During breakfast one fine morning, my friend and I discussed my ideas for this blog. He remarked that this idea warranted more than a simple blog post and deserved to develop into a collection of short stories. What follows is in Chapter form, is that. Here is the prolog to those stories.
My concept of religion formed over the past six decades. I was educated and raised as a Catholic but encouraged to form my own opinions and develop my sense of spirituality. The circuitous path that brought me here is worth the time and explanation and time, but I’ll be brief.
Being raised a Catholic gives me an excellent basis for my opinion, most of which are opposed to the organized religion of any kind but especially Christians and zealots of any sort. I do believe that following your heart with a modicum of sense is important. Being lost in passion is acceptable in love, but very dangerous in religions. When religious doctrine demand that you follow blindly based on faith or the teaching or interpretations of any human, run away.
My memories of childhood are delightful and full of learning. I was encouraged to learn from any source available. I learned to read and how to study from the Franciscan Nuns and Friars who taught at my parochial schools provided strong encouragement to learn, albeit sometimes painful. What I did learn was where to find information and to use multiple sources before deciding what was true and not. I quickly learned about interpretation and why some sources found it appropriate to manipulate data for me. In short, my education taught me how to learn, something sorely missing in our present educational paradigm. (God, I hate the word paradigm!)
College was a new adventure, and since I had a solid background in how to learn, I had an enlightening time. I was experimenting with life and living it to the fullest. The Vietnam war was in full vigor, and so was the military draft. For those, not familiar with the draft, think conscription. Our Government came up with interesting little games to entertain themselves to fill the fodder quotas. My all-time favorite was the birthday lottery. There was some process wherein they drew numbers that would correspond to a birthday, and that was your assigned ranking in the draft. I was assigned lucky number 15!
Before the ax fell and I was welcomed into the grinder, I volunteered for service. I decide on the US Air Force as a safer bet rather than being assigned to a military branch I enlisted the Air Force. After multiple tests and evaluations, I was offered my choice of careers as an enlisted person since I had not completed college which is a prerequisite to being an officer and a gentleman. I chose Titan II missile school. My decision followed the relatively sound logic, I thought. Since the Titan II was based throughout the United States and they don’t use them in Vietnam, my chances of being in harm’s way would be very slim. I forgot about the government’s propensity for changing its mind. After months of training on the technical aspects and maintenance of nuclear weapons delivery vehicles, I was assigned my first duty station. The Titan II Missile Maintenance Squadron in Tucson, AZ. I arrived in July of 1972 and was promptly involuntarily cross-trained. What I became is unimportant. Tucson is the setting, and I was destined for South East Asia. My attempts to dodge the war landed me right in the middle of it. Actually, above it… most of the time…
The interesting part of these changes and my seeming dilemma are the people I met and their impact on where I am spiritually. I learned about many Christian sects and belief systems and how they all varied from Catholicism, from each other, and especially from the Bible. I discovered selective-Christianity; the faith-based system that allows their practitioners to exclude the hard parts and live the easy ones. It is commonly called Cafeteria-Christianity. I suppose it can apply to all religions too, but I believe it’s typified by Christians.
I began a personal survey of religions across the world that intersected with some great people and their faiths. Many of them were eager to share their personal stories. Specifically, why they chose their particular beliefs and that impact on their lives. What I discovered along the way is that we invented god/gods for a variety of reasons. What I find most telling is our perversion, especially the European corruption of religion for the sake of control. I suppose using religion as a control mechanism, or club, to modify societal behaviors is noteworthy, but the champions of them all are the Islamic zealots.
I became a pseudo-scholar of the bible and other religious writings, scouring them for truth and insight. I looked at the literal translations from Aramaic to Greek to English hoping to find enlightenment. What I discovered is that we created a mythology to explain what cannot be explained.
Religion uses a reward/punishment process; “The carrot and stick” mentality. If you do good and follow the laws of the faith, you are rewarded, and if not, there is a special place of perpetual torture for you. It’s not hard to see how the faithful fall in line. The Islamic sects are masters of this theological coercion. They convince their followers to commit suicide to punish infidels, those that don’t believe as they do, and by doing so, they attain the highest level of heavenly rewards.
*Note: Any religion that advocates murder or suicide is not… NOT Christian or based on any godly text or teaching. Advocating war is the other dichotomy. We’ll get to this later.
