Tuesday, September 21, 2010

On Religion and our general place in the universe

This post may really piss off some people, so read at your own discretion, and keep in mind this is not a personal attack on anyone. Its just my views about... well you'll read it and understand I hope...

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the past few months, about religion, about what people draw from it… About our sort of place in the Universe, to say it broadly. I just finished a Deep Space 9 episode called Accession, and it inspired me to write down some of my thoughts, for whatever they’re worth. I’ll start by giving a brief synopsis of the episode I just finished, and then hopefully tie it to the crap that’s been bubbling around in this crazy brain of mine. I’m still feeling a bit icky, and really tired and weird, so forgive me if this just looks like a rambling pile of sound and fury, signifying nothing. On that note…

So, the episode has two themes that are sort of intertwined. The theme I’m really trying to draw attention to in this post is that of religion and blind faith. It’s a bit of a challenge to explain this so people don’t have to know everything that is going on in the series without watching it. Basically, in the very beginning, the commander on the space station finds what is called a worm hole, where people and ships can travel from one quadrant in the galaxy to another. In this worm hole, there are aliens. Sisco, the commander of the station, meets these aliens and speaks with them at length about their purpose and his, and why the worm hole exists etc. The Bajorans, (a race of people who are trying to become part of the united federation of planets) are a very religious people. They believe that these aliens are their prophets. The Bajoran people have ancient texts, which are supposed to be like scriptures. They always talk about “walking with the prophets” and “following the prophets” etc. So, since Sisco met the worm hole aliens, and the ancient Bajoran texts say that the Emissary will meet the prophets, and they will give him his life back, the Bajoran people believe that Sisco is the emissary.

OK. I think that makes sense, for anyone who is not or did not follow the show. So, let’s skip ahead five years. In this episode, a ship comes through the worm hole. We find out that the one inhabitant on the ship is a 200 year old Bajoran poet. After some conversation with this man, he tells Sisco that Bajor used to employ a cast system. I had a very minimal understanding of how a CAST system worked, so I asked Google, and this is what it told me.

It divides humanity into classes by a number of things. In the Hindu caste system one may be divided by occupation. The priestly and educated at the top, the soldiers and leaders next followed by traders and farmers. Artist and service people would be considered the lowest.

So, when this old Bajoran poet, whose name I think was Corum, finds out that Keera Nerice is a major, and thus a soldier, he learns of the fact that the cast system was removed when the occupation happened. The occupation is a big deal, but really does not matter for this rant.

OK, so we’ve established that Bajor no longer has a CAST system, and old Corum is none too pleased with this idea. He truly, honestly believes that he is the real emissary. He found the worm hole centuries before Sisco did, and so talked to the aliens before Sisco did, and he was injured and the aliens saved him and brought him back. So, when looking at the “Ancient texts”, it all fits. At first, Sisco is relieved. He never really believed he was the emissary anyway, and it made him entirely uncomfortable. We see this demonstrated several times throughout the show.

So, when Corum says he is to be the true emissary, Sisco steps down right away and allows Corum to take his place. Corum gives a big speech to the Bajoran people about how he is going to reinstate the CAST system. As a result of this, the chances of Bajor being allowed to join the federation are not very good, and Sisco tells the emissary this. The emissary, however, is so set in his ways, and trying so hard to do exactly what the “Ancient texts” tell him to, that this fate really doesn’t seem to bother him.

Later on in the episode, we see Bajorans who are lower rank than Keera moving out of her way, almost seeming afraid of her. She is deeply saddened by this, and so she tells Sisco that she will be resigning her post as first officer so she can go live back on Bajor, in her proper place in the CAST system. Sisco is very upset by this, but hardly has any time to think about it when he gets a call from his chief of security, informing him that someone was killed on the promenade.

When Sisco comes to investigate, the emissary’s right-hand man, who never had a name, informs everyone that he killed the Bajoran. The Bajoran that he killed was one of the lower ranking spiritual leaders, and he was interacting with people who were not on the same CAST as he was, and the emissary’s man servant guy said that the Bajorans needed to be taught a valuable lesson. Of course, as captain of DS9, and as a morally good person, Sisco is infuriated. He talks to Corum, and they decide they have to visit the worm hole in order to find out who the true Emissary really is.

When they arrive at the worm hole, and converse with the aliens, they learn that the aliens are caring entities, and that they wanted to help Corum since he was so gravely injured. But they make it clear that Sisco is the true Emissary, and he finally accepts his place in Bajoran spirituality.

Wow!! Was that a long enough explanation for ya? I hope it makes sense.

So, how does this connect to the real world that we live in? I have many Christian friends, and I am willing to bet that if I smooshed them all together in one room to eat a meal together, and we talked about things, many of them would not agree with each other. People would have differing views, but in the end, everyone believes that they are right. Everyone always says “Well, God has his reasons” or sometimes its “Well maybe there’s a reason God doesn’t want you to know the answers.”

How convenient an answer, when you don’t know the real one. This might sound harsh and a bit snarky, so I’m going to apologize to my Christian friends in advance. This is not an attack on you in any way. This is just questions of logic, and… I’m not sure what to call this.

So, going back to DS9 for a moment. In the episode described above, there are several instances where people mention the fact that they don’t like what the new Emissary is suggesting, but they must follow it if they want to “Walk with the prophets”. They say “The Ancient Bajoran Texts tell us that…” all the time and they try to explain so many different decisions, using the scriptures as their argument. Does this sound to anyone else like something we all know of have heard here on Earth? That’s what I thought.

So, let’s take, for example, the part of the story where the Bajoran leader was killed because he was not giving the proper attention to the CAST system. The Emissary’s argument was that the prophets said they must have the system reinstated. But if that were true, why were the prophets not pushing harder for that CAST system before Corum showed up? Doesn’t it seem just a little odd? One might argue that since Sisco never really took his role as Emissary seriously, nobody really knew what the prophets wanted. But, if the prophets wanted something so much, and it was really their will that this CAST system be put in place, do you not think they would have done something about it? They are the most like Gods, after all.

This brings me to another story from real life. I was walking to my local convenience store a few months back, and the cashier there was someone I didn’t know. I know most of the people that work there, since I used to go there and buy milk all the time. As an aside, for anyone who lives in Kingston and is a Queen’s student, buy your milk at Campus one stop. It’s cheaper, and for whatever reason its better quality. Oh and the customer service is about twelve million times better than it is at the Max here. Anyway, getting back on topic. I bought my freezie and approached the cash to pay for it. While I was making my transaction, the cashier, who was an elderly gentleman, spoke to me. He said, “You know, Dear, I go to this church in Kingston, and if you were to come on Sunday mornings, we do healing services. Jesus will give your sight back.”

I’ve heard of other blind people getting this talk before, but somehow I’d never been the recipient of that in the past. And I was angry. I’m not sure why, but I was really unimpressed. So I did something that some might consider rude, but I hoped he would never ask me again. I showed him the white part of my prosthetic eye and said “Yeah, I’m pretty sure Jesus can’t heal this.” To which he replied “The Bible says that Jesus can rebuild anything.” OK Buddy, whatever.

So it brings me back to my initial question. Do you not think that if Jesus wanted me to be different, I would be different? And the part that frustrates me even more is, I have spoken to a few of my Christian friends about this, and a few in particular have said that maybe he’s right, and perhaps Jesus will give me my sight back.

So, let’s just break this down for a minute. First of all, you can’t give something back to someone if they never had it in the first place. Second, with all due respect to my friends, that sounds to me like they think either Jesus is doing it wrong, or that he doesn’t like me the way I am so he will change me. Except that I haven’t been given sight back. I hope never to get sight at all. What sighted people don’t realize is that if I were to have my sight “restored”, it would screw me up majorly! I would have to relearn everything I’ve ever learned. People don’t think about how complex gaining a whole new sense might be.

And then, part of me wonders if the people who think Jesus is going to heal me think I’m less of a person, or I’m sick or diseased or something because I’m blind. Why do they choose the word “heal”? I know it’s probably a silly thought, and really it doesn’t matter to me what the rest of them think, it just got me to thinking, since I watched that DS9 episode.
And here’s the part that I’m not sure I should post, because I do not want to hurt or offend anyone, but it’s really bothering me, and the people about whom I will talk already know my views, so I’m going to say it and not feel ashamed.

I have a friend. She is a very sweet, innocent girl, who grew up in a whole different culture from our own. She is smart, beautiful, and very giving and caring towards others. She has a heart of gold, and I am glad we are friends.

The other week, we were talking, as I had not seen her all summer, and she told me she had discovered her sexuality, finally. I was really excited for her! It was about time she was able to find people to whom she was attracted. But, she believes that she is wrong for the attraction. See, she is attracted to women. And apparently, according to the Bible, homosexuality is wrong wrong wrong! So she proceeded to inform me that she was getting therapy to turn her straight.

I was outraged. How can you honestly think that homosexuality is so wrong? Does the Bible not tell you to judge not lest ye be judged? Does it also not say to love your neighbour? Is the whole point of the coming of Christ not love? I don’t remember the scripture that specifically says being gay is bad. But I’m sure somebody’s going to find it for me, and that’s all well and good.

