The Light of the World

This post is sure to be long and convoluted, but I hope you will bear with me, and I hope that I will make some semblance of sense.

One of the many things that I am interested in is the study of religion. Ever since the seventh grade when I was first introduced to the Buddhist faith, I have become fascinated and disenchanted with religious systems. I find it absolutely charming, simultaneously terrifying, and somehow confusing how legions of people could take to a God or Gods or belief without having the slightest bit of evidence to its existence.

I believe in some kind of higher power–I find it unthinkable that this lovely place all happened on accident, and I can look at a single blade of grass waving in the breeze and see a kind of divinity in its perfection, but I do not consider myself Christian, Jewish, Muslim, nor do I claim membership to any branch of worship. I consider myself a student of all religions, but I staunchly refuse to label myself with one of them for the simple reason that I find all these institutions, for all their supposed goodness, full of veiled hatred and bigotry, but this post is not about that and I am not really ready to discuss that at length.

I am convinced through my own inherent beliefs that something exists beyond whatever this life is. Alternative science and the almost always identical research into near death experiences has convinced me of this. Psychics and mediums have also been espousing the same basic facts for centuries now–from Helena Blavatsky and Edgar Cayce to John Edwards and Sylvia Browne. These psychics all share the same basic tenants that the soul goes beyond this existence to the Other Side which is more like a perfect version of Earth than the stylized Christian heaven where we are all dressed up in angel wings playing harps on clouds. I take comfort in these reports and my inclination, or, I suppose sixth sense would be more appropriate, is to accept these as true.

The more that I read of the Bible and the Koran and other religious texts, many of which I have read and many more which I have never yet had the time or opportunity to peruse, the more distrustful I become of religions as a whole. How many people do you know that have actually read, for example, the Bible? One? Maybe two? And yet the devout cling to this book as if every word were tattooed upon their hearts. I bet that if they had actually thumbed throgh it, they would be significantly less amorous of the text.

Admittedly, I have not read the entire Bible, though I am working my way through it. I find the whole thing exhausting, negative, and mean-spirited. How can somebody label themselves proudly as a Christian when the book they preach from tells them (and I’m not making these up): not to wear polyester because blended fabrics are an abomination, not to have a bowl haircut, not to eat shellfish, to stone adulterers, to kill witches, to deny illegitimate children entry to church, to kill anybody working on Sunday, to deny men without testicles entry to church, to sell daughters to pay off debt, to beat your slaves, to slaughter innocent animals, to stone stubborn children, etc. That is just the tip of a ridiculously large ice burg. I just cannot take anything like this seriously.

People will say that these are archaic Biblical laws and that the revelations of the New Testament are the norm nowadays, the Old Testament was a different culture, and so on and so forth. If that is so, then I do not understand the justification in picking and choosing certain laws from the Old Testament and blatantly ignoring others. I don’t think that is staying faithful. So, if you are going to hate on homosexuality, you’d better stop trimming your beards, wearing cheap fabric blends, and head off to the quarry to replenish your stock of rocks for the afternoon stoning. (There will surely be many sinners that need disposed of.)

I’ll tell you something that I have never admitted to before. For quite some time I wanted to join the Church and be a priest. I thought it would be marvelous to be able to help people with their problems and get to dress up every Sunday and preach to an enraptured audience hanging on my every word, and then I realized what I was thinking. I just wanted to play dress up. I had no calling to Jesus nor God, and I would just be hiding behind a cleric’s robes seeking attention. I have not thought about that for years! It is so strange to think back on the way our brains worked when we were younger. Maybe I was just like Oscar Wilde, who collected the robes of priests because they were beautiful. Who knows?

