Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Religion, Death and Insecurity

(Originally posted on MySpace on Monday, May 21, 2007)

Sorry I'm so late in posting this. There was a death in the family, which I talk about below, and we had to drop everything and run to San Diego over the weekend. I'll try to have new blogs up every week still, but for the next 3 weeks or so, it may be spotty as memorial services and funerals all get sorted out.

Before I get into this, I'd like to ask people to respond to my blogs. I've got about 100 people subscribed to and reading my weekly blogs and I hardly hear a peep from any of you. I'd especially like to hear from people when I write about politics and controversial stuff. One of the reasons I do this is to find out how others think. When I write these things, I may sound like I've made up my mind and that's that. But my opinion changes a lot over time and its people disagreeing with me or pointing out facts I may have missed or misinterpreted that brings that change about. So don't be afraid to tell me I'm full of crap. Criticism brings about dialog and dialog brings understanding and change. People who know me well know that I can be verbally imposing about my opinions, but don't let that scare you away. I love it when people have the courage to put me in my place, or to even try to. Usually when I've ranting about one of my opinions its because I'm trying to understand why anyone would believe otherwise and I have found that sometimes those opposing opinions have made some sense. Every morning I read the LA Times and New York Times opinion sections. But I also read the Fox.com and the National Review Online opinions because I want to know what others are thinking about various issues and why. It's only in this way that anyone can get an informed opinion. So call me out or tell me I'm a genius. At least I'll know that you're paying attention.

Jerry Falwell died this week. My first inclination was to throw a party. Nothing pleases me more than when one of the many evil forces on this planet is eliminated. But unfortunately, Skip and I were in the middle of a major argument and bringing that to a close was more important than celebrating the death of a major asshole. Maybe when Pat Robertson finally croaks, I'll be free to celebrate how I see fit. All I know is that its times like these that I wish there was really was a Hell because it would thrill me to no end to see self-righteous creeps like Falwell (and Robertson and Dobson after him) burn for all time.

As expected, many people are falling all over themselves to sing the praises of a man who really doesn't deserve any. Of course, almost all the Republican candidates for the upcoming Presidential election are singing his praises, although none of them were really his friend in life. But they need something to attract those conservative Christian voters, so they'll praise anyone they can to get those votes. Even someone who should know better, like Jesse Jackson, a man I lost respect for several years ago, is commenting on how good Falwell's heart was. About the only remembrance I could read with a straight face is this one from the Reverend Mel White:


And Bill Maher's eulogy on his TV show, "Real Time", where he started out, "Sometimes death is not sad", was also beautifully stated.

Jerry Falwell was not a good Christian. He was a hate-monger and a closed-minded bigot. In White's remembrance, he states that Falwell was willing to talk until his friends and donors started bitching to him. Then he turned his back on reason. A good Christian would have listened and tried to understand. He wouldn't have turned his back on what was right because of money. Falwell was a good businessman, but he was not a good Christian. And the Moral Majority were not a majority and not very moral.

And that's enough about that evil fuck for now.

Recently I picked up two books that I want to read. Since I'm still in the middle of reading all those food books I promised myself I would read this year, I probably won't get to them until the fall. But that won't stop me from letting them influence a conversation now. The first book is "Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know – And Doesn't" by Stephen Prothero. The other book is "God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything" by Christopher Hitchens.

The first book presents a case that we should return to teaching religion in schools in America in order to teach the majority the true teachings of religious texts. The second book presents a case that religion is a horrible thing. I have to say that while I have no love of religion and believe that it is used to foster much of the evil in this world, I'm more willing to subscribe to the first book's argument, or at least give it a try before trying to eradicate all religions from the face of this planet. I believe that religious illiteracy is one of the biggest problems in this country and is at the root of everything that is wrong with America right now.

First some background on myself. Back in high school, I was searching for faith. I really felt I needed something to believe in and decided to look at all the world's major religions and see if any of them had anything to offer to me. I was raised as a Protestant, but only loosely. My family was never really that religious. So to prepare myself, I read the Bible, the Koran, various religious doctrines of Buddhism and Hinduism and as many other religious texts that I could think of and get my hands on. I rejected them all. It's been a long time since I was a teenager and I don't remember much of what I learned about these religions. I do remember that Buddhism was the one religion out of all of them that actually tempted me. But in the end, even that one wasn't for me.

I did find my faith though. I realized that what I really needed to was to have faith in myself and the natural order of things. I believe in nature and myself and that's all I believe in. I don't believe there's any real purpose in life except to enjoy the life you have. Then you die and there's nothing after. My dead body will become one with nature and allow others to try to enjoy their lives. I certainly don't believe in any divine being who watches over me and demands I follow some restrictively "moral" way-of-life.

And speaking of morals, I do have a moral code. Basically I believe that anything goes as long as that anything doesn't harm any other living being. I try hard not to screw people over or interfere in how they choose to live their lives. The only time I will screw with people is when they screw with me. I also don't believe in unnecessarily harming any living things, including animals that share this planet with us. That doesn't mean I don't eat them, as I think its natural for humans to eat meat. But if you look at nature, wild animals kill only what they can eat and don't waste anything. So I have no qualms with the slaughter of animals for food. I do have qualms for the slaughter of animals for fun.

I've been called a Pagan (among other things), but I prefer to be called an Atheist. I used to think I was an Agnostic because I couldn't prove there was no God. But around the time Ronald Reagan was elected President and Jerry Falwell brought the Moral Majority to power, I realized that I'm sure there is no God. I have faith in it. I can no longer think of myself as Agnostic.

I accept people's religious beliefs as long as they apply them only to themselves. If they do that, then I have respect for their beliefs. But truth be told, I think that religion is a sham and a refuge for people who are too insecure to believe that they hold their own answers to the questions of life.

But despite my rejection of religion, it still holds a lot of influence on my life, especially Christianity. But that's only because there are so many so-called Christians who insist on forcing their lifestyle choice (and religion IS a choice) on me and others who want nothing to do with their shallow brand of morality. As I said, religious people are an insecure bunch and there seems to be many of them who are so insecure that they have to force other people to live as they do or it becomes some kind of threat to their own existence.

I'm living through one of the telling truths of the insecure nature of the religious. Skip's dad is just died over this last weekend. His immediate family is part of the extremes of the born-again Christian conservative movement. His sister once called crying because "she would never see her brother again in the afterlife" due to his sexual orientation. The whole family is hysterical about the father's death. Now, I can understand a sadness in losing a loved one from your life now. But these people are wailing and gnashing about how now that he's gone, they will never see him again. One of the leaders of the Christian Conservative movement said the same thing about the death of Falwell. "I'm sad because I'll never see him again." But, I thought they were all going to a better life and would be around each other for all time. Plus, there's the fact that Skip's dad was really old and has been suffering from all sorts of ailments that made his life a living hell. You would think that these people would be sad he's out of their immediate life, but would be glad he's moving on to a better existence, one that they will be joining him in soon.

I find that the more extreme the Christian, the more they seem to be afraid of death. And that makes no sense to me except that they must be extremely unsure of their conviction that there is a Heaven.

Now, I'm not afraid of death, although I certainly don't welcome it. I'm not a big fan of pain and suffering though and I would hope that if it comes down to that, the people in charge of my life decisions would choose to let me go and not prolong that pain and suffering. And they should be glad that I'm not living like that any more.

A lot of this is due to the religious illiteracy that Stephen Prothero writes about in his book. On the dust sleeve to the book he writes:

"Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that the Bible holds the answers to all or most of life's basic questions, yet only half of American adults can even name one of the four gospels and most Americans cannot name the first book of the Bible.

Despite this lack of basic knowledge, politicians and pundits continue to root public policy arguments in religious rhetoric whose meanings are missed – or misinterpreted – by the vast majority of Americans."

I don't know how many times I've been quoted a passage from the Bible completely out of context, bending the true meaning of that passage to fit some narrow agenda, but if I had a quarter for every time its happened I'd be a very rich man. The American public is a lazy group and if it comes down to actually reading something to find out its meaning or being told what it means by some authority figure, they almost always choose the latter. And that's why teaching religion in schools would be a good thing. And not just Christianity, but all religions. The amount of ignorance floating around about Islam is absolutely stunning considering the effect that religion is having on all our lives at this time. Perhaps if kids were required to actually read religious text as literature and be led through an understanding of the true meaning of these texts, a lot of the intolerance and self-righteous grandstanding on this planet would cease to exist.

Personally, I'd rather see religion abolished. While I think a lot of good has come out of religion, a lot more bad has come out of it and it doesn't balance out. It's the root of all evil. The good can still happen without religion. But abolishing religion is not going to happen; so teaching people the truths of religion is the next best thing. If people really understood what they believed in, greedy power mongers like Falwell or Robertson could not exist and everyone's life would be better for it.

No comments:

Post a Comment