The Foremost Function of Religion

This may be one essay that you might not like at all. In it, I am setting myself up for lots of nay-saying. And yet, I feel obligated to make my statement. It is something I feel very strongly about because I have experienced it first hand. I have lost my wife. I was with her a very long time. It was an excellent marriage. We did many really good things together. It was the only marriage we each had, and made at a mature age. This idea I have has grown out of much grief. Out of that grief, I have had to confront a great many thoughts about life and death. The greatest thought is about some way to see her again, to have her back, somehow. Religion offers the only pathway back to her, doesn’t it?

But I have been an agnostic for most of my life. I was baptized in the First Baptist Church, oh, maybe, at the age of 10 or 12, in a huge tub in the down right corner of the main auditorium. The water was warm and I wore some white sheet-cloth pants and shirt for the full immersion. I took religion very sincerely, and it gave me a strong introduction to morals. That is something everyone should have as a dominant sense inculcated early in life, no matter how it comes for you. But it is also a sense to be modified by basic education and higher education in literature, history, philosophy and scientific understanding. You cannot take the message of religion literally as kids will do. However, there are an awful lot of very bad kids. There must, always, be that counterweight to evil in the educational up-bringing of young people. Religion should be tested and handed out so that it becomes a matter of enlightened choice, rather than a result of coercive persuasion, as happens to many young ones. I say “coercive” because the very young have no choice nor counter-culture to the religion that has been chosen for them.

Yes, religion is a force for “good”. I learned that. But it covered with guilt some human acts that are very normal, some more than others, having an inhibiting effect where it can damage normal understanding by attaching a sense of “sin” and “damnation” onto some very human behavior, perverting the functions of what are very normal ways of responding to other people and one’s own natural urges. Those perverting and inhibiting pressures on the behavior of any youngster are powerful influences bending the youngster’s character, for life.

Now I see one function of religion may be to promise a way to go to seek its power for seeing her again. Many people sympathizing with me have said that very thing. I think that may be one of the most important functions of religion, its primary force, its greatest promise, in spite of all the guilt it causes. However, I am completely satisfied to retain my doubting unbelief. Upon seeing me say that, I am sure the true believers will be thinking, “Poor sap. He’ll be roasting for eternity in Hell.” I can only say that I can’t see myself burning up over and over a billion times and more just because I was of a different mind. Otherwise, how can you burn in hell and not burn up? Think of the excruciating pain that must go on and on, ad infinitum. All because I questioned and refused to believe something. That’s JUSTICE?! How perverse. Once I am burned up, must I be reconstructed in order to be burned up again and again and . . . . . forever? Religion wants to punish me for having a different way of thinking about life and death. That’s the powerful draw of religion. The urge to see her once again. In paradise. For eternal bliss. That could get old, too.

I will continue to miss her. In my own way. In recall. With no hope for anything other than that. That is life. I can be moral without religion. Is being moral the same as believing? I do not think so. Without believing, I can still be put into Hell, even if I have strict moral behavior. Thou shalt believe! There is only one way to Heaven, but there are two ways to Hell.

Published in: on April 24, 2014 at 2:20 pm  Comments (4)  

Paradise for Eternity?

Here I am, ageing fast, but not acquiring desirable qualities by being left undisturbed for some time, like a pound-ball of cheese. Or not maturing with age like a good wine would.

More like, the experience of the death of a life’s partner will age one with the pins and needles of grief piercing the mind. I have never before thought so much about religion since that passing. It is my choice to believe or not to believe, thanks to the open, free, non-coercive culture if this nation. Not the case with many who were given the parents’ choice before they could think for themselves about the choice, nor where the vast multitudes are compelled to take the religion of the nation and the larger regions beyond state.

This North American culture is more difficult to live in and follow those monumental lines of reasoning and thinking and making a choice. Here, the pressure comes from living with those life closings of those we love and cling to. We know what a variety of religions offer. For the most part, there is the offer of paradise for an eternity or burning in hell for eternity. Paradise is a palliative. Hell has been depicted by those threat mongers in the pulpits defining sin in lurid detail. ‘Sinners in the hands of an angry God” is the Puritanical treatment. And my early dose of First Baptists-ism.

Think of it, eternity in Paradise, Heaven. Perfection, the most powerful palliative ever invented. Meeting all your saved relatives and friends. The best goad ever invented to make human beings be and do good.

Eternity. Paradise. Perfection. How boring! I would prefer another go-round with a rebirth on Earth. With that promise, would everyone become concerned about the coming global warming? You bet! We’d have a higher stake in working NOW toward achieving climate control for future generations. Being Earth-bound futurists would make the best religion if we thought we might become another generation of humans, instead of lolling around in the perfections of paradise.

I am certain the concept of paradise was the invention of people living in the ages before the human brain invented scientific and technological reasoning.

I can hear some saying, “Let God do it! In an afterlife, with all those I knew before standing around me in the perfection of heaven, forever and forever.” I say, “Ad nauseam!!! How dull. All right at first, but then, the punishment of eternal ennui and mental and physical torpor. Someone would have to invent some interesting deviltry, in paradise, to offset and define the perfection. Or else puncture the brain to de-activate it before entering those pearly gates.”

