Religion sucks the joy out of life's greatest accomplishments.
I had a wonderful dinner with two women from my family and a close family friend on Sunday, and heard three stories about religion that frankly shocked me. We were having a discussion about religion (which got started because they wanted to know how my book is progressing), and they "ganged up" on me arguing for the existence of God. (In a fun way – the women in my family are at least as opinionated as I am, and we have some great discussions.) Each of them told me a deeply moving personal story of how God intervened in a crisis and saved them. Ironically, their stories had the OPPOSITE effect on me; they opened my eyes to a new evil of religion that I'd never seen before
One of these three women, in the late 1950s, was faced with an abusive husband, no college degree, three children under the age of six, and no job. She was in despair, she couldn't leave the man, and couldn't stay with him. God spoke to her, saying, "I am always with you," and in that moment, she knew it would be OK to leave her abusive husband.
The second woman was in the middle of a divorce, and also in despair over her soon-to-be-ex-husband's infidelity, the loss of all her dreams, and worry about how it would affect her two children. A spirit came to her in a dream, and she suddenly knew everything would be OK, and it calmed her and gave her strength.
The third woman had severe depression and mental illness, and had already undergone twenty two electroshock treatments, to no avail. Medication, psychoanalysis, she tried everything. Then a Christian faith healer told her she was cured, and she was! She's been well ever since.
Hearing these stories opened my eyes to the most subtle and sad cruelty of religion: It took away the magnificent accomplishments of these three women. They should have each been dancing in the street yelling, "I DID IT! Against all odds, I achieved victory!" It must have taken tremendous courage to leave an abusive husband in the 1950s to an uncertain future, or to find the strength to carry on when all seems lost, or to overcome mental illness through sheer chutzpah. What great achievements!
Instead, they said, "I wasn't good enough. I couldn't do it myself. Only God was strong enough. I failed, and needed help."
Religion lets people avoid personal responsibility by asking, and getting, God's forgiveness, never mind whether the victims agree with God. I suppose that's a pretty good bargain – "Believe in me, and you're off the hook for your sins." But the flip side of that deal is that God also steals all the glory. Everything good is God's doing. Humans get all the blame, and God gets all the credit.
What a terrible way to go through life.