Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Church of Trout, Part 1: History

I've thought a bit about religion over the course of my life: raised Methodist and Presbyterian, my journey since has been a paint-by-numbers exploration of spirituality as experienced by so many other middle-class liberals in 20th and 21st century America.

I was a doubting Thomas by my late teens and thanks to my bestest manfriend, a full-on atheist by my early twenties. The hippy in me, however, kept pointing at spiritual and sacred experiences and asking politely for an explanation. "Hey, man," my inner hippy would ask, "how come we find peace in the mountains?" Or, "Hey, man, why do you like gospel music so much?" Sometimes my inner hippy would get really, really heavy: "Hey, man, is it really so ridiculous to think that we have souls and a larger purpose?"

And so from the plains of atheism I ventured, tentatively, into the tangles of agnosticism for a few years. Somewhere in there I found the Buddha; I lost the Buddha; I found him again a few months ago. We're not the closest pals anymore but he's still around.

Now, for all this searching, I've come to realize a few things about religion. First, no one person or sect has the answer. They can't. The only way we'll know for sure is by dying, and, well, why don't you go first and get back to me. Second, any interpretation of a sacred book is just that, no more. All people understand God and scripture differently, even people in the same church – we are individuals with separate minds and thus separate relationships to the sacred. Third, all organized religions have mandated make-believe notions and the sooner the human species abandons the make-believe the better off we'll all be. Faith itself is fine; helpful even in some circumstances (orphanages, for example, or church-based community services). But faith taken to extremes is precisely why this world is so effed up.

Keep piling on the make-believe for generations and eventually you wind up with snake handlers. Eventually you wind up with the Crusades; with suicide bombers; you wind up with slavery and abortion doctors sniped through their kitchen windows and protests at soldiers' funerals. You wind up with ritual suicides and the Holocaust. Eventually you wind up with bugshit insane ideas about how old the earth is. Eventually you wind up with the religious right.

Stay tuned for The Church of Trout, Part 2: Saving Yourself from Christianism


At 4:20 PM, Blogger Rosellen said...

Do you mean Christianity? Oh, I get it, that's your term for it.

At 4:37 PM, Blogger Sir Dennis said...

At least you're thinking about it. Keep thinking Trout, you'll get there.

Buddhism is also a religion - and a rather good and peaceful one at that. Buddhism has no creator god and gives a central role to the doctrine of karma. The ‘four noble truths’ of Buddhism state that all existence is suffering, that the cause of suffering is desire, that there is freedom from suffering that is attained through the ‘eightfold’ path of ethical conduct, wisdom, and mental discipline.

A careful and more complete personal look (and I emphise personal - not someone else's views) at Christianity will uncover close moral and ethical emphasis not unlike that of Buddihism. Give it a go.

Food for thought: Even the lowly trout can swim upstream and make it in time to spawn - often dying while doing it.

At 8:38 PM, Blogger Trout said...

No, I don't mean "Christianity." I mean Christianism - and unfortunately, that's not my term for it; someone else came up with it first. More on that in an upcoming post.

Buddhism appealed to me because of its teachings about suffering and desire, but more specifically it appealed (and still does to an extent) because it makes no promises, happy or dire, about the afterlife. Buddhism instructs us to look at what is, not what may be.

Religions which focus on the afterlife are engaging in exactly the kind of make-believe with which I have serious reservations. While I firmly believe there is something profound and even divine about the human condition, I don't think organized religions which rely on conjecture and superstition are the answer.

More on the word of God and what all of this has to do with the religious right in another post.

At 3:01 PM, Blogger david said...

"more on the word of god... in another post."

that's funny, dudie.


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