Monday, 12 November 2007

Losing my Religion?

I haven't been as plain with you folks as I should have been. about a month ago I mentioned an e-mail from a christian friend of mine (spiritual can of worms) and my problems with an answer. Well I actually answered him not long after that entry but haven't mentioned it before now as I haven't got my head around what I wanted to say here in the blog.

As I said back then, I am a religious apathist in that I have failed to study Religion enough over my life to have gained the insight needed to choose a faith I can put my trust in, but recently I have put a bit more thought into the subject.

I was born into an Anglican family and raised in the Christian faith as taught by the Anglican Church. My family was not very religious, but personally I became strongly religious at an early age, even at one time wanting to become a priest. I spent many of my younger years involved in devotional music, singing praises and devotions to a god I didn’t know or understand. I was a good singer with one of those beautiful pure voices young boys have. I was a devout Christian by the age of 10, the age at which I was confirmed, I don’t remember having to practice the catechism much.

I have blanked the loss of faith from my memory although I suspect it may have had something to do with my mother being taken away from me at the age of 11 by a brain tumour! The church told me this was god’s will, and no god helped me to understand why this should be his will. By the age of 13 I had a religious clean slate and no motivation to refill the slate., and that is how it has remained.

I picked up the (New English) Bible again as my friend suggested, and have read much of both the old and new testaments by now. Sorry to say I have found no comfort in its pages, I found only unbelievable and irrelevant testaments from men of dubious moral fabric (in the old testament), and little more than a few stories of Jesus Christ's ability to perform miracles (in the new). Jesus, at least, attempted to teach a policy of Love one another, but still under the threat of a jealous and somewhat nasty God. I find it difficult to believe that the world's largest faith system is based on such flimsy evidence of an all powerful God. Why should we find faith in the god that has shown nothing of significance, either directly to us all or revealed to the "blessed", for the last 2000 years.

Perhaps I'm oversimplifying but I see two sides to the value of religious teachings; one is the putting down of a basic set of moral values (the fundamental laws of a society) and the other is to help us understand our place in, and our spiritual connections to the universe from before birth to beyond death.

On moral values it seems that (most of) mankind has a built in Empathy to other living creatures that allows us to build a small set of laws without divine intervention (unless of course you see empathy as divine). Many religions (and countries) unfortunately use a fear principal to impose these simple laws.

A much tougher role of religion is to help us in understanding our place in the universe. Tough because it requires us to understand things that are clearly impossible to fully understand. There are two ways of dealing with this, either we have faith in what somebody else has had revealed to them (Check out the revelation of John if you want nightmares with no apparent value), or we have faith in our own observations of the Universe. We are lucky to live in these enlightened times where we sometimes get a glimpse, through Science, of things that are starting to reveal other planes of "existence". Just imagine, for instance, places without time as calculated by Mr. Einstein and his followers. It is such phenomena, and just the pure fact of the universe's existence that provide hints at a greater god. I think it is our purpose to get as close to that god as possible by striving to understand our universe. Do we get to become part of that understanding when we die? Who knows.

So where does that leave me:
I feel some alignment to the teachings of Buddhism where there is no specific concept of God but where the teachings are spiritual in nature, and I feel very close to Deism and the two core features of Deism: The rejection of revealed religion and the belief that reason, not faith, leads us to certain basic religious truths.

A quote from Thomas Paine (the father of Deism) sums up my current feelings on death:

"I consider myself in the hands of my Creator, and that he will dispose of me after this life consistently with His justice and goodness. I leave all these matters to Him, as my Creator and friend, and I hold it to be presumption in man to make an article of faith as to what the Creator will do with us hereafter."

And before that I will strive to understand a small bit of the universe concerning cancers, by fighting this thing until the end.

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