Another on “GOD” and the Bifurcation of Faith and Science

I know you all as the benevolent spirit of nature that created the conditions for the possibility of me. With that spirit and that set of conditions still viable, I have the faith and belief that more like me will continue to be produced.
The trouble is, those potential beings like me may have all the attributes of people like me, but they may be missing some good sense of reason and, with a flawed reason, find their nefarious, or extremly unreasonable thinking process leading to ways of action that undermine the reasonable majority, for example, affecting the climate to such an extent that Goldilocks may have to die, that millions must be afflicted with the terror of improvised death, that some will experience gut-wrenching diseases, and mind-blowing inhalations, and the parade toward extinction will thin out to a few hardy souls, crying, “Why couldn’t they just go and leave us few behind, healthy and reasonable and wholly competent to make life rightly lived?!”
What would a life “rightly lived” be?
For that answer, I must bring up the parable of “Doubting Thomas”. It was one of the stories told by Jesus to convey his religious message, straight from the Bible. This point in time has given us the historical dichotomy between faith and reason. Thomas wanted to see the wounds of the Crucifixion of Jesus on the cross. “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails . . . I will not believe.” (John 20 [25]).
Jesus answered, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
Does that imply no blessing for Thomas, perhaps even a curse, or some severe affliction or evil spell on Thomas, as the opposite of a “blessing” on unbelievers? Or was it meant simply as a mere slight? No, I think it was something more powerful and hurtful than that. (I know how seriously “scriptural” people take these things.) I think there is something hurtful in a “non-blessing”. It says to me that Jesus, for all his deified presence, did not anticipate the modern era of scientific reasoning, or he could have, or should have, given his blessing to the desire of Thomas for proof in reliable, not rumored, knowledge.
At that point, it seems to me, faith and the power and hope of science part ways, two divergent pathways to truth. A state of being of two minds, is that possible, or healthy? Schizophrenic? Mentally ill? Bipolar, certifiable, confused, demented, deranged, diminished responsibility, insane? The scientist being a Christian?
And yet, I believe people have found some way to live lives in two different compartments, without feeling any need to reconcile the two opposed behaviors. How do they do it, have two ways of thinking, faith and/or reason, a scientific method and “creation”? Some have created “creation science”, or the “science” of “creation”. The acceptance of a creation beginning was the result of the methods of poetry, which prevailed long before science presented a different method of observing phenomena. Early scientists came under the murderous hand of believers who had the upperhand in society. Society made the atrocities of the purgation of heresy happen. It could not happen in present society, could it? Orthodoxy will continue trying, won’t it?
However, the dichotomy still exists, not so much between groups of people, but more within individual people.
How would you agree or disagree?
I believe that any imagineable deity would be accepting of a life-form which, through a species-magnified intelligence, creates an environment that advances survivability for that life-form, or adapts to a given environment that furthers the survival of that life form.
The powers that led to the prosecution and killing of scientists have themselves been “killed”, by the fruits of the labors of the “doubting Thomases” of the healthy skepticisms, living in harmony side-by-side the true believers. Science: “Don’t tell me it can’t be done!? I will prove it to you.” Technology: “I am telling you, this must be done! I will show you how it’s done.”
If a claim to know is spoken, the voice of reliable knowledge in good science and technology will ask you to believe and then deliver, saying, “You will be healthier, safer, because there is a demonstrable way. I will show you.” We must all become “Doubting Thomases”.

The Inter-Faith Service for the Boston Bombing: One Thing Missing

Recently, the “Boston Marathon Bombing” catastrophe occasioned an inter-faith service. The meeting was appropriate and beautifully spoken by all the presenters. Impressive. But I must demur. In each of the last two services, A PRESUMPTION HAS BEEN MADE that ought to be corrected, forever! One segment of the population was omitted. What is that presumption?

It is consistently and continually presumed that humanists or agnostics have no faith. That is a prejudgment. WE DO! Therefore, they had no presence in YOUR inter-faith services. YOUR blind thinking wants only organized religious denominations to be represented. Agnostics do have a belief system, called a philosophy, and a faith even though they may not have an organization with a power in organized numbers behind it to compel attention.

It is a faith “at large” with the method of reason promoting human welfare and humanitarianism. Yes, it may be secular, a cultural movement, and highly individual, but we would recognize and identify with some one speaking about that school of thought that puts the individual human being gazing squarely into the face of evil, and mayhem, and unreason, and speaking for the force that buoys up a large segment of human life on this globe.

There are many great humanists who should be asked to speak and represent us humanists.

People of religious faiths have failed to include, twice now, a humanist or agnostic or atheist to represent a growing segment of the population of the United States. Your premise that overlooks some great members of this society is fatally flawed with what? prejudice? ignorance? denominationalism? supernaturalism? narrow-mindedness?

Please, in the future, show some of the competence of reasonable adults! Do not be afraid of independent thinkers who may use different pathways toward the same end as the doctrinaire. Believe it, there are some great thinkers in our society who share my view. You show yourselves fearful, of what? That service about the bombing of the marathon was good. But there was some representation missing. I felt it. I resented it. I wanted to hear my point of view applied to that moment. There may have been a humanist among those attacked and hurt or killed.

I hope we do not have to have another such memorial rite. Without that sort of wickedness we can do. But —

“GOD” — Again!

I have had much to say lately about the subject of religion and “God”. I am getting closer to my final word on the subject. I am mainly writing all this on the subject of religion because I am in a crisis situation regarding a death in the family. Sympathetic folks always say something like, “Believe me, you will be with her again in a better place.” AS comfort to the aggrieved.

I have come to the conclusion that I am not an “atheist”, as my thoughtful expressions would have one believe. I thought I was, but I have come to a refinement as I examine it more closely. I am not one without a thesis (since that is what the word literally means); hence, not an atheist. Close, maybe, and perhaps in the eyes of others. It probably doesn’t matter to any on-looker, but it may to my family. To codify a religious belief, the belief must have a struggle with the universal quandry of good and evil, light and darkness, truth and falsehood, personified to make it more real and immediate, threatening with whips and scorns, or rewards of eternal life and paradise. The organizers must have a system of rewards and punishments to properly “condition” those who come to them for help with personal anguish. And life certainly has mountains of that anguish to climb in the ordeals of living!

The original organizers, over two millenia of the gradual accretion of codes and ritual and excavations and cathedrals and artifacts, have the majesty and systematic organization and indoctrination of the young down to a catechism, the book summarizing the principles of the religion, written as questions and answers for inculcation of the young. They have had their dissenters, breaking off into a new organization over some differences, and that was good for those dissenters to get away from the monopoly which looked like a good thing, and so there was the whole business opened up for all types of new organizing principles.

Therefore, when I reason to my own end, I realize I am not an “a-theist”, without a thesis. Any “thesis” about religion is an unprovable proposition. The ultimate appeal is to “belief”, devotion to that belief on pain of, whatever will discourage more free-thinking. The very thing that must be organized is such a way of thinking that people will feel “belief” to be factual, real, consequential, urgent truth, with an “or else-ness”. The organizers find that personification of characters in a grand struggle is dramatic, and the organizers eminently resort to pageantry and drama. At one time, the drama was burning heretics on a square downtown. At another, the organizers sent whole armies on crusades against the heresies threatening their organization.

There is still today the incipient warfare divided between a more populist politics and a way of crusading religious life.

Here in the United States today, the organizers have been tamed somewhat, by a lawful hands-off freedom of belief.

I am not one without a belief. I have a thesis, my unproved and unprovable statement of my point of view based on a lifetime of observation, the empirical “data” of my a posteriori perceptions of what I can state are the facts of my observations, the way people behave. If there is that higher power of a deity, to which believers must attribute some sort of miracle, which stands as evidence of the intervention of that deity into everyday life, then I have not seen anything but theatre. Most everyday uses of that word miracle are for such events as the “miracle on the Hudson”. To me, the miracle was widely reported as such but it only came down to everything going according to plan. The survival had been practiced and anticipated in the manufacture of the airplane and the training of th crew.

In a previous essay, I stated my thesis, which was not total disbelief. It was my belief that God, if it is a “he” or “father”, if it was the “creator of the universe”, is a tantalizing object of righteous, religious organizers of beliefs to offer some admirable goodness activities, and it has a “hands-off” or “laissez-faire” policy of operation and is not a part of everyday life, listening to prayers and answering prayers of those in trouble. Such beliefs have some power to motivate extraordinary exertions for good ends, no doubt.

I am not an atheist, one without a thesis. But my thesis views any higher power, or deity, as having no part in controlling nor intervening in human life on Earth. Good things can come out of prayer. That cannot disprove my thesis.

Look up the word “agnostic” please. Perhaps that is a better fit, meaning, a person who claims that he cannot have true knowledge about the existence of God (but does not deny that God might exist). That means, a fence sitter, doesn’t it. I say it again, if God “exists”, I do not know where it is, or how to prove it. Its policy is “laissez-faire” as far as Earthlings go. Any church must have a difficult time with the concept of the “miracle”. They are nice to have, in order to give its believers that confidently strong feeling that God is near and imminent and available and will, on occasion, actually play, openly, some material and specific part in the individual human’s life. One church must have specific proof of that provable, demonstrable intervention in human affairs. That would create a “saint”. Otherwise, the church might just have to adopt the suggested “laissez-faire” policy to be the plan of action of the deity, “hands off”. Belief is good. But do not expect the deity to play a part in your private affairs, for which you are solely responsible. Any reckoning will take place, according to your belief, at another time and place.

You might say that I am treating the concept of God as an enterprise, an organization constituting a business venture in the name of God. You might say that your tithe is a religious tax. And the profits go to —, oh, you contemplate that a bit.

Just say that I am a “Doubting Thomas”. I read that part of the story. I might consider Thomas to be the first prominent scientist. He had the scientists’ basic skepticism. He wanted to be shown the evidence that would support the claim. It was Jesus who rebuked him for his scientific bent. Thomas said, “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails…I will not believe.” Later, Jesus said, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed. Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” (John 20, 26-29) Jesus had to prove it before Thomas would believe it. Of course, Jesus was speaking in an age and a culture that had not developed the basic operating principles of scientific proofs for producing reliable knowledge. Thomas was not appreciated for what he stood for. That age was to be far into the future for those times.

Am I bound for HELL?

Post Script (4-4-13): What is truly my God? What do I worship? Classical melody and harmony of music I associate with that beauty in my spouse. She is still evocative of the beauties of classic and classy classical music, a warm and sunny day of light breezes, the company of family who are stars, contemplation of a great work for the betterment of human life (as in the book I am trying to write). What I worship comes to tears in those associations. I am lonely. I was a loner before I married. Now, a loner again. Your God does not look like me nor I Him. The closest I can come to a God-form is the scientific and artistic expressions of magnificent intelligence. That breaks down to shards of God in many places, and I can see trashy attempts that fail. As in people who let themselves go, for one example, in appearance and short-cut deeds of the ungovernable. Right now, I am specializing in my gaze on politicians.

The Concept of Religion and God

A “concept” is, in my mind, an organized “knowing” of something, anything. The concept of “beauty”. (Someone might say, “Her beauty is only skin deep.” That slur says something about the speaker having a concept of the beautiful lady’s personality.) About “meaning of life”. About “race”. About “politics”. “Religion”. “Good food.” “Nutrition”. “Health”. “Love”. And so on. “Love”, for instance, is more of a concept of attraction, and then prolonged attraction, attraction as a desire to make it continue like an addiction, tied to one person’s presence, a love addiction, a very significant attraction, long-lasting accompanied with a strong desire to prolong the attraction for a very long period of time, an attraction that you conclude without any trouble has staying power, which stands for what people call “love”.

