonous/virus-like, but fictional religion/God-belief is not always poisonous/virus-like? This generally appears to be the common belief in this forum.

 

<snip>

 

If Hell doesn't exist, if there is no eternal punishment for wrongdoing and no universal morals, then would I not obviously just do what I want to do instead of what an omniscient being told me to do, even if I knew it was the truth?

 

Thank you.

I snipped a heck of a lot, but I think I can address the major issues with these two selected passages.

 

In the first paragraph, you are absolutely right. Fiction/fantasy is not to taken seriously. If someone came to you and said that he could feel the "eye of Mordor" upon him, and he was compelled to sacrifice a goat to appease the Evil One, what would your response be? Mine would be to tell him he's nuts, move away from him as quickly as would be socially appropriate, and avoid him thereafter hoping he seeks psychiatric help. It's fuckin' fantasy! I enjoy it, I get into it, I can understand the archtypes, mythology and motives, but that doesn't mean they're real. Religion is no less bizzarre, but the thing that makes it scary is that many people do believe and act upon religious beliefs. Those beliefs, taken seriously (as they are mean to be), are fuckin' dangerous! Religion, in this sense, poisons anything that it motivates - even if it is meant to be for good.

 

In the second paragraph, you are stating the reasons that theists think that atheists have no morals. You know right from wrong. Killing babies is bad. The bible says god told the Israelites to kill babies. That's wrong. Don't kill babies. If you do, you are seriously mixed up. As for the motivation of hell, it is just not necessary to have this motivation to do the right thing. You do it from respect, fear of punishment (in this life), and by using empathy - that quality that makes behavior conform to societal laws, ethics and morals. This was adopted by religion in the form of the Golden Rule, and Jesus was not the first to arrive at this conclusion.

 

Just ask yourself why you haven't raped anyone yet; or why you haven't bought a gun to steal from a store; or killed someone out of anger. The god described in the Old Testament did all of these things: Keeping virginal captives of destroyed cities, stealing the whole fucking Holy Land, and killing people because he was mad (flood, strike them down, whatever).

 

With only one brief life, you had better make the most of it.

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If the Golden Rule is to treat others the way you want to be treated, then why do we thrive on conflict and always incorporate it into our entertainment as the centerpiece?

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If the Golden Rule is to treat others the way you want to be treated, then why do we thrive on conflict and always incorporate it into our entertainment as the centerpiece?

The Golden Rule is an ideal, not the current state of things.

 

Quite frankly, life would be boring if it weren't for conflict. Too much, and we suffer anxiety, fear and depression. Too little, and we will find ways to entertain ourselves.

 

Since fiction and fantasy are harmless, they are also harmless ways to experience these same feelings without having to suffer the consequences of real-life conflict.

 

Ironically, conflict can bring out the best in us, but also the worst. As long as there are needs and desires that are unresolved, there will be conflict. Humans are creatures of needs and desires. It is our nature.

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Doesn't it sort of come down to a system of "mind-control" ?

 

 

Just speaking to the OP a bit: I've always been wary of people who want to "censor" my imagination, my love for fantasy, science-fiction, movies, futurism, humanism, mythology, comic books and even video games. What gives another person the right to impose limitations on your own enjoyment of these things ? The answer is always the same: the desire to control your thinking, your feelings, and even your personal joy out of the things in life you like.

 

Fear is the method used for control. I'm reminded of the young fellow I knew who came from an over- bearing fundamentalist family who wouldn't allow him to watch Star Trek. It was "atheist" and "humanistic" and full of ideas about evolution, and *gasp* science. "It shuts out God" blah blah.

 

It's practically the same as the same religious nuts who think that enjoying sexual fantasies is "bad". That one should feel guilty about such things; whether it be romance novels, masturbation, or porn. Whatever happened to, "I'll be the judge of my own personal fantasy life, thanks".

 

Hard-core religion is often a medium that encourages a "fascism of the mind". If it doesn't "glorify God" then it's wrong, or worthless, or "anti-Christian". We've seen this stuff with the Harry Potter thing, science fiction shows, even Buffy the Vampire Slayer for crying out loud.

 

This is what makes this part of religious extremism so toxic. It wants to shut down creativity, the mind, ideas, progress, science, and most of all, the autonomy of the individual.

 

On the other hand, there are many religious people who love fantasy and mythology and so on. I would say that the toxic part occurs when it starts to become all-controlling, and ideology becomes the centerpiece of it all, and where they view the world in terms of an imaginary form of warfare.

 

I was disapointed the other day when a Christian guy I know, who is usually quite level-headed about things, came out and starting sputtering about "Satan's power in the world", and that somehow it's a result of "too much freedom" gained over the last fifty or sixty years by "liberal thought".

 

Ouuuuuuuuuuch ! That hurt. Another one bites the dust.

 

Fantasy and reality. As long as one knows the difference, there isn't anything "toxic" about any of it.

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Fantasy and reality. As long as one knows the difference, there isn't anything "toxic" about any of it.

You just said what I tried to say in two sentences.

 

That's brilliance.

:17:

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As others have pointed out, the purpose of fiction is to entertain and religion is supposed to be taken seriously. Many religious people love fantasy and sci-fi who are not converted to paganism because of the magic in them and there are many atheists who love fantsy and sci-fi and are hardcore skeptics. Even a hardcore skeptic like Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, is a sci-fi fan and has even made a cameo appearance in the British sci-fi series, Doctor Who, but he doesn't believe a word of it is true. On the other hand, my dad is a fundamentalist Christian and believes the bible is the literal word of God but he thinks sci-fi and fantasy are boring just because they aren't real yet he believes in talking snakes.

