Wednesday 26 November 2008

Religion For The Future......?

There is no question that religion has had a powerful effect on human culture, for good and for ill.
I think it's no secret that I personally belong to a religion and that being a member of that religion has both positive and negative effects on me.

I belong to the Catholic faith, but subscribe to a branch of Catholic thought called liberation theology, which is often regarded with suspicion by the curia, and if it existed a few hundred years ago would undoubtedly be branded a heresy.

Not only that, I don't buy into a wealth of the fundamental tenets of my faith. Indeed, there are several areas where I subscribe to beliefs from other faiths or, belief systems that aren't conventionally seen as faiths.

To me, Catholicism is more of a system of thought, I don't personally feel the need to ACTUALLY believe that a lot of its propositions are actually true, but I am able to commit 'doublethink' whilst attending mass. For the purposes of mass attendance, I am prepared to believe that Christ, Mary and all the Saints truly are present and that when I put that wafer in my mouth, it truly HAS turned into the flesh of Christ the redeemer.

But for me, the real value of mass attendance is in the faith statement involved. I'm not attending so much to agree with everything the Church says, as to affirm my own beliefs in my own relationship with the universe.

And in my view, having faith in SOMETHING is important. The problem with religion, is we've thrown the baby out with the bath water.

Perhaps this has a lot to do with the way we now look at faiths. We don't actually bother to evaluate them any more. We don't any longer seem to treat them as systems of thought, some bits of which might be more correct than others. People seem to think religions are 'all or nothing' propositions. You believe the lot, or nothing at all. And then we have that curious outcome of modern day thinking, that all religions are essentially equal in value. This of course, carries the subtext; they're all equally wrong. That is the only possible way they can all be of equal worth.

Now I don't for one moment accept the idea that all religious systems are of equal value. Nor that they have all offered an equal contribution to the advance of mankind. Nor do I accept that any one of them is offering us a picture reconcilable with what we actually know of the universe.

The problem is, the point of view offered that we don't need faith at all of any kind, is wrong. Just as is the idea that religion in itself is bad.

Looking at my own faith, I would say it has many good points. In spite of what some would argue, I would say that the history of the Church shows it to have been generally, a force for enlightenment, a vehicle that provided a powerful dynamic in absorbing disparate cultures into a wider framework, a political and philosophical force that allowed the slow steps towards a global civilisation that began with Alexander the Great, not to die with the collapse of Rome, but to survive as a result of a thought system and one day lead to where we are now. I actually believe that in its early days Catholicism provided the most progressive and forward thinking system the world had ever seen and it took humanity a long time to come up with anything better.

Even looking at my faith today, I see things in it that are remarkably worthwhile keeping within any system of thought. I think belief in an actual Devil and a duality based on personal identities is superstitious, but Catholicism provides a comprehensive system of thought for understanding Good and Evil in layman's terms- or in better terms; What's good for humanity versus what holds it back.

Christ's teachings, if used as social commentary and used as a guideline for how people should live, are pretty good. Though most of Paul's letters should be thrown out. The sentiments are often- not overly pleasant.
And the same goes, I'd cautiously suggest for almost all the Old Testament.

I like Catholicism for a lot of its ritual aspects. But there are many aspects of it I don't think are at all healthy.
I don't think a religion useful to mankind is helped by Catholic teaching on Sex and the Family. I understand that these aspects are welded into the Faith and cannot be prized out, but- aside from on abortion- I don't agree with a word the Catholic Church has to say on sex, marriage and the family.

Nor do I think Heaven and Hell are remotely tenable concepts any more.

But I have ultimate respect for that 'self righteous suicide'.

Looking at other religions, I can see good and bad bits in many of them- though not in equal measure. I like the Buddhist principle of Karma. I actually think it's true. I do think the universe DOES seem to right itself. I think Karma IS actually a belief reconcilable with what we know of the universe. Not reincarnation, that's just as silly and Heaven and Hell, but Karma is a good principle.

Hinduism, too. I like the idea of everyone and everything basically being an aspect of the one consciousness. All avatars of Brahma. And I think Hinduism is often a very practical religion. The inventor of eclecticism. The first religion to not seek to annihilate other creeds- merely absorb them, take their good bits and see opposing views as maybe a way to the truth.

Islam. Of course, this is now the one we're all trying to see the negatives in. And yet of course, we secretly fear its strength. A religion that can inspire its followers to that degree shows exactly the dynamics faith can put to. OK, we as westerners are on the receiving end. And we spend a lot of time debating some of the interpretations of ASPECTS of that faith that don't fit in with our values- specifically where they cause abuse of women. And there's no doubt there are INTERPRETATIONS of Muslim thought CAN lead to that.
And yet, doesn't it also show the strength belief can have, if the beliefs are strong enough.
Most Muslims aren't terrorists. Most Muslims I know or have known, the main thing that strikes me about them is their dedication to leading a good life. How seriously they observe their faith. And it's not a faith that ties up the practitioners in either guilt or a belief that he personally is the elect. It's about proving yourself by your deeds.

So it would seem- to me- that a lot of faiths have IN them things we would be foolish to throw away.

But on a deeper level it seems to me, there are so many other things we now know, things that we DO know about the universe today which we interpret wrongly. We use them as excuses to have faith in nothing, but in fact, they are actually in themselves things that SHOULD give us things to have faith in. We no longer have to be blind about our faith than our ancestors were. It is actually possible to develop a life affirming set of faith principles that can serve our time, a set of values which accord with what do actually know about the universe and could, if we allowed them, be brought into play as a set of faith principles to serve humanity in the twenty first century and beyond.

Firstly- we don't have to MAKE UP a Creation. Or an Armageddon.
We know how the Universe started, we're pretty sure how it will end.

No need for a faith belief, then.

Well, no need for a bearded God and his hosts of angels, no.

But I disagree with the Atheists that we can just dispense with any centrifugal consciousness. The fact is, the universe is doing something, it has ONE definite set of laws.
Well, what else is a deity, if not that? Ok, its not a person, but nothing is ever going to stop the Laws of Thermodynamics.
Can we just agree on that? Chaos DOES not rule, Thermodynamics does.
And because of that, evolution will ALWAYS progress from the lower to the higher and more complex.
The fact is, everything is connected, nothing happens in isolation. And everything is connected to eachother by particles bouncing off eachother and communicating information, so none of it, none of it has ever left the central unity, which is doing something, is a process, and we might as well give a name to, and say, the Hindus are part right, or the Pantheist approach is valid, or whatever, but Atheism is only valid if you adopt a very narrow definition of what type of God you are saying DEFINITELY doesn't exist. If the universe follows rules, which it does, the laws of thermodynamics, then Pantheism of some kind is the only valid belief system.

So it is possible to build a faith system based on modern knowledge, a moral creed corresponding to modern knowledge, a religion built on tolerance, on love, on scientific knowledge, on the brotherhood of man?
Yes, I think so.

Myself, I find that what we know of evolution offers us one of the most life affirming opportunities to have faith imaginable.

We have a whole history of life to look back on that is WAY more fascinating than any mythology ever written, far more a story of triumph over adversity, a story of the marching of forward of life in a slow, upward conquest of nature. THAT, that surely is a worthy basis of faith.

A faith in something perfectly reasonable, something validated by everything we know of the universe.

Can we not revere and take pride in our monkey ancestry? Can we not incorporate this into our faith and make a central fact of which we are proud?
That in our universe, it really is possible that one day a monkey will actually type the Bible?
Because we did.

My belief is that we can find faith again. We can build a new creed for the generations to come, not based on life after death, but on faith in the advance of man.
Faith that the amazing spirit of life, whose pinnacle is ourselves, will carry on rising.
Let us revere history ALL history, including natural history, the ways our ancestors revered the Bible and the Quran.

Let us look into history with reverence, let us see it as showing us by what happened, WILL happen.
and let us have faith in that.

Let us worship the roots of man, in that curious tree climbing primate, that mischievous, inquisitive creature that through his highly evolved love and sense of community found himself selected by evolution to supplant the predators who ruled solely by tooth and claw.

Let the victory of Inner Monkey over Inner Reptile- a real battle between the real natures of man, be the battle we focus on, not an imaginary battle between Angels and Demons.

And let our faith be that Mankind's journey will go ever onwards, that we will carry the torch of life forward, propelled by Inner Monkey.

And let us see affirmation of life as the greatest celebration of it. How better to worship the life process than by enjoying the chance to feel pleasure?
Now here the ancients were right.

Pleasure isn't a vice. Excess, maybe. But it's only excess when harm is done- Buddhists know that.

So- why should we not celebrate our faith in life by ENJOYING it?

Let the acts of devotion of the future be- all the ones we told ourselves were guilty pleasures before. Let us affirm that we believe the universe does not lead our sense of pleasure astray.

Perhaps it might be an idea if in the future, we practise our religious rites on a Friday Night? After a week of moderate behaviour and hard work, the entirety of humanity parties and affirms their belief in the positivity of life, in the invincible nature of Inner Monkey.

And parties solidly for a good six hours.
In an orgy of total hedonism.


Anonymous said...

i have nothing against faith. i have my own confused faith system going on and it works for me and sometimes it doesn't. i'm not overly worried about it.
however, i don't like the religious right. i don't like folks who's religion takes on a fundamentalist close minded role. i also don't like organized religion.
anyway, your take on religion suits me just fine.

Anonymous said...

Well personally I can see the appeal of any religion that offers a heaven full of virgins like those on your first pic attending on me hand & foot
now that would be MY heaven.

But there lies the crux of the matter, heaven or the concept of heaven is different for everyone.

As for relationships, though I confess to being a fairly regular or serial monogamist, I have been off the rails a few times ...
and who hasn't fantasised about communal living with various women. However I must confess that I find it easier to come to terms with MY sharing various women, than with women sharing me with other men.

I still find 'sex' to be something personal & intimite, and I am not keen to share that littler piece of heaven or honey pot with anyone

though of course I have been tempted to share my whisk rather indulgently with whoever wanted a piece of me - as long as they were female.

Anonymous said...

I think reality tends to shake most peoples 'faith'
like the little girls dream of finding prince charming and living happily ever after, only to find omnce she has lost her virginity to the guy, the guy is often ready to move on.

But it is not just disappointment in relationships and break ups in marriages that make people lose faith - it is illness, disease and seeing people (loved ones) die which I think makes most people lose faith (from whatever culture or background).

The broken dreams, the shattered illusions - and though one may get back on one's horse and ride again, there is always a little something that gets lost.

After Madonna may have become famous singing "Just like a Virgin" but I also thinks everyone knows she lost that a long long time before.

Of all the peculiar things the universe has created and generated, how does one explain a hymen, as a random fluctuation?
I think losing a hymen often is a random (per chance) fluctuation, even among those who have chewed over or pre-meditated the moment of losing their virginity.

By the way, one last secret
Always treat a woman in the morning like she were a virgin. I was doing fine while I was doing that ... but over the last few weeks I failed to do just that or to tell her how beautiful she was and how happy she made me

and now I'm back on the market
out on the hunt
but I'm getting a bit of an old tooth to be doing this
and I could end up a bit of a lonewolf

Feeling like I'd had my piece of heaven and let it slip thru my fingers. Aaaah regrets ...
and I see no pretty girls in the horizon awaiting me with open arms

Love lost, happiness lost
Even the Stars fail to bering a smile to my sad old face, today.

Anonymous said...

What exactly is self righteous suicide?

I think you fantasize about being the next Ron L Hubbard.

Anonymous said...

Foam- No, I don't like them either. I think they pervert religion.

Myself, I think Christ would be more inclined to the left, in today's setting.

Fundamentalism is never a good thing, it suggests that worldviews are set in stone and unalterable, even when bew facts arrive.

Quasar- Yes, but you can't accept a religion on the basis its MYTHs sound more fun.

If you chose a religion, not on the basis of whether it sounded plausable, but whether it sounded fun, then Valhalla really is the place to go.

I actually admit, I don't overly mind sharing women with other men. But that's me.

The hymen is somewhat of a puzzle for biologists. Why, is indeed a good question.
Funny, isn't it, that as a culture we have always attached so mych signficance to a woman's virginity. Or her sexual past generally.

Or in fact, her sexual present.

Women, can't live with them, can't live without them, eh?

La Femme- It's a line in the song I posted...
Chop Suey, by Systems of a Down.
I'm not sure if the lyrics actually refer to the crucifiction, but I've always guessed they do, bearing in mind lines like 'Down here where angels deserve to die'.

Kind of almost a Gnostic approach, the idea that Cheist pretty much killed himself in the belief that doing so would save a world God and his Angels had turned their back on.
In that sense, yes, Christ's death could be seen as a self righteous suicide.

L Ron Hubbard, not my cup of tea. Not a nice man, by all accounts.

I actually disagree with that sort of thing. What I'd actually like to see is a religion actually of science. Or not so much a religion, more a kind of US seeing the real beauty in the universe and in life and worshipping that in itself.
Kind of Scientific Pantheism.

Anonymous said...

The post and response is chaotic and difficult to follow.

Anonymous said...

Most atheists are simply in denial.

Consciousness itself is a god. Many will attest that sometimes a power greater than ourselves is what's locked inside of us, the part that drives us to do or do not.

Either way, it's simply agreeable that having faith is a comfort that allows many of us to put certain things aside in order to live their life.

Even having faith that there is no god is faith. It's a religion to atheists, who I have often noticed have quite an intolerant zeal against those who have faith. It's very reminiscent of a crusader-like fight against the infidels who believe in a God who was their creator.

Anyway, that's my line.