Is “religion” an absolute necessity for everyone? Everyone will surely have a concept about religion whether or not they profess to “have” religion. If one professes to have no religion, any explanation will probably have an anti-thesis derived from religion. Why? Because religion is a very prominent activity in the culture, in the nation, in the world. You cannot escape its presence. And its presence is also global, everywhere at all times.

So, being so “universally prominent”, as a phenomenon, everyone on earth should at some time in life be expected to have a “concept” of the main feature of any religion, a superordinate power, usually called “God”, or “the gods”, the Almighty, a deity, or a higher power. “God” is usually capitalized to show significance as a proper name in Christianity, a being of the highest order of beings. God is always assumed to be a presence, whether present or not. The God is endowed with all sorts of powers, sees all, knows all, controls all, forever and always everywhere at once. The way people act, God loves praise and complements to the extreme point of flattery. I have difficulty imagining such a super-power as being a glutton for adulation and even the debasement of proskynesis.

The concept of “worship” depends on an appraisal of the materials and deeds in the worship ceremony stemming from the belief system. What about appreciation? Appreciation is an appraisal made after examination and the result of the appraisal being made known to the object being appraised. Now appraisals have to be very discriminating by specialists who know the criteria by which to make the fair and honest consideration of the thing being appraised. That is the content of the concept of “worship”, and a chief “appraiser” in charge, which cannot be blind, but must be founded on the belief as a systematic belief of one denomination.

I believe that it is certain that there will be a variety of “attitudes” toward the “concept” of the main feature of religion, the deity(-ies). An “attitude” is a “characteristic response” of the individual, each individual being separate in ego and identity, meaning there can be so many billions of attitudes, given the recent figures on the population of Earth. Remember the Puritan preacher and his famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, the “Hell Fire and Damnation” School of preaching that constituted, and probably still does, as one style marking Protestant sincerity of evangelism even to this day. I was a Baptist and saw a bit of that myself.

Think of the variety of concepts, attitudes, that believers will hold. They then sort themselves into like-minded groups and find each other and recognize each other as having somewhat similar properties of belief, so much so that they want to congregate and form a body of fellowship around the concept they hold in common. Or it may happen that a charismatic preacher will be able to bend an auditorium full of followrs to his or her stylistic slant on belief in God and, perhaps, define a new religion (organized belief) just a bit different from the main stream. That would have to be in the Protestant view, where there is more freedom for “styling”. In fact, the delivery style may create a slightly new belief and emphasis. In that fellowship, the individual nuances are left hanging outside the group as the groups solidify in commonalities, and build their own church. Any lack of independent thinking just must lead to “orthodoxy”, outside of which is another kind of “sin”. Groupies, too. Gangs, too, as religions.

That becomes the God of the Catholics, the God of the Protestants, and so on to the great number of identifiable congregations. The auto de fé comes at the end of the line for some extreme thinkers, and could lead to torture or burning at the stake in the public square. For thinking. And speaking.

But all that presumes that each individual is an independent thinker. No. Not so. Individuals are probably blank slates, “tabula rasa”, when it comes to a concept of God. That blank slate is the state of being very young, in age, in the ways of the world, in the vagaries of belief that has crept into an attitude, modeled in the fellowship having a prepotent effect on groupy behavior.

The ways of the world fall to the interpretations of the particular view plastered on the very young, and that means the particular concept held by the smallest congregation to start with, the family, the family concept of God. Inherited. Any independent thinking about the concept beyond the orthodoxy is unlikely, and probably squelched in a hurry. The blank slate is etched with orthodoxy, and that will never be worn out by any sandpaper of heterodoxy.

What is the point?

It hardly seems fair and appropriate that the concept of God should be foisted off on the unknowing young, as the concept of the elders in the smallest congregation, before the youth have opportunities to develop their own concept without inheriting it. How many have the intelligence and courage to think for themselves and declare themselves above the prevailing dogma in the house? Not in ones so young.

I know that religion and God have great powers and many worths. In such as charities, among others. It is one force that contributes to rendering people “governable”, giving them governability”, which all society needs. But it is the rigid orthodoxies that inculcate stuff in the very young, as if to hang on to them for life. To the detriment of the youngster? Probably not, if the child can grow into a character of his or her own making, climbing out of prejudgment and gaining the thought process of making an individual re-judgment of the eternal verities, the realities of his or her own truths. Through reasoning, the balancing of the alternatives and choosing the best alternative according to her or his individual choice.

I have not been vilified for my views. But then, I do not usually show them prominently in any way, but I am now. And I live in a society allowing and enforcing freedom. Which is not universal. Yet. Perhaps that is the way the world is tending?

In my recent experience with death, I have thought a lot about it. I became something of a person without belief in a foxhole. Wanting some superordinate intervention to deliver me from my loss. Yeah. A miracle. But I know better. Laws of nature and the Universe and all that. But in that all too human situation, you tend to–oh–slip a bit, and wish for such an intervention. Weak. Sad. Someone to “HELP!” nah. She is worth every tear.

Why do I find that “religion” does not have, for me, that “prolonged staying power” that I attributed to the meaning of “love”? Hypocrisy. People betray their wedding vows too easily. That is a model example of the difficulty of religion. Impracticable rules lead to hypocrisy, professing for, and acting against. Promising “forsaking all others”. but then abandonment, breaking a trust.

Everybody should be a saint. Everybody cannot be a saint. So you must go to hell. The Baptist religion I knew preached against smoking, going to the movies, wearing lipstick. Such a religion was a shelter against the worldly. Also, there are the beliefs in outmoded concepts that should have gained from the intelligence gathered since those famous Biblical dicta were written. Outmoded beliefs, off-putting. Much can be learned from an education in literature and philosophy and ethics in communication and history and politics, what fundamentalists would call the much maligned “humanism”, the ideology of being human and plucked from ideology to become humanistic studies.

