The world as we know it and would like for it to be is far more likely to end because of religious extremism and not accruing natural disasters.
Floating around on right wing airwaves and networks are the usual allusions to “the end of days” in re recent volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and now the oil spill.
An extremist Islamic cleric proclaimed several months ago that the Iceland volcano erupted because of the promiscuity of Muslim women.
When James Jones convinced a thousand or so gullible and vulnerable people that the world was ending, they drank cyanide and died, first poisoning their children. He was not man enough to drink it and had himself shot.
There are many, many more instances of desperate people buying into desperate ideas.
I am personally more worried about global madness than ecological disaster. We can’t skim insanity off the surface of the waters of human consciousness. We can’t rescue vulnerable people who wander into extremist churches and permit themselves to be brainwashed the way good people are working night and day to get the oil off wildlife. We can’t stop the tides of Jihad, nor can we stop Jewish commandos from landing on ships carrying supplies to Gaza and killing people.
It seems that all we can do is use the weapon of reason and thought– approaching life with the intellect even as we live it with our bodies and our hearts.
Everything in the universe is in flux. Stars are being born and dying. