Saturday, February 25, 2006

Religion?

[I wrote this last week, but I was hesitating to post it...I'll let Jonathan deal with the aftermath :) ]

I'm taking a break from watching back-to-back-to-back (repeat that a couple times) episodes of Lost, to write this post while Jonathan puts together some buffalo chicken strips in the kitchen. CBC Radio is uncharacteristically obnoxious tonight. Think amateur rendition of a barn-yard hoe down...

Anyways, this is my preferred outlet tonight. Neil - your comment to our last post was interesting and the article you linked to a bit scary even. Without getting into a debate between evolution/creationism, I gotta say, I just don't understand why there's a debate to begin with. After all, since when are the two theories mutually exclusive any way? Since when does evolution threaten the existence of a god? I'd like to know why the theory that "god" created "man" instantaneously rather than through some complex evolutionary process adheres any closer to the Christian faith or why the latter threatens it?

That is, of course if you set aside biblical-literalists. Frankly, I think its impressive that anyone can take so seriously word-for-word an inherently contradictory text that lacks the voices of key groups, oh say half the population also known as women for example. George Bush has a degree from Yale, so maybe he's seeing something that my Carleton crafted mind can't.

But here's what I think: I think it's one thing to have faith in the idea that there is purpose and meaning to our lives beyond that which science can resolve for us. This even strikes me as a natural and intuitive tendency for humans. However it is an entirely other thing to ignore the social context of a "religious message" and the voices that have passed it on.

So, risking offense to those who read this (mostly because I don't know anyone who actually adheres to the following even though I know alas that they are out there), I am inclined to discount the intelligence and the credibility of any individual who wholeheartedly and unquestioningly embraces a religious dogma and denies that it in any way is motivated by a personal agenda on the part of its believers, past or present. I don't think "faith" should mean blindly following a doctrine. If so, maybe faith isn't a desirable quality given that quite a handful of the world's most "faithful" have committed quite a handful of the world's most intolerable crimes against humanity. And while this may seem offensive and an attack on the religious, what's more offensive is religious doctrine used to promote intolerance, ethnic cleansing, racial prejudice, the oppression of women/homosexuals/[insert your favorite minority group here - Republicans do not count].

This has got me to thinking why religious people differentiate themselves by their gods (Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Jews, etc.) when in fact fundamentalist Christians have a lot more in common with fundamentalist Muslims than their fellow (but open and tolerant) Jesus-lovers. After all, take me - as a "Christian", I have waaaaaaaaay waaaaaay (one more time here) waaaaaaaaaaay more in common with a non-religious homeless woman that collects tin cans for recycling, than a Jesus-loves-everyone-except-for-people-I-don't-like-such-as
-homos-and-anyone-that-didn't-bother-to-learn-English-
and-without-an-accent Christian man from Alberta, who by the way thinks rape-is-wrong-but-abortion-is-the-devil-and-no-you-can't
-have-that-morning-after-pill.

Which gets me thinking, if that's the case - if I really don't "fit" with other people who happen to ascribe to the same omnipotent figure, maybe it's best I identify as a "tolerant person of spiritual beliefs", and scrap the whole my god/your god system of identification and let the crazy fundamentalists on all sides have the fancy religious titles (after all, in the eyes of the public they've appropriated them anyways).

Just a thought.

You know, I was going to rant about something else this post - but I think I'll leave that for another day. I have managed to get completely off track by writing a post on religion. Thanks Neil.

17 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll try to not make this a novel of a response. Here's some thoughts mulling around in my mind in response:

1 - Having studied Biblical Hebrew for the last 6 months, I have even more... contempt is too strong of a word... issues with people who choose to view the Bible literally. HELLO, MORONS, you're reading a fucking TRANSLATION. Which intrisnically means interpretation.

2 - The Bible, as all religious documents are, is a historically and geographically located document. This does not detract from its ability to speak to us today, but to best understand it, we must also understand the context out of which it sprung.

3 - I agree on your comment about evolutionism vs. creationism. The point is that God made the world, they are not mutually exclusive.

4 - When I first moved to Ottawa, as in, when I first became a minister, I was still getting used to being a Christian (I had been baptized less than a year before!). Fundamentalists and evangelicals and all those people, and all that history of brutality had been part of my struggle of whether to accept belief or not. I remember commenting to a friend at one point early on that I wasn't comfortable using the label "Christian" to describe myself, because then people would assume that I fall into those categories mentioned above. Her point? All the more reason to call yourself one, to destroy people's images of what Christians are.

