Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Rubber Ducky Religion

I recently had the pleasure of an e-mail dialog with an old friend of mine who is still a Christian. He’s a very good fellow, able to reason, and not a strict fundamentalist. Below are some snippets from the conversation: I don’t see the four major religions you’ve cited as the only options of belief for a theist. Those four are merely the organizations that society pushed upward to success because they were comprised of the correct combination of “memes” that allowed them to succeed. Since you quoted Richard Dawkins, however, I assume you know about memetics. For each of the four religions you’ve cited (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism), there were probably 10,000 other variants. So the theistic world, as I see it, is a vast continuum of ideas floating around like an ocean full of rubber duckies. Over time, many rubber duckies sank because it had ideas that didn’t lend to that religion’s success. For example, there have been many religions that mandated celibacy. Curiously, none of them exist anymore. Does this mean that celibacy isn’t the “Correct option” on a path to god? No, it simply means that it does not contribute to a religion’s success with humanity. After awhile, some of these floating rubber duckies eat some of the other rubber duckies (and digest some of their better ideas) and those rubber duckies become sturdier, more robust, bigger, etc. Judaism is a classic case of this. Their notion of Hell evolved from simply “the pit” (in earlier OT references) to being a complex world with fire, wailing, gnashing of teeth, etc. The Jewish tradition of hell grew each time they were occupied by an outside empire. The Egyptian, Babylonian, Roman, and (I think) Phoenician cultures each had a notion of hell, or the underworld, that the Jews “borrowed” for their own definitions of “the pit.” Consequently, these details made the purpose that “hell” served in their religion far more effective, and lent to the effectiveness of Judaism (and Christianity) as a whole. Hell is such a great motivator. The current, mainstream versions of Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Christianity are ALL examples of this ongoing pairing, dropping, and synthesis of ideas that have, over time, made all four quite powerful within the cultures where they live. A Christian might argue that it is the hand of God that has seen its truth through to the current version of Christianity, and that is how it in fact survived. I would have to ask, if this were true, how God also allowed the other three (and for the purpose of this argument, the fourth behemoth of Buddhism) to exist as tempting pseudo-truths. I suppose one answer is that these are the result of Satan’s attempt to deceive the masses and that, for the most part, only the western world has not been deceived. This is just preposterous, and it’s cyclical reasoning. The fact that people use their local religion to express themselves spiritually is not bad, or wrong in any way. The only thing I take exception to is when they forget that it was a personal choice and extrapolate the “truths” they’ve learned to be globally true, and not relatively true. Saying “it works for me,” is incontrovertibly valid. Stating “It will work for you,” as a fact, is completely invalid. Later in the conversation … we were discussing the miracle of Jesus’s resurrection: Regardless of whether it happened or not, does the miracle of the resurrection prove the correctness of Christianity? The assumption is that since Christ was resurrected, Christianity (and not other religions) must be true. I would offer an alternative: if Christ were resurrected, it would be a powerful message from God to humanity that says many good and wonderful things, but nothing even close to what Mainstream Christians presume. To me it would be a message that would in no way “shut down” the messages prevalent in other religions. It’s not a huge leap of logic to think that maybe, just maybe, God performed a miracle and Jesus did rise from the dead. Whether he did or not, I don’t feel the need to refute the resurrection of Jesus. I rather like the idea that he did come back from the dead, so I don’t mind that people choose to believe it. The proof that I’m still awaiting is that IF Jesus did actually rise from the dead, how does that validate the vast and complicated belief system currently espoused by Mainstream Christians? There is very very little connection between the two. Modern Christianity is merely the biggest remaining rubber ducky in the ocean, from my perspective. So … the current church not is without the proverbial spot or wrinkle. However, just because the church is flawed does not negate its primary assertions. That would be bad reasoning. But I see many assertions of the modern church to be obvious confabulations built around Christ’s resurrection, based on two thousand years of human postulation and manipulation—not divine truth. How we interpret Christ’s resurrection is extremely speculative. Here is where I could find common ground with many Christians. I would even call myself “Christian” if I could gain a foothold into any definition of that word that is not rife with things I disagree so vehemently with. Were I to choose to believe in the resurrection, and then interpret God’s message therein in my own personal way, I might call myself a Christian but be damned to hell by the Mainstream version of people who call themselves Christians. I also believe is many of the things Buddha taught. I could easily call myself Buddhist. I even went to a “modern mainstream” version of a Buddhist meeting. I found myself (to my GREAT surprise) debating with the group leader right in front of everyone (he called me out!) about why what they were doing had very little to do with what Buddha actually taught. I brought up the basic fundamental truths taught by Buddha and no one in the room was familiar with them. It was hilarious and astounding. I see the differences between modern Christianity and the actual teachings of Christ to be just as vast. So why call myself a Buddhist? Why call myself a Christian? I really don’t think it matters. I doubt God cares. What matters (to me) is that I grow as a person to become as close to what I should be as I can. I call myself an agnostic but really I do hope strongly that there is a God. I believe there are many messages of redemption that we should all embrace and learn from as we are able. I believe that some people are assisted to this end by religion … any religion. I also believe that many religions also assist people in finding their more evil potential. The rubber ducky that represents what I believe sank long ago. People like structure. They like to be told what to do. They don’t want it to be “up to them” to learn and grow, etc. Still, I think there are lots of people who believe the way I do. Do your best, but keep it to yourself. Each of us has a spiritual journey that is as unique as we are.


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