I'm not ashamed to admit that I was raised in a typical hypocritically-Catholic home. You know the type. They believe it but just actively choose to ignore the rules. Even though it doesn't sound like it I believe it turned out to be a good thing. Our open home prevented the brain wash that unfortunately occurs with many strong faiths.
I was allowed to make up my own mind and search within myself for answers. I was very young when I was first introduced to the Mormons. They came to the house and my mother proceeded to kick them out but I was curious and started asking them questions. She then relented, let them in and they showed us a film or a slideshow, I can't remember.
After the film I started asking them general questions. One question I remember asking was "Who is God's mother?" Yes, I was very young like I said, forgive the ignorant sound of the innocent question.
They acknowledged the deeper inference of the query and said that God has always been and God will always be. That God is omnipotent and omniscient. He is all powerful, He knows all and sees all.
That was all well and good for me but then I couldn't help but question "His" lack of compassion when it came to the suffering of "His" children here on Earth. I received no satisfactory answer. All I got from them and from the few deeply religious family members was the impotent response, "This is why you must have Faith" or "God works in mysterious ways" including the Jehovah's Witnesses that lived with us for a while.
I went through various stages of spiritual confusion following my teenage life including many, many years of uneducated atheism.
Then I went to college. Then I took some courses. Including but not limited to the history of Eastern and Western Religions but sciences like Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry and Anthropology as well. I began to see connections within all these seemingly different branches of study.
I also saw striking similarities in the different religions of different era's. Many similar morals and lessons. Sometimes the characters in those books and scrolls served the same purpose and had similar names.
When I learned to read with an open mind, extricating myself from any emotional attachment to the subject, I began to notice common patterns and themes. I was slowly coming to an understanding and belief system that I was comfortable with. One that made absolute sense to me.
I didn't believe in a God of any kind for a long time. It seemed with the sciences and studies of nature that any supernatural existence was impossible if it was not explicable. Many people get lost here just like I did, in limbo if you will. They learn that some of the "facts" in the Bible, or their Bible are "wrong" and their world is shattered. They become angry, hateful and self destructive when they no longer believe a superior power is watching over them. They blind their own guilt with their anger.
Once I taught myself to make the connections between the various religions and dug myself out of my bottomless pit of desperation I started acknowledging the existence of connections between all the sciences and all the faiths.
I like mysteries. The Bible, and it's many iterations, has many of them. If God exists and is as compassionate and loving as they describe, why do people suffer and die? Some of those facts and mysteries, as quite a few strict religious sects have chosen to defend, has led to the failure and public abandonment of their faith.
We will stick to the Catholic Bible for the sake of the much needed brevity (10+ paragraphs into the blog and not even half way through yet.) Religion has regularly been known to clash with science. The two (roughly speaking) groups have been at each other's throats since the beginnings of human history. Science has poked holes in the minute details of the Bible making statements regarding; the ages of the protagonists and the earth itself, the impossibility of successful breeding due to incest, the existence of Homo Erectus and of course, dinosaurs. Some religious supporters have chosen to "fight" science on its own turf and therein lies the problem. *coughscientology.
You have to segregate them the truly allow them to work well together. How does this make sense?
It makes perfect sense to me and this is how I see it.
1. Religion tells you what happened, why and what you should learn from it.
2. Science tells you how.
For example, in Genesis God creates the heaven and the earth. He then creates light and then divides it from the darkness then ending the first day.
Speaking from a scientific perspective, ignoring the super powers it would take to perform an act such as that, you would have to question how day and night could possibly be divided and ended on a round planet that somewhere is ALWAYS in the light. Was God ONLY located in Israel? You would also have to ignore whether or not the people who wrote the bible were aware that the planet was round at the time therefore challenging God's all-encompassing knowledge and forcing us to have Faith not in God himself, but the ancient words of a human witness which could not have been there to begin with since we were not yet created.
Problems become immediately visible if you choose to read the Bible that way. If you try to look at the holy books as facts and dates instead of a book of lessons and morals.
As far as I understand it, religion is there to teach you how to live your life and support you as you trudge through it if you need something there to motivate you to do that.
