Welcome to “Christianity- the Sequel!”
So a lot of religion is very individual – leading to many ‘spiritualists’ basically making up their own Gospel, with a deity that fits their beliefs (instead of the other way around.) And don’t let anyone tell you that this is not actually fun as Shekaka. (Ace Ventura callback, anyone?) This post continues where Part One left off, with my questioning teenage years, and then goes on to discuss why we have the religions (including lack thereof) that we have.
Those Angsty Teenage Years
If there’s one thing St Johns had going for it circa 1990s/early 2000’s, it was a Youth group. Our youth group was actually a blast – and we had quite a mixed bag of youth, as well. There were the two nerdy kids (one of which was me) who knew all the bible stories and thought they would save sex for marriage (haha – I know, right??), a couple good-girls, a couple good-time girls, a couple jokesters and a couple of distinctly more bad ass kids. I learned as much about sex and drugs from the kids in my youth group as I did from kids at school, if not more. But we formed close-knit bonds with each other despite our differences, and everyone brought their own flavour to the discussions of faith, sexuality and gossip we would have on Sundays. Under the vague guidance of that wonderful youth pastor (until the LGBT-Schism of Saint John’s led to other youth pastors), we were encouraged to question our faith, and our thoughts and personalities and relationships with Jesus and other humans. We were new age Christians that believed in the all-conquering power of love; that we were loved by the creating force and asked to love others, not get all judgey and shit, but just love em all.
Over the years, a couple members dropped out and were replaced with new ones – until we all started stretching our wings for colleges and universities in strange and far-off places (like Oshawa). Most of us fell out of touch, and out of attendance on Sundays, but the enjoyment of those discussions stayed with me for a long time. It was not until a couple of years later that I realized that while I felt I had been “questioning religion,” all of the questions I had been asking were from the perspective of someone still within that religion. Suddenly I realized that I was looking at the ship from within the ship – but to really see the boat, I would have to get out and swim around it. It was time for a (slightly) more objective approach.
Ofcourse once I jumped ship, the self-doubt came crashing down. Probably the hardest point for me was “why is God a caucasian dude?” As a feminist and believer in equal rights across all genders and cultures, and all that jazz, the whole Bearded-White-Male God was probably the hardest to swallow.
I know, the point seems minor – aesthetic, even – but this was a question of the identity of the God I had grown up with, which had always been a Father. (For a while I entertained the thought that it was ok if it was balanced by God being the compliment to mother
nature. This idea is not new – like Geb and Nut in Egypt, the male god of the sky and female god of the earth, parents of Osiris and Set and all them, or like the celtic woman and man gods that run the seasons with their cycles. But why is the sky male and the earth female? Does the sky impregnate the earth with his spirit-air to make her bear life?)
The justification grew quickly problematic. Through our lessons in history of environmental thought, I began to learn of how earlier societies believed in an all powerful Mother, like mother earth; and then an “even more powerful” father deity was promoted as a God of Men and War and Conquest, to subjugate earth – around the same time these more warlike tribes were attacking and owning land instead of living with it. This allows very readily for a view of both deities as being merely made up to suit the needs of their societies… which was distasteful to my Christian tongue.
Naturally the other typical questions were there too – why do bad things happen? Why is so much random chance? How can there be God, but also Aids and Country Music? And most of all – are religious people just taking the coincidences in our lives and ascribing them to a higher power?
I have no answers, obviously. If I did, I would be a prophet. And if those answers were false, I would be a false prophet. Or possibly a denizen? (Actually I don’t really know what that word means, but I love the way it sounds).
So, the questioning phase continues. Personally, I think its good to question these things. But through the questioning, one thing that has stuck out is how these questions are so big, and so uncomprehendable with so many unknowns, that the interpretation of our tiny human brains is basically based on choice.
On Choice-based Belief
It was through much discussion with my beloved Frosty that I came to accept that there is so much that we do not know, that religion – all religion, including Atheism – is a choice. Humanity has brilliantly begun to discover the How of stuff, through science and models and logic. But humanity has somehow gotten Zero progress regarding the Why – so we choose.
What: Things fall down
How: this is caused by gravity, a theory so robust that it has basically been proven. There are miles and miles of detail in the How category – on bozones and gravitons and magnetic fields and so forth. But its all How.