But things are loosening up, I see, and in a century religion will have been “made-over”. There are such rules as the Golden Rule and Kant’s humanistic categorical imperative, as I read it, acting as you would legislate for all humankind. Now that is an imperative: a command, a commandment, a duty, an obligation, a responsibility, a vow.

But first, an individual will have to give evidence of being “governable”, of knowing and swearing fidelity to the rules and laws of society. And then achieve a record of having lived in accordance with the vows and rules and laws of humanity in everyday operation. The “governable” individual needs to be that in society and have a system of principles governing morality and acceptable conduct as an ethic. A work ethic. A marriage ethic. A frolic ethic. A family ethic. A study or student ethic. A love ethic. A financial ethic. A mothering ethic. A fathering ethic. A family ethic. A son ethic. A daughter ethic. A guest ethic. A driver ethic. A witness ethic. Governability in all of those categories. In any one of those, not everything goes. Self-control in all of those is posting yourself as governable. As honorable. As faithful. As dependable. As loveable. The ethic of governability is what makes society possible, the essence of loyalty.


The Plan of God with a Laissez-Faire Policy

What is the highest, but hardly imaginable power in the universe? Hint: “bb”. Some may have thought three letters, perhaps, “—“.

That “bb” has consequences with which we are still living, the expanding universe, and the potential for a bumper-cars ride to an end. It started eons ago. Around five billion years ago, it is said. [No, CORRECTION: I just heard that the latest figure is 13.81 billion years from the “Big Bang” to the present, 2013.] Now that is power beyond imagination. But greater force, to some, is, yes, GOD, the highest power anywhere and everywhere, from the beginning of time (as was the bb) to the present and even extending beyond, past the foreseeable future, when comes the b.c. (big crunch). From all that has been attributed to God, I would have to say, too, yes there is that unimaginable power, all-knowing and all-powerful omnipotent, all-seeing omniscient, and everywhere at once-omnipresent.

Some talk about their standing in His (Its) presence. Can you imagine having to speak to God? What could you possibly say? Your Earthbound habits of phatic communication: “Hello, God. How’s it going?” Out the window. What’s to say? What kind of conversation could anyone have with such a powerful presence? Alright, no conversation. Tell the most powerful doctor what ails you? Beyond medical. Ask for a miracle? Too late for that. “How am I doing?” A request for your judgment? your fate? No small talk. No big talk, the “big stuff” now moot. You haven’t got a prayer. Praying at this point is not appropriate. That’s Earth talk. Just let “Him”(?) do all the talking and shut up? God does not converse, does it? (God has no gender, except the Earth-attribution of “Father”, God anthropomorphised.)

The way that speaking to God is done here and now is a one-way road. Called “prayer”. You are on that one-way street and you are praying that there is no major traffic tangle up ahead as you think about getting to your work of engaging God in talk. How should you do this? It is no longer a one-way street, standing there in His presence, is it?

So. How would you talk to such a power that knows all, sees all, past and present, knows all you think about, anticipates every question before it is uttered, sees the beginning and end of your individual life as well as all those lives on an over-populated planet, and at the same time He is receiving messages (prayers in hundreds of languages) from all over the Globe, and probably from all over the universe, too, from every galaxy and all life forms there. We are not alone.

Think of all the individual supplications He must cope with. Sorry. You do not have that great expanse of an imagination. Nor do I. What is my asking for anything going to mean? In that vast welter of prayer? My needs of ego are so infinitesimal, immeasurably, incalculably minute.

I believe that one version of religion, the self proclaimed “universal” denomination, had to “create” the concept of “miracle” in order to demonstrate that God does “interject” His-Its-Her presence in human affairs, making God more real to the common folk. I believe that there is a religion’s need to have the “miraculous” in human affairs (Catholicism); it contributes to the “magic” and “wondrous awe” just like the great cathedrals that religions have constructed, to produce the majestic reverberations of the sounds of choirs and other instruments, including the human voice in preaching. It is theatre. I maintain my definition of “miracle” as things going according to plan. Really, there are miracles all around us, in construction and business empires. Science fiction has an abundance of them, that someday may become actualized. Science fiction is miraculous and read and viewed onscreen almost like a bible. Hollywood films have always tried to produce the miraculous.

Except for Mohandas K. Gandhi. Sheer charisma, divinely conferred power of a personal ethos of wisdom, virtue of moral character, and good will. A walking Bible, modeling the words inside it.

Hence, I may as well think of God as a laissez-faire ruler, “Let it be,” or, “Let them do as they will,” or, “Leave it alone”. A “hands off” policy of operation, coming down to “God helps those who help themselves.” The human who coined that phrase probably had the experience of that impossibility of tending to a task too large even for God. “This is a do-it-yourself universe, or what the hell is a brain for?” And God may have thought of it in just that way. (I know I am making attributions for God, but then the “men” in the white collars can be heard frequently putting words into God’s mouth, assuming that God-like view all the time. “God wouldn’t have wanted that!” That was said by a clergyman of the atrocity in that grade school. He wanted to be speaking the mind of God, didn’t he?) And if humans help themselves in all things, then there is no need for God’s help. Or, let them do it for themselves and let them call it the hand of God. God moves in mysterious ways. Many human beings have performed God-like miracles which are things just going according to plan, in my definition. (The miracle on the Hudson.)

I want to say, somewhere: We are not God’s automatons, wired and wound up and set down to perform as in an experiment, not to amuse and entertain! If there is such a higher power, it may be curious to see what one brain in a brain-driven (reason-driven) body can do, on its own, for better or worse. So far, so good? The science seems to be working, but the reasoning seems to be lagging. That’s to be expected because that goes beyond science’s technology, to depend on governability of fully socialized human beings who would stop the suffering of criminal (ungoverned) behavior.