So I return to discuss what is actually meant by the "DAY" in the Bible. Who is to say that a day was the same thing it means today? For all we know, a "DAY" in Genesis could mean billions of years. The point is, it doesn't really matter. At least that's the conclusion I came to in my youth. Although it seems really simplistic, it worked for me.
That section at the beginning of Genesis is there to show you who is responsible for creating the entire universe we exist in. To show you that this marvelous miraculous existence has a purpose. To fill that void and solitude that we all feel in our dark days. It is consolation, it is comfort. It is not a dictionary or encyclopedia.
If you understand the messages in the King James Bible and most other religious collections, you will read stories of people living their lives and learning lessons. Learning how to treat each other and learning how to treat themselves. How to respect life and eat healthy. How to exercise and the importance of a hard work ethic.
Now I'm not saying that none of the events actually occurred. I'm just contemplating the possibility that some of the things could be interpreted differently yet still be equally significant.
Incest apparently does not affect the characters in the Catholic bible because not once but twice do they overcome the boundaries set by human health. There are still a lot of lessons to learn in that story, such as humility, trust and compassion. Did the flood ever actually occur? We may never know. But if it did and people did survive I think it is more important to find out exactly how they survived with each other. I don't believe it was just a single boat with every living species on the planet. There could have been a flood. There could have been some survivors. The way I see it is if this ever did actually occur, that one family on that one boat could represent an entire population that survived only by finding a common ground and learning how to live well with each other in peace and harmony. The "flood" could just have likely been a widespread disease or a deadly addiction. The message remains the same.
I had a minor interest in the stars and was awestruck by people's ability to identify constellations of stars in the sky. When I would look up at the night sky all I would see was the moon and the big dipper surrounded by a bunch of bright specks. I could point out the big dipper but that was about it. So I took some courses and the labs so that I could wrap my head around what I thought was impossible for my mind to comprehend.
It turns out identifying the constellations was only the beginning. I learned a lot about the life cycles of the stars and the molecules which they are made of. I learned many important things in these classes but one thing had stayed with me more than any other facts and figures. Every molecule and every atom which make up what we are was at one time a tiny but significant piece of a star. (All complex molecules require extreme pressure and heat to fuse which only stars can provide.) A piece of light.
We are Beings of Light Read more about the life cycles of stars here.
Sound familiar? Many religious writings describe humanity in the same way. It also gives new meaning to "Let there be light." I may be reaching but it is this little connection satisfies the internal desire to feel like we're part of a greater system.
"So if God did not physically create the Earth and the universe around it, then how can you believe HE exists at all?"
The Universe has an end. What is beyond it is the subject of much speculation and little hard evidence. "Nothing" seems to be a popular choice.
"If nothing exists beyond the universe then how is it the universe exists at all?"
It is expanding so it had a beginning at one point. If it had a beginning and it came from "nothing," defying the first law of thermodynamics stating that energy cannot be created nor destroyed, then it would have taken a miracle...
It would have taken a miracle to create our existence. It takes a miracle to maintain it. For how can something...exist surrounded by nothing?
In a discussion with my brother many years ago, for the sake of argument he questioned my explanation and understanding of God's place in the universe, stating that science's answer was to keep pushing God farther and farther away. I never continued this discussion because part of me suspected that he was trying to find himself as well. I thought it would be fair to let him develop independently of what I believed without being pulled or pushed to either side of the spectrum by me who was also a person unsure of where I was headed.
If you haven't fallen asleep yet, read on. It's a little broken but they are important little bits for you to understand where I'm going with this.
The natural state of all matter is static unless acted upon by an outside force. A ball will only roll if you push it. It will only stop because of friction and gravity but it's natural state is motionless.
Heat is generated by rapidly moving molecules.
Space is cold where there are no stars.
If you put an ice cube on the sidewalk on a hot day, it melts quickly both slowing down the hot molecules in the cement and speeding up the slow molecules in the ice cube. Yet the stars continue to burn. The earth stays warm (deep earth warm not weather warm) and all the objects continue to move. Yes the sun burns by the process of quantum tunneling but after so many trillions and trillions of years...how can this process continue? Is the universe itself a perpetual motion machine?
