Religion Without God

Religion Without God

The above article, from the New York Times, is an interesting article about those that seek religion without belief.  It mentions the Unitarian Church of which my parents were members.  One of the main ideas in the article is that people need community more than they need a dogmatic set of beliefs.

Where do I stand on all of this?  I am an agnostic.  The only claim I can make is one of doubt, that I don’t know what happens when we die.  I don’t feel that anyone knows what happens after we die.  Whether one believes either in religion or is an atheist, they are basically saying, in my mind, that they know what happens after we die.  This is knowledge that I believe none of us possess.

However, Kurt Vonnegut, a secular humanist, used to say that if someone was just getting out of prison or something, had no family or community to return to, he would tell them to go to church, as community is an incredibly important thing.  No one should have to go it alone.

I am an introvert, and don’t need constant human interaction, so having a community of good friends is all that I need.  I am distrustful of groups, especially ones that are exclusive in any way.  I like when groups happen naturally over time.

I vowed at a very young age that I would never join any group that would have me.  I intend keep this vow.  I’m not a joiner.  I’m in a band, and that is enough for me!  Sometimes this puts one on the outside, but the outside is a great way to see what is going on with minimal bias.

Now even though I am an agnostic, and am especially anti any kind of dogmatic religion that takes on a fanatical character, that does not mean that I look down on people that are religious.  I have met deeply moralistic people that are religious.  I don’t believe that you need religion to be moral, but if it helps someone treat their fellow man/woman with kindness, then who am I to judge?  I know that some religious groups do great work on behalf of the poor and the needy.  This is always to be commended, as long as they don’t tie that help with demanding the people they are helping believe what they believe.  I know that in South America that Liberation Theology has been an extremely powerful force for social justice.

I think two of the greatest people that this country has produced are Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr.  King was obviously religion and no one can dispute that his work here upon this earth changed civilization for the better.  Meanwhile Lincoln was deeply skeptical in belief.  He was not convinced there was an afterlife, although at the very end of his life, though he never became overtly religious, altered his beliefs slightly.  Yet his entire life he was someone that was extremely kind, forgiving, that worked very hard to make the lives of people better.

So basically as long as other’s are treating people with kindness, to me, it doesn’t matter what they believe.  I myself don’t need the mysteries of life explained, because I believe at least in this life, they never can be.  I would rather focus my efforts at trying to treat other people better in the here and now, and not spend too much energy trying to answer a question that can’t be answered.  And trust me, I’ve got a lot of fucking work to do on the front of treating people better!

The purpose of life, to me, can be explained in one sentence by Kurt Vonnegut:

“We are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.”

What else is needed?

Watch Monty Python’s Farewell

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“Monty Python” Stars Bid an Emotional Farewell in…: http://youtu.be/KaDGc2LWzGo

I grew up on Monty Python with my Dad showing us The Meaning of Life and Monty Python and the Holy Grail as kids.  I didn’t realize how unique this was, as my Dad would have us laughing at religion, business, and every other sacred cow of society.  Monty Python will remain a source of joy for me as long as I live.  They were truth tellers, bullshit detectors, and often very, very silly.  The above video is a clip of their final performance as they sing Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.  Their final run of performances, as Graham Chapman is deceased,  were subtitled One Down, Five to Go. 

God is (Not?) Dead

While I was looking through movies to possibly go to tonight I happened to notice a movie with the title God’s Not Dead.  The movie is about a person of faith that has a college professor that asks his class to write God is Dead on the first day of class.  If they will not do this they face a failing grade.  As you can predict the student of faith challenges his professor and apparently this results in a movie that ends in a face off between the person of faith and the college professor.  I haven’t seen the movie so I am not going to criticize it.  Maybe it is even an interesting intellectual debate, but I doubt it.

However, it made me want to convey several ideas.  Let’s say for sake of argument that there is a God.  If he/she is all powerful and created the entire universe does he/she need mere mortals defending him/her?

