Tag Archives: Religion

Black And White

For some time I have observed security to be described in terms of either black or white. Feeling safe is a right most contend they have been given while feeling unsafe is a threat few desire. What we think about is either safe or not safe. Sometimes it is in between. We gravitate toward those places and thoughts that make us feel safe and we do our best to avoid the discomfort of little or no security.

Many ideas have come to us from our parents and those we respect. These ideas become “grafted” into our unconscious. Assumptions about these truths are made and we live, for a time, without questioning them. The existence of Santa Claus and his reindeer are one of the first “facts” we are told. And, for most of us, that reality was as sure as anything else we were told. That is, until someone, perhaps an older sibling said there was no Santa Claus. That revealing statement became a troubling thought in our minds. At first, we denied it. Couldn’t be. No, Mom and Dad would not tell a lie. But then little things began to gnaw at our suspicions causing them to open like a festering wound that would not heal. The truth was unwelcome and inconvenient.

Truth works like that especially when a respected person, usually a parent, shares the “truth” with you. It becomes very difficult to give up the “truth” when it comes from such high authority as an all-knowing and invincible parent. Giving up Santa is like giving up a parent, a very difficult proposition.

Given the fact that other cultures have alternative Santa Claus figures that best fit their belief systems, one begins to wonder if a universal truth exists. There is no doubt that many believe a universal truth to be true but proof is very difficult to produce. There is no proof. One accepts Santa Claus stories on faith since the persons promoting the idea have a credible role as parent or adult.

If I were born in Utah chances are I would be a Mormon. If I was raised in Egypt I would be Islamic, and if I was born in Thailand I would probably be convinced that Buddhism was my religious identity. Much of our religious identity has to do with where we were born and to whom we were born.

So, when someone questions religious identities people begin to feel insecure. Their protection and security is threatened. People fear there might be a mistake and so to protect their beliefs they tend to lash out in defense. Some religions will even threaten anyone who believes differently. Some even threaten death. People are in danger of losing their reputation or life over a belief that they might be considered an atheist or unbeliever. Many pin their hopes on religion to assist them through some of the darkest things people experience. It doesn’t matter where their hope comes from it just matters that they are given something to believe. If you don’t believe as others do some begin to crush those ideas and exclude them from being part of the group. One can feel secure while observing most everyone else believing as they do while those who believe otherwise are made to feel outside the group. It is as if the person who does not believe as others do is made to pay for their independent thinking. Serious questions are raised that cause others to feel insecure. Better to shut down those who question the “truth” than to find cogent arguments to preserve a way of living no matter how little proof exists. As a result, one feels secure because the person who has legitimate questions is thought to have been vanquished. No proof, only a need to find security. Don’t prove me wrong, don’t even question. After all, if you have faith you have all you need. Or, do you?

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Hoax, Hurt and Heart

Having seen the face of threat, certifying and hiring boards grinding out devastation, a person listens with an ear for gossip knowing my work was tested and my place questioned. Who are you that lives with you? Is it really you or could it be a phantom soul skidding notoriously into my view with clandestine motives. It matters little as the damage is nearly complete to reputation and character. The hoax is real, the play is the thing.


Disliking (Hating) Atheists and other Pestilences

One of the conundrums of religion is the sad but real fact that many people of faith have little tolerance for those without faith. In other words, there appears to be a lot of hate going around. Why does this happen? It is my view that any form of atheism and agnosticism are perceived as a threat to the religious. After all, if one believes they are strong in their faith and a question about their faith appears unanswerable, who wouldn’t begin to wonder and speculate about the foundations of their faith? It happens to everyone. At this point the only thing left to do for a person without an answer is to resort to “faith” as faith gets by with little or no logical formation for it to exist. While this debate could be productive it is stopped cold in its tracks when arguing from logic or supposition. The subsequent “disliking” of faithless non-believers usually takes the form of distancing one’s self from the logician. If you remain distant from the cause of discomfort then discomfort does not have to consciously exist nor do inconvenient reminders of one’s irrational faith and logic. All one needs to do is stay away from its cause. In the short term this works but in the longer view one must take ever stronger and stronger measures to counteract the possibility that logical thoughts of others are the cause of many fears and anxieties.

There are a number of tools we have at our disposal to manage the questions and subsequent anxiety about religion. We could talk it out, try to understand it, we could rationalize it to ourselves, ignore it, pretend it doesn’t exist, run away from it, and get angry. Anger, minimizing, ignoring and exclusion appear to be the most frequently used tools to deal with what is not acceptable thinking or questioning about one’s faith. That is why there is so much religious hostility in the world. Too often the mantra of those with clear-cut but unprovable religious mandates espouse something like the following statement: “If you don’t believe as I do, I will (kill, hurt, ostracize, label, etc. [fill in the blank]) you!” Nations often take up arms against each other because of one’s beliefs. These nations are often driven by religious ideations and are no different than an individual. Taking up word weaponry to prove one is wrong or to hurt another is not uncommon. Most war efforts are driven by fear and/or anger. In order for one to avoid confrontation or lose a word war we resort to hostile statements while ostracizing the offender. The result is rage, intolerance and isolation. The tendency to isolate one who thinks differently than we do is born of a lack of understanding of both one’s own views and that of others. Of course this works both ways.

The irony in all of this is that many religious types claim to be concerned about the behaviors and thinking of those whose views run contrary to theirs. Yet, when pushed to understand that of another an impenetrable wall arises and communication is severely thrashed. This is an unfortunate result of closed minds, minds that will not consider the views of another when a position runs contrary to theirs. The need to perpetuate their thinking brings a kind of comfort outlasting that of logic. A place of disgrace lingers in the background as a person of faith will surely find themselves placed should they ask the wrong questions or betray their growing lack of faith in their religious culture.

Integrity is at the heart of most religions and expressions of faith. Therefore, it seems only right that a person of faith who is seeking to be a person of integrity would be willing to open up their faith questions and those of others with an approach that questions with honesty, fairness and reasonableness and not hostility, isolation, shunning and ridicule.


A Fairy Tale?

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Truth or Fiction?

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Essential Separation

“Strongly guarded as is the separation between religion and Gov’t in the Constitution of the United States the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies, may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history.”

–James Madison, 4th US President, author of the Bill of Rights and “Father of our Constitution” in his Detached Memoranda, circa 1820


Roasting for God?

“It is setting a high value upon our opinions to roast men and women alive on account of them.”

—-Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592), French essayist and philosopher, cited in 2,000 Years of Disbelief by James R. Haught