August 30, 2004

I'm nearly done reading the Bible, I've about fifty pages to go. I'm currently in the midst of all these letters, about which I have some thoughts & questions...

The Gospels contain the story of the life and words of Jesus Christ himself, but these letters are essentially interpretations and (in some cases) additions to his teachings. Are the words in these letters, words not from Christ himself, to be taken as seriously as the quotes attributed to Christ in the Gospels? If so, why?

I'm also once again confused, as I was with parts of the Old Testament, about the selective nature of many Christian beliefs. In a few of the letters there is talk wives obeying or submitting to their husbands, which is a belief that I understand many Christians accept and live by. However, in one of the letters it also talks about how women should stay silent in church ("it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in church") and in another letter it indicates that women should always wear headcoverings in church. There seems to be no difference in the way these things are written about in these letters, and I realize that in some Christian sects all of them are probably followed, but many Christian sects seem to follow the first law and ignore the last two. Where is the line? How does one know which rules to follow and which not to?

August 28, 2004

Pickle's Day Out

August 22, 2004

I was sitting alone on a bench on a crowded street last night thinking about Christianity. A thought hit me suddenly, a thought that if Jesus were alive today he would be disappointed at what has become of his teachings. I saw him arriving in 2004, taking a quick look at the fragmented and misconstrued nature of modern Christianity, and saying "no, no, no. . . this isn't what I meant at all."

From what I can gather, the essence of Jesus' teaching -- the truly revolutionary idea that he preached -- was that we should all just love one another. Everything else stems from that basic, and really wonderful, idea. Yet there are wars being faught in the name of Christianity, there are people who jusify their biases and hatreds using quotes from the Bible, there are so many people who say they are following the teachings of Jesus Christ but who are really more full of selfishness and hate and prejudice than many non-believers. Christianity is no longer about the teachings of Jesus Christ, for many it is simply a comfortable label that they attach to themselves.

Much of my struggle with Christianity comes from this -- the teachings and philosopy of Jesus Christ are beautiful, much of what Christianity has become in the world is not. It would be much easier for me to accept Jesus Christ if by doing so I wouldn't become a Christian.

August 11, 2004

I'm now halfway through Luke -- a more long-winded version of Matthew and Mark. I knew that the four gospels were essentially different versions of story of Jesus' life, but I am surprised to find how similar they actually are. Matthew and Mark are nearly identical, which I suppose makes sense if they were both there or both read the same stories, but I'm wondering why they were both included in the Bible. Is the fact that this story is being told by four different people supposed to add to its believability? Perhaps I am missing something, as I often feel I am.

Beyond my confusions, of which there are far more than those above, I am enjoying this New Testament. It is not a "chore" to read, as was much of that Old Testament. Is reading the story of Jesus Christ turning me into a Christian? I really don't know. It is very hard for me to separate myself from my logical mind, to ignore the things that I know about the Bible and how it was written, and to simply accept what I am reading as the truth.

Here's the thing, though: I've come to the conclusion that there must be a God of some sort -- a divine power/presence/whathaveyou -- who had something to do with the creation all that we know. There's simply too much amazing shit going on everywhere for this all to be completely haphazard. I'm praying to this God, or I'm trying to... I just don't know exactly who he is.

August 07, 2004

I finished reading Matthew, and I now understand why so many people were telling me to start the New Testament before I finished the Old Testament -- the New Testament is much more engaging and easy to understand than the Old Testament, at least thus far.

A question for you Biblical scholars out there: Who is Mary Magdalene? Jesus's mom? Or is Jesus's mom the other Mary? Is very confusing.

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I've been feeling low/confused/rattled lately, so I've been praying more than I was. I still usually feel like I'm just going through the motions when I pray, and that it is more a personal reflection and accounting procedure than anything else. But then, it usually makes me feel better, whatever it is... peace, etc.