 

Some people might be influenced easier by fiction than others but you can say that about anything. Some people might convert to religion because of a politician that influenced them and others might be influenced by friends and families. Does this mean that all politics, friends, and families are poisonous and should be done away with because they might influence people to believe in religion or is it that everybody is influenced by different things and some people are more easily influenced by some things than other people? Also, it should be noted that not all atheists think religion is poison and plenty of atheists take a live and let live attitude to religion.

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I appreciate all of the quick responses. You are all very insightful.

 

I feel like no one has touched on the basics of my post, though. If religion poisons everything and the belief in "God" is like a virus, then would it not follow -

 

A. Religion poisons everything.

B. Religion poisons Fantasy.

C. Poison is bad.

D. Fantasy including religious poison is bad.

 

A. The idea of "God" is a virus.

B. This virus spreads throughout our culture.

C. Our culture is permeated with fiction and fantasy.

D. Fiction and fantasy are infected with the "God" virus.

E. Viruses are bad.

F. Fiction and fantasy infected with the "God" virus are bad.

________

 

That is the logic that goes through my head, and that discourages and confuses me. If both "A's" are true, would it not then follow logically that "D" and "F" are true. Naturally, all of you believe that "D" and "F" are NOT true, but that both "A's" are true. So, where is the flaw in my brain's logic.

This would only follow if both premises were true. They aren't true. Religion doesn't poison everything and not all ideas of God are viruses.

 

You could put anything in there with the word "everything", not just fantasy. If that's the case, then it would also follow that religion poisons art. I don't think that is true. There are some fantastic pieces of religious art in the world.

 

Try to look at religion as myth and fantasy gone wrong. It's an art piece that some people look at and swear the images are real. And, if they can convince others that they're real in this work of art then they have a following of people that never see the inner reality the artwork is trying to inspire in people.

 

Religion is fantasy and myth made into concrete ideas. The only difference between them is in the mind of people. One isn't more true because people believe the images to actually exist or have existed in reality. It's still just a belief. It is still art. The inner truths, as they relate to the lives of people, are what are true. It doesn't matter if it's fantasy, myth or religion.

 

Edit: I can see by re-reading this that you could imagine that religion did indeed poison myth and fantasy. Now I see your dilemma. :scratch: Let's see if this can be resolved a little. Religion is based on the interpretation of mythology as being "True" in the external world. No one would seriously look at a picture and claim that it is reality. There is a difference in religions that understand mythology for what it is and those that claim it is a real reality. As Dan posted earlier (rightfully so), this isn't a black and white issue. Those that claim it is reality and it can be no other way, are misinterpreting the myth as an external truth. Those that claim it represents an inner reality are understanding the stories in the proper context. The former group are the ones that dislike Harry Potter fantasy because they believe that magic is real. The latter group would understand the difference between what this "magic" represents in the broader picture of an inner understanding.

 

Did that make any sense? It has to do with shades of gray within "religion" and "God". The virus and poison lie in the minds of the onlookers, not in the actual existing pieces of art. As Franko said, "As long as one knows the difference, there isn't anything "toxic" about any of it." Evolution stated this, "However religion taken literally is a very, very dangerous thing. A menace in fact."

 

I went back and pulled this from your post:

 

My theory is that deep down, we must wish that paranormal/supernatural beliefs and occurrences were not so poisonous. We must wish that one man could believe in a God or follow a religion while another man believes in another God and follows another religion and that they would not only both live in peace, but that neither of them would be wrong. We want to believe that if God is real, then he would put an end to all of this confusion and strife that is caused by extreme opposing religious beliefs. He would guide each person to be liberal and open-minded in their beliefs, and to not hold such extreme views on things to the point that he/she would want to hurt another person. Certainly some people do want that. Ironically, it is often the religious who despise confusion and strife and senseless violence and betrayal the most. And the non-religious often will hold a more liberal approach to these things and who will embrace conflict as a natural part of life; in fact, many will say that it ironically is what makes life interesting and enjoyable. If there were no conflict, many would say, everyone would be perfect and life would be extremely boring and not fulfilling.

 

But if a human being does not want to live without the bad, the conflict, if he even perhaps revels in chaos, then would that not make man inherently bad or evil as the Bible says? Who was it that said that "comedy is tragedy happening to someone else" and does that not ring true, to a point? Do we not laugh when someone else falls down or does something poorly beyond expected? Is most humor not built upon the folly of human beings?

 

The first bold area deals with looking at mythology and arriving at a conclusion that exists apart from the inner, psychological aspect of the person looking. It is externalizing a concept. Both could very well be right if taken internally. We wouldn't look at Star Wars and LOTR with the intent of saying that The Force is the true God and the LOTR is wrong. We could understand the insight into both and see truths in both.

 

The second area is what is noticed by humans just by living and interacting with each other and then writen about. It's a description of the state of affairs. It was just an explanation of the observation of humanity. It has nothing to do with what God said or did or created. Maybe that is the problem? You may be putting the cart before the horse, so to speak. Religion came after observation and this observation was expressed through mythology.

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Awesome post. :3:

 

Hiya. Nice to see you round here again :)

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Awesome post. :3:

 

Hiya. Nice to see you round here again :)

Thank you! It's nice to be back around. I missed you all!

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