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I made that cute little picture above. Why? I see it carved into a pasture beside I-580 when I'm driving east to work every business-day morning. I made it on Feb 10th, but I haven't had a single deep, provocative thought about religion to blog about and start alienating some of my favorite readers. However, in my head, I'm continuously trying to form perfect phrases to describe my feelings about religion without people immediately attacking my opinions. So here goes a bunch of things that have been said before, but that I totally agree with.
|The Google Earth representation of my picture.|
First of all, in general, I'm happy that religion exists. I certainly don't agree with any deaths that it has caused throughout the centuries. However, I have many friends and family members that have been motivated and truly comforted in hard times by their beliefs. I appreciate that they have somewhere to direct their prayers. I don't actually believe in luck or karma or any of those things (at least no more than I believe in magic), even though I say I do. Also, my skills in empathy/sympathy are sub-par, so when those I care for have ways of self-healing (whatever way that is), my life is less stressful.
Secondly, I wish I believed in a god. It would make life simpler and easier to accept. It would immediately settle some of those cosmic questions, and it would give me an instant community of open arms wherever in the world I was. It would get me out of the apartment earlier on the weekends, invites to more pot lucks, and a better relationship with some of my friends and family. Even with all of these things working to convince me, I absolutely cannot accept that there is any sort of higher power.
When I was younger, and less prepared for ignoring friends who were thoroughly devoted to their religion (and instead challenged them), I regularly asked about Greek/Roman mythology. Even the fact that it is called mythology now (as opposed to religion then) starts to lend to the question, 'Why is your god more real than those gods?' I just find it mind-blowing when people can easily blow off what other people believe, when their beliefs sound no less ridiculous to me.
Another thing that always bothered me in arguments was how altered our accounts of history are because of religion. If you say something like, "see this thing happened 1500 years ago, and it's right here in the Bible," I actually have two problems. 1) If I don't believe in religion, why would I believe anything your Bible says? (The number one thing that religious people use in their defense are quotes from whatever religious text they study.) 2) Do you believe that it is impossible for that text to have changed over thousands of years? There's so many strange hypocrisies highlighted in that statement. Language itself has changed throughout time, so how can you be sure that the verses you read are those of a god, even if they were written through him all those years ago? There are different editions of the Bible, and it would be easy to smear a sentence or two in 300 AD to make it fit without people knowing today. It was also far too easy for a strong church to erase all accounts of history that were contradictory to religious texts.
Stephen Hawking was quoted this week saying that heaven is "a fairy story" for people who fear death. I totally agree with that, but I don't think that is the only service it provides. I feel like religion was also a brilliantly-developed tool for controlling the masses. Being good because it's the right thing to do isn't particularly inspiring for most people. Being told that somebody is always watching and judging, and your punishment for being a douche nozzle is eternal damnation, well that starts to get people who need answers to follow instructions. Maybe the loosening grip that religion has is why our prisons are filling up these days.
I was surprised to find out that Annie hadn't even heard anything about the apocalypse that's coming. You know it's this weekend, right? Trust me, I understand that this is another nut job using religion to make a name for himself (which is better than using it to brainwash/molest/profit/destroy, I guess). However, would all of the ridiculousness we associate with religious fanatics exist if there wasn't religion? September 11th? bin Laden? Waco? Mormons? Crusades? U.S.A. (think about why it was settled)?
Yes, I know you can't describe the feelings you have that confirm that there is some sort of higher power. Faith is such a huge factor, that those without it will never know. I guess I am completely accepting that your feelings are just your brain's response to neurotransmitters (it's just biology), that miracles don't happen (science does), and that when we die, we just die. I'd rather live now than worry about later, especially if living for later might all be for nothing.
I love Xmas music (but you'll rarely find my referring to it as Christmas music), and I'm trying to convince Annie to start touring good gospel choirs in the bay area with me. So don't be surprised if things I do look hypocritical. I could go on and on for days about religion, to try and get you to understand every facet of my thinking, but I guess it's best to leave it at this and just to say that I'm open to discuss, calmly, any thoughts you have, as long as you're as open-minded as I am. If nothing else, I find religion to be super fascinating.
Oh, jeezus... here comes the hate mail,