Monday, June 08, 2009

Religious views

Nothing tweaks people's fuzzy meter like a discussion of religion. Oh sure, politics are yapping at the heels of religion when you want to ruffle feathers, but politics still dabbles in the intellectual realm of debate. Religion sings emotional "shake, rattle roll" at a high volume.

I don't have strong religious beliefs. I have no religious beliefs. This is akin to wearing a Black Sabbath t-shirt to Christmas Mass to many people.

Those of you who read my blog (both of you) know that I was raised Christian Scientist. It is a religion based in the belief that people need to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, trust in god and heal themselves without the aide of medicine or doctors. It is an often maligned and misunderstood religion because of the whole "no doctor" thing. As a child growing up Christian Scientist, it was difficult to explain to other children and it made me stick out like a sore thumb when other kids were getting hearing and eye tests by the school nurse and I was excused for religious reasons.

It was an age I didn't want to stick out like a sore thumb. It was also an age when I didn't want to get up on Sunday's and go to Sunday school. Nor did I want to sit around on a sunny summer's day reading the Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy and corresponding bible passages. But I reluctantly accepted my mother's belief system and stayed a Christian Scientist until I was 16. I think hormones prompted my break from the church.

I was exposed to other religions growing up. Southern Idaho is essentially part of Utah when it comes to the influence of the Mormon Church. You couldn't swing a proverbial dead cat in Boise without hitting a Mormon or a Mormon missionary. Most Boise schools had a Mormon seminary right next door where all of the Mormon kids had to head after public school to continue their spiritual education.

Despite the Mormon influence, there were still some die hard Catholics in Boise. There was even a Catholic High School. One of my best friends in grade school, Robert Tullis, was a Catholic. I remember my mom telling me that all Catholics were taught that it was okay to lie because they could then go confess to their priest and be forgiven. I told my friend Robert about this and he (understandably) got pretty upset.

In school I also encountered a smattering of Jehovah's Witnesses and a few Seventh Day Adventists. I felt a kind of camaraderie with them because they were lumped together with Christian Scientist's as being one of those weird religions. I felt a bit superior to the Jehovah's Witness kids, though because they couldn't participate in school parties for Halloween and such. I thought that sucked. At least Christian Scientist's only boycotted medicine (which included shots). And thank god we didn't have to go door to door handing out Watchtower's to haggard women surrounded by six screaming kids.

Believe it or not, Boise also had the occasional Hare Krishna and Moonie who tried to sell you incense in shopping center parking lots. I didn't encounter very many Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists or Muslims in Boise. And I only knew one Jewish family in Boise.

When I finally left Boise, I had no religious inclinations whatsoever. Ironically I ended up at a Jesuit university in Seattle living in a dorm with a bunch of Catholic kids who had grown up in Catholic private schools and were whooping it up being away from home for the first time. I attended Seattle University right around the time the mini-series Shogun was airing on national television. It depicts the Jesuits as a pretty radical fringe of the Catholic church who were pretty militant in their methods of proselytizing and recruiting new Catholics around the world. That and they wore orange robes when the other orders were wearing basic black. Regardless of how you feel about the Jesuits, you've got to love that.

I found most of my Jesuit instructors to be pretty cool guys. And despite my mother's worst fears, I was never pressured to become Catholic or go to church while I was at Seattle University. I did attend a few masses and was neither repulsed nor intrigued.

After college, I went through the metaphysical searching phase of my life. It kind of coincided with the search for love in my life. I went to astrologers, psychics, palm readers, Tarot card readers, aura readers and past life regression gurus. I meditated, burnt incense (not provided by Hare Krishna's or Moonies), wore crystals and chanted. I became a genuine, head bonked by a priest Buddhist (when you become a Buddhist in the particular sect I joined, a Buddhist priest taps you on the head with a scroll). I quit being a Buddhist because I got tired of going to meetings and chanting hurt my knees.

I read self-help books out the ying yang. I spent a fortune on therapists and counselors. I read philosophy books and books about Quantum Physics. I took aerobics, Tai Chi, and meditation classes. I went to a vitamin therapist who placed bottles of vitamins on my body and squeezed my hand to determine what supplements I needed. I wore copper wrist bands and pierced my ears. I bungee jumped and learned how to swing dance. I even talked to a drunk expatriate in St. Thomas who told me that the truth could be summed up in seven words: Never forget how great you really are. I then bought him another beer and he proceeded to get into a fight with the bar tender (but that is and was another story).

I did all of this hoping that I would know when I finally found "the truth." If I made the mistake of talking about my search for truth within anyone remotely religious they would try to get me to come to their "one true church" and follow the one "true path."