How long has this been going on with the freezing space and the scorching stars living as relatively peaceful neighbors? I'm sure it would take billions upon billions of years to reach an equilibrium.
Yet it goes on and in this turmoil we continue to exist. Fuel continues to be generated. The Universe continues to expand and matter...somehow continues to exist where it shouldn't.
So to answer the question proposed by my brother so many years ago, no, I am not pushing "Him" farther away, I am realizing how much more powerful "He" truly is and how the subtleties in the work "He" does is much more humbling than even organized religions admit to.
I can't say without a doubt that something more intelligent than us does or does not exist out there. I can't prove or disprove that. I don't believe a being like that would have a personality, experience anger or have magical powers.
I may be wrong but I feel good believing this way and ultimately, that is the key.Thank you for reading.
Rahcool: For some reason people would rather have exaggerated tales of grandeur to follow than rational conclusions and interpretations to the different scriptures. I always thought religion works best if it is taught side by side with science instead of pitting them against each other in a perpetual irrational battle. Well written argument.
C: (The following comment was riddled with cut parts thanks to MySpace so its hard to understand.) ou put alot of effort into this. One question that stands out to me is why God would let bad things happen. Although I have not finished reading the book "The purpose driven life" I did find an answer that I liked in the first 10 chapters...
We are here on this Earth for a short while. While we are here we are learning lessons and being challenged. God will not put us through more than we can handle. Our greater purpose is not meant for this place, but rather for our next existence. I know this requires a lot of faith, which I don't think a lot of people have, but it works for me. Personally, I can ask why was I made to suffer? Why would God allow that fucking bitch to make me miserable and continue to fight me for every minute that I want to spend with my son? The answer to that is so that I can know what some other people will go through and be better prepared to help them.
A man falls in a pit. A doctor walks by and sees him and says, man, you look pretty bad. When you get out of that pit call me and I will help cure you. A pastor walks by and sees him and says, man, I will pray for you but when you get out of that pit come to me and I will help you get closer to God so that you wont have so many bad things happen to you. A police officer walks by and says man when you get out come talk to me so that we can find out how this happened and punish whoever dug that pit. When the man's best friend comes by the pit he jumps in. The man in the pit says NO! Why did you do that, now we are both in trouble. But the best friend says no friend, I have been in this pit before and I know how to get us both out.
I want to be the best friend.
What I've heard from the bible is that where more than one get together in the name of the Lord, then He is there.
The man in the pit story was great. I loved it. It brought a tear to my eye. I wish that everyone could read this. So simple, but poignant in a great way.
Great blog.... well written.
I read somewhere that Church is where people congregate whether there is leadership or not.
Friends for example or the kitchen table with family. I always find it much more fulfilling to discuss subjects with peers than with any close minded believer set in his/her ways.
I just wish there were a group of people we could meet with to discuss this. I can't help wanting a chuch. I heard that Universalists would be the best religion for us. I would like to visit a session:
We are a religious people who have woven strands of a rich past into a tapestry of the present.(There were three responses to that but they were lost in My_____)
In the first centuries of the Christian era, Christians held a variety of beliefs concerning the nature of Jesus. In 325 CE, however, the Council of Nicea promulgated the doctrine of the Trinity-God as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost-and denounced all those who believed differently as heretics.
In the sixteenth century, Christian humanists in Central Europe-in Poland and Transylvania-studied the Bible closely. They could not find the orthodox dogma of the Trinity in the texts. Therefore, they affirmed-as did Jesus, according to the Gospels-the unity, or oneness, of God. Hence they acquired the name Unitarian.
