Friday, October 21, 2005

Something on Christianity

. . . address the issue of safety, violence, and problems that have stemmed from religion.

I am currently reading a brilliant book by Jack Henry Abbott called, In the Belly of the Beast. Jack Abbott (an inmate) and a writer wrote letters to each other for years. This book was published with only the one side of the corresponsdance: Abbott's letters.

It is a fantastic read, and I recommend it to anyone who likes racy and shocking novels about life as an inmate. The reason why I bring this up is because I want to share a few religion quotes with you. Keep in mind that Abbott is an atheist.

"I find the human element in all religions very beautiful and touching. Religious ideas move me very much, almost as much as the people who hold those beliefs. I am moved by the knowledge that you find consolation in religious existentialism . I wish I could."

Occasionally, I feel that way. It is extremely comforting to believe and have faith, and sometimes I wish I could, but I know that I can't. I really like the way Abbott puts it.

So, it's not a huge problem if I don't believe, but it royally sucks for someone in prison. Even if you are completely irrational in your religious beliefs, I am sure it is very nice to have that kind of consolation and that inkling of happiness. I can't see how that can be bad or do any damage to others.

In cases like that, I understand why people turn to religion. It is in dire situations and circumstances that people turn to the divine. I do not see a problem in that because if you have nothing left and really nothing else to hope for, then why not? It is people who use Jesus Christ and God as an excuse that really bother me. I find it illogical and irrational when one says that they have "God" on their side, especially when it is to do with war and killing. By saying that they have "God" on their side makes them, supposedly, more powerful and more believable. I remember being in North Carolina, and it said God Bless America on a milk jug we bought. My Dad thought it was absolutely ridiculous; we laughed but were somewhat shocked that this was written on a milk jug. Besides, why is it that God blesses America? Why not God bless
Lesotho? Why do the Americans get God's approval and the rest of us don't?

I don't like those who preach, those who push religion on others, and those who are extremists.
As much as religion can be a safety to some, it is a danger and problem to others. Weak-minded people or people who have grown up in a religious environment are often inculcated with many religious beliefs. They never question them and accept them as being the truth. They think there is no other right way, rather than their own. They are not open to others ideas and are hopelessly stuck in their ways. Also, we must not forget that there are those who explode after years of "fundamentalist" Christianity and go the complete other way.
Hence, it is not only in religion that extremism occurs; any kind of extremism is a kind of close-mindedness. I mean, it is good to be devoted to your cause, but when you are just so far one way, you're practically blind. Opinions become facts. I think that's also dangerous.

I am quite against for what most of the Catholic church stands for, mainly on account of their basic values being flooded with "being a good Christian" and all the added baggage that goes with it. Like I previously mentioned, I do not like the church telling me how to vote, how to have a good marriage, and basically how to run my life.

Again, on the flip side, I don't find that everyone who is "religious" is bad and irrational.
Don't tell me that you haven't felt safe from something irrational before. People feel safe when they have a night light on. People feel safe when they sing to themselves when they are alone. People feel safe when they ignore potential danger around them. People feel safe when they are ignorant. This is not always a bad thing.

So, what am I trying to say here? I am tempted to say everything in moderation and nothing to the extreme, but that's not quite the point I am making. I think religion has caused much violence and strife over the years, but it has also been the cause of many people's consolation, just to get through life a little easier. Tons of Christians have not done any wrong and live very similarly to many other atheists. If their Christianity cult helps them get through life better without harming others, then I say go for it.

I do not believe in God. Like Abbott says, sometimes I wish I could. It is just something I cannot fathom now. It doesn't make sense to me; it's impossible. At the moment, I believe that we have made up God, just so we can feel a little more secure. People can find coincidences anywhere, if they look hard enough.

So, me, religion-wise, in a nutshell? I am an atheist who is in love with the story, music, and style of the musical, Jesus Christ Superstar.

I have decided not to call this entry "Religion" because I am not at all familiar with religions such as Buddhism, Islam, and so on, so I figure I should just stick with what I know.


Effovex said...

