Posts Tagged ‘spirituality

07
Oct
11

Religion by Any Other Name

With fair regularity, I’ll see an atheist post something online, whether as a tweet, a comment to a blog post, or whatever, basically saying how much better a world it would be if we just eliminated religion altogether.

How much less hatred there would be. How much less unkindness. How much less discrimination and abuse. How much less divisiveness. How much less hypocrisy. How much less war. How much less violence. How much less shame. How much less…

…and sometimes, as I read this, my sense of “What damn world do you live in” surges up like a food-poisoned dinner, and I respond, online, to explain to them patiently that it wouldn’t make a damn bit of difference.

They almost never agree.

You see, I bring up very valid points. In fact, my points are virtually unassailable, though the atheists insist on stubbornly assailing them anyway, showing that they can be just as pigheaded as fundamentalist Christians or uber-Orthodox Jews or extremist Muslims.

You see, they will point to things like the Crusades, or the Spanish Inquisition, or a host of other well-known historical events, and say, “See, that’s what religion does!” In addition to ignoring every good thing that flowed from religion, they fail, more importantly, to take heed of the fact that in all those cases, the impetus behind the evils was rarely anything religious. Oh, it may have been billed as such, but it’s always about power, wealth, land, etc. And usually, there is a ruler (king, empress, pharaoh, dictator, etc.) or a ruling class behind it all, using religion as the rallying point or prodding the religious institutions and using them as tools for the dirty work.

When I point out that capitalism (a flawed institution that I both love and loathe) and communism (great idea, but impossible to execute humanely in large populations) have been responsible for more suffering and persecution than religion in modern times, I’m ignored, and told about how much influence Christians have on the political process.

When I point out that non-theistic liberals have stomped on as many freedoms at times as right-wingers, I’m met with a blank stare (of the virtual/electronic variety).

When I note that so much of the violence in Africa is caused by warlords and ethnic conflicts…and add that so many Eastern European and Asian conflicts are also ethnically/culturally based, I’m told that really, it was religion that started those divisions originally, and thus religion is to blame.

This is why I have, at times, compared atheism to being a religion unto itself, because its most firm adherents aren’t content to practice their beliefs. No, they seek converts. They enact doctrine. They begin to exclude people and judge people. I’ve known some great atheists and count many of them among my friends. But just like church-folk, I find many of them abrasive and pompous. They have dogma, too, and they can be guilty of evil. Some of the most evil bastards in modern history were functionally agnostic, truly agnostic or atheist.

What irks me is that even if you can make the claim that religion is responsible for most of the world’s woes, past and present (which you can’t because at best it’s an one-fourth partner along with economic, social and political/ideological doctrines), eliminating it won’t help.

If you outlaw religion, or zap everyone with a mind-ray that makes them reject the notion of any kinds of spiritual higher powers (God, Goddess, loa, Vishnu, etc.), they will make their own faiths all over again.

I see this so clearly these days in online communities.

Mrs. Blue still reads many parenting/mommy blogs and visits parenting forums at times, and I see all the time how many “non-religious” women have essentially defined motherhood as a sort of goddess role. It is sacred. It is for women alone. The children belong to the mother. The father is there to serve. The role of motherhood should be honored as a special calling and duty. Now, I think the world of women, mothers or not. But the level of importance that many women in these online venues attach to their roles goes beyond the reasonable and laudable. It goes into worship. It goes into judgment and exclusion and excommunication of those who don’t agree 100% with the official doctrine. If you dare to raise your voice at your child or spank them even once, you are shunned. If you are a father who dares to look at porn or want sex occasionally outside of making a new baby,  you are sick.

But hey, it’s not just the extreme moms.

Let’s take sexuality. Yoga, while spiritual, tends to be pretty much clear of deism for most people (at least here in the United States). It’s a way to connect in non-physical as well as physical ways, but it’s more about calming, centering and clearing out the detritus. And yet I’ve seen tales enough of Tantric Yoga people who damn near form cults of sexuality. Or, as long as we’re on the topic of sexuality, how about BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, masochism)? I’ve made no secret that I probably know more about kink than most of you dear readers. I don’t practice BDSM myself, but I’m well-acquainted with many folks who are, and I keep tabs on things, and you know what I see? Lots of worship. People who reject the notion of God now give themselves over to another human. Not simply as a submissive who gets whipped occasionally or tied up or insulted, but who gives over all the choices to some dominant man or woman and literally worships that person. I’ve seen folks so devoted to the BDSM lifestyle that actual sexual activity in a BDSM context is rare or non-existent. They are fulfilled by the surrender or the control (depending on whether they are the sub or dom) and they find it spiritually fulfilling.

Humans seek the divine, and they will find it almost anywhere. There are fundie Christians who can twist the Gospel to make it look like Jesus taught the value of free-market Capitalism. I kid you not. Jesus noted that money/greed was a kind of god, and humans have proved him right, as they set themselves up as gods based on money, and demand their “tithes” of the more lowly. I see people get quite riled up over food and what is the “right” way to eat and to grow/raise food for us to be good humans and to be right with the Earth.

Spirituality is part and parcel of being human, and that is why the majority of the population believes in a higher power. Even if we’re wrong about that and the atheists are right, it’s clearly hardwired into us on some level that we seek an ethereal connection to something beyond the temporal lives we are locked into. We seek enlightenment. We seek to get outside ourselves. We seek validation from unseen forces.

Whether gods exist and we acknowledge them, or whether we create them and invest them with pseudo-reality…it doesn’t matter in the end. You cannot eliminate religion. If you strike it down in one form, it will rise up in another. If you’re an atheist and you’ve managed to shed all that, cool for you. You’re a rarity. Just like geniuses are. Or savants. Or true artists. Or serial killers, for that matter. You are not the norm if you have completely severed yourself from spiritual notions. That doesn’t make you bad or flawed, but it means you don’t see the world like most people do. You are an aberration. Perhaps a beautiful and wonderful one, but an aberration all the same. And, most likely, the majority of atheists who think they reject all divine/spiritual notions would find they worship at some kind of altar in life, if they were only to truly and honestly look at themselves.

Stop blaming the institutions or philosophies for how messed up the world is and how much evil there is in it. The blame for the world’s ills is much more pervasive.

It’s not God, real or imagined. It’s not religions. It’s not faith.

It’s all of us.

All. Of. Us.

All.

29
Mar
11

Spiritual Journeys Are NOT Destinations

So, my wife is struggling with her spirituality these days, trying to reconcile how she feels and how she views the world with an upbringing that was fairly fundamentalist in terms of Christian doctrine, even if she herself has always been pretty progressive/liberal in terms of social issues and politics.

This won’t come as any surprise to anyone who follows both she and I on Twitter (and several of you do; for those who don’t, she’s @blackgirlinmain on Twitter and she also has a blog…follow her in both places and I think you’ll be glad you did). She’s been talking quite openly about her spiritual struggles. I’m proud of her for her journey and her explorations and finding the proper path for her.

Because being on a spiritual walk is like any other walk. There isn’t a clear destination. Sure, you may be going somewhere, but even once you get there, the place you’ve reached might not be the perfect place to be. And even if you do like that place, there’s always a need to walk someplace else at some other time, for other needs.

Journeying is exploration, and any person truly seeking spiritual growth will find many different twists and turns; they should never be satisfied that they know it all and have found it all. That would be self-delusion and ignorance.

Thing is that I’ve been on a spiritual journey myself and still am. I came to Christ after years of being a lapsed and “recovering” Catholic, and that was through the woman who would become my wife, and the church she attended, which was presided over by her dad. That being said, while I was never a fundamentalist in any true sense of the word, I did have some beliefs that were more fundamentalist than what I have now.

As I look at some of the earliest posts on this blog, I can see where I have changed and grown. I haven’t changed my path drastically, but there have been adjustments as I grown closer to my soul and to the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit. I’m sure more changes are to come.

I might post on this a bit more later this week, but that should do for now.

30
Dec
10

Where I Need God and Where I Don’t

I have some thoughts that have been rolling around my head; just haven’t been in the right mindset to put them to words on this blog (writing fiction so much lately is eating up my time and energy, so that’s part of it).

Until I can, I just wanted to share a quick thought with those who criticize the practice of religion or the pursuit of things spiritual:

Don’t mistake me for someone who needs God to make sense of the world or to explain how things are. This isn’t a case of needing the existence of a higher power for lighting and rainbows to be explained or to make sense of where the universe came from. Science has proven more than up to the task of breaking down the physical world and explaining a lot of those things. I look to God for making sense of the things that science doesn’t touch and probably never can: The things of the spirit. That is the place where I need God, both as a guide and as an endpoint to seek.

And argue all you want that there is no spirit. No soul. No existence beyond the current prison of our flesh. I don’t need you or science to prove that such things exist. I have seen them and I feel them and they are real. If you chose not to recognize them and are satisfied with that, more power to you. But telling me that the spiritual isn’t real doesn’t make it so, and where science cannot tread, there I will seek a higher power.

06
Sep
10

Big “S” vs. Little “S”

So, if the naysayers can leave out answers like “superstition” or “because they’re mindless followers” or “a 2,000 year old fairy tale tells them so,” why do people go to church?

There are a multitude of spiritual and/or religious (the two do not always overlap but of course often do) reasons why people attend Sunday services, of Mass, or Saturday night musical services or whatever else. It can be habit, it can be fear of damnation, it can be validation for their beliefs, a desire to be with like-minded people in a communal setting, or a lot of other things.

For me, it is about lifting my Spirit. Note the big “S.” It will be important later.

There once was a time I went to church to be edified and to learn more about faith and service in God’s name. Not so much anymore. I still get bits of new information here and there, particularly when the reverend knows ancient Greek and/or Hebrew and can actually put the passages into their real meaning and context instead of what they’ve been twisted into via a multitude of translations (and dulled meanings often lead leaders of congregations astray or allow them to lead congregants astray, but I’m getting off track).

Anyway, education isn’t my primary reason for church and hasn’t been for a long time. I’ve moved on to spiritual exploration and contemplation of the divine nature more than worrying about Bible specifics.

And so the reason I go to church, and I know many faithful have the same goal, is to lift up my Spirit.

There are many ways I can lift my spirits, but there are very few ways I can lift up and nourish my Spirit.

My Spirit, that divinely attuned part of me (or any of us, if we choose to nourish and listen to it) needs stimulation. Church services are the best way to do that in a community setting, so that I can connect with people, have group companionship and celebration, and lift my Spirit.

Certainly, other things can lift my Spirit (or my little “S” spirits for that matter): being out in nature, listening to good music, meditation/prayer, or viewing art.

(And I can’t help but note that such things are those that most closely align to unique human characteristics like abstract creativity and/or things that put one closer to the treasures of the Earth.)

These things don’t always move me to the point where they will lift my Spirit. Frankly, going to church doesn’t always do the job either. But it’s the best place to do so among other people in an atmosphere of celebration.

And yes, I know that many churches are more interested in pointing fingers, or finding scapegoats, or preaching the damnation of heathen, or fleecing people to get their money. But many churches are interested in lifting the Spirit, and I go to one of them.

It is, I think, one of the best reasons to go to church, and it would be my hope that fewer of the faithful will deal in legalisms of the Bible, or judgments of others, and find that path that leads toward encouraging people’s nourishment of their Spirit.

04
Sep
10

The Spiritual Path: Lonely and Communal

You know, maybe if I go away officially for a week or so and tell Miz Pink that she can make my top banner pink and take over for a while, I wouldn’t feel so guilty. Seems like I need to bribe her with a power trip to get her to fill in the gaps around here….LOL

But I do have stuff to say, I admit, just not as much time as I’d like to say it.

This blog began as a place where I could wax somewhat foul-mouthedly about various things (sex, politics, etc.) while bringing in some biblical and spiritual angles, as well as to actually explore specific religious and spiritual issues.

It’s become more of a random rant, and I sometimes cover those “original” topics as well (though the sex stuff less so…guess I don’t have a sex advice column in my future). But spiritual matters, while I haven’t discussed them in depth much lately…and while I don’t hit the Bible all that terribly often these days…are still very important to me.

God is still important to me. Jesus is still important to me. My relationship to and acceptance of the Holy Spirit is important to me. Reading the Bible is less important, but still not unimportant.

The thing is, I’ve found that I’m much more passionate about exploring my place in God’s plans and His place in the larger universe. Contemplation and even speculation are serving me better these days in finding my spiritual path and trying to align myself better with God.

It is a lonely portion of the spiritual path, because it doesn’t lend itself as much to sharing, or community. Some of my thoughts and considerations go in strange places. Places that I don’t want to share, or don’t feel I can give justice.

I find myself contemplating other religions more; not in the sense of practicing them but in trying to tie the disparate spiritual world together and figure out how God fits into most things quite nicely, even if He doesn’t always take the Judeo-Christo-Muslim kind of face that is so prevalent.

I remain unmoved by Hawking or anyone else who feels they can explain away God and remove Him. They cannot unprove God any more than I can prove him. I would rather that such folks stick to the science and stop trying to bring God into it. In turn, I would like for religious folks to stop trying to reinterpret science (evolution, etc.) in biblical terms.

In the end, it wouldn’t matter if God came first or the universe did. Science and religion can coexist. Different religions can coexist, even in the context of eternal salvation vs. eternal separation. Christianity remains my core, but finding what it means to me and how to employ my faith better is still a journey.

At times, it’s been a journey with many companions, but lately, it’s just been a solo stroll most days. I hope top invite you on a walk with me soon, though, and we’ll see what I might be able to share with you.

Even if many of you won’t agree with me. 😉

14
Aug
10

Someone Else’s Wisdom

I follow Roger Ebert on Twitter (his account is ebertchicago) and he is a very prolific and often witty sort. Today, he tweeted a comment left for him (on his blog, I’m guessing), and thought I’d share it here:

Religion is to spirituality what porn is to sex.

Given my two most recent “Deacon’s Wisdom” posts in the past week, I suspect you can guess that I substantially (though not entirely) agree with that sentiment.

01
Apr
10

Making the Change

It’s time. Time to bow to the inevitable. It’s been pointed out to me so many ways that faith and reason don’t mix. I’ve been faced with contradictions and challenges in my faith walk.

So I’m hanging it up. Stepping off the path I’ve been walking so long. There’s no proof of God or any higher power, so why keep looking for one?

After all, my moral code doesn’t require a higher power, does it? I can do the right thing without a god watching over my shoulder, much less an invisible one.

My circle of friends will improve. Instead of being surrounded by mindless sheeple, I can cast off those losers and move on to people whose heads are firmly in reality.

I’ll be able to reopen my mind to expand and to grow. No longer anchored by superstitious nonsense, I can stop being held back. Now when I read a book on some social issue or historical situation or intriguing person, I won’t be filtering it through my religion-clouded mind.

I will become a fully actualized human being. I will evolve to the level I was intended to. I will be free…

OK, if the sarcasm is too subtle, and you’ve forgotten that it’s April Fool’s Day, I’m doing none of that. Well, not giving up my spiritual walk, thank you very much. The growth, intellectual ability, and the rest I will pursue, but then again, I’ve always pursued them. Because believing in God and in Jesus has never held me back from any of that.

This wasn’t a post meant to tease my agnostic or atheist readers into thinking they converted me. This wasn’t meant to confused or dismay my readers who believe faith has a place in life. But being April 1, it seemed as good a time, and as good a way, as any to make a point.

The point that faith is not garbage, and it is not some universal “idiot maker.”

I’ve been down this road before in other posts, but there’s a little twist I want to make this time, based on some blowback I got at another blog when I called the blogger on some bullshit. He was making a point about the stupidity of religious folks, in this case those who believe in the Rapture, by using a video of a prank perpetrated on a Christian to make her think the Rapture had happened and she’d been left behind. Problem was that the prank was clearly a fake. Clearly it had been scripted, it was badly acted, and wasn’t a prank at all. This was pretty universally acknowledged by the blogger and the many commenters who were enjoying sticking it to the faithful.

And yet, it was still maintained that making using the video as an example of Christian stupidity, even though it was a scripted/fake situation, was justified.

Moreover, in my criticism of that tactic, and my defense of faith, some interesting comments were being hurled around. Basic themes were:

Religion/faith prevents people from engaging in critical thinking or being progressive socially and politically

Religion/faith are holding back human evolution and progress

Believing that there is no God is a harder but more rewarding path than faith

If you believe in a higher power of any kind, you are not intelligent

Those are the biggies.

Except they aren’t true. Sure, there are people who don’t think and are faithful. But you know how many people don’t really practice their presumed religions in any way…or who don’t believe…and are ALSO idiots? Do you truly think that every person who wants their “life doctrine” fed to them is religious? Really? If so, do you get out much? Not many people call President Obama the antichrist, at least not in comparison to the number who call him a socialist or fascist or jihadist.

I have deeply held faith beliefs, and yet I engage in critical thinking all the time; sometimes about my own faith.

I spent most of my life irreligious, and frankly, it’s far easier to not believe in a God. It’s really freaking easy to go through life not thinking about any higher powers and to behave as if the only consequences to our actions are those we reap on this Earth. As to whether faith or lack of faith is more rewarding, I can’t say. I suspect there is no appreciable difference as long as the person feels fulfilled in their journey. But in many ways, a faith walk is far more challenging (when properly pursued) than a non-faith walk. So don’t tell me I’ve taken the easy way.

And finally, how has religion and faith held us back? I keep hearing from so many atheists about how we won’t move forward until we shed religion.

I keep hearing about how too few Christians are “progressive” yet the moment someone like me comes along shattering that image, and talking about friends who likewise shatter that image, we’re branded as apologists who just work in new fantasies to fill the gaps. We go from being socially irresponsible idiot to mostly harmless idiots.

Scientists can make as many fancy theories of unproved and unobserved things as they want to fill in the gaps. But add an intelligence to something unseen and unprovable, and you’re a mindless automaton.

But you see, as much as these things annoy me, in the way they disregard and marginalize people like me, that isn’t the real point of my rant. Yes, once again, as so often happens in this blog, I’ve done something I almost never do in an article about some pharma business deal or information technology trend: I buried the lead.

Here’s what bothers me and what I don’t understand:

Why must the most intellectual and/or pompous atheists insist on a “scorched earth policy” in which the only good world is one without religion, whether formal and institutionalized or a more personalized spirituality?

I mean, really? These folks claim that religion hampers our progress.

Truly?

How?

Most of our technological and scientific and artistic outpourings have taken place in cultures in which religion was important. Even in these relatively secular days since the late 20th century, we still have an estimated 5 or 6 billion people out of around 7 billion who claim to have some kind of religious or spiritual belief. And yet we have these huge advances in genomics, information technology, energy, conservation, and more. Art continues to be put out, whether purile or thought-provoking, family friendly or aggressively provocative. Social advances continue.

Even with the most egregious example lately of religion and science butting heads, which would be the embryonic stem cell debate, religion stopped nothing. In fact, it hardly even put a dent in stem cell research, even with President George W. Bush backing it. In fact, that debacle, as embarrassing as I may consider it as a progressive Christian, ultimately forced researchers into a much better direction anyway, and one that is more practical long-term: figuring out how to make adult stem cells act more like embryonic ones so that they can be changed into any kind of cell in the body. Huge advances are being made there, and not an embryo in sight.

Where is this fantasy world that so many atheists concoct where they are persecuted and humanity is being held back in some primitive mode?

Because, frankly, science marches on, and so does everything else.

