Stop using God as an excuse

I don’t believe in religion. I will openly admit I question the existence of God. I have concluded that I am too ignorant to  finitely decide whether God exists or does not exist. As a human, my knowledge of the universe and its mechanisms are limited. I realize that even proven facts are still a matter of opinion.

2+2=4, because mathematical formulas tell us that is the correct answer. 

Sky is blue and grass is green, because color and noun definitions have defined those images for us.

God exists, because…? Because a holy book of worship told us so? Because we heard it in church? Because the name and image has been passed on for generations? 

Interesting that we find it acceptable to debate and question most all forces BESIDES religion. In most settings, it is still considered uncouth, vulgar, and even unacceptable to challenge the dogma and institution. Skepticism is dangerous; if you ask questions, you must not “truly believe.” And, if you do not “truly believe,” you are poorly representing your religion; you are sinning or acting disgracefully or face potential punishment. 

Here’s my philosophy on God: The notion of God is a little like the notion of happiness or the notion of love. Intangible, complex, and different for every individual. To some, God is an almighty force watching over the Earth and taking care of everyone living on it. To others, God is more of a presence. God can be in each of us. God may be dictating what we do; he may be giving us freewill. Some hear him; others seem him; some talk to him, praying and kneeling and begging for his mercy. Others will never believe in God’s existence. 

Who’s right?

Everyone.

Every definition of God is right, because every definition of love is right. If I believe love is a combination of A, B, and C and someone else believes love is a combination of X, Y, and Z, who’s right? How can we know for sure? Isn’t it all just a matter of careful, subjective opinions? How can we know what’s wrong when proof is still a matter of bias? How can the God you pray to in your church be any better than the God someone across the world prays to, in a separate language? In the middle of the field? 

People have tremendous pride in their religion, which is absolutely beautiful and worthy of all respect and tolerance. There is nothing wrong with having utmost faith for what you believe in. What is wrong is when people believe their religion is “the right religion.” Why? Is your perception of love the only “right perception of love?” Is your car the “only right car to drive?” Is your definition of happiness the only “right definition of happiness?”

THERE ARE THOUSANDS OF RELIGIONS IN THE WORLD? And yours is CONVENIENTLY the right one?

This is not your fault. Unfortunately, most religions are designed to be righteous and influential. Challenge is dangerous; skepticism is often discouraged. Why is your religion the right one? Because, your society tells you it’s the right one. Your church or your family or your religious leaders tell you it’s the right one. Your book of worship tells you it’s the right one.

Let’s say, hypothetically, you were born in a jungle, without the access of human interaction or the knowledge of reading, writing, and speaking. Would you still “find” that religion? Would you find it without any awareness that your religion existed? Without any churches or holy texts? Without any ability to read or write or interpret its meaning?  Would you still pray to the same preconceived image of God that you have now?

And, for goodness sakes, can we end the dispute between believers and atheists/agnostics? Why the tension? It comes down to this: why should YOU CARE if your fellow citizen doesn’t believe in your same God? It can really go two ways from here. Either there is a GOD and that GOD will rightfully decide what to do with that individual. Your opinion will not affect the decision, nor will it make you a “better” person. Or, there is no God and you wasted your time.

No matter what the conclusion, why does it affect you?

If you love and believe in God, please enjoy his love to your fullest desire. Enjoy and relish in God’s spirit. But, don’t use God as an excuse to promote hatred. If God exists, would God want that? Would the force who supposedly embodies true, unconditional and unwavering love WANT the people to be fighting over him, to be using his name in such vain, to be using his force as an excuse to cause war, strife, and hatred? Do you believe that is what your God intended? 

Oh, and if God doesn’t exist, again, you’re just wasting your time channeling all the anger.

I realize this post will offend some. I understand the complexity and controversy that arises whenever religion is discussed. But, why does there have to be such discrepancy? Why can’t religion just be a matter of accepting differences, the same way we accept different favorite foods or colors or brands of cars? Yet, people are afraid to challenge religion, afraid of the tension it may invoke.

We need to stop that. 

My religious choices do not affect yours. Yours do not affect mine. Those who believe in God are no more worthy or “better” than those who do not. And, if they are, then their God will act appropriately. Again, if there is a God, doesn’t that God make the final judgment call? 

The psychology behind boycotting Chick-Fil-A: Is this a means of expressing tolerance or intolerance?

Last week, in a scandal that rocked the fast-food world, it became public that Don Cathy, president of Chick-Fil-A, the popular eatery specializing in chicken sandwiches, believes operating his business  “on biblical principles.” Moreover, current records reveal the corporation’s monetary and public support for organizations that specifically denounce gay marriage rights.

