May 22, 2004

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May 20, 2004

The Jesus Landing Pad

May 16, 2004

Sometimes I think that I'm not cut out to find a divine presence in the universe, that it's just not in my nature to believe in something so unbelievable. Then I realize that, really, I've already concluded that something incomprehendable plays/has played a part in the world as we know it, and that the question I'm trying to sort out is of its nature. What is this incomprehendible thing? What did it do, exactly? Where did it come from? Essentially, though, this is what religion is -- yes? People trying to nail down the thing they don't understand, but which they feel surely should have played a part in such a remarkable existence.

The problem arises, at least in my mind, when people start to disagree about the nature of this incomprehendible thing. To disagree about something that is essentially (and necessarily) unknowable is ridiculous, and the extent to which people have been disagreeing is downright disturbing. To kill other people because they don't agree with you about the nature of this incomprehendible thing is extreme, but to even have the gall to tell someone that their spiritual beliefs are incorrect is absurd. Sure, you can argue about it, but what is it an argument based on? Not facts, surely. It's an argument based on two equally unsubstantiated beliefs, and thus it's an argument that nobody can ever win.

I think maybe I'll start my own religion, and that the first tenant of my new religion is that no member may argue with anyone about their beliefs. All members must accept that the nature of our religion (and all religion) is entirely unproveable, and therefore any arguments about it are moot. Also, that everyone who's making a sincere effort to figure out and worship this incomprehendible thing is going to reap the rewards of it, no matter how crazy they are -- so long as they are good people.

Definition of "good" has yet to be decided.

Who's in?

May 04, 2004

There's a new episode of PBS's "Frontline" called The Jesus Factor that's been getting a good amount of attention because it's an examination of George W. Bush's religious beliefs. The entire show is available to watch online, as I have been, on the PBS website -- here.

George W. Bush is a Fundamentalist Christian -- I obviously have no problem with this on its own, but when combined with him being the chief executive officer of the United States it becomes a problem for me. I am of the opinion that, as a Democracy, America should be ruled "for the people, by the people" and not for a higher power that some Americans don't believe in. George W. Bush has made it clear that he is convinced that he is doing God's work, and that it was God who put him in the office of the Presidency.

There have been other Christian Presidents, to be sure, but they had the sense (and respect for the first amendment) to keep their beliefs out of the public arena and out of politics. George W. Bush openly flaunts his religion, making reference to it during public speeches and clearly letting it affect his policy decisions.

One of the first thing George W. Bush did when he got into office was to promote "faith-based initiatives," to provide public funding for religious organizations. These initiatives were stalled in congress due to the separation of church and state issues that it raised, so Bush forced them through with an executive order in 2002. Forcing taxpayers to support religious organizations is a clear violation of religious liberty -- this is an issue the founding fathers of our country already discussed and found to be wrong, but which Bush seems to have no problem with. (From the millions of dollars handed out thus far from the faith based services in the Department of Health and Human Services, none have gone to any non-Christian groups.)

George W. Bush also seems to see his war on terrorism in religious terms, as he often speaks in terms of good vs. evil, and seems to believe that he is doing good in God's eyes. I'd prefer that the President of my country believed that he was going good in his constituency's eyes -- the people that he was elected to represent. To use the will of God to justify attacking countries and people who are using the will of Allah to justify their terrorist actions is certainly a bit hypocritical, if not slightly ironic.

I'm also troubled by the fundamentalist concept of "absolute certainty" -- the certainty in the validity of one's beleifs and in the infallibility of the Bible. If Bush holds this concept dear to him, then how much sway could the opinion of his constituents possibly have on his decisions? It seems remarkably undemocratic to have a leader who (often admittedly) bases the majority of his decisions on his religious beleifs. These are decisions, which -- I might add -- seem awfully antithetical to the Christian concepts of "Love your enemies, bless those that curse you, do good to them that hurt you." Where's the "shock and awe" passage in the Bible?

I don't think that Fundamentalist Christians should hold the highest office in America. I think that fundamentalist beliefs contrast sharply with the democratic system, and that any Fundamentalist Christian president is inevitably going to blur the lines between church and state in their efforts to serve God. Religion and spritutality can be wonderful things, but America was founded on the concept that religion should be separate from the government, and I think that is impossible for people with strong fundamental beliefs.

I welcome disagreement.

April 26, 2004

Still looking, no worries.

In the Bible I'm up to Chronicles. As for my opinions on this book, and all I thought, are they not written in the annals of the kings of Judah? Duh.

I've concluded that's it's much easier to get in touch with God when one is vacationing on a small island in Thailand. Not that I'm not still in touch with something, only that I've been markedly distracted by my life of late. My thoughts wander from the spiritual to the fact that I need to buy corn flakes for breakfast tomorrow.

I spoke to one of my oldest friends the other day, she's been a Christian for as long as I've known her, and I was telling her about my search and the issues I've been having trouble reconciling. She essentially told me that I was rationalizing things too much, that spiritual things don't play well with rationality. Maybe this is true, perhaps one has to let go of one's concept of what's rational in order to accept something so seemingly irrational (to me) as the belief in an elusive higher power. If only it were that easy.

