Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"Weighty Matters"

The sun's oppressive heat has turned the Chicago metro area into a sauna.  Insects are thriving between the foliage, skin is sticking to skin, and I'm sweating simply from sitting down.  So this is what the rainforest is like.  I'm not a fan.
I'm beginning to understand Southerners and why their culture seems so slowed down compared to my own.  It's not from laziness.  It's because it's just too hot to do anything but sit, drink sweet tea, and say things like "shore is a hot'un.  Gonna be a hot'un tomorrow too, they say."  Makes feel like I should be on my way to a church revival.
On that subject, I have "weighty matters" to discuss today (that's a phrase my little nephew picked up from my father.)  Bill Mahr's Religulous was on the other day.  For those of you that don't know, it's a humorous documentary film that looks at all the bizarre contradictions of religion, primarily Christianity.   While it was a funny ride, it propelled my brain on a trajectory towards an uncomfortable state of uncertainty.
I was raised a Catholic.  I now identify as "garden variety Christian" as I do not attend a church or anything of the like.  I am not Bible-thumper out to convert the world.  The theocracy of the Bush years left a most bitter taste in my mouth.  I resent the totalitarian way in which many Christians wish to bludgeon their viewpoint upon the rest of the world.  I spent a week in January of 2009 defending my wife from a Facebook jihad when she admitted that she was an atheist (and the holy warriors were her so-called "friends.")  When street preachers push their wares on me or proudly flaunt their "God hates fags" placards in downtown Chicago, I feel like anyone else.  I want to hit them with the book I'm carrying and knock them into traffic or to toss my latte into their faces, giving them an Anakin Skywalker makeover.  Most of all, I am not blind to the aspects of religion that just make no bloody sense.  When the majority of the world's dogmas are scrutinized with any amount of logic from a thinking person, they end up falling apart.
Do you know what it's like to consider that something you were unswervingly taught to be true might not be?  Let me tell you, it's frightening...and it is something that has been on my mind long before I ever saw this movie.  It is disturbing on a number of levels.  For one, my upbringing always makes me feel like a bolt of lightning will incinerate me at any moment just for thinking these thoughts.  Plus, the phrase "God is always with you" has been a great source of strength in my life.  Take that away and my next automatic thought is "so that means there is nobody looking out for us, we're all on our own, and this universe is the most random damned thing that could ever have arisen into creation.  Great."  Following that thought comes the darkest scenario I could personally conceive of: when we die, there is nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  You blink out of existence.  If there is no God or at the least a guiding spirit, that's the way it must be and Christianity becomes "a dream too tired to come true" as The Replacements would say. 
But wait.  Mahr accurately pointed something else in his documentary.  The story of Jesus is identical to at least three or four other spiritual stories, including ones from Egypt, Sumeria, and even aspects of stories in Buddhism.  Joseph Campbell discovered what he called "the mono myth," the fact that all myths and religions follow the same basic template.  That, to me, means that human beings, even the most brutish and thuggish among us, are all looking for the same things.  We are all mystified by the same questions.  We are all scared of the same things.  Each of us want answers to those same existential questions from the end of Blade Runner: Where did I come from? Where am I going? How long have I got?  To those I would also add, what happens after I die?  
Sadly dear Strangers, I am nowhere near an answer to any of those queries vis-a-vis my own grapples with faith.  The most I can come up with is a spiritual theory of sorts and in light of many of the bizarre subjects I've read about and covered here, I find it to be no less valid than any other.  So here goes.
There is a God.  This being is infinite in power, knowledge, and understanding.  It communicates with us by taking whatever form would be most meaningful to us.  For one culture it is Jesus, for another it is Buddha, Muhammad, and so on down the line, up to and even including deities of Egypt, Native Americans, the Norse, etc.
Then human beings get a hold of this.  Messages, teachings, and stories are then manipulated towards political ends...and we get the kind of thing we see every day.  Someone strapping C4 to their torso and exploding themselves to kill others in the name of their faith.  Someone hijacking a democratic government and proclaiming, "my faith is right, it is the only way to live, and it is what everyone in this great land of ours will be expected to follow.  All heretics found without Bibles shall be burned at the stake.  Amen."   See, my theory does not allow for a "jealous God."  Even an atheist gets the message, they just see it in a different way.  To see an example of this, look up the Bible that was cobbled together by Thomas Jefferson.  He took the New Testament, removed all of the stories of miracles, healings, and walking on water.  But he kept the teachings and the basic philosophy of Christianity, what I would call the real nuts and bolts of it: the way that people are supposed to treat one another.  Brilliant man that Jefferson.  No wonder they named a TV sitcom after him.  Yes, that was a joke.
Exhale.  I've probably stopped making sense.  
A sure sign that I'm on the subject of religion.  


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  1. take drugs. no, seriously. ayahuasca, ibogaine, something of that nature. it will chisel away at the calcified belief systems. you'll hardly be enlightened overnight, but you will take "hard" material reality a little less seriously every time. it gives spirit a little bit of breathing room. that's enough to ease all the bullshit worries of the fear-based mind, which can go around in circles forever on this subject.

    I would also recommend looking into Spiral Dynamics as a metaphor for man's developmental level, religion-wise. every level ("meme" in S.D.) has its own god complex, it's own framing of the world and the people in it. some levels are very base and animalistic, others a little higher -- tribal, for example -- and still others are more rational and impersonal, and still others are "post-rational" -- transpersonal/mystical, you might say. Christianity as it is practiced today is generally toward the lower end of the spectrum. which baffles me, because as I understand it, it started out pretty pure and mystical, and somehow degenerated rapidly into a system of rules and regulations and an absolute obsession with morality (ie, other people's behavior). what's nice about Christianity though, is that it has at least evolved to the point of allowing other beliefs to exist, relatively unmolested. no small accomplishment!

    still, humanity is pretty primitive, and our concepts of God, individually and en masse, are limited by our current level of psychic/psychological development. unfortunately as "advanced" as we have become scientifically, there is still an unnecessary wall between religion and so-called science (scientism). but it's only a matter of time before we as a species evolve beyond that particular blockage, as well.

    still -- and you know this from your familiarity with all this strange and fortean -- the limitations of mass culture can only hold back individuals so much. there is a lot of freedom for individual pursuit of knowledge, assuming one is comfortable with not always being to share that knowledge with others.


  2. Thanks, @dezunne for a great comment. It's most refreshing to discuss this topic with open-minded people who don't want to soundly drub a person about the head and shoulders with a King James Bible.
    I agree with you that psychologically and spiritually, human beings are still primitive. Therefore, our perceptions of God are primitive as well. It makes me wonder about this notion of "light workers." "We who are not as others." People who see things as they should be, who sense that there is more to existence than such rigid, unrelenting dogma.
    I'm glad you're following the blog.