5 - "Faith" in the early church, i.e. Augustine, meant proving the existance of God. It didn't mean blindly following something. This "blind faith" is a concept that's still relatively new, something that's come about in the last few centuries. At least, this is all according to what I remember of a brief interchange with a philosophy professor from last year...

6 - Fundamentalists of any stripe, religious, political, whatever, are scary. The minute anyone sets up something as being unquestionable and infallible, well, that raises red flags for me. But don't fall into the mistake of thinking that fundies only exist in religion!!

Thanks for the post, I liked it! Sorry if the response is too long...

Katie

8:37 PM  
Anonymous neilesh said...

"Since when does evolution threaten the existence of a god?"

You hit the nail right on the head.

It doesn't. Never has.

Why has this "battle" been made up? Because evolution neccesitates interpretation. And that shoots literal interpretations to hell.

Whats wrong with that? It takes the power away from those dictating the literal interpretations. Why do we shun gays but not the guy wearing a shirt of both gasp cotton AND polyester?!

Science puts forth rules. Which isn't a problem. When science told you the world was almost certainly around 4 billion years old, you did what other rational people did. Took that story of 7 days as a story, or a metaphor, and stretched it out over 4 billion years.

Because really, do you think God chilled out with a bud and watched Sunday Night Football on the 7th day?

And it all comes down good old John 3:16. What I like to call the power grab verse. The verse that epitimizes how the bible was used to rule. Because quite simply, John 3:16 doesn't make sense.

No fair or just god would send millions upon millions of native americans to hell when there exists no records of Jesus ever having set foot on north america (cynical note: probably because the writer had no clue it existed). Nor would he condemn babies to burn in hell. To deal with it, moderates have had to do some serious bullshitting. For example, the idea of purgatory. Grade A bullshit right there. Which is fine. I have no problem with it. But the literalists do. Because THAT is where they get their power from.

Because quite honestly, how else do you force a gay man to endure a 40 year marraige with a woman he was never been attracted to without invoking the threat of a life spent burning the fiery pits of hell?

I dont want to suggest that the bible is completely fabricated. Or that is has nothing to offer (there ARE great stories and lessons). But to take it at face value, to take every word as truth, when a page earlier it detailed the methods that Satan would go to in order to trick you, thats complete lunacy.

No book could survive thousands upon thousands of years free from corruption.

But of course, how do we get around this? how do we spin this one? Oh right. The minds of men are unable to grasp anything relating to the divine.

That's right. God's method of speaking to us is through blind faith, not through logic, not through reason, through blind faith.

What percentage of Christians can say that the read through the entire Qu'ran, travelled to Asia to study Buddhism, and read the Hindu religious texts before realizing that Christianity was for them? And vice versa.

9:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But how many Christians can say that they've actually read the entire Bible?

And if it's said that the Bible is a contextualized document, how many people have studied the context of it to better understand it? Or the context of any of the other religious texts out there?

Just some more of my thots...

Katie

6:28 AM  
Anonymous isaac said...

What?!?!?!?! People wear cotton/polyester blends? Holy fucking God! Ahh, shit. Now I'm going to Hell. Fucked that right up, eh?

The problem with religion is - just playing Devil's Advocate here folks - that they're all wrong. Unfortunately, it's the reason many people are drawn to religion that is the evil in it. The problem is all religions offer some Answer to the Ultimate Question. That is, Why are we here? What is the point of life? How many roads must a man walk down?

I know there are exceptions to every rule or law, but isn't that the whole point of this post. If people would actually admit that they have no clue if God exists or whether there's an after life or not, we would all be better off.

The thing that freaks me out is that those crazies out there might just be right. My grandmother who firmly believes I'm going to Hell in a handbasket might just be %110 right. Scary. Or there may be 72 virgins waiting for me on the other side. Sweeet.

I choose to believe that it's a person's actions that define what happens to them. I couldn't possibly justify saying someone such as Gandhi is going to Hell because he's Hindu. Or that Jeffrey Dahmer is going to Heaven because he was Catholic.

But like I said, I don't know. And neither do you.

8:13 PM  
Anonymous isaac said...

p.s. the answer to the Big Question is 42. Just thought you'd all like to know.

8:15 PM  
Anonymous neilesh said...

Isaac wrote:

My grandmother who firmly believes I'm going to Hell in a handbasket might just be %110 right. Scary. Or there may be 72 virgins waiting for me on the other side. Sweeet.