I continue to think that the world contains too much unexplainable order, and this -- if anything -- keeps me looking for the source of this order.

April 20, 2004

I was raised a Catholic, and I spent most Sunday mornings bored in church (or skipping church), and I spent many a Monday night bored in PSR (religion class). I have two distinct memories of PSR class: the first one is a memory of being told that there were these things called "mortal sins" that would send you to hell no matter how much you confessed, one of which was skipping church on Sunday. It's quite a thing to be told in a roundabout way that you are damned to hell before you even hit puberty. The other is a memory of being ridiculed by the students AND the adult "teachers" because I was different (a nerd, if you will), and having little pieces of paper stuck in my coat to make me look stupid. Not the most positive Catholic education one could hope for, and a valid justification in my book to avoid dealing with religion for many years.

Now I'm thirty, and when I think back on these PSR experiences, I think that the teachers probably thought that volunteering to teach religion to kids was certainly enough for a ticket upstairs, and maybe they were right. But, do they screen these people? Is there any sort of test? It's clear to me that some of these people should not have been teaching impressionable children about religion. That "mortal sin" talk messed me up good, and while I was no stranger to being ridiculed for being different (a nerd, if you will), the last people I would expect to be doing it is my adult religion teacher. I mean, if your adult religion teacher is making fun of you for being different, there must be something to it.

Many of my recent thoughts about religion inevitably come back to these childhood memories, and I wonder how different my opinion of religion would be had I not been exposed to this religious negativity as a kid. Perhaps I'd have a website called "I am not looking for God."

April 12, 2004

Jesus Christ -- Choose your own savior.

April 11, 2004

Today is Easter, which is a Christian holiday with roots in paganism. Thus, the confusing Easter Bunny with his chocolate eggs, and the strange egg-decoration that occurs. Originally Easter was a pagan holiday celebrating fertility, until (I assume) Constantine decided that Christianity was the way of the future -- the end result being the strange combination of Christianity and paganism with which we celebrate. I could be wrong about this, but I don't think that I am.

Over the last week I've realized one of the main things that keeps me from wholly accepting Christianity. At the heart of Christianity is a really beautiful belief system that essentially teaches love and compassion for all humanity. The reality of Christianity, and of many religions, is that once people get together and start worshipping in groups the essential truth of the religion gets lost in interpretation. Why must there be so many different Christian faiths, when the fundamental truth remains the same? Why must there be Christian faiths that teach hate, that believe that their Christianity is the correct way and that other Christian faiths are wrong? I feel that were I to accept Christianity I would have to start my own church based on what I believe, but in the end even that would just add to the confusing mess. If there is a God, this surely isn't the way he wants to be worshipped, is it? Shouldn't there be some sort of consensus, instead of this mess of "I think what the Bible says is..." and "No, the Bible really means..."?

April 09, 2004

I've been both busy and without an internet connection at my apartment, lest you think I am dead or abandoning this search.

I continue to make my way through the Bible, linear-like. In the last couple weeks I have gotten through Ruth, 1 Samuel, and 2 Samuel. Ruth is very short, and is basically about what a good daughter-in-law Ruth was. The Samuel books both revolve around the life and times of King David, and are full of Biblical stories and references used elsewhere in art and literature -- "David and Goliath", "Absalom" (of William Faulkner fame), "David and Bathsheba" (of SC Cleveland fame). I had trouble deciding whether David was a good guy or a bad guy -- the Bible seems to want you to think he's a good guy because God is on his side, but he sure does some shady things during his life -- the way he took care of Bathsheba's husband is particularly harsh.

I saw The Passion of the Christ a couple weeks ago -- I ended up buying a bootleg as it had yet to arrive at theatres here. I'm confused as to exactly what Mel Gibson is trying to do with this movie -- so full of blood and relatively devoid of spiritual content. There are some beautiful flashbacks, but they were momentary escapes from the perpetual brutality of the film. I'm just a layman, but after I watched it the main impression I came away with was of how intensely bloody it was, not about what a great guy Jesus was and how he suffered for us. Was this Gibson's intent? I don't know. As for the controversial portrayal of Jewish people in the movie -- I haven't read the New Testament, so I don't know how they're portrayed in there, but in the movie they seemed a little too eager to kill Jesus. Not "bloodthirsty," mind you, just a little too eager.

April 02, 2004

If there were to be evidence proving that God exists, what kind of evidence would it have to be? Would we have to actually see God, or would a repeated experiment proving that "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth..." be enough? Would something supernatural have to happen? Would God have to do tricks?

Further, would spirituality be the same if there was undeniable evidence of God's existence? If the mystery of God was no longer a mystery, would religion still maintain it's popularity? Would churchgoing increase, or decrease? Is the idea of faith such a fundamental part of religious belief?

These things I wonder about while riding a bus today.

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