Religious Tolerance

I didn’t comment immediately after the Christchurch shooting because it triggered a heap of stuff and I needed to give it a day or two to settle. As is my want, my comments are usually outside the status quo, so I don’t want to appear insensitive in any way.

Firstly, the whole thing is horrific at every level and trying to convey anything meaningful through my words is kinda lame really. Simply put, I’ve been in tears for the people affected. And don’t get me started on things like white supremacy and the mental illness that creates such sick paradigms.

All people, no matter their beliefs, are beautiful and “sacred”, deserving of love, compassion and respect. End of story.

However, religion is an entirely different matter and we are faced with the task of whitewashing our religious differences and glibly saying we must respect everyone’s beliefs and co-exist in harmony and respect, or face the fact that our beliefs actually do embrace the possibility of justifying horrific actions. To sort this out effectively, requires a lot of unpacking.

Islam, as represented by your everyday Muslim, is described (or has been re-branded) as the “religion of peace”, and for these millions of people, all they want is to live their lives in peace – as we all do! Christians too make similar claims.

But there are facts – “elephant in the room” type facts.

Islam has never been a religion of peace – ever – under any circumstances (except to, perhaps, other Muslims and even then there is an extremely brutal justice system that is hardly one of a “peaceful” religion). It has shed endless rivers of blood. It conquers and destroys with cruelty and viscous hatred and bigotry.

But let’s not forget that Christianity is also guilty of this, as are most of the major religions. This includes Judaism. In fact the three Abrahamic religions have released more horror on this world than any other force.

But before you jump on me, I absolutely recognise that there are millions of people who live within these religious constructs and despite what they are taught at any level, just want to live peaceful lives.

So we have a massive disconnect here. Many would say we shouldn’t include the extremists and activists in the equations as they don’t represent the vast majority. But the fact is, they are there, and their influence is huge. They have guided these mammoth institutions throughout the centuries more than any “peaceful majority”. Let’s face it, would you really want to live in an Islamic state?

Let’s be grateful that at least in “western” countries the laws are such that we don’t allow overtly violent and abusive religious expressions.

Christianity is only peaceful because of those who embrace the simple teachings of Jesus (don’t get me started on Paul). Those who like to weave the Old Testament scriptures into the picture have a deep sense of God’s wrath and violence (yes, there are many doctrines and theological ideas that try to piece it all together with varying degrees of success). But the same is also true for Islam. Muhammad’s teachings are clearly contradictory in terms of being peaceful and embracing all nations, and committing various degrees of horrific genocide on the infidels. To get the type of religion most Muslims like to live by requires extreme cherry picking and juggling of scripture.

Same with the Jews.

Same with Christians.

Islam is one screwed up religion, seriously! And to think otherwise is to be naive.

So what do we do with all this? My heart is to help people be truthful and realistic about what they believe and why they believe it. Are our beliefs really based on being “peaceful and loving”. Does our core religion, as laid out in traditional doctrines, allow for unconditional love, compassion and empathy with every other person on the planet? Are we even willing to look at the issues, or are we happy to just pretend the problem doesn’t exist?

We can ignore it to a huge degree, which is what the various movements towards religious tolerance encourage. Live and let live. Your beliefs are yours, and mine are mine and if we accept that we’ll get on just fine… until another group realise that their scriptures and fundamental teachings don’t embrace this in the slightest. And so another round of brutality, bigotry, hatred and terrorism starts.

Of course I support the efforts for religious tolerance! Its all we have so far that resembles anything like a solution. But it’s time we “grew up” as a species and looked at exactly what we get from religion and how ours benefits humanity as a whole.

Truthfully, religions only reflect the hearts of those who created them, and that’s not always a pleasant reality. All religions are cultural constructs, with the potential for peace or horror, just like humans, strangely enough.

There is a better way!

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Who wrote what?

Here’s something I always had a problem with, even way back in my fundie days, although I’d end up thinking the usual “God’s way’s are higher than mine”. I often talk about this still, (and will probably keep bringing it up) and have yet to hear any viable answer to the problem.

But it never went away, and once I’d “deconstructed” enough to see through my confirmation biases, this became a central issue to the entire veracity of the gospel.

Let’s face it, the bible is full of random stuff that should never have been put in there. However, if we claim to be Christian then the words of Jesus are the only thing that matters ultimately. But that implies that the writings of Paul (and lets not forget that at least a third or the letters that bear his name aren’t actually written by him) are really only his personal “revelations”. He never met Jesus, or heard a single word he said. It was all in his head from a mystical experience. So just looking at Jesus is really keeping it simple and pure.

