Thursday, December 28, 2006

a spoonful of theology

i didn't post it before because, eh- i don't know, i just didn't. but i'm posting it now cause a i like it. and i've been thinking about it for the past few days.
my friend mo emailed me something he'd posted on his blog about religion, and stuff. and i emailed him back.
both our thoughts are below:

from mo:

merry post-christmas.

merry post-christmas.
does the 26th have a color-name-day?
like 'green tuesday'?
ironic, sort of, that green connotes(or denotes? i don't actually know the difference
between connote and denote. i'm dumb. and i don't know how to spell 'connote'.
double dumb points for me today)both money and environmentalism.
in other news:
i was talking with a friend today about how most of the worlds religions are all
pretty similar as long as they're talking about how to comport yourself while you're
they go their seperate ways, however, when it comes to life after death and divinity.
simply(very simply)-
christians believe that life after death is a choice between heaven and hell, and those
who are saved go to heaven and those who are not go to hell.
buddhists believe that unless we become buddha's(enlightened beings)we are stuck
in the wheel and doomed to live in samsarra.
muslims believe that martyrs are met in a date-palm filled heaven and waited
on by doe eyed virgins.
and so on.
but as different as their after-life scenarios are they all kind of agree on how we should live while we're alive.
to generalize: they all state that we should be humble and decent and kind and treat our fellow people as
we would like to be treated.
so why not start a new religion that states as its credo: 'while you're alive you should be humble
and decent and kind and treat people as you'd like to be treated, ok? and after you die?
well, who knows? we sure don't. the universe is vast and nuanced and complicted beyond
our imaginings so it seems like the height of absurdity to make specific claims about what
might/might not happen after we die. also, lots of enlightened beings who might or might
not have been divine have walked(or sat)around on earth. there might be one true god
and one true path, or there might not. so how about we focus on the good things
upon which we agree and leave the rest to later?'
i know that sounds blasphemous to some, but wouldn't that be a good place to start?
cos right now all of the religions kind of smugly think that they've discovered the one-true-path
to salvation/enlightenment/etc. maybe, as the universe is complicated, they're all right?
maybe, but doubtful.
can you imagine a world without any post-life guarantees?
no more suicide bombers?
no more celibate priests?
seems like it might be worth considering, no?
maybe a religion that has a big question-mark on the last page of it's holy text, preceded
by the question: 'what happens after we die?'
i'm going to have a long winded p.s in case anyone wants to read it.

long winded p.s-
see, here's what bugs me. humans have over time proven that they love systems. humans
have also over time proven that they love to be on the winning team. 250,000 years ago
this made sense. if you had a system to find food in times of hardship you increased your
chances of survival. and if you were on the winning team you lived(often at the expense
of the losers)to perpetuate your genetic line. but these two things: systems and, for lack of a better word, tribalism, don't
really seem to make much sense when applied to religions.
most religions are based around some good ideas. but rather than have the entire
credo of a religion be: 'be nice, be humble, treat others as you'd like to be treated, and we
have no idea what happens after we die', every religion eventually builds up layers
and layers of beaurocracy and minutiae and hierarchy.
so when a religion purports to have the winning system it makes me ask the simple questions:
1-don't all religions purport to have the winning system?
2-aren't humans innately pre-disposed towards system creation?
3-aren't humans tribal and innately pre-disposed to see their group as right and all other
groups as wrong?
so i then want to ask the devout practitioners of different religions: doesn't your system
say more about human nature/inclination than it does about the validity of your system?
no true believers ever want to answer that question, be they muslims, christians, buddhists, alcoholics anonymous members, punk rockers, etc.
people love systems because sytems are clear and orderly and exclusive.
but life is not clear and orderly, and trying to establish the primacy of one system over
another is not just impossible, but also incredibly dangerous in that it leads to wars and discrimination and prejudice and suppression of thought/inquiry.
ok, my p.s is long-winded enough, i'll say goodnight now.

my (edited) reply:

nice. i like. and agree.
i am reading v.s. naipaul's 'among the believers: an islamic journey'. fascinating stuff. i sometimes wonder who i would be if i hadn't had a relatively diverse, rounded upbringing: if i hadn't lived two types of lives and had the benefit of compare and contrast. what would i be like if i had grown up in only one strict system of belief?
it must be quite different to be a mullah in qom, having been indoctrinated my whole life and being unable to see the contradiction of preaching of the ungodliness of, say america (which i also think is ungodly, but that's not the point), on televisions that were invented in the very county i vilify.
and yet i understand blind hatred, borne of great suffering. i imagine it must be reassuring to feel so divinely possessed, so blindly purposed and absolved of personal responsibility. it's just scary that we can convince ourselves to be so dedicated to things that might be questionable. but then i guess i find everything questionable. and that's probably more of a problem than an asset....

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“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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