In the eighth grade, I learned that I had a one-way ticket to hell. Was I traumatized?
Not really – especially because this was brought to my attention by my Ned Flanders-like classmate who had recently discovered that I, unlike her, was not a God-fearing Christian.
Plus, the prospect of an eternal tan did not seem too callous a punishment to me. I just hoped there was enough sunscreen to go around.
Years have passed and I remain apathetic and, to a growing degree, cynical of religion. Although, technically I was baptized a Catholic, I would like to point out that it was against my will.
I was a newly born child and nobody asked for my consent on the matter. This democratic deficit gave me religion – if only for a little while.
However, the more I came to learn about religion – its history, contradictions, blindness, irrationality and perdurable guilt-fear cultivation, the less I wanted to be a part of it. I had found religion – and it had scared me.
These days, religious groups on campus periodically hound me with questionnaires or pocket Bibles. Then there are the delightful religious fanatics who occasionally stop by campus to scream at college students for being evil sinners.
On two occasions, I have even been interrupted while studying by students who would like to “chat” with me about faith.
I cannot overemphasize how utterly obnoxious these missionary attempts to convert students are. If I wanted to be religiously brainwashed, I would have attended Bob Jones University.
Recent developments have reinforced my unfavorable outlook toward religion and continued assertion that we need a regime change in the Vatican. In one fell swoop, Pope Benedict XVI managed to single-handedly ignite a fire of fury across the Muslim world.
In a speech delivered at Regensburg University in Germany, Benedict quoted the following words from a 14th century Byzantine Emperor: “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”
So much for Pope John Paul II’s legacy of mending fences between different religions.
Unsurprisingly, this quote was not warmly received in the Muslim world. It is a shame that the pope did not align his speech with the same vision for peace endorsed by the Dalai Lama on his visit to Denver.
Almost instantly, we witnessed a reenactment of what had transpired during the Danish cartoon fiasco.
So Muhammad transmitted his religion with a sword – what religion has not used such a tactic? Christianity is guilty of the exact same. Just look at modern-day South America and you will notice that Catholics account for at least 90 percent of the entire population.
How did the Conquistadores accomplish this if not with the use of guns and infectious diseases? How was launching the Crusades any less “evil and inhuman” than what Muhammad supposedly did?
This is only the latest in, what I like to term, the blurring of religions. In the end, choosing one religion over the other is like deciding whether to treat your headache with Tylenol or Advil; they are one and the same – with different brand names.
For clarification, I do not hold all religious people in contempt. I do, however, rebuke religious and political leaders who use and abuse religion to suit their own personal agendas. Moreover, I do not approve of how religion is often applied to alienate and create a more divisive global society.
Instead of what John Lennon called out for – “a brotherhood of man,” we increasingly have competing inter- and intra-religious factions tearing each other apart.
It should also be mentioned, that I subscribe to many of the same moral principles that are advocated within religious creeds. For example, not killing innocent people – a principle that is found in both Islam and Christianity, is one that I unequivocally support.
However, unlike many of my religious counterparts (i.e. Osama bin Laden and President Bush), I do not compromise that principle in the name of religion.
Luci Storelli-Castro is a junior political science and philosophy major. Her column runs every Thursday in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.