But we do have another problem, just to make it all a bit more confusing.

The gospels are all we have as a record of anything he said, but they aren’t written by eye witnesses (and yes, it’s doubtful that even John was by THE John). They are all assembled from the accounts of one, possibly two, other documents (as far as the latest theories go) that no one has any idea about their historicity. Plus we also have to face the the obvious fact that someone was following Jesus everywhere frantically writing down his every word, on parchment, with ink, in “real time” (so as not to miss any subtle nuances or misquote him). And apparently this guy was even there, in the dark, writing away furiously, while Jesus was praying, on his own, to the Father.

This is no small issue! It goes right the the crux of Christianity. And seriously, if we have no way of verifying that the gospels really are the actual words of Jesus then it’s really nothing more than mythology.

For me, this was one of the key factors for my “leaving the fold”. And as I looked outside the confines of christian theology and doctrines, I found other spiritual and philosophical hypothesis far more rational and capable of making myself and the world a better place.

It’s really become a case of why would I attempt to adhere to a religious belief system that was so flawed from the ground up, creating nearly 2000 years of bitter conflict, endless reassessment, new doctrines, etc, to maintain credibility and relevance.

I keep bringing this whole point up, not in an attempt to undermine anyone’s personal beliefs (although that would be a very real possibility) but to help us all realise that religion in any form is an entirely subjective experience that we create to feel better about ourselves and the world.

Changes

Every so often those Facebook memories pop up, or I read an old blog from a few years ago, and I often cringe at what I used to think, despite the fact that it was all very reasonable and profound at the time.

But my thoughts seem to be ever changing, and dare I say growing? I don’t think I could ever settle comfortably in one set of “beliefs” and philosophies. Just when I think “that sounds reasonable” I start to see holes in it and move on.

I guess there are underlying streams of thought that remain fairly constant these days, but I’m reasonably comfortable now with uncertainty.

I think that’s one of the problems we face as a species – our desire for security through dogma. Life is an amazing adventure, and finding security in that simple fact is life changing! I’m slowly learning that it’s OK to be wrong – to not know – and to challenge myself (and everyone else) to let go and be at peace with change itself.

The nature of the entire universe is change – nothing remains constant – nothing stays in place. Our physiology is a constant stream of change, and when we “die” our bodies simply change into other forms of matter and energy.

Change is life in all it’s glory!

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Beyond LGBTI+

I’ve often written about the limitations of our sexuality and gender labelling and encouraged people to examine the the fluidity of it all. Of course, labelling is needed in terms of finding others who understand our particular needs and preferences, but we get stuck there, to our own detriment.

As the various scientific disciplines explore sexuality and gender, it’s becoming clearer that every single person on the planet is actually on a continuum of various sexuality and gender factors. And people are discovering that it’s possible to move along these different continua throughout our lives!

I just read an interesting article how women, in particular, are discovering same sex attraction in their late 30 and 40s, even though they have been happily “straight” up until then!

We are discovering so much about the biology of gender that almost every other day there’s more understanding of the nuances of our genetics and the chemistry that surrounds it. Nothing is as it used to be understood. The idea of “binary” gender is no longer valid.

Being a chronic idealist and dreamer, I long for us to embrace this as a species. I imagine a world where there really are no assumptions, no boundaries or expectations around any aspect of this core part of our being.

The only factor that needs any consideration in how we live this in a practical way is the birth and nurture of children. A womb is the only place a child can gestate, and a stable loving environment is the only place a child can grow.

I feel my goals and activities are shifting to enable this to become real. I need to put my money where my mouth is, as it were.

I’m actively looking at ways to educate/enlighten, and build communities based solely on unconditional love and support. I ache for a world beyond labels, where everyone is simply their unique selves.

I’ve found that most people, especially LGBTI+, long for the same thing, but regard it as nothing more than unachievable dream, and a waste of effort. But if no one even attempts this, how will we ever know?

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My Scooter

(a true story)

I had a scooter when I was a kid. Not one of those little things they have these days. Nope, this was the 60s. I had a blue and white super deluxe scooter with big pump up tyres and white rubber hand grips. It was fast and smooth. It could handle the rough, but best of all was the speed.

We lived near the bottom of a long gentle hill, and as I slowly gained more confidence, I would go further up the hill to get that extra bit of speed. Stopping was a challenge, even though it had good brakes, but you could never be too careful!

Off I’d go down the footpath, oblivious to the thought of people coming out of drives and old ladies or the postman. When it was quiet however, I’d go straight down the middle of the road.

Finally I worked my way to the top of the hill but still I needed more speed. My last techniques involved crouching down to minimise drag and I was always oiling everything to get that last little boost as well.