Stemming from various political platforms and the sweeping trend of individual states offering legalization on their ballots, the gay marriage debate represents a major American controversy. Within the past decade alone, we have seen a huge influx of support for marital equality rights. a stark contrast from the opposition seen just half a century ago.

Thus, the the huge backlash from online and media sources comes as no surprise. Facebook and Twitter pages are littered with Chick-Fil-A boycotting movements. Even politicians have joined the chaotic party. Former presidential candidate and Republican governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, declared August 1 as “National Chick-Fil-A Day” and former Alaskan governor, Sarah Palin, made a promise “to stop at Chick-Fil-A on her way home.”

So, what’s the psychological dilemma here? Have we given a company’s moral beliefs, rather than quality of service, enough power to stream into our consciousness when making the simple decision regarding what to eat for lunch? It appears so. Those who support of gay marriage are enraged: many have vowed to halt all business in Chick-Fil-A.

Despite the red-hot popularity of this scandal, surely, the argument will cool down and diminish, leaving consumers with the ultimate decision of whether or not they want to support Chick-Fil-A in the future.   Interestingly, this company made no attempt to hide its moral beliefs; the information was publicly available for anyone who sought it. The media only recently decided to shine its spotlight on the controversy.

Still, most consumers are largely unaware of major company origins and owners’ religious/moral affiliations. Most will argue that it doesn’t matter, as long as the product at hand is of high quality.   Atheists who shop at Forever 21, for instance, should note that the owners are born-again Christians who claim “God told them to open the store.” Other mainstream companies with ethical controversy include Curves (owner donates to anti-abortion campaigns), Tyson Foods (has about 120 employed chaplains to provide pastoral support), and In-N-Out Burger (prints Bible verses on wrappers). Should pro-choice women stop working out at Curves? Should non-believers feel hypocritical eating a Double-Double from In-N-Out?

From a psychological perspective, boycotting Chick-Fil-A does seem like an appropriate reaction to take a stance against discrimination. Boycotts, indeed, embody powerful movements. Their intent is to deny the corporation customer business, and subsequently, demonstrate that they have made a wrong decision. Boycotting puts that decision on exhibit for the world to see. In the past, with regards to making civil right strides, these movements do appear to be somewhat successful. Strangely, the loss of money is not the main factor predicting success. The sudden transformation from a positive perspective on a corporation/business/etc. to a negative one can cause far more long-lasting damage. After all, restoring a destroyed reputation and earning back lost respect is much harder than recovering from a temporary income blow.

Those boycotting Chick-Fil-A establishments are voicing their refusal to support a company that does not believe in a right they believe in. In this case, it is gay marriage.

However, is this, in an ironic sense, intolerant? To be straight-forward, refraining from Chick-Fil-A solely based on their anti-gay stance, shows that the particular consumer does not wish to support a company that holds a different opinion from their own.

What about the thousands of Chick-Fil-A employees serving food who support gay marriage? Should we encourage them to quit their jobs? If a Chick-Fil-A employee is gay, is he/she being a hypocrite? More importantly, however, do we have the right to call him/her hypocritical? 

Tolerance stems from the notion of respecting everyone’s beliefs, even if they may differ from your own. Is one viewpoint enough to denounce an entire company for their so-called bigotry and intolerance? 

To play devil’s advocate, if we refuse to take a stance against Chick-Fil-A, are we simply just encouraging more intolerance? By purchasing food from this corporation, are we inadvertently supporting a company that does not support a cause many people now fiercely believe in? Would we be hypocritical to vote in support of gay marriage, while, at the same time, giving money to an organization that opposes it. The nature of this answer might be simpler if the company in question were a school or housing complex or extra-curricular club, but it’s not. It’s chicken sandwiches.

Where do we draw the line at differences? Surely, liberal consumers shopping at an establishment founded by conservative owners would disagree with some of the company polices and vice versa. Should anti-birth control advocates boycott a drugstore for selling condoms? Are vegetarians unethical for buying food at commercial supermarkets that have butchers?  Most would agree that doing so would be ridiculous, if not impossible. In reality, boycotting against corporations that we morally disagree with would ignite a countless, never-ending spew of boycotts. 

The answer to this controversy is not a conclusive one. Fortunately, consumers have the freedom to shop around and purchase whatever they please, either choosing to abide to moral ethics or disregard them completely. The president’s opinion aside, Chick-Fil-A does not hold a chicken sandwich monopoly; therefore, the choice to boycott this corporation is a personal one.