New York Challenged: Four Loko is the New Pork, But Religion Is Old Government


Somebody designed all of this, and somebody designed the designer. Who designed the designer’s designer? (Mario Weddell/The Observer)
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the strangeness of religion. I find it to be a highly impractical system to use for governing a society. I was raised Catholic, but I stopped being religious in high school because I kept getting frustrated with the whole thing. When you ask as many questions as I do, it’s more work to convince yourself to have faith (which defeats the entire notion of faith) than to just give up altogether.

I’m not sure I believe in God. I know people always say that the world we live in is too complex and beautiful to have just come into existence by chance; surely someone designed it. God. But I always have trouble reconciling this with the fact that God supposedly exists out of nothing, too;  if you ask me, God is too complex to exist without someone designing It (I have trouble assigning God a gender). If the world can’t come from nothing, why can God? How does that work?

I would get in discussions with my Catechism teachers about this dilemma, until I was told that the mystery was beyond the realm of human comprehension, and that only God could explain this to me in Heaven. This answer always presupposed the existence of God, which did not really strengthen my faith.

It’s like discussing the existence of Santa Claus. Some person says to me, “Santa can’t be real, because there’s no way he can travel the entire world in a night. If he is real, how can that be explained?” I respond to the poor soul, “Only Santa knows that. If you behave, he might come to your house one night and you can ask him!” It slowly dawns on me that my response is not logical. Then I break down crying, because I suddenly realize that Santa is most likely not real, and I’ve been living in fear when I could have been stealing from the cookie jar all day. Of course, I still believe in Santa, so this isn’t the best analogy.

Questions of creation aside, I still think that religion had a practical purpose when it came to be. For example, kosher Jews do not eat pork. Yahweh forbade the consumption of pigs because they were unclean. Coincidentally, there is a parasite commonly found in pork, T. spiralis, which can cause a disease called trichinosis. A long time ago, Weber Grills were not very accessible, and a lot of meat was probably undercooked. Nobody knew about T. spiralis. People got sick when they ate pork. Although this explanation of God’s law is met with criticism, I think it’s a practical one.

If you were in charge of a group of people, and everyone kept getting sick when they put dead pigs in their mouths, wouldn’t you tell them to stop eating pigs? It might even be easier to say to them, “God says pigs are gross. Don’t make him mad,” instead of trying to explain how diseases work (especially when you don’t understand them yourself yet).

This practicality of law still applies today. New York did with Four Loko what Jews did with pork. People kept getting sick, and now it’s forbidden. The only difference is that doctors replaced God, and we understand that caffeine plus alcohol plus the mystery chemicals in Four Loko make your heart feel funny, not the intrinsic evil of Four Loko. Some Jews eat pork now, and we have the technology to make it safer. Four Loko is back on the shelves, minus the terrible chemicals.

My main problem is that religion often doesn’t seem practical enough to be used as a system of government. It uses the past as a means of justifying its rules, and that is dangerous. To deny oneself the ability to re-interpret something seems like a sure way to lose sight of all practicality. Religions update too slowly, divide too many people and justify the hatred of those viewed as deviant. I’m not saying that churches and their followers don’t do wonderful things for those in need. But as a system of government, religion is illogical. It made sense back in the day, when God was a more convincing food critic than a scientist babbling about parasites in pork bellies.

I hate that religion enters our political system. I get angry when politicians reference the Christian values of our founding fathers, but conveniently ignore their political values, specifically the First Amendment that prohibits any laws “respecting an establishment of religion.” I am convinced that the argument against same-sex marriage is still primarily a religious one. Simply put, that has no place in our government. It’s blatantly unconstitutional.