My contention that Faith is a Dereliction of Civic Responsibility will not win me many friends.
Since the beginning of human recorded history, and most probably way before that as well, mankind has always sought solace in the idea of a higher power. Whether the power/deity was omnipotent, or whether there were multiple deities each dedicated to specific issues, depended on the individual tribal beliefs. However, they all had common threads: an entity to blame when things went wrong, an entity that could improve your life, if it was pleased with your respect, prayers, sacrifices, gifts etc. In many cases, the deity offered the pleasant prospect of life after death, if you behaved yourself, and offered enough gifts.
Early on, this tendency of the populace to cede responsibility to something other than themselves, was recognized by individuals with leadership aspirations.
One type of leader followed a secular path, often defined by physical prowess, and those leaders became Kings and Emperors. Another type of leader took a more studied approach. They recognized the need of the populace to believe in some sort of deity, and they exploited that need. This second group became priests and, eventually, archbishops and popes.
However, secular leaders, in my opinion, missed a tremendous opportunity that religious leaders created and honed over time. That opportunity was the concept of faith.
There are reasons why most kings and emperors, even presidents, have tried to separate “Church and State”. Those reasons are power and control because, in the concept of faith, the priests have a definite advantage.
Creating and developing the concept of faith was a brilliant strategy that every secular ruler wishes they had in their “control arsenal”. Once you create faith, it cannot be attacked successfully by any secular tool, even education.
I am reminded of a report I read soon after I came to the U.S., many years ago. A couple, who were both eminent professors in a prestigious U.S. university, watched their only child die, because they were 7th-Day Adventists, and their religion prohibited blood transfusions. There are many such examples, and, in today’s United States, this type of radical religious faith is alive and well. It has even crossed over from religion to secular government. Donald Trump’s base supporters are a good example. I hate to think of “Trumpism” as a religion – heaven forbid – but the fact that his followers believe every word he says despite overwhelming to the contrary is as close to religious faith as makes no difference. A very frightening thought and a dereliction of civic responsibility.
Another example is the U.S. Gun Lobby. If you think of the Gun Lobby as the faithful parishioners of a religion, and the NRA as the Church of that religion, their stance makes some sort of sense, albeit idiotic and dangerous sense.
Faith always wins the battle with logic, unfortunately.
Faith can be a regressive and debilitating enemy to the concept of civic responsibility, to return to the message of this blog. “God will take care of it, and me, so why should I worry or contribute.”
The recent scourge of religious institutions in the U.S. who have refused to follow the simple rules for containing the COVID19 pandemic is a great example. Faith, of the wrong sort, can often be detrimental to civic responsibility, and there’s little secular authority can do about it.
I admit there are many people who lead exemplary lives in service to their communities, while being religious. I just don’t understand why they have to drag some mythical deity into the process. They are doing great work, and setting great examples, on their own initiatives. In my opinion, religion is a distraction, not an asset and, in many instances, a dangerous distraction.
Maybe, I need to start a religion in order to effectively get this message across to the faithful. A contradiction in philosophies, I know, but it might work.