I’m not a fan of debating religion most of the time. Unless you find someone who is pleasant to debate with, things can get unreasonable, the opposite of what a debate should do. Also, most of the time, I just don't have the energy to get involved with such a long debate. Below, I have a short story I wrote in the form of a journal entry a few years ago. The event never happened, but it illustrates part of my view on where people put blame in the wrong place and it affects their actions towards certain people. This debate was to not to prove that religions are true, but that their ideas and values are not responsible for the evils in the world. The comment at the end also helped shaped my opinion of debates.
While the event never happened like it is described, parts of it did. The actual arguments are taken from a debate. The part about who it was with is fiction because I wanted to simulate what might happen if I tried doing giving money like I thought. It is actually an example of an idealism that I have where if the poor gives to the poor, then that is far greater than if a rich man gave to the poor. I hope you enjoy it.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010 (Adam)
Today was an eventful day for sure. At least it is a memorable day. I’m not just talking about the earthquake in Haiti. That is really sad too. It was such a devastating one. There are so many people there that need help. Yet, in spite of all this, I somehow got pulled back into realizing there are people just outside in the neighborhood that need our help.
I went to the store to pick up some groceries when I saw a homeless man sitting on the bench out there. I felt an urge to do something, but then I had another thought. I put down my groceries and looked through my wallet. I took out some money and went to the guy. I have heard my dad and others talk about their problems with giving money to a poor person. The most common I heard was they would probably use it on alcohol. However, in spite of that, I’ve seen my dad give a few bucks. I had an idea, though, so I gave him $11.11.
As I gave the money to the man, I told him why the specific amount. I told that I didn’t really care what he ended up spending it on. If he spent it on beer, then at least the beer would give him some peace for a little while. But I told him that he had a choice. The money could go toward food or something to help better his condition or be wasted. The choice was his and I was only providing him a chance. I told him that I felt like we all could use another chance every now and then. I then gave him another choice.
As I grew up, my mom always told me to give away 10% of any income, generally to church. I didn’t really like it that much as I was younger. It almost seemed like a tax. Of course it’s very different since taxes are mandatory and seem to be wasted while donations are optional and generally used for good. Yet, as I got older it got easier to part with the money. I think it’s because you begin to realize that you don’t need it so much and at the same time, you are giving it to someone who does. So I instructed the man to give away $1.11 to someone else who may need it. And then he should tell whoever got the $1.11 to likewise give away the 11 cents.
He then asked why he should give away the money in the first place since I gave it to him. I replied because it would be honorable. I pointed out that if a rich man gave to the poor, it would be a good deed. However, if a poor man were to give to another poor man, then it would be a great deed and worthy of praise even if no one were to recognize it.
In continuing with my instructions, I added that if at any point that no one could be found, then the 10% should be donated at the church. I asserted that it should be because it was the idea of Jesus that inclined me to give the money away in the first place.
That last comment began a discussion then on religion. The man scoffed at that idea. He said religion was evil and there is no God. When I asked why, he responded that the idea of a God that preaches unconditional love for all yet condemns people. He asked how can you love someone but disapprove of their actions since we were “given by God” free will?
My answer to that entailed looking at the example of a good parent. I made my claim that it is possible to love someone but still disapprove of their actions and it would not be hypocritical. Good parents show this when they discipline their children for doing something wrong, such as stealing. They still love them, but they discipline because they know it’s best for them. I then moved to the idea of free will. We are given a freedom to choose between good, evil, and things that are indifferent. We are free with any choice to be a good model for others or not. Freedom does not grant the ability to do whatever we want, it means we are responsible for what we do. After all, if a robot went around and killed people, the responsibility will fall on the person controlling it and not the robot itself. In fact, when we try to escape the blame, we say someone “made me do it”.
The man tried to tackle my parental example and said good parents try to “rehabilitate” their children. They don’t condemn them to eternal hell. I agreed on that because for them to do that would violate their faith. It is God that judges where we end up and that is based off a multitude of things. We are only able to disapprove of certain actions. We cannot say how the person may end up. All we can do is hope to correct their behavior so that they may avoid hell. It’s our choice whether or not we go to hell.
Not giving up, the homeless stranger said all faiths do the same. They all are hypocritical. He asked how can a God that preaches love and equality advocate the killing and torture of thousands in his name? How can other religions with the same basic principles of love and caring be demonized. He then claimed he wasn’t criticizing Christianity but all religions. He was asserting that religions have caused so much evil in the world.