---

I listen to people explain to me their impressions of God, and most of them are so simple and undemanding -- "I believe there is a God who loves everyone who lives their lives in a good way." This is a beautiful thing to believe, and maybe it's real -- maybe God doesn't requre anything of us, not even to believe in him/her/it, for one to attain salvation. I've been told by devout Christains that there has to be a choice involved in order to get into "heaven," and I'm beginning to believe that this might be true, if only for the Christian religion. For this to be true, however, requires God to completely overlook a person who lived his life with perfect Christian morality but who never made the choice to believe... this seems particulaly harsh for such a seemingly forgiving and understanding God. Then again, if "hell" is simply an eternity spent separated from God, then why would a Godless person care?

The point is, I'm still confused.

July 29, 2004

Well, it took me almost seven months, but tonight I finally finished the Old Testament. I read it from beginning to end, from Genesis to Malachi, from page 1 to page 951, from "In the beginning" to "'with a curse.'"

I found the first two-thirds of the book to be generally more interesting and less confusing than the last third -- all those prophets at the end really start to get repetitive and bewildering to read. At times -- especially towards the end -- I found myself reading in a glazed-over way, but I still feel like I got the gist of the story even when I wasn't reading entirely attentively.

This website was helpful, too: Biblenotes

The New Testament is next... page 955, Matthew, "A record of..."

July 14, 2004

I'm struggling with this incessant negativity lately. I've struggled with negativity my whole life, actually, but it'd disappeared to a large extent until the last month or two. Much of the vanishing seemed to correspond to my enlightenment (of sorts) earlier this year (which I documented in here), but now I feel like I'm falling back into my old ways again. This, despite my sincere attempts at connection with the divine and the remarkable nature of my present life.

When I see someone on the street wearing a strange outfit or acting strangely, my mind immediately judges them. . . I'm remarkably short-tempered and impatient with things that normally wouldn't deserve a second thought. . . I'm far too quick to dismiss other people as ignorant. . . etc. These are things I really don't want to be anymore -- I'm tired of being this way -- yet lately I find myself doing and thinking these things more and more.

In looking for God I'm looking for a way out of this negativity, a light in the midst of all these dark thoughts. I realize that spirituality isn't going to cure me of negativity, but I also know that a part of me felt significantly lighter earlier this year.

July 06, 2004

I've been struggling with my life again lately, so I started praying again because... well, why not? While the act of prayer does bring me some immediate comfort, and my life has become more tolerable since I've started praying again, it's still... I can't help but think that my life would have become better with or without the prayer. Perhaps I need some sort of tangible problem in my life to direct my prayers towards (not really).

I'm up to Isaiah in the Bible, and my confusion and difficulty with it has lead to boredom. I understand that this is all a vision of Isaiah, but could he perhaps abridge and clarify this vision somewhat? It's books like these that make church boring.

June 21, 2004

Pray For Reason

June 13, 2004

So... no, I haven't posted in a spell. While my failure to post may seem to indicate that I have abandoned my search for God, I assure you it is not. My search has, admittedly, lost some momentum over the past few months. There are many reasons for this lost momentum, the most obvious of them being that the initial reason for my search -- the woman -- has decided that I'm so wonderful she can be with me no matter what conclusion I come to about God. Some might argue, and I have considered the notion, that this decision of hers is an answer to my prayers. I am still too full of doubt to attribute something like this to God answering a prayer, yet not nearly as dismissive of the possiblity as I used to be.

My linear Bible reading had lost some momentum, as well, until I decided a week ago that the only way I'm going to get through this whole book is by setting some sort of schedule. So, I'm reading ten pages a day. I'm about halfway through Psalms at this point, and if I maintain my schedule I should be done with the whole book in about two or three months. I've concluded that while the Bible may be the most widely read book in the world, it's probably the least widely book read in its entirety.

I'm still focussing on Christianity, so here are two things that I'm having trouble reconciling:

-The belief that some Christians hold that anyone who doesn't accept Jesus Christ as their savior is going to hell, even if you may have lived an exemplary life full of charity and goodwill. The argument for this lies in the need for a choice to be made -- to believe or not to believe -- but I don't believe that a guy as seemingly cool and understanding as Jesus would send good people to hell.

-The fact that Christians can't agree amongst themselves about the true nature of Christianity.

But, then, the world is magical, and my life is much better than it was in January... I pause, I breathe, I scratch my head, I pray to something, I sleep.

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