And oh, by the way, how about the large number of scientists who still believe in God? I’ve seen the figure at over 60% as recently as 2005. Just because some of the more notable ones with big book publishing deals like Stephen Hawking don’t believe in God doesn’t make it a universal belief.

Oh, yeah, I saw one guy dismiss that 60%+ figure by citing a survey of “leading scientists,” limiting the pool only to members of the National Academy of Sciences and ignoring the multitude of other scientists out there. (I guess by this guy’s standard, if anyone polls journalists about something, I can’t be included because I didn’t join a professional journalism society. So much for the bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and more than 20 years of experience…)

Science includes elements of faith. Faith can include elements of reason. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Moreover, if atheists are waiting for that magical utopia wherein there is no faith in higher powers, they are going to be waiting a long time. And when that time comes, if it ever does, I’m pretty confident we’ll have a world with just as much intolerance, just as much violence and just as much ignorance as we have throughout history so far.

14
Dec
09

Fire and Pain

Now how’s that for a provocative headline, eh? Probably going to talk about hell and damnation today, right?

Nah…

I don’t know how many of you are into metallurgy, but when you’re putting ores and additives through the process of making some metal or alloy of metals, as I understand it, you end up with something called dross. It’s kind of like the scum you get on top of the soup you’re cooking, except with metal, it’s a lot more important to scoop that crap off unless you want buildings falling down and cars falling apart.

So to refine metal, to get out its impurities, it has to go through the fire.

Nothing new there. Nor is it new to apply that philosophy to life. The bible talks about putting people through the metaphorical fire to make them into something stronger. It’s a philosophy that also exists outside religion: “No pain, no gain” and “You have to pay your dues” are just two examples.

Generations X and Y have been accused of laziness and complacency at times. It’s true and it isn’t. (I’m an X, by the way…nice to meet you). It’s said that we rely too much on our parents and that we aren’t willing to work responsibly or work hard.

The truth is more that the world changed, and X and Y got faced with entirely new economic dynamics and new rules that don’t always respond to the solutions that suited Baby Boomers and their immediate predecessors.

But in there is also some truth in the criticism, and I see it more the older I get. Members of Generations X and Y can be a bit quick to want recognition and reward, before they’ve proven themselves. They can be fabulously self-centered in ways that are distinct from the often self-absorbed and sometimes self-important Baby Boomers.

But one thing about the Baby Boomers is that they were able in many cases to achieve and build nest eggs and help their progeny get going in life. They may have been less religious and less dogmatic than their parents, but they still often saw value in religion and in seeking God.

I wonder, though, if the increasing way that people are distancing themselves from God, especially in the younger generations, has more to do with the way the world is going and the way we X’s and Y’s see the world. And perhaps less about reason and science making religion irrelevant.

You see, too often, we young-ish folks (if I can still call myself that at 41) want results with minimal work. We want answers and solutions now. We don’t want to wait on God. And so when God doesn’t respond to us immediately, and we look back at history and say, “why does he let this crap happen” we decide that He must not exist. Because if He won’t just give us what we want now, how could He?

Too many of us don’t value the notion that we are works in progress. That our time on this planet is less about getting what we want and more about learning lessons. It’s a lesson that even atheists should take to heart more often. Because particularly for those who don’t believe there is anything beyond this life, there is precious little time to grow up and make something useful out of oneself.

For those who are agnostic, or those who, like me, are in a faith walk with God, it’s time for us to realize that we are put through a fire. We are meant to feel pain. It’s terrible when some people have to live with almost nothing but pain and stress and misery, but we humans aren’t alone in that. We like to think we are, but we’re not.

Whether you want to credit evolution (genetic and social both) or God’s will…or a combination of the two…a pristine, trouble-free world isn’t the kind of world that will push us to become something stronger or smarter or more useful to ourselves and others.

Pain is necessary. Whether we like it or not, we must all pass through the fire, some of us more often than others.

We need to pay our dues. We need to see the value in that and make something good out of it in the end. Or at least as good as we can.

If we don’t, we remain children. We don’t grow. Not in this world, and not in God’s plan.