My answer was that it was simple. Humans can be that stupid. There are some who were shown the truth and how we are supposed to act only to deny it and act according to how they want to. Just because someone doesn’t follow the laws of his religion doesn’t mean the religion was wrong. If a religion preaches to love another and some of its “followers” don’t, it does not mean the faith was wrong to preach to love another.
Continuing in his position, the poor man referred to the Crusades and Spanish Inquisition. He claimed that religion was the cause of these things. I then asked if religion is what really sets people off? I pointed out that it is used often as an excuse when the real reason is politics. For example, the Spanish really wanted a strong united kingdom, and religion was the tool they wanted to use to make this happen. In reality, when they said it was for religion, they were lying. Just because someone uses it as an excuse does not mean the teachings were wrong. I pointed out to him that he was really criticizing the people, not the religion.
He kinda agreed with that statement. He said he was criticizing the people because they are the ones who carry the idea, since religion isn’t a person but an idea. He laughed at the hypocrisy and how it has done damage to society.
Again, I had to tell him that he was placing the blame in the wrong place. How can something a religion preaches against be attributed to it? If religion is an idea, then how can it do this? How can it act against itself? It’s only the people who do the wrong and corrupt what is good who are to blame, not the faith they claim to practice. To rebuke his claim on the society aspect, I referred to how religion has given us models like Mother Teresa who followed religion properly. I admitted that some religions are in fact made up for the purpose to be an excuse or earn money, but that doesn’t mean all of them are like that.
In his obstinacy, he said that Mother Teresa was a good person, but she didn’t really have a lasting impact on the world. I had to challenge him on that since she inspired others to follow her lead and help the poor.
His defense to that was she was a minority. He said religion is power and those in power are corrupted. He said religion is just a tool that is manipulated by the few to control the many. He said it rots everything it touches, especially the human mind. He brought up the topic of Creationism versus Evolution. On one side, there is the Holy Books, and on the other is the culmination of human understanding and knowledge. However, people refuse to acknowledge that religion isn’t always right.
My counter began with saying depends on which religion you choose. You cannot claim religion is always right because there are so many religions that contradict each other. That is why if there is a proper religion, there must be only one. Continuing with that, I told him about how I learned to see the Bible in that case. Some people take the creation story very literally, but you can see it is written as very mythical and literary. The 7 days of creation cannot be literal days. This is because the basis for a day wasn’t the hours but the sun. And the sun wasn’t there until like the “fourth day.” I told him that the belief I was taught is that evolution is certainly a possibility. In fact, if evolution is true, then it would be more plausible that there is a God. Because it’d be one thing to just make something appear. It’d be even more outstanding if something appeared with the ability to evolve from practically nothing. Religion and science can work together. They operate on two different sides of knowledge and can overlap at a few parts.
To address his point on the corruption of power, I asked how he could expect to convince me of his position when he is only pointing out the problems in human nature. Again, I showed him that he was placing the blame in the wrong place.
I finally gave him a hypothetical. Perhaps there is no God and all religion is a complete scam. Even then, it is the best scam we could hope for that has helped society so much. If there is no afterlife paradise, then perhaps it’s even better. Because then, the people who did good deeds really did sacrifice themselves for others for nothing in return. I argue that Christianity is a good thing. Even if it is all a lie, the examples we are given and the saints who live among us make this world bearable. It inspires people to be good men and women. To help out those who, if there is no God, just by chance, are in a horrible situation. I hope there is a God simply so that these people who sacrifice themselves for others will, in fact, be rewarded. If you look at the teachings of many religions, they are what we needed to become a better society. It is then our choice whether or not to act on it. In fact, like I said before, it was because of religion’s influence that I was giving him the money.
At that point he finally gave in and said that I had good points. In fact, he said that his hatred of God had lessened as a result of the debate. He told me that I was one of the most logical thinkers he has argued with. He praised me on that saying that logical thinkers don’t get angry so easily, but I kept my cool, unlike the idiots who fill our world. But then he commented that I am part of a minority, but if there were more people like me, it would make the world better and thanked me for it all, including the money and that he will do as I instructed. To make matters more interesting, the crowd that had gathered and heard our debate applauded for the conclusion. Some people even came up and praised me on being able to hold my ground like that. They even gave money to the guy as I was leaving. For some reason, I felt like I did something really good and it all started because I decided to give a poor man $11.11.