Hello, can you hear me?

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.


11 thoughts on “Hello, can you hear me?

  1. Ok, read the article about vestments and, really, it’s a prime example of why, in some ways, it could be viewed that vestments do indeed create an exclusivity and differentiation that, according to my understanding and interpretation, Jesus himself would not be best pleased by. Surely He tried to get across the point that God (capital G) is for everyone at a very personal level? Vestments really smack of an old boy’s club mentality which is a little bit unhealthy and goes way beyond the spirit of an inclusive Christianity?

    Incidentally, why on earth does his site list a load of saints down the right hand side along with “Ora Pro Nobis” (Trans: “Pray for us” – in Latin) – this is so bizarre. Why use Latin? Why why why? It’s just so how to exclude people and add a ridiculous faux air of mystery. Trust me – I am familiar with this concept; why do you think computer people speak so much techno-babble – it’s virtually the same thing.

    Said, of course, entirely from the point of view of a non Christian – feel free to tell me I’m talking bollocks. 🙂

  2. According to a link I found: “The language of the Church was originally Aramaic and the Mass was said in that language in the first and most of the second century. Then the Church started using Koine Greek as the language of the Church for a while. Latin was then considered the more scholarly language and became the language used by the Church. Latin is the language of the Church and has been since the 4th century. For centuries the Mass or worship service as it would be called by Protestants was said only in Latin. The reason was that all Catholics understood Latin and wherever they went in the world they could understand the Mass. Today the Mass is still said in Latin in most areas as well as the vernacular language of the area. ” This was posted in Yahoo Answers by a priest.

    Computer people speak techno babble? 🙂 Only if you are an end-user or a really bad techie. hehe

  3. The notion that worshipping a lizard (which does physically exist) is more or less cultish than the concept of worshipping a Being who is allegedly capable of being in all places at all times, that sees and listens to everything but doesn’t physically exist is ridiculous.

    And if you prefer looking at things in time-established method, Europe’s oldest religion is Druidism. All forms of the Judaic faith (Christianity, Muslim, Judaism) are, temporally speaking, Johnny-come-lately cults.

    I am more in tune with Zen/Buddhism and find every aspect of the Judaic faiths to be on a par with Scientology and all of the other cults.

    Indeed, the Judiac faiths are as manipulative and controlling as Scientology (though they like to think otherwise).

  4. Faith, of any sort is there to provide people with three things. Three things the human spirit is vulnerable to.

    1. Purpose
    (Come on sing along…
    Why are we here, what’s life all about?
    Is God really real, or is there some doubt?)

    2. To feel like they belong.
    (In England religion this has now been replaced it seems almost entirely by the either ‘Football’ and or the ‘Jones’ effect. Being that of trying to keep up with yet another mythological belief, what and how we should be achieving in life determined by what we need and need to portray to be deemed a success, resulting in endless visits to home improvement and shopping malls…)

    3. To answer the ‘Big’ question, why are we here.
    (Not that it answers the question very convincingly, sorry outdated dogma based on conclusions made when the world was flat and Jerusalem was the centre of the Universe don’t really cut it, why can’t we just accept ‘I don’t know’ or ‘Fluke’?)

    As a devout reborn again atheist (which includes where-ever possible the renouncing of football and the ‘Jones’ effect), my issue with almost all faiths is the way they’re administered. Greed and power always corrupt and instead of preaching a simple message, they’re used as a form for controlling the masses. Now, I know society needs control, but I really want to vote for mine and the threat of eternal damnation doesn’t wash with me.

  5. You describe a western form of karma. The original and, I think, better form of karma is that good deeds encourage others to perform good deeds and the act of being good leads to an overall increase in shiny goodness for everyone. You may personally never receive back the effects of your own good deeds but that is secondary to the need for being good. Similarly bad deeds beget more badness so we should avoid them even if we could’ve gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for you pesky kids and your dang dawg.

    There are far too many flavours of religion out there for anyone to make a logical decision over. Far too many. Better to reject them all and live a life as free from harm as is practical. If I am wrong about the existence of a deity or deities then surely their omnipotence and fair judgment will take that into account when handing out detention slips for Hades. If not then I’m better off not going to that kind of paradise.

  6. Actually HF if you look at the front page of my poetry site you’ll see that I subscribe wholly to an altruistic view of Karma of the type you describe. I simplified it a little during my (quite wordy) summary of religious beliefs.. 🙂

  7. The word “catholic” derives from the Greek “katholikos” meaning “universal” so a catholic church is one that is open to everyone and anyone, without exclusion.
    The word “Catholic” with a capital C refers to those branches of the church that follow certain traditions, such as bishops, vestments, etc.
    Thus there is no inconsistency in the affirmation of belief in one holy “catholic” church by a so-called Protestant believer, since a Protestant, in the true sense of that word, is merely one who denies the authority of the Bishop of Rome.

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