Saturday, 14 September 2013
Sunday's sermon was on forgiveness. Toward the end of the service, the minister asked, "How many of you have forgiven your enemies?" About eighty percent of the congregation raised their hands.
The minister then repeated his question. All responded this time,
except one small elderly lady.
"Mrs. Jones? Are you not willing to forgive your enemies?"
"I don't have any." She replied, smiling."Mrs. Jones, that is very unusual. How old are you?"
"Ninety-eight." she responded."Mrs. Jones, would you please come down in front and tell us all how a person can live ninety-eight years and not have an enemy in the world?"
The little sweetheart of a lady tottered down the aisle, faced the
congregation, and said: "I outlived the bitches."
Religion has been the butt of some number of jokes, the bane of many a gathering [along with political opinions], and the source of admittedly sometimes heated discussions between theists and non-theists on Twitter [and in "real" life]. I recently received a mass appeal e-mail from an elderly relative written to the un-churched among us asking us to please allow his god to be our god too. We were to return the e-mail to him after agreeing to this so that way he could be assured that we would find each other in the same heaven after we are all dead. How unabashedly cheerful! I thought. Not.
Since today is Yom Kippur, the Wall Street Journal has published an article at http://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-financial-cost-of-religious-faith-2013-09-13?siteid=yhoof2 by Charles Passey about the monies that the faithful spend during the course of their attendance at organized religious gathering sites. And in order to remain in good standing with said places.
Folks in detoxes and rehabs for addictions treatment are almost immediately confronted with the word "God" usually followed by "as we understand/understood Him" in the form of The Twelve Had Betters of traditional 'self-help' or 'mutual aid' programs. If those folks continue in out-patient and with attendance at meetings after their stint in a hospital, they are sure to find people suggesting that they use the group as their "Higher Power" for now. They will also be "reassured" that without such a "Higher Power" in their lives, it will be impossible to achieve sobriety/ remain in recovery/ sober up/ stay clean.
Believers everywhere grouse about the atheists, Dawkins atheists, new atheists, Those People who are ungodly Satan worshippers. Non-believers everywhere grouse about believers, theists, fundamentalists, fundies, dangerous fundies. Some folks firmly believe. Some sort of believe. Some don't believe. And some don't frankly give a damn. Contrary to popular opinion, one can be both an atheist and an agnostic. One can also be an adherent to an organized religion yet be more of a deist [think "generalist"] in actual philosophy and practice. The shouters proclaim that the "other side" is full of dangerous lunatics.
We are all dangerous lunatics. Every one of us [in a general way] is a dangerous lunatic. Regardless of where we fall on the spectrum labeled religion, we humans [in general] have proven ourselves to be argumentative, explosive, impulsive, full of hate, and prejudiced. We humans [in general] have also proven ourselves to be capable of peace-making, thoughtful, deliberate, loving, and willing to celebrate our differences. Is it our individual stances on religion that separates us into petty categories? Or is it something else?
Perhaps our ancestors' ability to survive in a harsher environment depended partly on the ability to conform, to surrender individualism in favor of the group, to bond together in order to confront dangers both known and unknown. In learning to use language as a tool of communication, we've also learned to label. This is good. That is evil. This is acceptable but that isn't. That I am able to mentally masturbate on these things is a definite sign that I have a First World Life with First World Problems. People who have to struggle to find potable water or shelter or safety don't have the luxury of massaging their brain cells with supposes. I bitch because the recent spat between two mega-companies has left me without the ability to flick a switch in order to watch a series about a fictional serial killer for several weeks. Some other folks worry about their next child succumbing to a poverty-induced disease. I have many pairs of clean white socks in my dresser drawers and other human beings go without the basics. I find within myself exists a certain apathy that shields me from the harshness of true poverty and deprivation. It is my apathy that renders me a dangerous lunatic. Whether or not I am a believer of any sort, I am allowing myself to be lulled into a state of macro-consumer.
It is neither my religion nor my lack of religion that determines my state of being. There is first the accident of birth. The facts of my birth determined that I would be a native to First World Problems, that I would not grow up in a bombed out city, that I would have access to an education and transportation and leisure. The genetic code entrenched in my DNA determined the ease in which I would move around this First World. The lack of genetic diseases or lethal birth defects gave me a pretty good shot at an average or better than average First World life expectancy. The functioning of my brain influences how I exist and how I think about my existence. My choices determine my health risks, how I deal with my assets and liabilities, my challenges and what I do with my abilities. Birth. Genetics. Neurology. Experiences.
Any choices that I make within the religious arenas are also determined by the timing and the geographical location of my birth, my genetics and neurology, and my experiences. Were I born within certain timeframes and geographic indices, I might not have been ever presented with the dazzling array of religions to choose from as an adult. Had I been born with a fatal genetic mutation, I might not have attained the age of majority or the ability to choose from various religions. Had my brain functioning been sub-par, my experiences certainly would have been different than the ones that I've had to date. It is birth, genetics, neurology, and experiences that determine what choices I have even in respect to religious practices and beliefs. My tentative conclusion is this: Religion is a function of rather than a causative factor in the makings of us who are the dangerous lunatics of the world as we know it.
sapphoq itching for a coffee