Why: Does Gravity exist because God Created Gravity as a natural property of matter? Or because a bunch of electrons just aligned into magnetic fields – oh wait, that’s How, not Why. Does it “just exist”? Or does it exist because Vishnu told it to exist? Solely interpretation.
This is fun so I will do another one.
What: there are now humans and monkeys, but there is evidence to suggest there were people that were more similar to monkeys than we are now
How: Evolution, a theory almost as robust and well-recieved as gravity. Humans evolved from the same common ancestor as Monkeys – as illustrated by the music video of the song “The Bad Touch” by The Bloodhound Gang.
Why: did God create evolution by carefully tinkering with mutations and gradually create humans from monkeys? (In a move that the bible calls a metaphorical “6th day,” but who knows how long a God-day refers to). Or, was it random chance that caused the specific mutations and lucky situations causing a gradual evolution?
Or was it Ra playing with clay, and being like “look – if I take this monkey and stand it up, maybe give it fire to cook its food and grow its brain cells, look what I can make it do after a few million years! Whee!!”
Often our choice of religion (including lack thereof) has been so engrained in us, or felt like it came so naturally and sincerely because of our experiences – that we do not realize its a choice. For example I was debating this with an atheist the other day. He postulated that his atheism was not a choice, because he could not physically accept a religion with no proof beyond “lots of people believe it.” My response was that this may feel like the case – but his inability to accept a religion is due to who he is (he agreed with that) which is made up of a bit of his genetics, and a host of his experiences with belief, logic and rationalization, the world he lives in, and his socialization. We had to agree to disagree (as one often does with these discussions) but it is the same thing that I would argue with anyone – that the things we think are intrinsically “us” are also the culmination of our genetics, socialization and experience.
There are those that would argue (like this friend of mine) that to believe in a religion is Popularism – why believe in something just because “a lot of people have believed in it for a long time” when there is also actual reasoning? (That being said, almost every culture has some form of Dragon – leading me to believe there were still a few rogue dinosaurs walking the earth, biting the heads off nights in armour. So Popularism has its place as a form of evidence, says I.)
The other side, ofcourse, looks at Atheism and points out that to believe in human reasoning as the ultimate authority – to believe that we know everything worth knowing, and what we do not know with science and reason is not worth knowing – could be called equally narrow minded. “Hubris” even.
Perhaps “narrow-minded” is simply a lack of questioning, religious or non, a hubris-laden certainty in what we think we already know. In the words of a famous French philospher,
“the eye can only see what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” – Henri Bergson
So if we go in believing that random coincidence led to this planet and our existence upon it, than we will see evidence in the randomness of life every time we miss a bus. If we go in choosing to believe that Lucifer, aka Satan, is sitting underneath us and tinkering with fate to inconvenience us … then we will see evidence in every time we miss the bus.
Personally, when I miss a bus, I prefer to shake my fist at the heavens and cry, “Odin you dick!!!”
This is why I have decided to choose, make-up almost, my own religious sect … and it’s fun as shit. Because what else is the point of life? I call again upon the power of quotation, this time from R.A. Salvatore’s character Drizzt Do’Urden, a brooding and tortured but good hearted dark-elven prince:
“In the end, the choice of a god is a personal one, and the alignment to a being is in accord with one’s internal code of principles. … No rational being can truly follow the determined orders of any god-figure if those orders run contrary to his own tenets.”
Preach, baby, preach!
I know, I’m one of Those guys – one of those guys that say “I’m a Christian! Spiritually – but here is the list of tenets that I follow that I have largely made up myself.”
Correct. And it feels fantastic. Let’s get into this – time for Part Three
But first – College Humour does a Perfect job of summing up this ‘New age religion’ that trendy d-bags like me are all about these days:
Edward Cullen: http://www.thecollegevoice.org/summer/?p=489
Sinking Boat: http://www.amusingplanet.com/2010/06/oxford-cardboard-boat-race-2010.html
Geb and Nut: https://www.tumblr.com/search/geb%20and%20nut
Mother Earth gets Shot: http://orig03.deviantart.net/0ff4/f/2012/290/c/1/betrayal_by_aegis_strife-d5i2j40.jpg
God Makes the Snake:https://www.pinterest.com/pin/93168286011065100/
The Eye: http://thegodessinside.blogspot.ca/2009_11_01_archive.html
God on His Computer: https://www.pinterest.com/andierosendin/the-far-side-homage/