Of course, it wasn’t without its risks, and there were many grazed arms and knees, but I was never daunted. It was my scooter – it was perfect.

I’d scoff at other scooters and prided myself on how fast I could go. And yet, in the back of my mind I knew bikes were even faster. My older brother had a bike, but I ignored it completely – stupid looking thing with skinny tires and you were right up in the air, not close to the road like my scooter.

I did try the bike once, but it was terrible! All wobbly and just not right at all. No, bike riders were stupid. Scooters ruled!

For some reason I never allowed myself to think that bikes were actually far more useful. So much so that I would rather walk than make the transition. Eventually though, after pushing it too hard for too long with too many accidents, I had to admit defeat and finally realise I had outgrown my precious scooter!

So as soon as I was old enough I got a motor bike and eventually a car, as you do. I mean, scooters are great, don’t get me wrong. When I was little it was my life, my pride and joy, and did everything I needed. But I simply had to admit that there were bigger and better ways of getting around.

My spiritual journey was very similar.I wanted the best! I wanted truth, wisdom and knowledge. So amidst all the options I chose Christianity.

Christianity had everything I needed! It was slick, with all the answers. I could dig deep into mysteries and get more and more revelations. I could stretch my limits with faith and “ministries”. There was so much to do and strive to be better.

Of course, it wasn’t without its risks, and there were many accidents, causing damage to myself and others. I’d trip up when doctrines didn’t work properly and find another one that did, or patch up the old one with a few different scriptures.

I’d not only scoff at other beliefs, but actually declare them evil – even other Christians who didn’t have my particular polished, high speed, oiled and maintained doctrines, weren’t as good as me.

For some reason I never allowed myself to think that other beliefs were actually far more beneficial – both for me or everyone else! Eventually though, after pushing it too hard for too long with too many accidents I had to admit defeat and finally realise I’d outgrown my precious beliefs.

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make Christianity work any more. It finally became a matter of either ignoring all the other options and doggedly limping on, or at least giving these other beliefs a serious look.

Don’t get me wrong, Christianity served a purpose, but like my scooter, it had a limited usefulness – it would only take so much before turning into a liability.

All this may sound a little patronising to a lot of Christians. I would have thought that too when I was still oiling the wheels and going further up the hill to get more speed. I would have vilified anyone who thought I would outgrow such an amazing belief system.

But outgrow it I did. I still appreciate much that I’ve learned. But I grew too much for it to contain me. Like my scooter that is way too small for me now, Christianity is too small to be of much value.

I could still ride my scooter if I wanted too, but why would I? 

Some kids trash their scooters, run over people’s toes, smash into old ladies’ shopping trolleys and wreak havoc! But I still have a soft spot for my scooter, and I don’t mind dusting it off when talking to other scooter experts. Hopefully we’ll all outgrow these things anyway, although I’m not sure what our perfect transport looks like!

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Taboos

Everyone has their favourite “taboo” topic, but religion is one of those universal taboos.

I don’t mean taboo as in “don’t talk about it”. I mean as in “we must respect each others religious beliefs”. To that, I say bullshit! Religious dogma, in all its variants, has caused more “hell on earth” than any other single factor. So that’s a big yeah/nah from me.

Of course, we do well to respect each other’s humanity, exercise compassion and empathy etc, but we have managed, as a species, to be unable to separate religious beliefs from our identity as a human being. We simply aren’t very good at applying rational thought to those beliefs.

That doesn’t mean we should abandon religion. It simply means that religion must be open to the same scrutiny and objective analysis as any other part of our life. This also means that we must recognise our spiritual needs as human beings and the influence of our emotions and “gut feelings” – everything goes into the mix.

We are so incredibly offended when someone challenges our beliefs. However, beliefs must be challenged if we are to grow as a species – grow in unity, love, compassion and ways that build a better society.

I love to challenge ALL belief systems and provoke people to look at why they believe what they believe. Nothing is taboo for me, and nothing should be taboo for anyone.

If you are upset by someone questioning your “god” and your beliefs, then you should be asking yourself why you are offended – why is it your job to defend those beliefs so passionately?

Not one single god or religion is objectively provable. So believe whatever you want, but if someone challenges you, have the maturity to at least recognise that.

What an amazing world it would be if we all stopped protecting our precious taboos!

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The Narcissistic God

I write this as a challenge rather than a statement of my personal beliefs. The link below is to an article by Andrew Jasko, an ex-fundamentalist Christian.