30
Nov
09

Balanced, Not Superstitous

I’m sure this post will earn some guffaws and maybe some blow-back from my loyal readers who happen to be atheists or semi-militant agnostics, but here goes…

My belief in God, and Jesus for that matter, is not a sign of any of the following:

  • Fear of death
  • Insecurity
  • Superstition
  • Desire to belong to a group
  • An aching emptiness inside that I wanted to fill
  • Delusion
  • Idiocy
  • Lack of scientific awareness
  • Immaturity

In fact, I see a lot of maturity and balance in my worldview. And that is because I deny neither the scientific nor the spiritual. I’m not saying I have all the answers in life, but what I do have is a lot of internal security and well-being.

I don’t understand when entirely secular folks insist that to be fully mature, I must deny my belief in, and search for, spiritual meaning. Just as I don’t understand religious people who insist on ignoring science and reason.

Humans have sought spiritual discernment for a long time, and for quite a number of centuries (in fact, a couple millennia at least), it hasn’t been about explaining why it rains or how the sun moves across the sky or anything like that. It’s been about a deeper kind of meaning. People who dismiss religion as an artifact of ignorant ancient goat herders is doing a disservice to goat herders (many of whom, I am sure, had deeper thoughts than screwing their herd-stock and picking at their asses) and a disservice to spiritual seekers.

Yes, there was a time when religion was all about explaining worldly things. But as people have advanced, so has the depth and maturity of spiritual seeking. Sure, there are plenty of idiots in the world who follow religion and religious leaders blindly and skim only the surface of religious precepts, but most people seem to prefer following someone than thinking for themselves.

Funny thing is, spiritual seeking, while it cannot follow the scientific method, does still follow the same general progression as science. That is, as humans have advanced, so has the study. Science was once a pretty pathetically ignorant, simplistic and sketchy affair, just like religion.

The problem is that the more we figure out about the world, the more full of ourselves and our intelligence we become, and the more we think we don’t need God. We are not slowly disproving God, but simply pushing him aside unnecessarily.

If more believers would be mature about their spiritual seeking, and more non-believers would stop ridiculing those who are trying to find spiritual meaning, maybe religion wouldn’t be the mess it has become these days. Now, both sides, secular and religious, essentially call the other side a bunch of heretics, which solves nothing.

I can already see one retort coming.

But science is rational. Science doesn’t lead to oppression or wars!

Wrong.

Maybe it doesn’t have the same track record right now, but religion had a hell of a head start. People can blindly follow a scientific theory or finding as much as a biblical principle. Science and research can be twisted, skewed and misrepresented.

Hmmmm. Just like religion.

The Nazis based their genocidal campaign in World War II based on “science” that showed Aryans were superior. Noted intellects justified slavery by “proving” that Blacks weren’t as evolved or even as human as Whites. Medical science can downplay the horrors of abortion, even as it can also be used to overplay them. Research shows us that it isn’t cost-effective or “useful” to pay for certain types of medical screening or healthcare, and so insurance companies and hospital executives can oppress us to sickness or even death. Religious groups can call homosexuals deviant because they can point to a  lack of scientific proof that same-sex desires are inherited rather than learned or chosen. Need I go on?

Science is on pace to do everything that religion did and more. It can bring us together in understanding and truth and good guidance. And it can tear us apart.

Science is not the be-all and end-all of human experience, and it never will be. Nor shall religion or any kind of spiritual pursuit. I maintain that both are entirely necessary to being mature humans.

06
Oct
09

Christ Before Christianity

jesus_brown2There is a disturbingly common misconception among a lot of folks who are quick to say “praise Jesus” or “in Jesus’ name” who think that the Son of God preached for a few years to establish a religion. Too many people who think that what is laid down as church doctrine came from the mouth of Jesus.

Frankly, there are a lot of people hostile to religion who think the same thing, though I’m gratified to find a fair number of atheists and snarky agnostics who can separate their issues with early Christian church leaders from the teachings of the Christ himself.