But the only truth I could seem to find is that there isn't one truth or one true path. There may be truths and there may be paths, but I don't believe there is any "one" true one. I've concluded that the belief that there is one true path is the part of the problem with the world. Everybody thinks their path, method, belief and religion is the only one (remember those who know, don't say and those who say, don't know).

Which brings me back to my original point. The reason people don't like to hear about different religious views is that it shakes their belief that they are on that non-existent right path. But if you think about it, if there is no "right" path then that opens up the option that any path gets you where you are going.

The trick now is figuring out where you want to be.


Naughti Biscotti said...

I haven't done most of the things you've mentioned. I guess I didn't religion-hop as much as I thought. I did try to teach myself telekinesis/psychokenisis but I just gave myself a headache. I also tried to see my own aura. I had read "The Celestine Prophesy" and thought maybe... hmmmm... well, it would be cool if it were true. Nothing yet has seemed 100% true. I'm even having a hard time swallowing the physics stuff I'm reading. Anti-matter??? Eleven dimensions??? Theory or not, I'm having more fun reading this stuff lately.

I want to hear the story about the fight with the bartender.

R. said...

"...those who say, don't know."

So if I say "I don't know" do I or do I not know?

Where I get hung up is the lack of evidence. Where is heaven? How can we objectively test for the existence of reincarnation? Have I ever met an angel? How does the prayer mechanism work?

If magic exists then it must have some underlaying mechanism that can be understood! It's considered a virtue to have faith. I can not see how understanding makes magic any less wonderful - I still get excited every time I get in an elevator or fly in a plane even though I know how they work.

I guess I tend to lean towards Frank Herbert's description in his "Dune" series. Religion is a mechanism to ensure the species continues.

Time said...

I read the Celestine Prophesy some time ago. I can't for the life of me remember what it was about. I lent my book to someone and they never gave it back. So I assume it was something about "paying it forward."

When you say you are having "more fun reading this stuff lately" are you referring to the physics materials or Dizgraceland :)

I don't know.

I have never been overly impressed with proof about anything. Even if you experience something, it doesn't prove it is a universal truth, especially if someone is prone to hallucinations.

And aren't we all :)

I read all of the Dune books and what sticks with me most was the main character became divine by having all of the memories of everyone of his ancestors. I believe it was Herbert's metaphor for human's collective knowledge being the true god.

R. said...

"I have never been overly impressed with proof about anything. Even if you experience something, it doesn't prove it is a universal truth, especially if someone is prone to hallucinations."

Careful there. If you want to go down that path then you first need to establish that the universe can or can not be proven to exist.

Regardless, I've got a daughter here who just had five stitches installed in her noggin from a toddler style demonstration of Newton's laws of motion.

Hallucination or not, Newton's laws are repeatable, measurable, consistent and a bitch of a headache providing proof of their existence - at least in the universe my imaginary Daughter, Uncle and I live in.

Interesting observation about Dune. Unlike the Bene Gesserit the messiah was able to look forward in time too and saw only one route that didn't spell extinction for human kind - tapping the Islamic based fundamentalism in the Fremen in a Jihad that spread humanity across the universe.

Anonymous said...'s such a complicated matter and yet your last paragraph summed it up perfectly for me.

But if you think about it, if there is no "right" path then that opens up the option that any path gets you where you are going. I like that. It means we're all winners in the end.

I have always felt like a bit of a coward where faith and religion are concerned. Here I am fast approaching the half century mark and I still can't decide if I believe in God or not. It feels like a bit of a cop out but then again I don't spend a lot of time thinking about it either.

I DO however believe in myself and that the secret to being a good Christian is not necessarily believing in a higher presence but just always striving to be the best person you can be.

You may or may not have noticed that not all believers are "good" people.

Time said...


It would be nice to discover that everyone striving for enlightment along a specific path discovered the rest of the searcher's at the goal.

You don't need to feel like a coward for not coming to conclusion about a god by the time you are 50. More and more I think age is a meaningless marker of infinite time. What is 50 in the face of forever?

As for believers, I think tolerance of other's beliefs should be a requirement of any religion. It would ease some of that insecurity that makes people try to blot out opposing points of view.

Pernicious Panda said...

Hi Tim,
Where you been? I've missed reading you. Glad to see you're still at it. How's the family (Washington branch)?

Time said...

Hey Kristy,
Good to hear from you! I've been here, just less prolithic and avoiding a cyberstalker. But I'm easing back in to public blogging.

The family is well and growing (to clarify, the kids are growing and not the family size). How are you? I couldn't find your blog anymore and assumed you had dropped out.