So many Gods, So Little Time: Contemplating Religion:: 2 Works Cited
Length: 1970 words (5.6 double-spaced pages)
The man watched with a blank gaze out the window of the plane. The scenery below passed him by; buildings and streets mostly. But they were remarkably close to the plane; much closer than they should be. This man had previously been sitting in the passenger section of the plane, but he now sits in the pilot seat. The real pilot lay on the floor with his throat splayed open by a box-cutting knife. His bloody gurgles had long since ceased as his eyes fixed on the ceiling with a stare only death can bring. He was of no matter; only one of many deaths that would come today. The other men in the cockpit chanted prayers silently to themselves. Prayers to a wrathful and unsympathetic God. A God that had sent them on this ‘holy’ quest. A building comes into view, and the plane begins heading straight for it. It lands home, searing concrete from metal, flesh from bone, disintegrating bone to dust. People die, and others rejoice in it. People die, and others thank God for their homicidal salvation. People die, and the survivors ask God ‘why?’ I ask God not ‘why did this happen’, because no God had a hand in this. No person was on a quest from God. Fanatics who had handed themselves the will of God did this. I ask God ‘why do we end lives over pointless arguments about you?’
Religion can be a funny thing. It can cause many events to happen, good and evil. Many people have found a sense of peace through religion while others have found a reason to kill people and cause war. What is this creature called religion that can cause two such completely opposite things to happen? What is it about religion that is appealing to any human being? Why do people give up so much to follow the ways of religion? Because, in the end, religion is designed to force its followers into a form of submission in which the follower gives up his or her most basic of urges for the greater good of society and themselves.
You may find as I have that when you delve into the contemplation of religion you come out of the recesses of your mind not with answers, but with more questions.
Religion can be a very broad topic to discuss. From the polytheistic religions of the ancient Greek and Norse civilizations to the more common monotheistic religions of today; from those who practice Wicca to those who practice similar forms of Shamanism, all basically have the same purpose: to lead their believers in the worshipping of a God or Gods for those deities’ satisfaction. That’s all well and good for the deities in question, but what does a lowly human get in return for its worship? In some religions, for instance Christianity, your reward is everlasting love in God’s kingdom of heaven. Yeah, that sounds good, but everyone else gets to burn in the fiery bowels of hell for all eternity. But remember, God still loves them, even while they’re burning. In some forms of Islam, male followers believe that rewards such as virgins wait for them on the proverbial other side. That’s kind of funny originating from a geographic region that has put forth such effort to keep women under servile control. This just leads me to the conclusion that the righteous can have whatever they when they die. If I was dead-set that I was right and everyone else was wrong, I’d probably think the same as they do. But this is the problem with most religions: their righteous beliefs create a cloud of arrogance that doesn’t mix well with other clouds. The Crusades were fought because one nation thought it deserved control of the ‘holy land’ more than another. A century of war and death for a piece of land linked with the word ‘holy.’ More recently, two hijacked planes were flown into separate buildings because, politics aside, the hijackers were taught that their God had wanted it. Just one of many ways people use religion to manipulate their followers. Do you think they would have flown into that building if they thought that black oblivion was waiting on the other side? I have seen what righteousness creates, and I don’t feel the urge to see the fruits of its labor again in my lifetime. All someone needs is to assume they have God’s permission to do something and they can commit any act they see fit for ‘the good of humanity.’ I could walk into a store, call someone a demon and strike them dead right there. Hey, God wanted it, don’t be angry at me. It’s really that simple. Show me a religious fanatic and I’ll show you someone to keep distance between.
Here’s another quick reason that some religions bother me; hypocorism. Scott Cunningham, in his book Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner states:
It’s often difficult to discern where religion ends and magic
begins in any faith (19).
The point is that religions, Christianity in particular, cast those who practice Witchcraft down as evil for evoking spells. Cunningham goes on to ask, ‘what is prayer but a form of magic?’ It’s a supernatural occurrence of the spirit designed to create a physical effect. How can one religion put down another for doing something that it does?
Religion has been used mainly for one thing in the past: Power. That’s what religion is. Power to govern. Power to control. Power to enforce. Power to unify. Power to communicate. Power to manipulate. In past civilizations, and in some today, governments were run by religion, or more truly, religions were run by governments where their rulers had proclaimed that they carried out God’s will. Whether they believe that or not doesn’t matter; it keeps the governed docile and under control. Catholicism teaches that after death, humans wait in purgatory, or a sort of punishment before God’s final ‘judgment.’ Is it a coincidence that when this was added to Catholicism, the church offered the self-saving ability to hand over money so as to shorten your time in purgatory? Gosh, purgatory doesn’t sound fun...good thing I can pay my way out of it. It worked as a pretty good money making scheme. I have my own personal theory that Genesis, or the Adam and Eve fiasco, was a plot designed by men to keep women in a position lower then them. It’s not hard to keep a human being servile when you can blame them for your not being in paradise at that moment.
So what’s the answer to all of this confusion? What religion should you choose, and for what reason? What religion shouldn’t you choose, and for what reason? Are you going to be content sitting in a pew once a week only to listen to a person tell you that you’re not living your life the way the local deity thinks you should? Or are you going to join a religion that forces you to follow strict laws, such as what animal you can or can’t eat, or what days you can or can’t go to work? Do you want to believe a book that was written over 2000 year ago? But then again, some religions have survived a long time, and maybe it is the power of an all-mighty God, or maybe it isn’t. I have no way of knowing. And that’s the basis of my religious belief; I don’t know, and I don’t trust those of blind faith to lead my path any more then I would trust a blind man to lead me down the street.
So what’s the answer to all these questions? No human being can tell you that they actually know, and were there, when the world came into existence, or when humans came into existence, or that they were there for anything that happened over a couple hundred years ago. They can claim to know, or have a strong faith in their religious beliefs, but I’m afraid that’s not good enough for me. I just don’t know, and I don’t think that any amount of talk or ancient script can convince me in any direction.
Don’t misunderstand me when I speak negatively of religion, because I do believe there is a God of some sort of another; humans were created somehow, weren’t we? I just don’t believe in joining a congregation of any sort so that I can be told what that ‘something’ is. A book can give good guidelines for right and wrong, but the actual knowing of right and wrong can only be found in a person’s thoughts and actions. So my choice is simply that I refuse to make a choice, and that I believe only what I know to be true, as little as that is. What I DO know includes the following: something created us; we live; we die. I worship whatever created me, be it the ‘Big Bang’ or a conscious being with a glowing white robe. I’m living, be it a good life or not. And I’ll eventually die. Whatever happens after that, only the dead know for sure. The fear of wasting life on something that turns out to be false is overwhelming sometimes. And with so many choices in religion, how can you NOT be wrong? There’re over a hundred religions to choose from. If only one religion is the correct religion, then many people are in for a big disappointment.
Oddly enough, the religion-spoof movie Dogma had the idea right when a character states this:
People go wrong with religion when they decide to create a belief
structure around it. It’s hard to change a belief. People should just
This just struck me as a very true statement. When you put yourself on one path and refuse to budge from it, better options may pass you by.
This all leads up to a sort of spiritual quest I’m going through at this point in my life. I’ve been raised with Christianity and the belief in Jesus Christ, but I feel that I should stray from what I was brought up believing. So I’m trying to forge my own ideas and, above all, keep an open mind. My ideal belief instead pulls on the fact that I had no control over my creation and I will have none over my death, but I do have control over my life and how I choose to live it. I think if whatever created us consciously did this act, then it would want us to understand that. The idea of dieing for the creator in a war is so backwards it makes me dizzy. If we were created to live, why do we make war in the first place, and how does dieing in that war do anything to satisfy a theoretically conscious creator?
The only way I see to go wrong when choosing a path to follow in life, is to choose self-righteously or to choose without an open mind, both of which stifle personal progress. So in short, you can’t just believe what mommy and daddy told you, or what the nice man in the suit at the podium told you. You have to go out into the world and find what you want to devote your life to. Go out and choose a religion that you feel suits your needs, or just begin walking down a path of self-creation that you rule the fate of. Hey, it’s only what you’re going to devote the rest of your life to anyway.
Cunningham, Scott, Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, copyright 1988; Llewellyn Publications
Smith, Kevin, creator of Dogma, copyright 2000; View Askew Productions