Also, again if he is all powerful and created everything doesn’t that mean he created humor and insults too?  Can he not laugh at him/herself and take some insults?  Is he/she really going to get their panties in a bunch if I say he/she doesn’t exist?  Is his/her ego so big that they need to constantly be praised all of the time?  Wouldn’t a truly enlightened being much rather see us treat the poor and weak among us kindly, rather than use all of our energy building shrines and praising someone that already has unlimited power?

I think our purpose here on earth is, like Kurt Vonnegut says, “to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.”  If there is nothing after this world than we have defiantly been kind in the face of nothing.  I would say that is pretty noble.  If there is a god then hopefully they are a kind enlightened being that will judge us for how kind we have been, and not based upon if we observed a bunch of superstitious rituals.  If he/she isn’t so kind then maybe we will need to help each other in the next world too.

Self Doubt and Shame

The hardest moments in blogging are the few minutes after you hit post.  Usually while you are writing, while you are chasing the rabbit down the rabbit hole, you are filled with inspiration and confidence.  Then you hit the post button.  The next second your brain is usually filled with a thought like, “Jesus Fucking Christ, what have I done?!!!”  Then your mind trips across to Death in The Meaning of Life who says, “Shut up! Shut up, you American.  You always talk, you Americans, you talk and you talk and say ‘Let me tell you something’ and ‘I just wanna say this.’

In order to write anything for the public, or write a song, or I’m sure make anything, there are moments of tremendous self doubt.  Luckily for me the self doubt doesn’t come into play until I’ve already done whatever it is that I’m going to do.  By then it’s too late and I have to live with either the shame or success of the thing.

Doubt, like most things in life, is best in moderation.  Too little of it and you are probably a sociopath or a fundamentalist. (Which come to think of it, is often the same thing.)  Too much of it and it can cripple you from ever doing anything.

But I think a little doubt is very healthy.  It keeps you humble and it keeps you seeking that unattainable thing called perfection.  So as long as you can complete the task, I don’t think you should fear doubt, you should welcome it.  It will keep the blade sharp and keep you marching down the path for glory.

Well, that’s all for this blog.  I am about to hit post.  About 30 seconds away from, “Holy shitballs, how the fuck did I let that one through the gates?!!!”

The Meaning of Life

Kurt Vonnegut once said that the meaning of life was as follows: “We are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.”  Sometimes I wonder why anything else is necessary.  I think it was Christopher Hitchens that said that one should write like they are dead.  By that I think he meant that one should write with honesty and not with fear of what others will think of them.  It is the only way in which to get one’s own truth, if not the truth.

For full disclosure I am an agnostic.  I don’t know what happens after we die and I view life as a mystery.  I hope that there is a world after this one.  Otherwise for many this world is cruel and dumb and short.  I would also like to think that I haven’t spent endless hours doing shit that I didn’t want to do to please temporary acquaintances in the most literal sense of the term.  Remember little Timmy’s birthday party?  Holy shitballs I do!  Time and space seemed to bend back upon themselves!  And Timmy was so little he didn’t even know I was there.  If there isn’t a world after this one I have wasted a lot of time doing senseless things.

In all seriousness folks, I don’t know the answer to life’s great mystery and neither do you.  Anyone that says they do is lying.  I keep my distance from those people.  That’s not to say there isn’t beauty in some things associated with religion and that religious people are bad.  I don’t care if you are religious, just that your religion is peppered with a little doubt.  Doubt teaches us humility and empathy.  Certainty teaches us intolerance of those that don’t agree with us.  I hope there is a heaven and I hope that even the wretched shall be redeemed.  It sure would be nicer than turning into invisible space dust.

I once heard someone remark that agnostics couldn’t see the beauty in life.  That is just bonkers.  I often look out at a scene in nature or hear a beautiful piece of music stand back in wonder and amazement at the glory of the universe.

If only we could help each other get through this thing, whatever it is, we might all be able to stand back and admire the wonder of the universe in our own different ways.  If you are right about the afterlife and I am wrong, my hat is off to you pal.  Please, please, please, just don’t condemn me to eternal hellfire as I tip my hat.