I wrote it in 1981 and have presented it perhaps a hundred times to Unitarian Churches Nationwide.
I had more hair in those days
----- had my 15 minutes of fame on Radio and even Christian television as we debated on air.
By phone and comment I've been dared to let this Genie out of its bottle---So what the hell---here goes:
It's too much for one blog entry so I'll just do it in bite sized installments
Laurie somehow managed to capture a sample of me in full-throttle rant and you can hear it on youtube. Please don't click on it till you read the set-up. (You'll think I'm crazy)
Years ago, My Unitarian friends in New Orleans, knowing I was trained to preach in a Baptist Seminary and knowing I had quit believing in conventional religion, suggested that I preach a Unitarian Sermon in the style of an Evangelical fire and brimstone preacher. I did so and it was a hit---preached it around the nation----- still do it occasionally.
First, a word about Unitarian/Universalist. If you don't know who they are or what they don't believe---you'd be surprised that any church would dare hear a speech like this. They are a very small denomination. Google them on Wikipedia to get the gist of them. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unitarianism They are about 40% Atheist---40% Agnostics and 20% hodge podge. They have rejected doctrines and embraced values and community----are proud to count 4 presidents in their numbers: Jefferson, both Adams and Taft. Also Emerson, Thoreau and a long list of thinking people you can check out. http://www.adherents.com/largecom/fam_unitarian.html
So----only Unitarians are open minded enough to hear a sermon such as this.
I told my audience that we lose a lot of joy in life by refusing to play other people's games-----and invited them to play the revival game with me. (we practiced shouting out HALLELUJAH---PRAISE THE LORD and AMEN ) I told them that I would be "breaking some eggs" but that I intended to "make an omelet"--so stick with me.
(at the end of this segment I will put the youtube link so you can hear me in full-throttle rant) Really, I do get more positive as the speech goes on.
BELIEVE AND BE DAMNED
We got trouble – TROUBLE – right here in "Yuma city," with a capital "T" and that rhymes with "B" and that stands for BELIEF.
My friends, we have a city full of people who are running away from life and into religion--- trying to find security in a belief system.
At this very moment, in this very city, there are several hundred people of one denomination worshiping with great fervor. What they have in common is a belief---a belief in an infallible book. Yes, you heard me right! I mean to say, they believe this book contains the infallible word of God, every jot and every tittle. What they want ----- is to transform this world into their version--- of that book.
YOU WOULDN'T LIKE THAT WORLD, WOULD YOU?
In this denomination alone there are thirteen million people. We got TROUBLE!
In another church in this city, even as I speak, 800 people are engaging in a very devotional worship. What they have in common is the belief in an infallible man. Yes, you heard me right! I mean to say, they believe that when this man speaks on faith, morals (ex cathedra,)---he is infallible. what they want is a world that reflects their ethical view. You wouldn't like that world either.
Well, brace yourself. Do you know how many people
believe that? Worldwide, 1.2 billion people. We got
I tell you an astonishing thing: there is another group worshipping at this moment in this city who believe in a golden book! Yes, you heard me right, a golden book! They believe that Joseph Smith dug out of a hillside in New York the Book of Mormon, which is the Infallible word of God and the perfect plan for the implementation of God's kingdom on earth. You know how many people believe that? Fourteen million people. We got TROUBLE!
(Audience: We got trouble!)
I'll tell you an ugly thing this morning. On the ground in Jonestown, Guyana, there were 900-and-some odd dead people – men, women and children. The children were on the ground because they were murdered by believers. And the reason the men and women were on the ground because they believed. (I have a cynical friend who says, "At least, it removed them from the gene pool.") The People's Temple is just one of hundreds of cults that swallow up the lives of millions of people. What all cults have in common is --- belief--- that they have received from God a revelation, and/or divinely appointed leader. This absolute authority requires absolute submission and total life commitment. Cults are the most deadly form of belief system. In the vast swamp of religion, cults are the quicksand. We got TROUBLE!
We have trouble in the Islamic world. About a billion people really believe that Mohammed flew to heaven on a winged horse and that an Angel dictated the Koran to him----that it contains the infallible word of God. They want to make the whole world Islamic. Many want to impose harsh Sharia law on everybody. And I don't need to remind you that the 911 terrorists were all Muslims. Sam Harris in his bestselling book "The End of Faith" says that "Islam, more than any other religion humans have devised has all the makings of a cult of death". That it is a machinery of intolerance and suicidal grandiosity-----WE GOT TROUBLE.
(Audience: Yeah! Trouble!)
The true believers that contaminate our world are not all religious. I remind you that Communist idealogy brought 70 years of world tension and warfare---killing countless millions. At its height, it had 2 billion people in its grip.----WE GOT TROUBLE.
(Audience: Trouble! Amen!)
What all these millions and billions of people have in common Is their willingness to believe. Somebody tells them something is true and they believe it,---- often for the rest of their lives--- – and that's very bad news for the rest of us.
Isn't it clear, my brothers, that the vast majority of people in the world are committed to some sort of belief system that they consider to be ultimate? Most of them claim to have received an infallible revelation from God, but these so-called revelations don't agree with one another. Each is sure that they are absolutely right and all the others are wrong, or only partially right.
Isn't it clear, my sisters, that the conflicts between belief systems are a major cause of world tensions? Believers against believers! It was believers who went on crusades. It is believers who wage "holy" wars. It is believers who conduct inquisitions and pogroms and witch burnings and censorship and moral repression and "blue laws."
Isn't it also clear, sweet people, that when one of these belief systems becomes the overwhelming majority in a society. it will try to impose its values on the minority. It will try to legislate its view of righteousness as, for example, in Iran. Never since the Dark Ages have so many people been so willing to believe so much stuff. (Did you know that transcendental meditators believe they can fly?)
Do you think that any of these belief systems can prove that its doctrines are true?
Do you think that religious people are anxious to verify their cosmic claims?
Too long we have been sentimental about these wild-eyed fanatics, these self-righteous true believers. I stand up and say out loud what you've no doubt thought many times: believers are a damnable and a dangerous bunch! They're standing in the way of progress. They're standing in the way of peace!
Believers are not peacemakers and they never have been. Pretensions of certainty is what creates wars and strife. They "know" they're right, that God is on their side. The world has suffered and is suffering because people are willing to believe stuff!
It is believers who oppose effective birth control and abortion, who are trying even now to take away a woman's right to terminate pregnancy.
The pro-life fanatics would force the victim of a rape to bear an unwanted child. Yes, they would!
It was believers in North Dakota last Friday who passed a law forbidding all abortions for any reason after the fetal heart begins to beat.
True believers value their beliefs more than they value people, and that makes them dangerous.
(Audience: Loud Amens.)
And the stronger their beliefs, the more likely they are to persecute others!
No matter how loud I preach, somebody falls asleep. For the benefit of those who just woke up, I will tell you what I have told you.
My brothers and sisters, beliefs are like rats! But these rats carry a plague!--- And the plague that they carry--- is Persecution – and War – and Arrogance – and Guilt – and Wasted Lives!---- If I had my way, we would make one heap of all the world's old ratty beliefs, open the lid to that festering pit and
SWEEP THIS ODIOUS VERMIN INTO HELL!
Unbelieve! UNBELIEVE! UNDO IT! DUMP IT! SHUCK IT! And be born again as an honest human being who does not claim to know more than he really knows.
END OF PART ONE--- To hear my one minute rant click here: http://youtu.be/SfnaCpORQoI