In several TOLFA Segments, there's reference to this one as a place where the great question of the existence of God will be addressed. Since you landed here, that time has come; and this Segment mainly concerns only theistic religions - those that do believe in a God. Some do not, being more like a personal system of morality; Buddhism may be classified that way. Further, theistic religion is not to be confused with the realization that there are many things within and around us that are wonderful and mysterious, like music and beauty; the fact that we don't understand them (and that man may never understand them) does not mean that they must have a divine origin. We should fully enjoy them, but not give them a status they do not have.
But for those who do believe in a Creator, we are unfortunately faced by major paradoxes:
One is most reluctant to turn anyone away from a deeply-cherished belief; but that third item makes it formidably difficult to reconcile religion (which all agree rests upon faith, not rational analysis) with freedom (which does rest firmly, as we are seeing, upon rational analysis.) The Christian or other religious student will have to work this paradox out for himself.
- In a free society, obviously there must be no law or compulsion about what anyone can personally believe, even though his belief is wildly irrational; yet
- The only way to live in a free society consistently (and especially, to help bring one about in the first place) is to live according to rational beliefs. And further,
- The very essence of living free - of making all one's own choices for oneself - involves a high sense of self-esteem and self-reliance; a rational pride in one's own accomplishments and a strong will to manage one's own life rationally and independently. In contrast the very essence of a religious life is that the individual subjects himself to and prostrates himself before an alleged supreme being, deliberately trying to enslave himself to Him.
What we will do in TOLFA is quickly to check the fundamental beliefs underlying Christianity, to gauge how irrational they are. Those profoundly committed to them will not change their minds but will rather be strengthened by having to think the challenge through; those with a less profound commitment may realize it is time to shed this as a fairy tale, however comforting.
Consider those major beliefs, and the ground on which they rest. Here are four questions:
Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4
There are others, but those may suffice; they are critical to a belief in God, and yet not one of them has a credible, coherent answer. By exercise of our innate, human sense of reason, we should therefore conclude that God cannot exist; that like government (see Segment 2) He is an elaborate myth and, like government, should be regarded as such.
There's a further connection between religion, freedom and government: historically, the great religions have been very closely associated with government and have helped it suppress individual liberty. In the early 2000s it became widely realized how true that is of the Muslim religion; indeed one interpretation of the "terrorist" menace is that Muslim fundamentalists are determined to take over the governments of countries with nominally Muslim populations, so as to make those countries' laws conform to their religious rules - like the Taliban did in Afghanistan; and that they destroy "infidel" icons like the Twin Towers so as to impress their prospective supporters.
Christian hands too are by no means clean in this respect. The bond between church and state has for 1,700 years been often close, and always damaging to liberty. The organized church benefits from state power - with laws crafted to please its supporters to forbid Sunday trade, prohibit certain types of marriage and even, in the past, to compel church attendance. That power has even been used to execute and persecute heretics - both by Roman Catholic and Protestant varieties; the Pilgrims themselves came to Plymouth Colony because of state-backed religious persecution in England, yet within a few years were busy executing women who were oddball enough to get called "witches." By state power, of course.
Likewise the state greatly benefits from church support, for preachers almost uniformly urge their flocks to obey the government's laws and "do their duty to their country" so providing a thick veneer of morality atop what is in truth a murderous kleptocracy. The cozy relationship between the two is helped along by the quite sinister "501(c)(3)" arrangement - a reference to the Internal Revenue Code. The deal is that churches are "allowed" to operate tax free, and donors to their funds can give money out of pre-tax income, provided that the church obtains government permission to be registered as a charity that will not engage in political speech of any kind. Thus, any time a preacher criticizes government, he is in danger of ruining his church's finances. A subtle way to keep them in line; the mechanism is detailed on hushmoney.org.
Before proceeding, feel free to spend time in "Further Reading", especially the articles with free on line access.
For further reading:
Ethics, Religion and Freedom
Socialism of the Right
Romans Chapter 13
The Stone Mover
"Atheism: the Case Against God" by George H Smith