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Sunday, May 27, 2007

It's Sunday, and the faithful hit the streets this morning as they headed out to the various places of worship. I, on the other hand, watched Casino on DVD.

I've never really been very interested in religion, even though I had certainly been exposed to it when I was younger. I was lucky, my parents were never fanatics about it, although presumably they believed in what they were taught. It was all fairly benign, never any of that fire and brimstone garbage that is so effective in warping young minds and enforcing uniformity of thought. I think I was pretty much over the notion of religion by the time I got to high school, although I don't recall putting it in so many words at that point.

College was pretty much ideology-free for me, not surprising given that I'm not much of a joiner. A lot of kids head off to college and start to question what their parents have foisted on them. I was always allowed to ask questions (as all children ought to when something strikes them as ridiculous), so I never had a great spiritual revelation or crisis of faith. College is a chance to experiment, I'm told, and I've seen some young people abandon the faith they showed up with as freshmen, and end up with something completely different. I attribute most of it to rebellion, but if the mind is engaged in questioning, I suppose there may be some merit to it, even if you're only trading in one dogma for another.

I spent time considering what I thought the universe might ultimately be about, learned a little about different philosophies, and tried to develop my own. I knew from the outset that I would probably never know anything for certain, and that the only thing I absolutely did know was that I really didn't know anything at all. For whatever reason, this lack of certainty did not trouble me. The universe holds infinite mysteries, and I think just considering them is worthwhile, even if answers cannot ever be known.

I am friends with a lot of people who have wandered away from organized religion, and many of them say some variant of the following:

"I'm not religious. I'm spiritual."

I liked the way that sounded, and I probably said it myself once or twice.

But you know what? I'm not spiritual. To say I am is a lie. I don't believe I have any deep connection to the cosmos except for the fact that I am an inhabitant. I suppose I am an atheist, although I can easily admit that I could be wrong. There may be a god, supreme being, Big Kahuna, or something. The universe exists (at least I think it does. There's a deep philosophical conversation all by itself), so it was created. But does that mean there is a creator? Must there be? And even supposing there is, why would anyone assume or want this creator to have predetermined the course of all of our lives?

I believe that things are random. People can change the course of history, but are they destined to do so? Does Hitler become Hitler without the harsh toll of WWI? Does Stalin become Stalin? Does JFK become the man he is if he's born in Michigan instead of Massachusetts? Some people take advantage of the opportunities they are given, and most don't.

I actually like the idea of the universe being a random place. I think it's cool that almost anything could happen. I don't like when something bad happens and people say that it's God's will. That is the biggest copout load of shit imaginable. Your baby drowned in the pool to serve God's plan? Africans are slaughtered in Darfur because God wills it? I can't think of any reason why God would want to push someone's car into a ditch during a storm. God may exist, but like the president of the United States or the CEO of Starbucks, I hope he has better things to do than meddle in the lives of mortals.

Sometimes I wander around and try to see the world as it is, and I'm pretty impressed. Things make sense. You let go of something, it drops. The sun moves from east to west over the course of the day. Rain falls, things grow. Water boils or freezes depending on the temperature, and light travels at 186000 miles per second. These are the laws of nature. If this is your divinity, then so be it. If God created the universe, then the universe must act according to these laws. In recorded history, God has never seen fit to have a sunrise in the west, let a man give birth, or allow one single thing that is born to live forever. The laws of nature are good enough for me, and common sense covers most of the rest.

Do I really need God to tell me not to steal from others, and not to kill my neighbor? And this omnipotent god actually cares if I call him by the wrong name? This omniscient being is so jealous? I'll tell you, hand me the keys to the universe, and I hope I won't waste time on such petty human smallness. If I was God, I think maybe I'd cure cancer. I might eliminate some other sicknesses as well, although I wouldn't eliminate death. People already think of life too frivolously. Death is the only thing that puts it all in perspective. And the promise of reward in some afterlife is just so much pie-in-the-sky to keep people from asking too many questions.

What other conclusion can one come to except that religion exists to protect the status quo? It is man made, and we know this because the rules change all the time. The Vatican swears for centuries that the Earth is flat because God told them so, and then suddenly it isn't? The Mormons don't allow blacks in the church for a century, and then suddenly they're ok? The Jews are are condemned for perpetuity of killing Christ, and suddenly, just twenty centuries later, the edict has changed? Religion serves the purposes of those that run it, and nothing more. It's the greatest pyramid scheme of all time, a supernatural Amway.

And keep your spiritual mumbo-jumbo away from me, too. Your crystals have no power, although they are pretty. Maybe that's really it, now that I think about it. Just keep all of your beliefs away from me. I am not interested. I do not have a need for them. I have no gaping chasm inside of me that requires a supernatural filling, although I have worshiped an eclair or two. Just live your life, believe what you want and please keep it to yourself. I won't say that you're wrong, because I honestly do not know, but when you proselytize, you are insisting that I am wrong, and you don't know anything, either. Belief and knowledge are entirely different, and I will take the latter over the former any day of the week, and twice on Sunday.

It's Sunday. How did you serve your god today? All I did was think about the nature of the universe, and I didn't need to go to a special building to do it. I feel pretty good about it. I feel free.

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posted at 6:14 PM

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