I will venture some evidence in support of the truth of my belief in the “laissez-faire” God. Jesus was said to be God’s Earthly son, and that is widely believed in the Christian religion. Jesus himself apparently believed it, addressing God as his father. Yet, as he was undergoing that barbaric, final ordeal of the crucifixion——

An Aside about that “Barbaric Crucifixion”:

Someone has said, “It is inconceivable to adherents of Islam that God could tolerate such an obscenity as crucifixion.” [The Australian, 2004, in, Wickie.]

However, did not the monsters of 9-11-01, playing GOD, commit the obscenity of self-crucifixion, screaming “Glory to God!”, as they brought down the twin towers and actually crucifying a great number of human lives as death-sentence-victims pronounced guilty-without-a-trial in an obscene crucifixion of random humanity? TALK ABOUT AN OBSCENITY! TALK ABOUT CRUCIFIXION! That was one of the biggest for God to have to tolerate!

End Aside.

———that final ordeal of the crucifixion, the man Jesus, near death, had some doubts when he uttered the fourth word of his seven last words: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34) Those words came from a mortal suffering mortality at that extremely human, lonely moment of death, and, perhaps, even having an inkling of a possibility that it might be countermanded by one so mighty, a Father saving his Son. God’s sacrifice? Have there ever been human fathers who have sacrificed a son for the belief of the father’s? If ever there were grounds for the belief in a “laissez faire”, hands-off policy of an immortal deity in a Heaven, that crucial event in the history of organized religion certainly seems to be it. The son of that deity has pronounced it. Yet, the preachers, parsons, reverends, pastors, Popes speak as if the deity is very highly active in responding to people’s prayers and granting all sorts of remedies growing out of their faith and prayer. God is good. As if such a power could be “seduced” by all grades of attempts at flattery. Reason collides with unreason! If there is a God, reason in the human mind is the most vital element of proof that there is a God. There is the reason of science and the science of reason by which humanity will earn the gifts that a God would give. Sexual transgressions are one devil constituting one challenge to the ability to reason in some grand contest of passion and mind.

Reason takes many forms besides science. I will give you one superlative form of reason: Gustav Mahler’s symphonies.

With a religion of the hands-off, YOYO policy of the ultimate deity, what are we to do? What human beings do best: study to apply reason in order to start to earn a paradise here on Earth, and let the rest take care of whatever remains after that. Reason and goodness will result. Just now, there is great unreason to be conquered, because people can be fatally deficient in reasoning abilities, when emotion is allowed to override it.

Readers here who are believers must be struck dumb at my heresy, unorthodoxy, heterodoxy, believing that I am surely hell-bound for eternal damnation. A body could not burn forever in the fires so vividly described to horrify and scarify and bully an unbeliever into a coerced belief. Maybe it’s that other construction, the immortal, incorporeal soul, that is to be submitted to the devil’s tortures. There must be some more rational rationale, shouldn’t there, some more reasonable appeal for believing in such an all-powerful God as the one and only higher and universal power. Of course, I would like to see her again, and that’s a sure-fire gotcha. The alternative in reason is the most down-to-Earth and mortal truth and requires me to realize that she has gone away, forever, never, in any way, shape or form to be seen again. I have only her likeness in mind and memory, and love grieving, in my whole body. I continue to wear the ring. Death has not parted us. I tried to take off the ring. One day, only. It is not finished. For now.

It is either that, or just never think of talking things over with God. Just let His spirit wash over you, wordless, silent. But we do need the words, don’t we, to sort of “communize” the effect.

Now everytime I listen to the preachers, Sunday morning televised evangelists, I hear a lot that might be taken as self-serving.
There is the muted, but persistent appeal for $ that goes along with the pep-talk and “Let’s hear an Amen!” It is a living. Oh, they mean well. They are a force for goodness, I think. But I wonder a lot about what is going on in their minds. Do they feel a duty to be there and listen? Is there constructive criticism of any kind? How does their life outside weekdays jibe with their religious experience of a God?

I am not anti-Christian. No. Never. I am pro-reason. There is some un-reason in Christianity. But Christian charities are wonderful services by dedicated people, for much good in the world. I am only stressing the “pro-reason” of my views. When unreason and reason collide, I will trust reason, and stand against Christian unreason. I will interpret unreason as the opening of the Bible, with the story of “creation”, when it was written, and the state of knowledge of the universe at that time. What was written was poetry, by a poet, using the imaginative figures of speech that poets are acccustomed to use. They had to use poetry for explaining. There was no other way of knowing, but only through the efforts of poets. That chapter was not written as the report of a scientist, with all of the substantiating evidence. It was, however, written as a matter of fact, but we can only choose to see it as something to be believed. That is the reader’s choice. It is, however, “pronounced” and preached as fact. That is unreason. That is one example of many more to be determined.

And of the tree of knowlege of good and evil, thou shall not eat. If you do, you die. I think a great number should be now dead, except for an equally great number of ignoramuses. That surely must go against the grain I am made of. I am doomed!

John-1 (in the Bible) got it right. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The “word”, language, speech, articulated, a time of the oral tradition; obviously, I have not studied the Bible. I am taking it at face value. All words are part of our system of symbols, the word in symbolic interaction, you with me and me back at you, symbols which stand “for” things that mostly have a tangible substance and that can be freely manupulated without having the substance in hand or observable by the eye, or apprehended by any of our other senses. I think that John-1, implying to me without knowing it, says that the “WORD” created “GOD”. Both the “WORD” and “GOD” are symbolic “beings”. The word effectively brought God into existence. The nature of words makes God possible, and can make anything possible. You say words, but you do not touch what you say, oftentimes. I can say touch a “house”, but you will ask, “Which one?” “House” is a “tangibility” to be made tangible. Is “God” a tangibility? I do not think so. God exists only in belief. Not everyone has that belief. God is a word, a symbolic being, only. I am symbolically condemned by believers. “Sticks and stones…”

I continue, thus, my quest to evaluate my way of belief in a-theism, or a-gnosticism, the religious orientation of doubt; a denial of ultimate knowledge of the existence of God. Because I am old. And alone, mostly. She is gone. She was my goddess. I still worship at her shrine, many in my memory, several hanging on my walls. I lived for years with the miracle of her presence. But never gooey like I am getting here. I did not know this was coming.

If I am any kind of tell, then I represent myself as knowing all that one can know, without revelation, with only reason and some imagination, that a God might have a plan requiring the human being originating in a chain of evolution to fulfill a plan of a reasonable, imaginative self-help program of legal, moral, democratic, imaginative, technologically inventive progress and empathetic initiative toward the perfection of human society. For self- and social-control, and then for global society, the same.

Let that be my first approximation of a non-religious thesis for life at this moment. My patch-work quilt of philosophical comfort.

P.S. (3-25-13) There is no one religion. There are many religions, each one organized differently from the rest. Why so many? Each cannot be a universal religion, even though one lays claim to being “universal”; that word “catholic” means universal. Anything that is “universal” references something that is defined as being something that is true at all time and all places, literally everywhere in the universe for all time past, present, and future. Something such as “pi”, or “entropy”, or the laws of thermodynamics, which I barely understand, but respect as universals. (Please help me name all the “universals”, like ????.) So, for one religion to make such a claim and announce itself as such is astoundingly arrogant and imperious. And totally untrue. Protestantism, as well as many other formulated systems of belief called religions, gives it the lie, “not universal” (catholic). And history bears me out! That is my understanding. And I am allowed to have it. I say it without any rancor, and with tolerance. Just a brief corrective. From the outside. By an outsider.

As a child, I lived with mom and dad in a flat by an alley paved with red bricks laid by WPA (Works Projects Administration of the great depression) workers. Immediately across the alley was another world, a beautiful large white, two-storied home, and a large grassy back yard with swings and a teeter-totter surrounded by flower beds, and a one-car garage at the back of the lot. The family had four daughters and one very small boy at the end of the line. We, on the other hand, had a wooden fence lining the bricks and enclosing the dirt and cement walk of our very small yard. The houses were one block from the St. Joseph Hospital where I was born. The Catholic Church was next to the hospital. The girls were Catholics. We argued in taunting fashion with the girls about religion across the fences and the alley. One day, the argument became so disruptive that the father of the girls came bounding out of his house without his shirt on and chased me around the block in his two strap undershirt and past the Catholic church in a rage against me for what reason I never knew. That event means nothing in the context of this essay. But it does come to mind, somehow. But I know what you must be thinking here. “Perhaps”, I’d say.

JFD, the only writer of this blog, says this: I have read all of the comments written on what I had to say in my essay on God and religion. Your comments have actually given me new life to look forward to. I was feeling pretty low, about my age, the loss of that lovely woman, my wife, causing me to fall into a sense of hopelessness, and other “downers”. But those positive comments helped buoy up my spirit. If people have enjoyed my writing, I am encouraged to feel better about proceeding to the next project I have in mind. You all have really helped me get on with some plans I have for continuing my life. Thank you. That is one sort of “miracle” I can believe in, sort of granting me a new liveliness, for which you have been somewhat responsible.

Can Faith Bypass Religion? One Example: The Ft. Hood Killings

Religion has the structure. The structure is an organized attempt to structure faith, to take hold of faith and discipline it to make it do what the structure intends. Faith can play in the fields like a pick-up game of softball or basketball or football or kick-the-can or sandbox.

But religion cannot abide that use of faith; something more structured will be more useful for the organizers’ purposes. Surround faith with more ritual to make it more solemn and serious and consequential. Out of that base proceeds the building of buildings and a population of professional “herders” (shepherds), practitioners to instill certain conforming behaviors, especially for the acquisition of wealth for the building and the compensation of the herders and for the perpetuation of the structures. For that, one important, overarching motivator is setting the threat or promise of an afterlife of eternal bliss or damnation, which will finally take absolute charge of the being’s faith.

There are the strays and “blacksheep” who take a faith outside the formal structures and put together a narrative independent of that dictated by religious structures of regimented belief. I have heard the dictates of religion. I have tried to practice them. They did not conform to what my intelligence took me to and taught me to do.

The ultimate motivator was a fiction, a nice story to comfort the herd, one not based on reason. Reason, in all of its formal and informal practices, must be applied as far as it can go before admitting any speculative outcomes. Most tire of that difficult pursuit and give up the chase too early and accept the easy-out of submission to the herders. The reasoner may never exhaust the different forms available, but he may follow many lines before admitting defeat or satisfaction with the conclusive narrative he has developed.

Faith can and will and should bypass religion. Are you in the herd? For people who have not pursued the sources of faiths outside the herd, the herd is still a good place to be. To be thinking outside the herd and having a faith based on the narratives of unreason constitutes the social catastrophes by which we are all horrified, embittered, devastated, shocked, distressed.

We must root out and expose every ego-narrative that is destined to confound and threaten us. AND DO IT SOON, EARLY IN DEVELOPMENT, IN ITS INCIPIENT STAGE, TO SALVAGE SUCH LIVES. That is a major task and goal for humankind.

