Isn’t lucky that I walk this planet avoiding confrontation and ordure? It makes for a much less stressful life in the long run. With this in mind, a quick discussion on religion, belief, and, specifically, gods.
A few posts I have seen on various blogs (including my own) have brought up the subject of dying and, stemming from this, the subject of God. Note here that I am capitalising the first letter of the word god to signify that I am assuming the comments were referring to the god of the Christians; God, rather than a god.
When you scratch the surface of the human condition you find that there are actually quite a few “gods” around. Hindus have a fair few just for themselves and from what I can see they take a variety of forms some of which are, quite frankly, trouser-fillingly scary. Christians seem to have a bit of a hard time deciding who is right: Catholics and Protestants (who incongruously in their creed declare “…and one holy catholic and apostolic church”) seem at odds on the exact definition and some key points but largely agree on the fact that there is one omnipotent God (capital G) and that he loves us all like naughty children. Various branches of Christianity then seem to divide on certain elements of their faith such as whether or not there is a metaphysical Satan who actively goes around trying to lure people into badness or just a more general infection of devilishness “you’re all bad but it’s ok because there is a way out of this if you just do what we tell you”.
I’m going to avoid discussion of things like cults or people that believe in lizard aliens or even those who allegedly succeed in becoming Operating Thetans. That’s just too weird.
Jah seems to be a reasonably clear-cut incarnation of the Christian God with added sacred herb (before you Catholics get cross, I could go on about the incense and bells during communion – it could descend into a full-on debate on icongraphy and subliminal distraction). Rastafarians, of course, believing some fundamentals about the current life being inherently wrong and that it’s Babylon and that they must strive for salvation from it. The non-cutting of the hair and the dietary and proscribed female behavior bizarrely having parallels with that of the orthodox Jewish faith. Jewish customs and religion of course has equal similarities in the Muslim faith with regard to the way that food should be viewed as being important to a spiritual person and that – quite literally – the believer’s body is a temple. Respect for the religion and religious practice of course famously extending to the way animals are slaughtered and prepared for consumption. Funnily enough, the animals one is expected to avoid tend to be those that carry the most natural parasites or risk of food poisoning, an excellent side effect.
I do have a hard time understanding the claims of Al Qaeda that seem to allow cold-blooded murder (judging by the videos of poor victims like Ken Bigley). This would seem to be completely at odds with what I have read, first hand, of the genuine Muslim faith. But then a supposedly fervent Christian Tony Blair and equally devout George W. Bush went on to sanction horrific actions of their own – more than once. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth? Surely not.
There are of course other faiths like Buddhism which in its non Tibetan form actively says that Buddha was not a god at all and that all of life is a creation and that bad is bad and good is good. Karma – the central tenet – appears to be “what goes around comes around” ergo if you spend too much time doing crappy things then crappy things will happen to you; be good and good things come back. For a long time now I’ve believed this and I feel a much more free and happy person for recognising that shit happens but it doesn’t mean you have to be shitty. It’s perhaps the closest to a religious belief I have.
I really can’t believe in a god, however you capitalise the word or whatever your exact set of rules/beliefs are. Many religions actively promote the idea that people who question the words and history of their specific religion are evil or in some way deserving of ostracisation. The fall-back plan seems to be to subtly say “ah, you just don’t understand. If you opened up your heart/mind then you would be enlightened”. I have tried this and, quite honestly I beg to differ. Even to question religion in some countries is a serious criminal offence – in many cases punishable by long terms of unpleasantly harsh imprisonment or a generally violent death. Most religions suggest that people who do not share their views should be convinced to share them, with impunity and severe predudice. In some cases this has become an act of faith in itself such as the Mormons (who must have skins thicker than a rhino and a virtually unshakable faith).
I always found the Quakers to be an interesting bunch – it would appear that they welcome open and frank discussion and quite widely have members (“friends”) who openly describe themselves as Buddhists, Muslims and even atheists. Interesting.
I still don’t understand why priests, bishops, vicars and so on have to wear vestments. This seems a very odd thing to do and smacks of “look at me I am obviously important because I’m wearing odd clothes that you haven’t got”. Perhaps someone would like to explain to me why vestments are worn?
Note that I am making a big differentiation here between questioning and discussing beliefs and disrespecting them and slagging them off. I have no idea who, if anyone, is right and everybody has the right to believe what they want to believe – but that works both ways.
But diversity worldwide seems common. They can’t all be right.