Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Holy misconceptions

Some years ago I had the bright idea of starting a zine devoted to the exploration of religious faith. The idea germinated over some years and preceded the advent of superfast gratification that is the blogging world.

I interviewed a couple of revivalist ministers with a set of questions that sought to get to the heart of what big T truth might consist of. My thinking was driven by the randomness of faith. It seemed then (and still does) that people chose religious belief on rather spurious grounds: because that was what their friends and/or family believed; because they were the notions inculcated by school or community; because they happened upon - or were accosted by - the disciples of one denomination before that of another. Sure that's also how many choose their politics and that is similarly unwise but the prospect of living in a country governed by dickheads is not as daunting as placing your immortal soul in jeopardy over a rash decision so it is something of a puzzlement as to why we are so cavalier about such a big issue.

Regardless, my zine would propel acolytes away from such unworthy foolhardiness and give them an objective measure with which to make a more considered decision as to where they would spend their Afterlife. And how they might conduct themselves in this one.

To this end, I placed an ad in the Sunday classifieds to gauge interest in contributing to the project. The response was overwhelming.
Callers confused a clear message with obscene propositions. Somehow. Or they got the drift of what I was intending but naysayed it on various grounds. It is the naysaying I seek to canvass here:

You shouldn't criticise other people's beliefs
this would work fine if other people didn't hold beliefs that spill over into tangible effects on we non-believers and followers of other faiths; didn't impact on the law and the social strata

All religions are the same
some profess to be for peace and brotherhood but do nothing but stir unrest, others quietly achieve betterment and enlightenment

Belief is personal
Yes, but it is also shared, and religious experiences are tempered by enculturation

There's no right or wrong when it comes to religion
Sorry, I have a problem with women being treated as second class citizens. And much of this treatment has been codified in religious belief.
Also: some faiths can co-exist despite having differences but others are mutually exclusive. That being the case, some must be right and others wrong. Or at least some must be more right than others

Monday, August 23, 2004

Off my faith

My daughter asked me if I ever believed in God and it was a very timely question because I remember being her age, sitting in the car (13 - I might've been 12), and having this thought that 'of course, it all made sense, there has to be God'

Like people a lot older - who should know better - I wasn't thinking the next step, which is, that even accepting the existence of a deity, what form does He/She/It take and does it necessarily follow that the current models fit the profile?

A friend opined that you can't dissemble religious belief by examining and deconstructing its vulnerabilities. But I think you can. My Nana always brought up the 'argument' that her father had put whenever there was a doctrinal debate: "No one's ever come back to tell us". But it is nowhere near that hard for both Christianity and Islam have their Holy Word written down. Anyone game enought to risk the Divine Wrath only has to do as W.C. Fields did; he was asked what he was doing reading the Bible and replied "Looking for loopholes"
And the Holy Bible is full of discrepancies. If you're really pained, finding yourself caught up in organized religion and seeking a way out then I can recommend no greater course than comparing the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These all tell the same story - the birth, life and death of Christ - and all are written through them rather than by them i.e. they have the same Author. They should be entirely consistent with one another. If they are not then forget worrying about whether Moses would still have been alive at the time some of the Old Testament scriptures attributed to him were written, go straight to the heart of the matter. Ask any clergyman what the most important focus is and he'll point you to the gospels so take him at his word and be surprised.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Abroad picture

There's a part of me that's Chaos Theory incarnate. Getting it together to organize a mortgage or annual trips overseas is slightly beyond me. Less literate souls have snapshots of their trip aboard the Trans Siberian Express; more prosaic personalities fill the tea room with their talk of how they've got a great matching carpet curtain combo for their den. Meanwhile the clock ticks on and I start to wonder whether I'll ever gain sufficient ground.
Is it really necessary to be seasonally adrift to produce great art? There's only been one song with the unwieldy title "You can't write the blues in an air-conditioned room" but that's enough for me.

Of course I'm not completely stuck. I now have a good job, which still pays a little less than my friends did twenty years ago, but it's a sure sign of progress. They each have a travel series in them if they should ever wish to set it down, and my solitary OS trip was with the hostel in high school when we took a flying ten day holiday to Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Yet I'm the one with two teenage kids and they're not even hitched yet. Swings and roundabouts? I don't know.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Kerry favour

It isn't all a one-way street and I expect the attacks on John Kerry will intensify to try and draw fire from Bush.

I have to say he does seem like a typical politician in so many ways so it comes down to a question of whether that's still better than having Dubya in the spot. Ralph Nader has no chance even if he, unlike other third rung candidates, has been around long enough to be namechecked in a poem I wrote in the eighties, has endorsement by one of the straightest guys to ever comment on American politics, Jello Biafra and (as the link shows) has a clear and positive outlook on the issues.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Going against

I fear that the only way I'll purge this fixation with George W Bush - otherwise known is some circles as 'Worst. President. Ever' - is if the bastard loses. I'd love to give the Americans credit enough to see through the most transparent man in politics but I don't so I'm crossing my fingers instead.

A consolation is that there are lots of people who feel the same way and there are all these delightful-sounding conflagrations: covering the spectrum from Babes Against Bush to Knitters Against Bush. I tried similar terms to see whether presidents past had this kind of grassroots opposition and it seems not. But when you've got a Commander-in-Chief with an IQ slightly above that of an actual clinically determined Moron then we are living in unique times. I wonder if among those supporters who are booing and shouting down any opposition, there's not the odd softie who is rushing to his defence the way one would the class clown or village idiot whose being attacked.