There are endless variants of christian theology and some, such as the “Grace Movement” paint a very different picture of God – one that is unconditionally loving. This, and the more mystic form of christian theology, provided me with some relief from the chronic cognitive dissonance of fundamentalism, but ultimately, I had to admit that even these theologies created their own set of problems with the biblical God.

No matter how I tried, I could not equate the biblical God as an entity who had any concept of genuine love. In fact I found our innate concepts of love to be far more “moral” and genuine than the Abrahamic/christian deity.

So as you read this, make the effort to see past your own dogmas and paradigms. Be willing to be challenged to look outside your confirmation bias.

God Has A Narcissistic Personality Disorder

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Theist, Atheist or Agnostic?

I’m often asked if I’m an atheist, or most Christians assume I’m atheist. After engaging in discussion, some will assume I’m agnostic. Often atheists assume I’m still a theist or haven’t got the guts to ditch the whole god thing.

Whichever way it goes, people want to label me as being in one camp or the other, or simply agnostic.

However, I simply can’t define my beliefs that simply. In fact I think it’s asking the wrong question entirely!

The whole premise is usually based on the assumption that we are talking about some permutation of the Abrahamic God, which is fair enough given it’s roots in our culture. This is true for theists and atheists. Because of this, most struggle to understand someone who has moved beyond those concepts entirely. As a result I get labelled as a “new age” thinker, or some other sort of spiritually nebulous wanker. Some think I’m more Buddhist/Zen these days… you get the idea.

However, I could only define myself as one who sees the “big picture”. Someone who strives to understand the interactions of ideas, philosophy, spirituality, religion, science and the empirical methodology it embraces, and many other factors. I get equally annoyed by Richard Dawkins as I do by Franklin Graham – because they both have such a shallow and ignorant view of religion. I’m frustrated by the politicising of spiritual disciplines such as Buddhism in far eastern countries. I revolted by the cults of christianity in Africa and Latin countries, and the Evangelical religious cult in the USA. I’m sure you get my drift.

My motivation in all this is a desire to understand why we need religion, and is there a better way of “doing it”.

If there was any label that was vaguely appropriate, it might be “seeker”, but even that implies I’m looking for some sort of god. The whole idea of theism or atheism is moot for me, unless you are talking about the theological constructs of traditional religions.

I hope that answers any questions about my beliefs – or not, lol. Just remember that you will often not get the response you are after from me. In that sense, I’m probably rather Zenish, but even that is just a particular viewpoint rather than a “truth”.

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Time for a re-write!

I’ve been chewing over where to go from here for ages. I was planning on writing a separate book from a more philosophical/spiritual angle but just couldn’t get it to coalesce into anything readable.

However, after talking to friends and re-reading the last edition I decided to do a complete re-write. The goal is to go into a lot more depth and detail. I many ways I wasn’t really capable when I first started writing. It was all too fresh, in the sense that I was in the process of “waking up” and only beginning to untangle the emotional and mental baggage.

I’ve slowly had to face the fact that I really have been through a lot of abuse, in many subtle and overt forms, and that they really did affect me more than I thought. Being rather stoic and good at repressing stuff meant that I wasn’t in a place to really face the impact and the ongoing state of my mental health.

I’ve given myself two months for the task, give or take, lol. So stay tuned, and feel free to give me the odd nudge!

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Is altruism truly altruist?

altruism (ălˈtro͞o-ĭzˌəm)

  • n. Unselfish concern for the welfare of others; selflessness.

One of the traits we most admire in humans is altruism.

We reward and revere the most altruistic in society and recognise our desire to be that way ourselves – but usually as an unattainable goal.

So what makes the most altruistic of us capable of such acts? Well, it’s not selflessness! On the surface it appears to be, but there is a deeper motive in every human – self-worth.

We do good, selfless things because at the foundational level, they make us feel good about ourselves. We make sacrifices, go out of our way, to help others without thought of our own needs. We do have genuine empathy and compassion for others – absolutely! But that’s the emotion triggered by our paradigms and not the core motivation. Ultimately we do good because we feel good.

Sure, we can do it as an act of discipline, actively denying our need to feel good about it – which pretty much amounts to masochism and self flagellation, LOL. Or we can recognise that feeling good about doing good is why we keep doing it. And the more we do it, the better we feel, which inspires us to keep doing it!

So stop pretending that we are being a martyr – to others and, more importantly, to ourselves. Recognise and embrace our need for self-affirmation and self-worth that really drives our altruistic actions anyway. This avoids the false humility and builds integrity and honesty in ourselves and our relationships.

Sadly our conditioning (especially when religion is involved) regards this as unhealthy and even sinful.

We have a lot to unlearn!