Friday, October 01, 2004

Views On Religion - A doozie...

Views On Religion - A doozie...

You have been warned.

Reading The Da Vinci Code has reminded me of my own views on religion. For me, it's still a case-in-study, but I see benefits and I also see damage religion can cause. But religion may not be to blame. It's the people who use it or as the case may be, abuse it.

First, my background. I was raised in a very conservative and God fearing house. We went to church on a regular basis, something like three times a week, every week, every month, every year. I was a regular in Sunday School, youth groups, Christian camps, church services, religious outings, fellowships, religious holiday plays and vacation bible schools. You name it, I've done it. I've been present in many denominations ranging from Jehovah's Witness to mainly Protestant beliefs (sorry, no Catholic experience). Protestant sects such as the very professional Methodist and Baptist, to the chandelier swingers and speaking in tongues members of the Assembly of God to the snooze fest generic churches where no one offends anyone and accounts from the Bible are watered down and only symbolic in meaning, subject to the interpretation by the preacher. So, I think I have some perspective when I speak on this topic, having spent most of my life in a church. In fact, I'd consider myself an expert witness so I have the right to express my opinion on this age-old controversial subject and actually, I believe, just might have some valuable insight.

Begin humble opinion

I don't automatically assume any religion's bible to a book of facts. I think it is a book that is based on some kernel of truths with embellishments and exaggerations; something that happens with any myth maker. If a bible were chili, the truths would be the beans and meat, and the made up stuff would be the spices, the chili powder; the more you add, the hotter it gets.

Having said that, I'm not necessarily knocking religion except in certain extreme causes. An important thing to point out is that people are using religion to do good. If a book commands you to honor your parents, don't steal, don't murder, don't lie and be on your best behavior, what's wrong with that? It's intent is to make people better and make society more civilized. But what are you going to notice? The guy who doesn't cheat on his taxes, or the guy who kills his family with a Weed Wacker because God told him that they were unjust? Religion gets a bad rap and as long as you leave something open to interpretation (which is impossible to stop btw), rogue agents are going to use it for their own motivations. But the responsibility still lies on the people of that group. Another topic for another day though.

So what's my problem with religion? The problem is, I want to know only truth. It doesn't have to be absolute truth, I don't need to know everything, I just don't want to know even one thing that's made up and I certainly don't want to conscientiously place my life-long belief system on that inaccuracy.

How important is it for you to believe in truth? If you want a belief that is based on entirely fact, religion is not for you. You'd be better suited in the sciences. Religion and science do not get along because the members of each group can't understand how the other half lives, how they think the way they do. It's absolutes versus faith. To science, faith is chaos. To religion, science is sacrilege.

Religious history is full of fables that are loosely based on an event or a person or persons and there is no doubt that some truths are actually present in these stories as is the case with any historical account. Many believe there was a Tutankhamen, a Mayan civilization and Vikings, but the stories that go with these accounts are not exact, especially when the divine is called in.

Verbal communication was much more prevalent than written through most of a religion's history, so stories were handed down the ages by storytellers who told their account as they heard it and remembered hearing it. The religious claim divine guidance when versions of the Christian Bible are printed, reprinted, translated, put onto book-on-tape, preached in church, told by missionaries or turned into a pop-up book for children. But they have to believe this to believe what they follow is true.

Religion is an event that happened somewhere in our history. Laws came from the effects of this event, an ideal of how one should live his life. The event can not be repeated or updated since it was one event or a series of events, which by definition means it already happened, in the past. And now that it has passed, you may now all believe in this idea because it's past, it's history, it's set in stone. No changing though! Because it's already happened. Can you change the past? No. Besides we already have the instructional manual printed. There's no amending it. It was already made. Look, 66 books. You can't have 67, then it wouldn't be the Bible. So since they started this ideology a long time ago (read: they were the first), they must be in God's graces and we should follow their teachings forever. A religion is a religion because someone thought of it first. Think on that. It means, change is not allowed.

So how can people believe in a religion with inaccuracies? Because religion doesn't call for its followers to seek the truth. The catalyst for religion is a thing called faith, and faith is believing in something you don't actually understand. The stories that can be found in a religion's bible can be believed by the faithful because believing in something, anything, is what they need to develop their faith. It is human nature to believe in something, to get behind it, support it, make it flourish so it can protect you. No one chooses to be on the losing side, and here's the kicker, especially not after having already made the choice. Research Jim Jones and the People's Temple to see evidence of this common human behavior. We look to our leaders with this behavior to give us what we want, to protect us so that we may support what we believe is the right way and pass our ideals on to our offspring.

Remember the church once believed the world was flat and that the universe revolved around the Earth. Where was the divine guidance there? Did God take a lunch break? This was an official church view and all followers of this religion, a religion which still exists today and flourishes with a good size memberhsip, should have undeniably believed in. I wonder what would we still believe today had science not existed.

So maybe it's not important to you to know the earth is not flat. Maybe it's just important to you to support your club, regardless of the truth.

End what turned into be a holier-than-thou attitude

This piece was a long time coming. I'm surprised I waited this long to post it, but again, that book that I'm reading, my views are right there in its pages.

DJI 10184, NASDAQ 1936, SP5 1130

#1 Movie at the box office:
The Forgotten

Last movie I saw at the theater:
Spider-Man 2

Last movie(s) I saw not at the theater:
Cold Mountain
Bad Santa
School Of Rock

Books I'm currently reading:
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

CDs I'm listening to:
Van Halen's Best Of Both Worlds

Video games I'm playing:
DND Heroes
Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic