I have taken the post below from a comment I made on Marco's blog a while ago and have set it up here to accompany my first post as the New Dr Clam, which you will find by scrolling down a little ways.
You may or may not know that my son is vehemently and embarassingly opposed to most all manifestations of organised religion. This certainly has not been my view nor of anyone else in the family and until recently I assumed it might stem from some unreported unfortunate incident at his first school here, where he was enrolled in Scripture class without us knowing.
But I have realised – very belatedly, because I am so thick – that my son’s opinion is not an abberation, but a logical and consistent consequence of three messages that are core to my own world view that I have drummed in to him by word and action since he was very small.
1. Don’t do things just because everyone else is doing them, or all the ‘cool people’ are doing them.
There isn't anything I, or parents in general, denigrate so much as peer pressure. Doing things just because everyone around you is doing them is stupid. 'Think for yourself!' we say. Now historically, if you are born in a Muslim country, you end up as a Muslim. If you are born in a Christian country, you end up as a Christian. Etc. What can this be but people blindly going along with what everyone else around them is doing, rather than considering ideologies on their merits? All organised religions are obviously groups of ‘cool people’ – the only people who *really* know what it is going on.
And then I have gone and said – thinking of the habit of following orders that gave us the ghastly 20th century – things like: ‘Respect for authority is a disease, no different from the Venusian Gook Rot’ (Me, c.1995). (Of course, while it makes some sense to listen to what the great sages and prophets of the past have said, where they disagree completely with each other it is obvious that they can be ignored.)
2. Content beats form, as surely as rock beats scissors.
This is something I say a lot, too. Don't pay attention to *how* people are saying something, pay attention to *what* they are actually saying.
Organised religion seems to be all about saying things in as impressive an environment as possible. You typically have someone in impressive clothes reading something written in impressive language in an impressive setting. The greatest music, paintings, and architecture of Western Civilisation have all been created to provide an impressive setting for Christianity. I am largely suspicious of form because I am so damned susceptible to it, but my son has always been largely immune. Confronted with any statement he will cut straight to the content. He is going to be suspicious of anything tarted up with all sorts of impressive emotive magnificences, *because* it is tarted up with all sorts of impressive emotive magnificences.
3. Don’t believe things for any reason except that they are true.
You shouldn’t trust anybody saying something if they are paid to say it. If someone from the coal industry says something about global warming being rubbish, everyone leaps up and down to say that they would say that, wouldn’t they? If I say something about the importance of publicly-funded tertiary education, you would be right to take it with a grain of salt. So if people are being rewarded to say something is true, not by an executive salary of a measly few million a year*, but by an eternity of bliss, oughtn’t we ought to take what they are saying with whole container loads of salt? That would be logical.
So, my son’s contempt for organised religion is a logical and self-consistent extension of my own world view. And to be logical and self-consistent, I ought to adopt it too.
So that’s sort of where I’m at.
I find it a very uncomfortable place to be and don't like it very much, but that's where I am.
*: For absolute clarity, this is meant to be the coal industry spokesman’s salary, not mine.