Jesus did not establish a religion. Jesus preached that people should turn to God and be obedient to Him. That is, obedient to the underlying spirit of His commandments, which revolve around love, and not so much for the nit-picking of the laws and they way they put people in bondage and encouraged folks to double standards.

Jesus preached against anger and hate and intolerance. He often singled out hypocrisy as one of his biggest pet peeves. Ultimately, what Jesus taught was a spiritual awakening and awareness, and not a religion. After all, he already had a religion: Judaism. He was there to fulfill God the Father’s will and not reinvent the wheel. He was actually trying to tweak that wheel so that it spun true and straight, because it was twisted, pitted, kinked, rusted and otherwise pretty messed up by the time he came around.

True, the New Testament is filled with doctrine and rules and guidelines. Those things that formed the “walls” of the early Christian church, to build upon the foundation that was Jesus and his teachings. I totally understand why the apostles and other early church leaders did that. Keeping people on the right track and preventing heresy around Jesus’ message was important. Fragmenting into cults with personal agendas was something that horrified early church leaders, and rightfully so, because that could have undone everything that they were doing to spread Jesus’ teachings and the good news of the resurrection.

That said, even the early church leaders weren’t tying to establish some rigid doctrine in many cases. Perhaps not even most cases. Many of the things in the New Testament were letters to specific churches and regions, to deal with specific issues and problems they faced. Sometimes, we take a lesson that was meant to point out how easy it is to fall away from the path, and turn it into a rule that everyone must follow…OR ELSE!

Jesus believed in rules and in proper behavior. I don’t deny that. And what he taught was important. But some of what he taught was meant to make people think, not simply to compel them to a certain action or set of rules. I mean, does anyone with any sense really think Jesus was advocating that you rip out your eyes if, for example, you just can’t stop ogling the ladies? Come on, now…

Jesus taught with metaphors and symbols through his parables. He sometimes used hyperbole to make a point. He didn’t write down a doctrine and he didn’t create a church, nor did he command a new church to be created. He set his apostles on the path to create a church of ideas and of good lessons and of reverence to God, but Jesus portrayed himself as a servant as much as a teacher, and he didn’t crave to have people bow and scrape before him. He wasn’t trying to set up himself up as an object of worship but as a gatekeeper, guide, brother, teacher and advocate. He is the messiah and the savior, but he didn’t seek to create Christianity.

He strove to create godliness.

A couple Sundays ago, our pastor preached from the gospel of Mark, if I recall right. Or maybe Matthew. I’m too lazy at the moment frankly, to scour things and remind myself which “M” gospel writer it was or which chapter and verse. But it was the story of the apostles who, after having recently failed miserably at healing and casting out of demons, came to discover that someone outside their circle was casting out demons using Jesus’ name.

They were incensed, and went to Jesus to tell him that they had told the man to stop doing that. Jesus chided them for doing so, reminding them that they man was doing good works, and that “those are not against us are for us.”

Does this sound like a man who wants us to follow a specific church, or a specific religious leader? No. Jesus wanted us to serve and love and embrace God.

Yes, this is the man who also said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, and none shall come to the Father but through me.”

But that doesn’t mean he wanted us to embrace a religion called Christianity. It simply means he knew that God was going to put him at the metaphorical gates of Heaven to determine who was ready and willing to enter.

This is why I reject the idea that only those who claim Jesus’ name officially and directly are saved. Because Jesus was happy to hear about someone who didn’t follow him casting out demons and doing healing in his name. Doing  God’s work.

Yes, I believe that truly embracing the spirit of Jesus’ teachings and recognizing him as one’s savior is an express road to salvation. It’s the short cut, though admittedly a short cut that is riddled with bumps and potholes at times. It’s a better and surer path, but not the only one.

Jesus acknowledged that some out there weren’t his followers, but they were still allies and people to be thanked for doing good. Yes, we will answer to God through Jesus. Yes, we need forgiveness for our sins.

But it isn’t just the Christians getting into heaven, my friends.

And there are a whole mess of Christians who are very much against what Jesus taught, and who will find themselves turned away in the end.




Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

Jeff Bouley

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