Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Thought Project: Week 3

How has religion shaped your beliefs in the world?


Religion shaped my most basic concepts of good & evil, effectively ingraining in me the accepted modes of behaviour in civilized culture.

But now I think that religion is society's antibody against chaos and anarchy. It's the human collective's way of coping with ignorance and uncertainty...death & the unexplained. It's the beginner's course you have to pass so you can move on to more complex aspects of human life like art, science, politics, & porn.

It's a bunch of great stories about great human beings and some cool stuff about creation & heaven & hell & nirvana and all that. These are some of greatest stories ever told--and great stories shape the world.

- Paolo

My religion has made me believe that "truth" is relative, religion is relative, and that we have to be tolerant about our beliefs of the world against others beliefs based on what others see as "truth".

I was baptized Roman Catholic by a father who is very open minded, who never gives you the answer but as many options, and a mother who questioned whether the virginity of Mary makes Christ less or more the son of God (she believes she could have been a non virgin and the son of God would still be divine). She practically questioned every dogma of the Vatican Church. As a child i blindly followed the ways of organized religion such as the Roman Catholics' way as I really didn't have a choice in a dictatorial Chinese school.

Fast forward to the future and I'm painting the town red on weekends and sleep through sundays. I start questioning my religion, its history and how it came to be, politics of my Church, politics in general, religion as propaganda, why we are here and why my church is so hard headed. I was/am disappointed by the Vatican's actions. I see how many mistakes and imperfections my Church has. I see why they have to act that way (hard headed infalliables) and half accept them as such. I'm still very against the infallibility of the Pope.

After this tug of war of questions I realized that I personally was not built for organized religion. All the questions have actually made my faith in my God stronger but not my faith in the Vatican Church. I feel for people who are afraid to question their religion, thinking that faith is just believing cuz it is so. But I won't ram that down their throats. If they are happy that way, that's good. After I was content with myself and my religion, I lightly treaded on whether other people of other religions had questions and issues like mine. Many did...and I realized we were all in the same boat. I've never looked at my religion as better or above another but I question the actions of other religions too. In the end it has made me tolerant of other peoples' ways brought about by their religious education/beliefs. Not to say I accept all their ways. As I've mentioned...I was not built for organized religion that may influence people the wrong way. I see organized religion as too powerful a tool for good or bad... good or bad being relative.

- Jesus, your reluctant Roman Catholic

i just realized, upon thinking of my answer to this question, that i've had several varying influences religion-wise while i was growing up.

my mom was a catholic. though not exactly devout, she makes it a point to go to church on sundays. being my mother, she was the first to drag me to mass, which i started to resist when i was about 13. i told her that going to church was not something anyone should be forced to do, and she agreed.

my cousin girlie was also quite a strong influence. she was my roommate when i was in high school, as she lived with us throughout her college years. back then, she had just joined a born again christian group, and she was really taking her faith seriously. she gave me my first NIV bible, and i spent quite a lot of time poring over the pages, lingering on proverbs and psalms.

yet another strong "force" was my uncle, who was (or still is, i'm not sure) an atheist. every time my cousin would talk to him about christ, he'd scoff and laugh, and insist there isn't one, and that it's useless to believe in a supreme being.

still, even with their presence, i was never swayed toward a single belief. somehow, i always found something lacking in each. with catholicism, i wasn't too keen on the idea of saints and statues and rosaries. when i pray, i want it to come from me, not from something i memorized out of a pamphlet. i didn't get why we had to stand up, sit, and kneel at certain portions of the mass. couldn't we just listen to what the priest was saying?

my cousin's born again christian ways were a bit more acceptable, but i found some of their "rules" too... conservative, i guess. like how they weren't allowed to marry anyone outside of their group. and they way they expressed their beliefs was too much. i wasn't the type to be overly enthusiastic and expressive about these things, so maybe it wasn't for me.

atheism was something i found convenient for a time, because it was easy to just negate every religious argument. it's easy to be bitter in a crumbling world, after all. but, i couldn't quite fully embrace it, because there are things in my head that i want explained (not literally in my head).

so early on, i was taught to question, which i now find valuable. philosophy class gave me more "tools" to ask more questions and try to find out what it is i really believed in. and finally, a friend gave me a book--conversations with god by neale donald walsch, and somehow, a lot of my questions were answered. the book features a different take on god, a sort of make-your-own-faith kind of thing. it opened my eyes to a supreme being who didn't judge, who was happy to just sit high up there and watch us get confused with life, who didn't care whether he was feared or revered or respected, a god who thinks blasphemy is hogwash. it made me realize that things don't always, or are never, black and white, how crimes such as stealing and killing can be "right."

i haven't finished the book(s) from cover to cover, but i get where the author is going with what i've read so far, and it fits into my beliefs, and answered my questions. it made me see the world, and everybody else, in a different light, taught me to look at things from a different angle.

Here's an excerpt from Conversations with God (Book 2):

Author: "...how can any theology work without a system of Reward and Punishment?"

and "God" answers:

Everything depends on what you perceive to be the purpose of life--and therefore the basis of the theology.

If you believe that God is a vengeful God, jealous in His love and wrathful in His anger, then your theologies are perfect.

If you believe God is a peaceful God, joyous in Her* love and passionate in Her* ecstasy, then your theologies are useless.

I tell you this: the purpose of life is not to please God. The purpose of life is to know, and to recreate, Who You Are.

(*"God" interchanges the use of He and She to refer to the supreme being to "jar you out of your parochial thinking.")

and this is something that i could nod in agreement to, how such a few words unlock a lot of things. this is why i live the way i do, just doing things the way i feel is right, not forced or restrained by anything. but at the same time, i learned not to look down on people who don't think the way i do, because, well, we're all just here to learn, right?

- Djong

What I am thankful for is that I learned (and believe) in "goodness".

Growing up Catholic, I was taught that following a certain path reaps certain rewards, that "going astray" results in punishment. As I got older, I realized that such teachings are a little too judgemental for who we say is a "forgiving god". If my religion teaches that I should aspire to be like jesus (who is divine in human form, the epitome of goodness) because he shows us the "best person we can be, then I don't think he would be too judgemental about certain paths...especially since at my imperfect "best", I am tolerant.

Over the years, I've modified my catholicism to fit in with personal beliefs and experiences. I believe in magic, love, that people can be divine while on earth, that the whole earth has one big collective soul...I'm still trying to weave all that into a cohesive belief system but I'm feeling more spiritual with a journey like this. Ultimately, I think that honors the free will we were born with.

So there. Plenty of teachings but only two things seem to have stuck: the concept of good, and the beauty of free will. The rest I call to fore when they resound with truth, from the deepest part of my guts and at the root of my soul.

I believe in a higher power, yes. But I think the name/identity of that higher power is so much more expansive than any religion, or all religions combined.

In a way, I'm also lucky to have had more open-minded catholic religion teachers who taught me to appreciate the bible as some form of literature. It makes it so much more real to me than history.

Do I make any sense?

(What heretical ideas!!!!!!!! Kidding. Thanks for sharing, Z. - Sarah)

- Zane

I am sick of The City’s loose change and spare sanity sucked up by and lived off by an ever-increasing pile of parasitical shit-ticks incapable of standing up and dealing with the world on their own

That quote is taken from Warren Ellis’ TRANSMETROPOLITAN, a comic series following the exploits of Spider Jerusalem, outlaw journalist. Since a the quotes are going to eat up my word count, all I can say about TRANSMET is that you should go read it.

I should start with some context: I studied in an Opus Dei-run school for eleven years (6 to 17 years old) and in a catholic university for four. My parents could be considered devout Catholics. The Catholic Faith has been an unavoidable part of my entire life.

And really, I have no real problem with that. These days, it tends to be very…intellectually hip to condemn “organized religion”. Religion and faith are for the “unenlightened”.

I still consider myself a practicing Catholic (albeit an imperfect one, obviously. The only perfect Catholic got nailed to a tree 2000 years ago). I still go to Church every week and on holidays of obligation. I do my best to, at the very least, comply with the few things my Faith asks of me. You can take the boy out of Church, but you can’t take the Church out of the boy.

Why do I bother? The inherent hypocrisy in the structure of the Catholic Church, the intolerance towards differing points of view, the manipulation and exploitation of the faithful – these are all pretty good reasons to just say “fuck it” and go looking for the next path to Divine Enlightenment. Except, all the other religions tend to do the same.

I go to Mass every Sunday in the hope that maybe, just maybe, I might pick up something new from the sermon. The broad strokes of Catholicism, of any religion, I’m convinced, is to try and make humanity go beyond ourselves and just…be better. Of course, it’s a win-some-lose-some proposition.

The rest…the gossiping old ladies, the fatwas, the righteous condemnation of evil, the “us vs. them” stuff…THAT’S the opiate of the masses. That’s the product of overzealous, ignorant, or Machiavellian snobs who use religion as an excuse to further their own agendae. That’s not religion…that’s politics. It’s very human beings acting under the pretense of the divine.

The moment religion stops being about improving yourself as a human, and more about frightening and manipulating people into obedience, then it ceases to be a religion. It ceases to be divine. It’s just…exploitation, the promotion of fear and ignorance, and even hate-mongering.

Back to you, Spider:

Fucking vampires sucking the will from people whose only goddamn crimes were to be frightened and tired!

And you don’t help them! You don’t listen to them! They get no Truth from you! All you do is scare them with stories of something that doesn’t exist!

- Jon Z.

Upstarts. Baptist Vatican. Born into the faith. I can't say much more than that right now, so I will update and edit my longish draft later. Yeah, I pretty much suck.

- Sarah


Blogger Penny Lane said...

"It's the human collective's way of coping with ignorance and uncertainty...death & the unexplained. "
-->simply put, it's what people turn to when they can't find tangible answers to what the hell is happening with their lives. it's what they resort to when the powerlessness is beginning to eat them alive.

i know that's what i am doing.

7:13 PM  
Blogger sarah said...

i hope you find comfort in it. =)

8:20 PM  

Hit me with your best shot

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