These sixteenth-century Unitarians preached and organized churches according to their own rational convictions in the face of overwhelming orthodox opposition and persecution. They also advocated religious freedom for others. In Transylvania, now part of Romania, Unitarians persuaded the Diet (legislature) to pass the Edict of Toleration. In 1568 the law declared that, since "faith is the gift of God," people would not be forced to adhere to a faith they did not choose.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, radical reformers in Europe and America also studied the Bible closely. They found only a few references to hell, which they believed orthodox Christians had grossly misinterpreted. They found, both in the Bible and in their own hearts, an unconditionally loving God. They believed that God would not deem any human being unworthy of divine love, and that salvation was for all. Because of this emphasis on universal salvation, they called themselves Universalists.
In the eighteenth century, a dogmatic Calvinist insistence on predestination and human depravity seemed to liberal Christians irrational, perverse, and contrary to both biblical tradition and immediate experience. Liberal Christians believe that human beings are free to heed an inner summons of conscience and character. To deny human freedom is to make God a tyrant and to undermine God-given human dignity.
In continuity with our sixteenth-century Unitarian forebears, today we Unitarian Universalists are determined to follow our own reasoned convictions, no matter what others may say, and we embrace tolerance as a central principle, inside and outside our own churches.
Also during the seventeenth century, reformers in several European countries, especially in England, could not find a biblical basis for the authority and power of ecclesiastical bishops. They affirmed, therefore, the authority and power of the Holy Spirit to guide the local members. These reformers on the radical left wing of the Reformation, seeking to "purify" the church of its "corruptions," reclaimed what they believed to be ancient church practice and named it congregational polity.
These same seventeenth-century radicals did away with creeds, that is, with precisely phrased statements of belief to which members had to subscribe. Members joining their churches signed a simple and broadly phrased covenant, or agreement, such as this one: "We pledge to walk together in the ways of the Lord as it pleaseth Him to make them known to us, now and in days to come."
Some of these reformers, the Pilgrims and the Puritans, crossed the Atlantic and braved the North American wilderness to establish covenanted congregations whose direction belonged to the local members. Some of these original congregational churches developed increasingly liberal theological beliefs after 1750, and in the early nineteenth century, many of them added the word Unitarian to their names. Thus, some of the oldest churches in the United States, including the First Parish of Plymouth, Massachusetts, became Unitarian. In the late eighteenth century, other radicals who believed in religious liberty and universal salvation organized separate Universalist congregations.
In continuity with our independent forebears, today Unitarian Universalist congregations are covenanted, not creedal. Congregational polity is a basic doctrine. In the spirit of freedom, we cherish honest dialogue and persuasion, not coercion. We embrace democratic method as a central principle. Our local members unite to engage in and to support ministries of their own choosing.
The seventeenth-century scientific revolution began a great shift in Western thinking. In the eighteenth century, the Enlightenment brought an increased willingness to look critically and analytically at all human institutions, without presupposing the sanctity or privilege of any.
Many religious groups fiercely resisted these scientific analytical ideas. Some still do. In the churches of our forebears, new scientific and social ideas-from Newtonian physics, to evolution, to psychology, to relativity-found ready acceptance. Indeed, some of the greatest scientists and social theorists of the age were either privately or publicly Unitarian or Universalist: Joseph Priestley, Charles Darwin, Maria Mitchell, and Benjamin Rush, for example.
In the nineteenth century, increased travel and translation of Eastern religious texts brought greater awareness of different religions. Again, many of our forebears were uncommonly open to new ideas from Eastern cultures. Ralph Waldo Emerson was deeply influenced by Hinduism, and James Freeman Clarke was among the first in the world to urge and teach the study of comparative religion.
In continuity with our forebears, today Unitarian Universalists expect new scientific disclosures to cohere, not conflict, with our religious faith. We embrace the challenge and the joy of intercultural religious fellowship.
I read this blog in sections since this morning. I am impressed love! You did a good job of jotting down your thoughts. I am so glad. I have to be honest, it's a little scattered, but it's all there and I KNOW what you are saying. I felt like I was sitting next to you and you were explaining your point of view. I hope other people are able to go through it and read it thoroughly. You have a lot of interesting points made!
I really appreciate your religious point of view. I hope it grows stronger.
I think you should try reading the bible. Or getting one of those "Read the bible in one year" books. I would read it with you.
By the way, I think a book store visit is due. What do you say?
(Two lost responses to this comment.)