Friday, March 30, 2012

Religion Isn't All That Bad

The problem with religion is that Americans basically only see the candy cane/mardi gras/easter egg side of it. We see American Flag book covers on bibles and Christianity invoked in our battle with Middle Eastern Children. No wonder you get some head shaking.
"Religion causes war. It's evil."

And I've been guilty of that reaction too. It's very easy to look at religion in America objectively and see it as purely a contrivance and a fraud basically trying to get money from old people and justify a decade [millenium] of senseless slaughter. Ok. But I've pondered this perplexing mess and have decided that religion in America is not religious. It's like saying McDonalds serves food. In other words, judging religion based on what you see today (mass exploitation of Jesus for profit) is no different than saying the sport Football is evil because there have been coaches who sexually molest their players. I'll even go so far as to say that since the institution of church in America and the bible is almost completely exploited to the point that I don't know of an example in my travels of all 49 states on the Continent that would contradict your belief that religion is evil. So if every sports team had an incidence of sex abuse (not far from the truth) you still couldn't say football is evil because it is used to exploit kids. You might as well say that sodomy causes first downs . That analogy would look like this:

Religion             Football
--------      =     ---------
War                    Sex Abuse

This question came to me because Bill Maher made a movie called "Religulous" and his whole premise is wrong. He's searching the world for an example of pure religion, a rational justification of it, but that doesn't exist in any recognizable form anymore. He's 250 years too late as the Puritains and Quakers have been replaced by porn kings and big macs. But that doesn't mean religion is essentially ridiculous. No. And football is not to blame for sex abuse. See, I feel that your average Jehovah pedaling truth of death and resurrection has as much to do with religion as sodomy has to do with punt coverage. Were Puritains and Quakers "real" religion? God, I hope so. They would all be unquestionably horrified by the state of the country they started. They would think most of us, including the Unitarians and Methodists, were involved with witchcraft and should be burned at the stake. I have no doubt of this because when I read the CNN comments every third remark has something to do with killing someone for being evil. If the average CNN reader feels that way then I'm sure the Puritains would simply declare America a lost cause, spawns of the devil, hopelessly corrupt. And it might be a lost cause. This is the central debate I have not found a conclusion to: If America stands for progress and progress leads to an environmental catastrophe, and progress means finding a way to survive in the man-made environmental catastrophe THEN WHAT THE FUCK IS THE DEFINITION OF PROGRESS? If you go with the flow then I'm pretty sure that's like the Germans ignoring the ash floating from the strange chimneys for 5 years. But if you don't go with the flow then you end up in the police blotter. You've got a powerful church that manipulates the masses for profit but it's so widespread that it can't be stopped. And if it can't be stopped and you can't ignore it then you are living by the whim of an insane and megalomaniacal monster in a funny hat. But I digress...

This is an ongoing debate that robs Oggy of many hours of peaceful sleep. Some people study ant habits, some study distant galaxies, some engineer better artificial valves for pig hearts. Oggy ponders these complicated questions because he wants to understand the world he lives in. Let me stop talking about myself in third person and say that I was hooking the last strands on my rug when I felt that it could not be done; my attempt to fully understand the human condition is an impossible task. Then I think that all researchers will eventually doubt their abilities. The good ones continue in the face of failure. The bad ones become politicians. Astronauts explore outer space; Oggy explores inner space...and he is lost without oxygen and no map. If I could start all over and accept the headlines as irrelevant facts then I would do that, but that's also impossible. So, as a weaver by name and trade I am cutting the tether. You either go forward or you stop. We don't live forever and I was racing around on my moped today and several times was nearly killed. A worker on a bridge was sucked into the Mississippi in an elevator. Dead. We get a limited amount of time to raid the refrigerator of humanity and then it is gone, passed on to another greedy generation. I do not think I will find a conclusion to the madness of life but I might have some artistic expression that will be a piece in the puzzle. I feel that is worthwhile. We live and die. Science has allowed us to live longer but Religion, I think, started as a way to finish the puzzle of the human condition before it turned into a crazy obsession and that crazy obsession led to the hotly debated details that separate the religions. The details are irrelevant but they've been bastardized and used to kill...and so the details have morphed religion into something unrecognizable. It does not comfort. It is invoked by sellers of snake oil and is the ponzi scheme's ultimate rationale. But that isn't the nature of religion any more than sex scandals are in the nature of college sports. It would be like trying to convince someone to stop liking Culture Club songs. How can you rationalize Karma Chameleon?

I got off track because the tornadoes are blowing my van across the yellow brick road, but I want to close with a memory of Gislane LaChance in Quebec, the only Religious man I've met in North America. There was no rhetoric, no invoking God for his favors. God was another name for fate, fate that controlled the winds and the rainfall. God didn't control the direction a tree fell when it was cut by Gislane for his lumber mill, but God did control the direction the tree fell when the wind blew it down. But once the tree lay on the ground then it was in Gislane's domain. God made the chicken and Gislane killed and ate it. Simple. That's the difference. Simple but true. So, I know there are people who are religious in North America but Bill Maher* will not casually walk down the street or knock on a church door to meet one of them here or in Jerusalem or the Vatican or Mecca. Those are all masquerade balls with open invitations. No, religion is rare in this Christian country. It never had anything to do with the birth of Jesus or white doves. Easter is coming up and that has nothing to do with religion either. Easter is about exalting our details of creation so they overshadow your details of creation. That has more to do with the insecurity of the devout than anything else.

Now I'm going to get back to pondering the universe in my insecure shame palace.

*Maher really plays slow pitch softball with his agenda driven movie. It's weird because he's clearly trying to champion reason in place of faith. But the easiest argument against that is, why bother? Who cares if we know dinosaurs didn't live with humans 25,000 years ago? Who cares if we can cure cancer? Who cares that the constellations are distant suns and not actual celestial beings? Without spirituality the realities of life are too much to deal with. He attacks Mormon beliefs in front of a palatial building that pretty much proves that the Mormons are not full of shit. The proof that religions work is in the fact they have lasted and the infrastructure they have produced. Yes, they are snake oil salesmen, but their snake oil lasts. People say religion is a crutch and I agree. It's a crutch for an animal alone on a rock hurtling toward death. Maher has no consoling words for our condition. God does. That's the difference he never admits.

Maher says, "If you belonged to a political party or a social club that was tied to as much bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, violence, and sheer ignorance as religion is, you'd resign in protest."
But he's wrong. He's projecting his beliefs onto others. In fact, he's pinpointed the exact reason people accept religion: because it's a club and it gives them strength to be on the same page as others. Loyalty means accepting beliefs and defending them. They wouldn't resign in protest because they would probably try to affiliate the club with the religion and reduce the number of Christmas cards they have to send out. Maher says a devout person can't know his fate after death, "Because I don't know what's going to happen...and you don't posses mental powers I do not."
That's his basic contradiction. I don't believe in God so you shouldn't either. (add a haughty laugh)
He preached to the choir in this film and he knows it and I'm almost glad he doesn't have a good enough argument to convert a single person's belief. Heck, he made me MORE religious! Amen.

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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.