Recently I wanted to be Pope. I researched all the effort that would take, and forgot about it. It would be easier to be President, and after this post is published, I doubt that my surprisingly religious countrymen would vote me into office. As Pope, I would have made sweeping reforms like Pope John Paul I was on the verge of doing before he was murdered…sorry, I mean, before he died of “completely natural causes.” I will not get into the conspiracy theories surrounding the death of Pope John Paul I–that would take a series of posts! Anyway, as Pope, I would have the entire wealth of the Vatican assessed and then hold a massive auction. There are so many things in storage at the Vatican that are serving absolutely no purpose except accruing value and dust. I would prepare a traveling exhibition of some of the more important pieces and with the revenue from these two things alone, I expect that there could be a significant impact on ending world hunger and developing cures to the maladies and diseases that plague our world. To me it seems inappropriate for the Pope to dress up with pomp and circumstance in a marble palace when he is supposed to carry on with the teachings of Jesus. Last I knew, Jesus wore a linen robe, not a tiara and hand embroidered clothes that would make a King envious. Maybe I am just missing something.

This post stemmed from my reading of Light of the World: The Pope, The Church and the Signs of the Times by Pope Benedict. It was an interesting book and I learned many things, was annoyed at other things, but in the end I was no different from when I started.

Pope Benedict often uses the word “clever” with negative connotations. Calling people who question the Bible and Christianity and the divinity of Christ clever. I was really rather offended that he would condescend people with questions or interest or confusion. I think it is an attribute when people refuse to blindly follow something or get caught up in a religious fervor for the fun of it. (Remember Salem and the French Revolution?) It’s really rather dangerous when free thinking is considered a negative thing.

He continued the ridiculous insistence that women and homosexuals have no place in the Church. I never knew that being born a certain way or in a certain physical sense could alter the way you love God or made it dangerous for you to do so. Just because somebody has a penis, I don’t understand why that gives them the right to join the Church or makes them any better, by any minuscule fraction better, than anybody else. It just is nonsense.

There was absolutely no discussion of Pope John Paul I in the book, it was as if he never existed, and I found this really rather offensive as he was a very progressive priest, cardinal and pope and surely merited a mention even a passing negative one.

The Pope made interesting points on money. Initially, I thought it could solve all problems, like in my scheme above if I were to become Pope. But, it really cannot. People themselves need to change. AIDS for example, could be slowed if people followed Biblical instructions to abstain until marriage, to keep a good distance from hookers, etc., but in these modern times, it seems almost irresponsible for the Church to still disapprove of birth control and suggest that only prostitutes should use condoms. To me, this is just further evidence that the Bible is a policing tool and not much else.

He also made an interesting point, saying something along the lines of–the Pope is a role, a different part of him, as if he were being two people at once. Simultaneously, he is the Pope and a Man. He has thoughts and beliefs of his own, but he cannot act on them as Pope because he represents the Church and some of these beliefs are not the view of the Church and so he can do nothing but maintain the status quo. I found this to be deeply disturbing.

I was going to go on and on, but I find myself already exhausted of this topic. It frustrates, infuriates, and bothers me and it is probably best if I stay out of the world of religious philosophy. I really do not want to argue with anybody on this–I have seen the religious fanatics. I have been told I’m going to Hell numerous times by many people and institutions for who I am, and I suppose I just don’t have time for that kind of silliness. That’s all it is really, in my opinion anyway.

So, if you want to love God in your way, do so. If you want to be a nun or a monk or a priest or a shaman, you have no greater admirer than myself. Please don’t force it down somebody’s throat. Just be kind to people. I think that is a universal religious rule and if it were always in mind, I think a lot of good could be done in this world. Why waste time bringing other people down when we could all be raised up together with love and understanding? Maybe I’m just a ridiculous idealist, but I don’t think so.

I leave you with this quote by Joan Crawford which perfectly sums up what I’m trying to say:

“I believe in God, but I don’t think He cares a hell of a lot whether a person is Catholic, Protestant, Jew, or Muslim, as long as that person has a record rolled up that includes more good marks than bad ones…I think faith is wonderful, but when you try and impose it on others, it’s irritating and boring. Have faith, but don’t become a hooker about it is all I can say.”

Preach it, gurl!

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