Religious Customs Are Amazingly Stupid

    By James Hervey Johnson | 1949
    Positive Atheism

    The Chinese make paper replicas of houses, animals, utensils, tools, and burn them on the graves of their departed relatives, claiming that this sends them to the spirit of the departed who can thus use them in the spirit world. Similar customs prevail in the religions of many primitive races. But Christians deride the silly custom, and all sensible people know that it is childish, as reason does not approve the ritual.

    Christian customs are just as ridiculous. Eating pinches of bread and sipping wine or grape juice are supposed to give the Christian a taste of the flesh and blood of Christ — of course, the bread and wine must first be blessed by the priest or preacher, and by magic incantations and abracadabra, rig-a-ma-role and hocus-pocus transferred into the things it is claimed to be. It is thus impossible for the Christian church to get away from the cannibalistic theory of blood sacrifices, which is the tail end of the old primitive cannibalistic customs even now practiced by some savage tribes, of eating their enemies in order to partake of their valor art courageous qualities. The old Mexican Aztec custom of eating or cutting out the heart of its brave young men is similar. The whole of religion is based on morbidity. Anything promoting happiness is supposed to be wrong.

    The Christian religion has attacked sex and sex desire as one of the greatest sins. Catholic priests are supposed to be celibates, and nuns and monks are required to take an oath that they will never have sexual satisfaction. Why did the church not attack God for making men desirous of fulfilling the sex instinct? But this queer custom, like that of the Chinese, once started, never stops.

    We think that the Tibetan Lamas system of saying prayers by having the wind turn paddles, and rivers turn water wheels with prayer printed or written on them is foolish. But the Tibetan thinks these systems of appeasing the Almighty are just as efficacious as the counting of the Rosary by Catholics.

    There is no logical explanation for these things. There is no reasonable explanation for the Christians’ attitude toward sex, but it is well illustrated by the stories printed in the “London Freethinker”:

    A parson’s daughter in failing health took up a position in a farmhouse, and, after a few weeks gave it up. Asked by the farmer’s wife, who had done her utmost for the girl, if she could give her anything more, she replied: “I lack nothing, but I cannot stay here any longer — the poultry are so disgustingly immoral.”

    An elder, who lived in the same Scottish village, kept a few fowls. On Sunday the old follower of Calvin gave only his hens their liberty. The cocks he tethered to the table legs. “It wadnae doe,” said he, “tee let them disgrace ma sacred callin by gaen them freedom, the wandering vagabonds to gang aboot fornicating the Lord’s day.”

    Whole tribes of primitive people have been wiped out or nearly exterminated by the Christian missionaries’ insane zeal for putting clothes on tropical tribesmen whose skins had been exposed to the healthy air and Sun from time immemorial.

    If god had wanted people to be prudes, why did he fill their bodies and minds with desire? If it was a sin to exercise sex desires, why did he not create man without sex organs? Why did he not make priests from the beginning without them, as certain insects are so born? Or why does not the Catholic Church unsex all of its nuns, monks, and priests?

    The head-hunting tribes of Borneo require that a man must cut off some person’s head, man or woman or child, before he can be called a man and marry. What a stupid custom, we think; no reason, no sense. How did it originate? Of course there are psychological causes which are not founded on reason: but once started such customs survive as long as there is a profit in them for someone.

    For example the strange and primitive ritual of baptism. Nothing more childish could be imagined. Why does the silly rite continue? Probably because the preacher or priest gets from 50¢ to $5 every time he sprinkles a drop or two of water on a child’s head and chants a few tunes and mumbles a few meaningless words.

    On the battle field priests are supposed to rush to dying men and administer last rites. If they would put their efforts into trying to save these men from death their efforts would be more practical. When a man is unconscious what matter is it to him what mumbling some cleric makes over him?

    James Hervey JohnsonJames Hervey Johnson was an atheist and outspoken critic of organized religion. For nearly a quarter of a century he was publisher and editor of The Truth Seeker from 1964 until his death in 1988. Through his efforts as an activist and benefactor, Johnson contributed significantly to freethought in the mid to late twentieth century.


    This baptism in Georgia is enough to make your head spin

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