How Religion Makes You an Asshole
by Noah Lugeons
So I was just listening to episode #108 of the Ardent Atheist podcast. The episode’s title was “Why Would God Make Cripples” and the exchange that led to that title had me so furious that I had before I even made it home, I was already composing this blog in my head.
First, a bit of background. The Ardent Atheist is an interview show that brings on a variety of guests, but mostly comedians. They talk about an array of subjects, but as the name suggests, religion is always on the table.
In this episode, they had two guests, Roy Wood, Jr. and Anthony Ramos, both comedians and both of the wishy-washy, pseudo-religious variety. Roy confessed to being a Southern Baptist by merit of being born into it and never bothering to discard it once he realized it was bullshit. Ramos was a little closer to the agnostic camp, though still held out for an afterlife and a higher power.
But during the discussion of his religion, Ramos noted that if/when he got a chance to meet god, he looked forward to punching him/her/it in the face for giving him a degenerative muscle condition that leaves him unable to run and scarcely able to walk at this point in his life.
This led to the obvious question of why a loving god would create crippled people. You would think this would be a really tough question for a theist to answer, but only if you weren’t familiar with the kind of ramshackle bullshit that counts as an “answer” in the minds of a religious person.
Roy Wood, Jr., who to that point had presented himself as a perfectly reasonable, moral, amiable and funny guy let his religious side out for just a minute to defend his god and did so with a statement that was so deceptively demonic that I’m sure he walked away from it with no idea what an asshole he had been when he uttered it.
“You know, people would make the argument that you’re here to inspire others”
And what’s more, he manages to deliver it with a smug, condescending tone that says, “how dare you question god’s plan for you?”
Consider just how awful a thing to say that really is. Perhaps god has chosen to torture you for your entire life by teasing you with physical abilities that he knows he will soon rip away from you. He’s chosen to close doors to you while saddling you with lifelong pain, inconvenience and depression. He’s chosen to punish you unduly compared to his other children, and what’s more, he did so to inspire others.
He’s god, of course, so he could have reached deep into his infinite quiver of miracles to inspire anybody he cared to inspire, but instead of a subtle miracle or a divine whisper, he chose to condemn you to a life-altering disability. Your very existence is an afterthought to god, who could miraculously cure you from your degenerative condition at any time, but chooses not to every minute of every day because he needs you to act as a personified Chicken Soup for the Soul.
I doubt that Roy Wood, Jr. is anywhere near the asshole he came across in that brief moment. In fact, judging by most of the rest of the interview, I’m almost certain that he isn’t. But it doesn’t matter what kind of person you are. When you take it upon yourself to defend a notion as logically incoherent as an omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent deity, you almost have no choice but to be a jackass about it.
The frightening thing is that faith blinds you to it entirely. You could hear Roy getting angry every time someone would start applying logic to his pet superstition and at some point he was psychologically bound to lash out. At a crippled dude. Like an asshole.
Granted, this is quite low on the totem pole of what’s wrong with religion, but it’s one of those minor infractions that’s so common that even many atheists don’t notice it. In fact, I would imagine that many religious folks won’t understand what was wrong with that statement even after reading this post.
And that, in a nutshell, is the biggest problem with religion. It has the power to blind you to the problems with itself. And once you’ve crossed that line, it’s pretty hard to tell when you’ve crossed another.