All your followers are blind
Too much Heaven on their minds

JCSS is brilliant. It find it has a very humane outlook on the Passion. I especially like the treatment of Judas, who is spared his usual role as a scapegoat to become a well fleshed-out character in the play. Judas dislikes the deification of Jesus - he understands the cause better than the other apostles. He doesn't like that people are too blinded by their perception that Jesus is divine to understand the real beauty of his words. To an extent, he also wants Jesus all to himself - he wants things to "go back the way they were", he is like the band's original fan who can't stand it when the band makes it big (at which point they become "sell outs"). Judas thus "sells" Jesus, because he wants Jesus to publically state he isn't the son of God, at which point, he hopes, things will go back to "normal". His motive is basically noble: he's doing it for love of Jesus, he's doing it for the cause. But while Judas may be above the normal selfishness of men, he is still not completely selfless, and it is greed not for money but for Jesus that is his undoing. The end does not justify the means, and selling Jesus behind his back couldn't possibly be a good way to attain Judas' goal.

But is someone who acts correctly for the wrong reasons is any better than someone who acts wrongly for the right reasons?

This isn't directly related to JCSS (I've tried making the point using the Apostles from the Last Supper, but it was awkward. Guess I'm not eloquent enough) but I think it's strong enough to stand out on its own.

Religious people follow the preachings of their religion because they wish to get rewarded or are scared of eternal torment in an hypothetical afterlife (generally, a little bit of column A and a little bit of column B.) I believe a person who acts "morally" for fear of God or post-mortem gain cannot be called moral. Morality would require one to act "good" because they understand the ramifications of their acts, and because they choose to limit their actions, not for gain but in the light of that understanding alone.

Surely, being religious doesn't preclude one from being moral, at least to an extent (I'm not entirely absolute morality is possible, at least currently), but that reflection on morality personally precludes me from being religious. I'm reminded of a Calvin and Hobbes strip where Calvin wonders if being nice in time for Chrismas doesn't just mean he can be bribed; to me, the idea that there might be a God who gives eternal reward or torment to moral or amoral people, means that such a God has recourse to bribery and/or coercion to attain his goal, which is completely against my principles; as such, any such Deity is not one I desire to worship.

Mister Hand said...

Odd. Your last paragraph seems to encompass a lot of the things I said in our previous argument. Is arguing simply a hobby or are you hoping to go pro?

Effovex said...

Mister Hand: eh?

I don't think your post refers to Zaza's, since there isn't any argumentation in her last paragraph, so it can't encompass your previous argument. If it doesn't refer to her blog entry, then by Sherlockian logic it must refer to my comment.

I don't recall having a previous argument with you, however. So I don't quite understand what your post is supposed to mean.

Looking around, I see you seem to derive great pleasure from telling Tex Texerson that he "lives to argue".

Ergo, I conclude you're confusing me with the aforementionned Tex. If I really did argue with you at an anterior date, please point me in it's general direction that I may understand what exactly you're talking about.

Also, if there is a way to make money arguing over the internet, please educamate me - I certainly wouldn't mind going pro. I doubt there is though - the special olympics are hardly known for their monetary rewards.

Mister Hand said...

OMG, I could have sworn your comment, effovex, was texerson's. It's my birthday so I've been drinking. I really should put a breathalyzer on the computer--kinda like those that DUI's offenders get hooked up to their cars.

Tex Texerson said...

I suppose it's time I tell you my big secret, Mr. Hand, since you like to argue with me so much you'll even pretend other people are me to argue with them.

But first, let me ask you a question, which you probably won't answer or even read.

In that entire debate/argument, when did I state my opinion on religion?

Answer: I didn't. I was very careful to only argue against your own flawed and irrational points.

The truth is, I am agnostic, I am pro-choice and I think too many people -- not all, but some -- use religion as a moral or intellectual crutch. But I am certainly not so arrogant as to tell other people that their belief in religion is wrong or stupid, though I may debate certain specific points.

So why did I spend so much time arguing? Because your arguments were awful -- full of your baseless opinions and figures you made up, passed off as actual facts.

I don't like it when people make things up to support their own beliefs. It reminds me of religion.