Monday, December 20, 2010

30 Days of Truth, Day 19

Day 19 - What do you think of religion? Or what do you think of politics?

Where to begin, where to begin?  I've not been looking forward to this question. 

They say that you should never discuss religion and politics, and I've found that to be true.  The vast majority of people have their minds made up about both topics, and the vast majority of those aren't really in the mood ever to change those opinions.  It doesn't do anyone much good to talk about them, I'd suppose.

This question asks me to discuss my opinions about one or the other, which is a virtual impossibility.  Religion and politics are intertwined in this country, even though there is a supposed separation of church and state.  That's one of those things we like to say a lot in this country, but everyone knows it is a bold faced lie. 

It is impossible to talk about one, really talk about it, without at least giving a passing mention to the other. 

So I guess I will bite the bullet and share my views on both.

Here's what this science loving liberal girl thinks. 

As for religion, I have opinions.  Oh, do I have opinions.  I truly do not mean to offend anyone by them, I wholly respect each and every person's right to practice whichever religion they see fit, or not practice anything, as the case may be.  I'm not asking anyone to agree with me, I'm just answering the question.

First and foremost, I think it is entirely possible to be a spiritual person and not be a religious one.  The two are not necessarily related.  A belief in a higher power doesn't mean that one needs to be encumbered by the confines of any one religion.  Whether that higher power is God, Allah, Buddha, Mother Nature, whatever, is really of no consequence.  You don't need religion to be spiritual. 

Second, I take issue with the claim that almost every major religion has to superiority.  That it's my way or the highway.  Like we have a direct path to God, but those other guys don't.  It's a fallacy.  No man-made religion is any more divine than another.  It's just a ploy to get people to join the team.  To quote Bill Maher from the film Religulous, "It's like the lotto. You can't get saved if you don't play."

Third, organized religion developed thousands of years ago not as a belief system necessarily, but as a way to control the growing population.  The leaders decided back then that in order to live in a civilized manner, people needed rules.  And they needed to feel some kind of eternal consequences to get them to behave accordingly.  Thus, religion was born.  It is a means to control people, to dictate their behaviors, to constrain their acts.  Plus, it's a great way to make money.

Fourth, I do not subscribe to the idea that morality can be taught only through religious means.  It is possible to be a good person, a truly good person, and be agnostic or an atheist.  Charity, integrity, friendship, kindness are all qualities of good people, and they can be learned outside a religious setting.  Granted, for practical reasons, it is often easier to teach children these things in a structured environment that religion provides. 

Fifth, just because someone claims to be religious does not make them so.  Standing in a building on a regular basis doesn't automatically make you a better person.  It just makes you habitual.  Plenty of bad, bad people have convinced themselves and others they were trustworthy by standing in one of those buildings. 

Sixth, and this one will stir up controversy, I don't believe everything in the bible.  Gasp!  I don't.  If the stories had been written down in an objective format when they took place, they would be a lot more credible in my opinion.  But, as any one who's ever played the game of telephone knows, the stories can change.  Anyone who's been witness to how stories told by their own family members can evolve over the years has seen it too.  The story that emerges after one generation is different than the real story.  Now, multiply that by hundreds or thousands of years, then write it down.  Surely, it can't be relied upon word for word.  In addition to that reliability of information issue, the bible is also subject to translation, and word selection can make a huge impact. 

As for my personal beliefs, I would consider myself a rarely practicing cynical Catholic.  I have issues with the church.  Many issues.  Many, many issues.  Frankly, I'm not sure why I still consider myself Catholic to be honest.  Yet, I am a self professed hypocrite.  Though I haven't stepped foot in a church since my nephew's baptism, I send my children to religious education.  I want them to learn about god, and I want them to be taught by someone more strong in their convictions than I am.  I can't simultaneously teach my children about god, and teach them to question the system.  I need a third party.  A partner in crime, so to speak.

I don't buy the whole celibacy argument.  I distrust a system that requires that from people.  It doesn't work anyway.  I take issue with the institutional flaws that led to the sexual abuse of thousands, if not millions of children.  I don't agree with how the church requires confession to include a priest, I believe that my sins are between God and I.   I disagree with how the church has shunned homosexuals.  I take issue with the stance on birth control.  I could go on and on about the things I don't agree with the church about.  Ultimately, though, most of the issues I have involve the human constructs.  The rules people put in place. 

I could also write forever about my opinions about other religions.  I won't.  All I will say is that I object strongly to the current trend in this country, in large part brought about by the mega church movement.  The creation of paranoia about anyone that is different, the instigation of political action, the gross funding of propositions on ballots, all in the so-called name of God is shameful.  Hatred is not something I think God would sanction in his name.   I'm pretty sure on that one.

I am a science person.  I like proof.  I don't do blind faith well.  Things like evolution, carbon dating and evidence of the simultaneous development of several civilizations around the world make me doubt.  Is there a God?  I believe so.  I hope so.   

I believe in heaven, but that conflicts with my other belief that some people have been here before.  I'm not saying I think all living things are reincarnated or anything, but it sure seems like this isn't the first trip for some people.  I think there probably is a hell, but I also think it's a place reserved for only the very worst.  I am not so sure about purgatory, and I certainly don't subscribe to any belief that unbaptized children who die go there automatically (as say the Catholic teachings).  I refuse to believe than any higher power would be so cruel. 

So there.  Whew.

Now, on to politics.

For as long as there has been a United States of America, there have been politics highly motivated by religion.  This country was founded on the idea of religious freedom, yet today, even in the year 2010, people of different religions are not accepted.  Looked upon suspiciously, is more like it. 

One only needs to utter the word mosque in a crowded room to know what I am talking about.  Yes, this country was attacked by religious extremists in 2001.  But what about Timothy McVeigh?  He was a home grown white man, raised in the church.  It's easier to vilify something you aren't a part of, I suppose. 

Religion has been used as the justification for discrimination against all kinds of people in the past, and I am sure it will continue to be the sword and shield used in the years to come. 

Politics and religion cannot be separated, it's just not possible.

As for my personal political beliefs, I am pretty left leaning.  At this point, that's probably pretty obvious.  I am a liberal, and as some would say, of the bleeding heart variety.  You name the topic, chances are that I'm on the left.  I don't really need to say too much there, I guess. 

Though I know I am too old these days to still be one, I am an idealist, at least in terms of my political views. 

I do believe in fairness and equality. I believe in opportunity. 

I do believe that our forefathers wrote our Constitution to be a living, breathing document.

I do have the audacity of hope.

I do think we can be better than we are. 

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