Karl Marx would agree that religion is the opium of the masses. I can agree with that statement on some level and yet, i find myself wrestling with the same feelings of self-consciousness and doubt that lead most believers to one faith or another. In recent times, the reality and nature of our precarious place in the world, and life after death has come under the microscope with much enthusiasm, and scrutiny. Most recently, this has been exemplified by a phenomenon called The Da Vinci Code. I think on some level this has definitely stirred pent up feelings on the matter on a global scale. What Dan Brown has unleashed is probably more than he ever wanted (at least i think so) and i must admit it has forced me to look even further into my own views. The novel is fiction. Christianity will endure for a number of reasons, in spite of the current re-examination of reality vs. fiction and i have no problem with that, just as i have no problem with Islam and Buddhism continuing until the end of time. What i do have a problem with is those people who will not even examine the option of another answer, or perhaps no answer at all. The problem is intolerance of opposing views. We have been a society of propaganda, not propagation, and stubborn absolutism. i would describe it in so many words but the one that comes to mind is: TRADITION.
The most powerful and pervasive tool the Church has going for it right now is 1700 years or so of tradition. Nevermind who is right or wrong – let us look at what we know for certain, and draw our conclusions from there. See, most fundamentalist Christians i come in contact with, (and i’ve been around these people all my life) have from the time they have learned to speak have always been Christian, and most if you ask them why will respond, “because i have faith” or “i believe.” or something or the other – and that is fine i suppose, for that is the very basis for their religion. If you could prove it, what need would their be for faith? Not much i guess. (although i’m not sure why that would lessen the importance of relevance of their belief, rather i feel it is a blind automated statement for not having given much thought to why they believe what they believe.) That is what we seem to be missing. Thought. When thought is fazed out by 1700 years of tradition and propaganda the why really doesn’t come into play. Perhaps it is too hard to really think about why. Many people have lost their minds, as well as myself thinking about this seemingly instinctual habit to examine one’s own existence (or at least quell it with an answer).
Having said that, i have no hard stance on the topic of what is true or what religion is right. If you are really honest with yourself, i suppose you can’t. Affirming and pushing your views on others is a presumptuous thing to do. I am more of a hard agnostic -that being you cannot know if there is a God. I take this stance instead of a soft agnostic (being that you simply do not know if there is a God) simply because in my own personal experience nothing has left me with a certainty that God exists, and specifically exists in the person of Jesus Christ. I will say that i have been left with strong impressions of the existence of God, but then again presuming that i know his nature, and person is again, awful presumptuous. I am an idealist, i want to believe in an afterlife, but i also am a realist. When i hear what the Gospel is, i can’t help but to look at it with a speculative disposition. Of the matter of Christianity specifically, i have to agree with Richard Lee (co-author of Holy Blood Holy Grail) when he asks the question, what is more likely? That Jesus was married, had children and, is heir to a bloodline? Or that he was born of a virgin, walked on water, and rose from the dead?
When we look at the world religions in a context of how easily and fervently they came about and became traditions, such as Islam, Buddhism, Hindu, even Rastafarianism, you have to admit that everyone is looking for the same thing-answers. Even the Greeks and Romans before the advent of Christianity had their own systems of beliefs, and polytheism, that died out and in some cases evolved in to other incarnations of faiths and beliefs considering many share a remarkable resemblance. What i’m saying is that all religions obviously can’t be right, and probably and more likely none of them are right. We look at the history, the facts and come to the conclusion that these beliefs have come about rather frequently, and when we see how easily they are formed we have to doubt that any one in particular is correct. So for the moment, maybe we could suspend disbelief (for the Christians) and say what do we know? Well i do know that the desire to embrace paradox is often trumped by the desire to know. So the tendency to create religion is strong, and the desire to remain ambiguous is weak, as we have obviously witnessed throughout history. For thousands of years we form theories to attempt to understand what we cannot. Again, in antiquity they engendered hundreds of Gods to explain famine, war, weather, and seasons. Why should any other religion be different? I will not give you a laundry list of reasons not to believe, for again it is human nature to come up with a speculative reason why you should. I for one cannot trust scripture, for it was written by political, biased Jewish men 2000 years ago. How reliable is something that has been re-written and re-interpreted over 2000 years, for various reasons be-it political or whatever? Nothing is 100% unbiased or infallible, and that also included the bible – especially the bible because so much was at stake. Do you honestly think that the true original form and integrity could be maintained over thousands of years through continuous disagreement over it? So much pain has been caused by this book when you think about it…three inquisitions, killing and burning at the stake, Puritan witch-hunts, wars, crusades, and now President Bush uses fundamentalist Christianity to gain a majority of support of the war. It has happened all throughout history, why not now?
We sometimes just have to look at what is more probable…was Jesus really born of a virgin or was Mary guilty of adultery (an offense punishable by death in those days)? Did Jesus really walk on water? Was he really resurrected, or was his body moved to preserve the belief? At the council of Nicaea was scripture altered to serve a political motive, or a social one (suppression of women?)? Who knows for sure. I’m not necessarily interested in massive movements for tradition sake. Remember when we though the earth was the center of the universe? Well, that belief has been dispelled, and sometimes we move on we the need for a theory or belief is replaced by fact. Of course the question of God is one we probably never grasp, and so goes the endless dispute. I do wish we could be a little more tolerant of other ideas and perhaps not everything is the way you think it is, especially when you give little time to thinking about it. Perhaps God is so much bigger than all of us, that we can have no conception of it. When you look at the universe, it is so vast – billions and billions of stars, and planets, and galaxies how could we narrow God down to just caring about life on this planet? No one can dispute with that amount of possibility in the universe that other life does not exist elsewhere, and that doesn’t exactly support God’s plan scripturally does it? These are just questions that i think some people don’t want to put effort into thinking about. I however think it is supremely interesting.
I could go on forever, and this is getting rather lengthy. I don’t know about Dan Brown, but i do like that he is thinking, and made a rather entertaining yet just as speculative book as the Bible. I do not know about Jesus or God, so i guess i don’t know what i believe, but i can tell you that i believe in people. Perhaps God is a collective consciousness between us all. We only have access to 5% of our brains anyway – why not? Just some thoughts…propagation of thought instead of propaganda.