Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Great One

I have been thinking a good deal about religion recently. Maybe it's my advancing age. Maybe it's the pairs of animals that seem to follow me wherever I go, freaking out the neighbors and upsetting the local officials. 

At the center of my thoughts is something I call faith-envy. I have it. Bad. Whenever I talk to someone who I believe is a true believer, and I don't mean that in the Eric Hoffer way referencing fanatics and mass movements, but rather in a tone of admiration for people who have conviction, who can make the leap.

I sat through Bill Maher's "Religulous", a documentary of sorts, slamming religion. Unfortunately Maher found the usual assortment of cranks and idiots that can be found on the fringe of any religious movement and used them to ridicule religion in general.  Probably the most fascinating part of the film was his exploration of the parallels between Christian and Egyptian mythology, specifically showing how the recounting of the life of Jesus was an echo of a mythology that came quite a good deal earlier in a recounting of the life of Horus. 
It's too bad that this information couldn't have been handled in a more reasonable and erudite manner, but it sparked my curiousity to the point that I went in search of the Horus myth. Fascinating.

Watching "Religulous" I felt sad, not for the people in the film, the maniacal believers sought out and found by Maher, but for Maher himself. I think, after all, that Maher was probably motivated by the same thing that haunts me...faith envy. 

Thankfully, even if I never find faith, and people, I probably won't, there is always a shadow at my back to offer me motivation to stay alive and at least try and get along with people. Yes, I'm referring to Cthulhu. Maybe I don't believe in God...but dammit...I think I'm starting to have second thoughts about He Who Lies Dreaming. 


spyscribbler said...

I can't fully make that leap of faith, either. I can't believe there's only this God, or that Goddess, or all of them, but I do believe in belief. I guess I have faith in the power of belief, and the power of prayer. (They've even been scientifically proven!) Believing in belief is really handy because then I can celebrate whatever religion I feel like on any given day.

(I'm sure many would call me a terrible heathen!)

SQT said...

I'm not that old, yet. But religion and faith are things I think about frequently. The hard part for people like us is that we've spent as much time bombarded with anti-religious imagery and arguments as anything else. In fact, I find it hard to think of many pro-faith... anything, that I've seen or heard.

For me, I've decided to keep an open mind. I'm tired of Hollywood telling me that all people of faith are religious kooks who are repressed to the point of insanity. It's not what I encounter in my own life so why should I buy into the negative stereotypes?

A lot of my writing has religious undertones to it but not for the reasons you might think. I'm not looking to mock or undermine it. I'm looking to understand the type of people who abuse it and the impact it has people and their faith.

I could go on and on since this is a topic that interests me. But I think I'll continue to channel it into some writing...

Charles Gramlich said...

I've been struggling with this sort of thing for several years now. I liked Mahr's documentary, although I'm more troubled by some relentless atheism that I see out there. frankly, although I'm not very religious, I sometimes get ticked at people who consider all religious folks to be loonies. Hell, that's my family they're talkign about.

Heather Dearly said...

I'm in a cyclic state of conflict when it comes to my religion, but I can't imagine losing faith in God. It feels embedded in my DNA.

I have respect and fond feelings for athiests/agnostics who, like you, don't belittle those of us who do believe. Every journey is different. And I truly do believe that different paths can lead to a final truth.

I watch Bill on HBO, and while I can appreciate his political banter, I am bothered by his rudeness and loathing toward ANY believer. It lacks compassion, IMO, and compassion isn't owned by the religious. It belongs to us all.

Nice post, btw. :-)

Gwendolyn said...

Well that was an interesting viewpoint. It's a little like saying that all homophobes are truly just self-hating fags. :)

Many secularists were raised in very religious environments, with often old-fashioned, oppressive ideologies... and taught not to think for themselves. Upon claiming selfhood, and growing critical thinking skills, they reject those ideologies for openness and acceptance and logic. Oftentimes the newfound openness and acceptance seems only to extend as far as other non-believers. They suddenly feel the need to not only separate ourselves from religion, but to wage intellectual war upon it. Maybe they are angry and bitter as a result of their childhoods. Maybe they are tired of constant judgement from those around them. As a minority, they feel threatened; they are defensive.

Frankly, the zealousness of those kinds of non-bleievers can give the rest of us a bad name in the same way that the zealousness of some believers gives religion a bad name.

I disagree that not having religious beliefs means that one has no faith or beliefs whatsoever. I am a humanist. I am an agnostic. However, I have very strong core beliefs in humanity, in myself, and in nature. I have access to a faith that is no weaker or less valid than a person who believes in God.

Interesting discussion; I think it's great that you don't shy away from putting your thoughts out there- even if it's a contentious subject!

Stewart Sternberg said...

I love heathens, they make life interesting.
It's too bad so much time is spent on propaganda and alienating differences as opposed to open and frank debate.
Sometimes I think that people who read our stuff, your's and mine, sometimes roll their eyes and feel that we're putting something out there that is irreligious. Oddly, I think much of what we write is high moralistic.

I have no issue with believers. I meant what I said about envy.

GWEN...hmmm...strong first sentence there. Yeah, I suppose my point could be considered controversial. I know, too, that often nonbelievers are waved aside, dismissed as it were. "Wait until they are at death's door," warn the faithful, "then we'll see whether or not they are calling upon god."