From time to time, I find myself knee deep in religious falderal, vainly trying to debunk the sordid mythologies that creep into our cultural machinery, clogging the drains and backing up the john. For nigh on 30 years, I've been holding my 'faith' close to my chest while others wave theirs around like a virgin's wedding night bedlinen. People of strong faith, particularly Christian, love to use their faith as a golden bludgeon. They put it on public display so you can be awed by its shiny goldenness but never hesitate to use it should you ask why. I have had a few bruises to show for the questions I've asked.
So, here it is in all its glory... my take on religion and faith...just in time for the holidays.
Christianity began 2000 years ago, give or take a few years depending on which bible scholar's math you believe and whether or not they remembered to carry the one. The story is well known but here is the short version.
The Gospel According to Shamanaqua:
A young couple, freshly married and pregnant, go into a small town to be registered as citizens for a census. They found refuge in a barn and shortly thereafter delivered a healthy baby boy. The livestock found it to be rather entertaining.
Anyway, this baby was foretold to be the 'Son of God' and would lead his people, the Hebrews, out from under the repressive thumb of Rome. He is raised by his father to be a carpenter until the age of 12.
This is the part of the story where it is more fill-in-the-blanks. Not much is written about him for 18 years. This gap gives many of the fringe religions plenty of leeway in creating a whole new set of stories involving this man and his adventures all over the world. But, in the main text of Christianity, not much happens except he becomes an adult. He visits his rather eccentric cousin who lives near the river and gets baptized. Apparently this gives him the incentive to leave his father's business and become a religious prophet. He buys into the 'Son of god' mythos.
For three years he gathers followers, 12 apostles, a groupie named Mary and a host of rich friends. He marches into Jerusalem as people throw palm fronds at his feet. (or donkey's feet if you go by the story) He preaches to the masses, gets busted by the local cops. When questioned about Jesus' activities, his followers throw him under the bus (or donkey, I guess) The Feds (Romans) want nothing to do with him for political reasons, send it back to local jurisdiction and Jesus gets crucified.
The rest is more mythology (faith, if you're Christian) meant to solidify the mystery for the faithful.
Good story. Bit of a downer at the end but it holds up against myths from other faiths.
Now, before you get your bloomers in a bunch, there's no reason to think that this is meant to demean your faith. If you believe that this is the True and Actual History of Jesus Christ, the Messiah then OK, so be it. Why would my opinion matter to you?
I look at all faiths and their mysteries through the same lens, even my own. I have no, repeat no, idea how to answer those lofty questions about the origin of the universe, the reality of '?' (God, Allah, Buddha, Ramtha, Flying Spaghetti Monster, -insert your deity of choice here-) So I do what people of faith have been doing for centuries - I make it up as I go.
I mean, how can we answer those questions when we are so small and insignificant in the grand scope of the Universe? Can a flea relate to the applications of quantum mechanics? Should he? The flea does the best he can within the confines of being a flea. Perhaps some day a flea may come along that can be a little more aware of such things as quantum mechanics but he still ain't no Einstein. He's still a flea, for God's sake.
So we, as puny humans, cast our lot with a myriad of myths and legends. Unfortunately, it is also quite human to maintain that ours is the one true faith and that all others are the myths. Not just myths, mind you, but dangerous and viral myths that threaten to poison the minds of the faithful and condemn us all in '?'s (insert deity here) eyes. Kind of like cheering on your favorite football team but with swords, guns and bombs. Not unlike English soccer.
Christianity lost its way long ago when it decided to become the de facto religion in the world. Never mind that the other religions had a real problem with that position. Thus began the Dark Ages.
When discussing religion, I make one observation that tends to rankle the faithful.
Jesus Christ was the last true Christian, and he was Jewish.
I say this because of the history his followers made after he died. Sure, they were persecuted in the beginning, Christianity certainly doesn't have a monopoly on intolerance. They were a threat to the political theatre that was being played out at the time. But once they got a Roman Emperor on their side, they got a chance at some pay back. Enter the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD and you have the start of an oligarchy. Over the next 1700 years, the characters of this theatre changed but the script has remained intact. That's 1700 years of bloodshed over who's God is bigger, badder and more 'loving and compassionate'. Millions of innocent people died because they were raised in a culture that wasn't Christian and refused to change their mind.
There is NO correct faith. There is NO absolute definitive way for us to recognize the Creator. We are small and have not the capacity to comprehend the scope of what it would take to look upon the 'face' of the Creator. All we have are our myths. Sure, they seem silly to those who don't hold them dear but that's the way of humanity. We are individuals and each have a unique way of bundling our facts, our beliefs, our histories, and our experiences into a form that seems reasonable to answer the unanswerable.
I may not agree with your myth. I may even say that it runs counter to everything I believe but I cannot say you should not believe it. Your beliefs are yours, mine are mine. I have as much right to tell you to change your beliefs as I have in telling you to change your fingerprints. The reverse is especially true.
Proselytization and forced conversion are not religious. They are political, abhorant and counter to the development of humanity. The history of these policies has been violent, bloody and responsible for the death of millions of innocent people. All in the name of God. To be more precise, all in the name of Christ or Mohammad. Better still, all in the name of Power.
When the world's religions abandon the premise of conversion of the non-believer only then will they begin to approach what Jesus Christ's real mission was - to lift up the downtrodden and give them a chance to succeed according to their own faith. Until then, it's just another get-rich-quick scheme on a global scale.
Those are my beliefs, your mileage may differ.
So Mote It Be,