A Species of Perpetual Children

Religious folk like to claim that lack of God begets a lack of morals, and to a certain extent they’re right. Only, it’s not secularism that causes the problems but rather instilling people with notions of magical punishments for their actions, hammering into them the import of doing good not for the sake of being a good person, of not doing harm to others because they understand harm, but for the sake of saving themselves from some fantastic damnation. And once that veil is pulled away, what’s the point? Once religion, once God is exposed as a fraud, then suddenly the impetus to do good out of fear is eliminated as well. And when you confuse morality with a system of religion, this can be really dangerous.

It’s similar to the way we approach other things, too: Like how we build up these mythical tales of marijuana use killing you on your first use, and destroying your life, and being so addictive and horrible that you’ll be ruined within months if you ever even think about smoking a joint. And then people actually end up smoking pot at some point in their lives and realizing it’s not even close to as bad as depicted, and in fact quite pleasant with seemingly few side effects with responsible use. And then it dawns on them that other drugs were depicted this way, too, so maybe it’s safe to give, say, heroin a go. Or crack. Hell, why not some crystal meth?

And that’s what the gateway is: Not some intrinsic property of the drugs themselves, but rather the way we condition ourselves as a species to think about things. We aren’t honest with ourselves because we don’t seem to be able to trust ourselves to be adults. (And it’s cyclical, of course: Treat someone like a child and they’ll become one.) We end up inventing all these little tricks to try to convince ourselves that intensely exaggerated and often outright invented repercussions will result from actions we’re afraid (sometimes with good reason — see: heroin) or uncomfortable to take. And in doing so, in lying to ourselves, we never fully grasp what the actual situations are, what the actual dangers are. All we do is prop up a bunch of facades of boogeymen and train ourselves to believe that if we do something “wrong”, they’re going to come alive at night and eat us.

And some people can only be tricked for so long.

When you find out that Santa Claus isn’t real, for how long do you continue kissing ass with your parents? The whole thing was just a device to get you to behave for an entire year for a single annual reward. There was always the threat of no presents at Christmas, because Santa doesn’t bring gifts to bad girls and boys. Only lumps of coal. And then you’re told it’s bullshit, and not only is the incentive to be artificially pleasant and complacent under almost any circumstance[1] throughout the year removed, but you’re also disillusioned with the system as a whole.

So what happens when you suspect that God isn’t real? The same God you’ve been kept in a state of perpetual childhood to believe in, to suspend your disbelief, to exhibit cognitive dissonance to such an extent as no rational adult in an enlightened, mature society would be capable? The same God who’ll burn you for an eternity — a fucking eternity — for something so much as lying to your parents? God doesn’t give heaven to bad girls and boys. Only lumps of coal. Lit. Up your asshole. Forever. What happens when you begin to suspect that maybe this whole system might not be real?

Some people can only stay children for so long.

[1] And this is what makes the whole Catholic kid-rape scandal particularly insidious is that these children are led to be complacent to appease God — who they’re told is represented by these men — and so they’re afraid to do anything out of fear that they’ll make God angry. Fucking disgusting.

4 thoughts on “A Species of Perpetual Children”

  1. As a very young child, I obeyed because I was afraid of Hell.

    As a somewhat older child, I did good things because “Jesus wants me to do them, and I want to make Jesus happy instead of sad.” (This, in itself, probably wouldn’t be harmful to theists as a form of motivation–however, when combined with the Hell story it backfires horribly.)

    As a young (still Christian at this point) adult, I decided that assholes are annoying, so I won’t be an asshole.

    Now, as a non-Christian theist, the reason I don’t do bad things is, simply, because they hurt people and I don’t want to hurt people.

    It’s just a religious case of Erikson’s morality theory. People stuck in a childish mindset view morality as “Will I be punished?” or “What’s in it for me if I help you?”

    People at a somewhat higher level of development view morality as “What will other people think?” or “Is it legal?” Most adults, Erikson says, are at this level.

    Higher up still, people view morality as “What is the reason behind this law?” or “Does it harm others?” In other words, a sort of good-for-goodness’s sake idea. Erikson wasn’t convinced that too many people make it this high–mostly philosophers and religious leaders.

  2. My view of morality is pretty simple, and has probably been independently invented by countless philosophers. I understand that for society to function smoothly, it’s necessary to avoid certain actions that harm or eliminate large groups of people. I’m inherently selfish, as are all humans, but I’ve decided to expand that selfishness to include the greater good of my species, and sometimes my planet. After all, what benefits my planet probably benefits me, as well. And I understand that a short-term disadvantage may lead to a long-term benefit, such as paying the rent instead of buying a quarter pound of dank nugs.

  3. I remember as a child I was very uncomfortable with the concept of “be good to make Jesus happy” way of morality, why not being good for goodness sake?

    I used to get a pat in the head for my good, pure-child heart whenever I made this observation.

    Then as I grew older this remark was less and less welcome, specially as my tone changed from genuine puzzlement to a serious complain, at 12 I was already very vocal about how morally repugnant was the bible.

    My point being that some people grow out of Christian morality even without any help, or rather, against all odds.

  4. I shoot for being kind. I don’t know why, I have this sort of vague idea about us all being connected and if life has to suck, maybe it will suck less if we all pull together.

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