But this then brings me to ask another question. Is the Bible not an ancient text? And, was it not translated from… I don’t remember what the language was, but the point is how many different translations of the Bible are out there? And how many times do we see different interpretations of the Bible? And how do we, as humans, know what is the right translation? Doesn’t it seem a little… convenient? It feels like, when the head or heads of a Church decide they don’t like something, they can find a translation of the Bible to back their argument. Then we come back to people blindly following the word of God, because they feel that they have to, in order to get to Heaven or be right with the Lord or whatever it is they need. So, never mind that you are not attracted to men in any way and that you might have to just spend the rest of your life alone, never dating anyone. That doesn’t matter as long as you get to Heaven and be as perfect as you can be for your God? I’m sorry, but that doesn’t sound like a very fulfilling life to me. And if that’s what God honestly wants me to do, I have no interest, thanks very much. I’m going to live my life to the fullest. I try to be a good person. I try to love people and show them respect. Help people when they need it, and accept the fact that sometimes I need help too. I may not live the normal lifestyle that normal people are used to, and you know what? It works for me, I don’t see how it infringes upon anyone else, and honestly? I’m happie3r for recognizing that about myself.

I think, on some level, I have always believed in God, and in Jesus. I’ve learned about them since before I can remember. I was never taught that I should live in fear constantly of doing wrong by God. I sometimes like to joke that Jesus was the original hippie. Think about it. He’s the son of a carpenter. He’s got the long hair, and he went around the world, and what did he preach? Oh, that’s right, I remember! Peace and love!!!

I think there is a huge difference between being a spiritual person and being part of a church. I was speaking with my boyfriend and his family on the subject the other day, because this is really bothering me, and he said that the one thing the Johova’s witnesses get right is that they call their building a worship hall, or is it a temple? I can’t remember, but either way, it’s not a Church. The Church is the group of people who congregate and worship together. And, as much as I know it angers a lot of Christians out there, I think I’m going to stick to believing in God and Jesus, but I really want no part of the Church, thanks. If the Church can decide that they have the ultimate power over what I do in my life, I have no interest in a bunch of people being so afraid of God, or whatever it is they feel, that they can tell me how I must live my life.

I don’t claim to know Jesus, or God at all really. I would like to think, though, that God is looking at these people and their claims to know everything that God tells them since they always follow the Bible, and going “SeriouslyGuys?” I mean, I just think it’s ridiculous that someone should have to force themselves to be something or someone they’re not just because the Church or a therapist employed by the Church says its wrong.

One last rant, before I run out of energy and call it a day. I had another friend who just recently “went back to God”. She used to be married to another friend of mine, who is also a woman. I wouldn’t say they were a happy couple, but there was absolutely no doubt in the first woman’s mind that she was lesbian. She would never ever be interested in men. She had dated at least three women before the most current ex, and there was no question that she was lesbian and that’s just how it was… Except now that she’s back to God, she’s become a gay hater too. OK, maybe not a hater, but she says that being gay is absolutely wrong. The Bible says it’s against God’s rules, etc.

So can someone please explain to me how a woman that determined never to be straight again is now dating an older man, who, just to add to the drama, is the ex husband of one of her ex wives. Do you honestly think that God just came to her one day and said “Hey Babe. Its time to straighten up and fly right”? I’m sorry, but I have serious doubts there. But that’s a whole other post altogether, and really I don’t think I have the energy to go off on that rant just now.

For those of y’all who are still reading, I apologize for novel. Seriously, this is longer than any essay I’ve ever written, but I really needed to write out my thoughts here, because some of this stuff just completely boggles my mind. For those who might be offended by what I’m on about, I apologize if you were hurt by what I said. I do not take my words back, however. I have learned recently that you can still be someone’s friend and apologize, explaining your intension was not to hurt anyone, but you can still stick by what you said and not feel guilty about it. Someone’s always going to get their feathers ruffled over something. It doesn’t mean they are wrong, and it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m right. It just means we have differing opinions, and really, what would be the fun in everyone thinking the same thing all the time?


Blogger Carin said...

I remember when I got the healing talk. I got it from a cabby who locked the doors when we arrived at my destination just so he could push this stuff on me. I appreciate the sentiment, even though I don't agree with it. But what I didn't appreciate was the locking of the doors. That felt wrong. And he didn't take a simple no. He wasn't going to stop until I took that printed sheet on it that had the nice lady's number that would take me to the healing service. I thanked him, ran, and ripped up the paper. Don't force the religion on me. If you want to tell me about it, fine, but don't repeat it to me over and over, and don't lock me in somewhere to tell me about it.

And don't you find the term "fishers of men" a little creepy. We go fishing, and what do we do? We trick fish into taking the bait, and then we reely reely reall 'em in and they run out of air and die and become om nom nom fish we can eat. So if missionaries are fishers of men, what do they want to do to our souls?

8:57 PM  
Blogger Barb M. said...

Wow! Is it sad that I nearly forgot how to comment on my own blog

Wanna know something? I've never ever heard that term before. Tonight was the first time I'd ever been introduced, and yeah. That is kind of sketchy.

12:50 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home