Maybe it's just one massive game of russian roulette.

If I was a betting man, I'd put my money on the Buddhists. Rub the tummy and pull the trigger.

3:56 AM  
Blogger kevin said...

Sadly, there is a new ideology sweeping the planet called polarity. For some it's a religious label and for others it's political, but in either case true adherence requires one identify as one end of the spectrum and outright refute anything someone on the other side says or believes. There is no room for common ground or intelligent discussion. What's right is right, and what's wrong is someone else's belief system.

8:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isaac, you beat me to it! I was gonna say that the answer was 42...

Do you have your towel?

Katie

4:42 PM  
Blogger Julien said...

Just remember: don't panic.

5:52 PM  
Anonymous isaac said...

I never leave home without it!

7:28 PM  
Blogger Gujustud said...

Yeah, thanks Neil. Here I was pulling every strand of hair trying to make sense of this post, and in the end there are no pictures! :(

11:05 AM  
Anonymous Janani said...

Sim, love the blog. This story has nothing to do with anything, except that it's remotely religious and I feel like sharing it with you and the other erudite folks who seem to populate your world.
I went to Mass the other day for a story I'm working on about Franciscan monks/nuns. (One of them is a 23 year old former aesthetician - It's wild)!
Suddenly, everyone was lining up and I felt compelled to do the same. So I got in line, even though as a pagan Hindu, I worried this move might eventually turn out to be...bad.
The priest offered everyone a wafer: "The body of Christ." Well, I didn't want to look stupid, so I took it without eating it. I continued on to the priest with the wine - "The blood of Christ."
I eyed the goblet with some skepticism. Everybody had been drinking out of it...eww.
So I said, "Do I drink it?"
With some surprise, he says, "You're not Catholic?"
"Um...no."
Then the other priest took away my wafer of bread and told me to sit down(!) I slunk away, glad I'd managed to avoid mortal sin or burning my entrails or some such.
But the other people there took the ceremony so seriously, with so much earnest devotion. I really feel that - regardless of any rite or religious doctrine - if I undertook any action with that kind of faith or belief, I might be saved.

11:17 PM  
Anonymous isaac said...

One thing you should never be surprised at is the strangeness (or complete arbitrariness) of Catholic rituals. They have one for anything and everything and none of them make any sense.

7:40 PM  
Blogger Gujustud said...

:( no longer oak and 12th?

11:58 AM  
Anonymous tim said...

I think there is a good argument to be made that evolution and Christianity are not the most compatable.

Sure, God could have made the world evolve according to the big bang, and millennia of struggle, death, and adaptation, but then why didn’t He just arrange for Genesis to be written a little differently?

Second, according to Romans 5:12, death entered the world because of (Adam's) sin. This doesn't correspond well with an evolution-based view of humans becoming the way they are through millions of years of struggle and death.

Third, there is a clear geneology from Adam to Noah to Abraham to Moses, etc. Where did the myth end and reality start? Was Noah real? Abraham? Surely Moses was a real person.

Fourth, Jesus himself mentioned Abel, Noah, Lot, Abraham, and creation to others. If these people/events weren’t real, what does that say about Jesus, who according to Christian beleifs, as God, cannot lie? On the other hand if Jesus didn't say such things, what does this say about the bible?

Perhaps I’m missing something or coming at this all wrong but I’m having trouble seeing how the theory of evolution doesn’t threaten Christianity. Without creation, how do you account for original sin? If there is not original sin, what credibility does Romans have? Or Paul’s writings in general? Or the New Testament?

All in all, it certainly was a most thought provoking post, Sima. Keep it up.

11:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess it seems to me that you aren't leaving enough space for myth. And specifically the "truth" in storytelling and myth. When we tell children fairytales and fables, are we lying to them? I don't think so. Metaphor likewise isn't a lie, and in my understanding, in the same way religious scriptures don't have to be based on empirical fact to be absolutely "true."

12:20 PM  
Anonymous Liz said...

Hey Jonathan and Sima,
I just started reading (binging on) your blog these past couple of days, and this entry really struck me.

First of all, I'm with oyu all the way.

Secondly, and this is directed to my brother, Isaac: I've got him beat. Oma not only thinks I'm going to hell in a hand-basket, but I'm never going to find me a husband if I don't learn how to be a good little woman. Not her exact words, but you get the picture!

Anyways, I hope you guys start blogging again soon. I just finished reading it today and I'm starting to wonder what tomorrow's procrastinating-age will bring!

2:41 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home