Teachings of tolerance and forgiveness are not part of our general character at present. In fact, most Christians adopt an intolerant, aggressive, and hyper-judgmental attitude. The Moral Majority and the Christian Right are neither moral nor right. They ignore their own most rudimentary teachings altogether in favor of a zealous stance against most things biblical. The idea of forgiveness and love are passé concepts from this dusty old tome. The Ten Commandments are relics of days long past. The “Golden Rule” and His new teachings of “Love God and your neighbor above all else” are footnotes on the Christian Cafeteria menu. They are inappropriate or irrelevant in our modern world. Of course, we’ve outgrown them. They no longer apply to our modern and more sophisticated lives. Much like the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights, they are archaic and too strident to be useful. There is no wiggle room and indeed no room for interpretation. Funny, maybe that’s what the founders had in mind from the beginning.
Modern Christianity and many modern Western religions adopt a cafeteria system of belief. They choose what they believe and follow. Entire parts of their Master Plan are discarded. They are judge, jury, and executioner for all of creation. They take on the job of the Almighty, Himself. I imagine this extends to all extraterrestrial civilizations as well regardless of their intellectual or societal evolution. What surprises to this day is professing to Christian and living a pagan life. It bothers me… I have met very few Christians that live what they profess. Is Christianity the religion of hypocrisy?
Religion, like everything, evolves. It becomes what we need it to be because we invented it to define God. As we discover the vastness of our universe, we invented god/s to feel included and to provide order. We created Supreme Beings that govern and rule every facet of our pitiful existence. What we neglected to recognize and even admit is that god is a fabrication. If not, then we left out the part where god explained our purpose. Christians insert a few clauses about being here to do His will and to sing His praises. But according to legend, He created the Angles for that purpose. Why did he need us?
Instead of helping and supporting our fellow passengers, we condemn them. Rather than seeking harmony with nature, we fight to control and destroy it. Our all-consuming greed drives us to conquer and destroy it. We abuse this precious gift, and by doing so, we devalue it.
Don’t mistake this as an anti-spiritual rant. To the contrary, I have a deeply spiritual side. It’s religion and what man does in god’s name I vehemently oppose.
One would think that our creation of god would at least require us to maintain some sort of balance or consistency with each other and at least with our environment. The only society that had such a sense of balance were the indigenous people of Australia and North America. The Christian conquerors called them savages and murdered them in the name of God.
Why would we create an immutable and omnipotent being that changes? Our creation of various deities throughout time is our attempt to blame what we cannot explain and to make us feel connected to the inexplicable universe. We posture against all things natural to avoid personal responsibility. This creation is our bridge to the infinite. Being inconsistent beings ourselves, we invent being in our image. That means they are fickle and inconsistent like us. They share the same frailties and desires as we. Our last invention called “God Almighty” however is a little different in that He was initially intractable and authoritarian, then softened a bit as He matured. After he destroyed mankind for sinful behavior, He promises never to destroy it again cementing His promise with a sign – we call it a rainbow.
The fact that the sun raises every morning and sets every night is not a wonder of religion, although we attribute the science to a master plan called creation. It is a physical manifestation of our planet in our solar system. Our solar system obeys laws and has order. We’ve discovered most of the discoverable science know, and those things we cannot yet imagine we relegate to the Great Spirit. Interestingly, His domain shrinks every day as we discover more about our surroundings. You would think that as our understanding of our physical world increased, that our acceptance of our place in it would increase to include the need for balance in our lives. The form doesn’t matter. Our realization of our place on this planet does.
We, as a species are a demented and deluded collection of barely sentient, nearly self-aware, newly upright ape descendants. We believe that our incredible powers of observation give us rights over everything in our view and includes other species and those in our species that we judge subordinate in intelligence or capacity. These assumed rights and powers over all we survey allowed us to create a God Almighty to sanction our actions as civilizing and converting the savages. Saving them from His wrath because they are not baptized in the blood of The Christ. They are not saved by our definition, therefore doomed to everlasting torment in Hell. Their charge was to save the world.
Our fabrication and inventions and assembly of texts written millennia ago all attempt to convey a message used to control and subjugate each other, to compartmentalize, to classify, and to sequester each other. Instead of teaching a much simpler concept we completely obscured the intended message. As Bill & Ted phrased it: “Be excellent to each other…”
If Jesus came back today would He be welcome or would we crucify Him again? How would we receive the other great prophets of religion, Mohamed or Buddha?
This is what I wish to explore in future installments.