An example: the shooter at the recent Fort Hood, TX, killings (11-5-09), unbelievably a major by rank, a psychiatrist in mental health, and a man of Middle Eastern descent, WAS HEARD TO COMPLAIN (That’s the key!) about his imminent deployment to the war in the Middle East. WHO WAS LISTENING?! The narrative was there to be heard, understood, and acted upon, before his unconscionable, terroristic act (probably related to his ethnic background). A case in point. Attend to, become attuned to the narratives you hear! That should be a future field of one’s basic education.

You may be troubled about “BIG BROTHER” listening in to everything we say and do. Snitching on someone. Becoming and being the BIG BROTHER so hated in the literature. We must learn to hear and report with judiciousness, intelligent understanding, through keen sensibilities, when we hear something WRONG, or SUSPECT in what you hear some people are saying. It is a tough call, one only for the more intelligently tactful sensitives who will become good members in a new, modern, overpopulated society. That certain someone needs help, fast, or else! BANG! BANG! It is a tough call. Toughen yourselves with your neighbors, colleagues, friends, relatives, fellow workers, sons, daughters, all, with empathy! THE EMPATHIC RESPONSE! For the general good of both society and of yourself and family! Or else! I cannot be more didactic than that.

My personal belief about that catastrophic act perpetrated by Maj. Malik Hasan, the mass killer, is that he suffered from a fatal cognitive dissonance between his role in the American armed forces in conflict with his family origin in the culture against which he was to be dedicated to make war. His being a psychiatrist treating the men who came back from that war with stories of their own dissonance exacerbated his personal situation. He knew what he was experiencing and going through. For him, there was no out.

You, I, anybody can have faith without religion. Faith can stand alone, as a characteristic of the existence of your belief, and belief is generally about your future; it is what you see there. It is your faith that it will happen. You do not need a “herder”, and you are not a head of sheep, or cattle.

My Comment on My Page, G.B. Shaw’s “Preface to Androcles and the Lion”

I am not happy for the people who have found Jesus. I believe such true believers may let their Jesus crowd out all other opportunities for intellectual and emotional growth and for reading about the natural world instead of the supernatural and preternatural worlds, for instance. Their usual concerns swing between god and the devil; if they should stop swinging, their feet would touch the earth again for the natural experience of science. I did it. I used to take my religion very, very seriously. O, how I prayed! How I debased myself! But it became impracticable.

I once heard a lecture on the radio by Gerald Heard about the egression of consciousness into a new frame of reference, suggesting the evolution of consciousness. Consciousness grows? Changes? Yeah! Epiphany!! I discovered me. My consciousness began me. I was empowered. I was my own higher power. The power to create the being I want to be. Emancipated, to take up my care of my own life.

That began my inquiry into philosophy. I am happy to say, my derailed intelligence began to recover, getting onto a different track from that track that had stunted my intellectual growth. I shifted from being a pray-er to a reader. I had my antennae up for seeking “consciousness”.

This Shaw tract, a preface to one of his pretty simple plays (made into a movie) was an eye-opener. Also, read the great American philosopher, Bertrand Russell. Then read Carl Sagan, or “A Letter to a Christian Nation” by Sam Harris. Or, read Christopher Hitchins. And you are off, retrieving your life from an extreme wallowing in raptures of Jesus, who may have been an historical character who had a remarkable story. But so have many other great historical personalities who, unfortunately, have come along in a time of burgeoning population and consciousness. The population of prophets has grown exponentially with the overgrowth of population and have become lost in the crowd.

Please, Jesus lovers, grow! Use your brain power! Do not divert all of it into a blind alley of life. You will retain that goodness, but transfer most of your heat into advanced study.

Such is my thought and feeling every time the boys and girls show up at my door to put me in touch with their raptures, as if I had none of my own. Their mission is to witness, I know, with the gospel, “the good news”. I always become emotionally charged, feelings I have a hard time explaining to myself, but I become very emotional. Lately, I have had more to say by way of challenge to them.

I also have the distinct suspicion that my house has been marked as a special place to send their initiates. Sort of like the way hoboes in the great depression and afterward used to mark with chalk some cryptic hobo-sign, the street curbing perhaps, the place for a good meal, and perhaps a place to sleep overnight in the basement on an old mattress by the furnace. (My Mom did that.)

Regimentation of Society by Religion

What effect does religious regimentation have upon the deliberative mind? The question contains the answer which deals with two mutually exclusive terms; the answer is, “none”. Regimentation excludes deliberation. Deliberation cannot be regimented like a military unit. The deliberative mind is not regimented, does not have outside arbitrary authority ruling over it. The question gives rise to the next question: can the deliberative mind abide the regimented mind of religious belief? No, but the deliberative mind can deliberate religion. But I have not asked the primary question because I am too eager to leap forward beyond this question: does religious belief have a regimenting effect on an individual’s thinking? Yes. There is an ancient text, chapter and verse, dictating what must be believed, there are the organized authorities and charismatic figures that have the power to overrule individual thinking, and there is the phenomenon of childhood inculcation. Is that “inculcation” a form of brainwashing (coercive persuasion)? Obviously, yes. What is a child armed with to resist or question what is being taught?

If belief in a supreme being is held religiously, there is seldom anything to argue about, except my implied unbelief. From my point of view, there is much to be questioned about belief, especially in its organized state. My unbelief is questioned by the other side. Belief usually centers on the text that yields that belief. Unbelief usually centers on the questions raised by the science of observation and experimentation.

Do you “believe” in evolution? That is, take it on someone else’s authority, rather than on your own study? Evolution is not a matter for belief. It is, obviously, a matter of science. Once upon a time, that the earth was flat was a belief, as now, for many, because of the regimenting effect of religion, evolution is a matter of belief. Onward Christian soldiers!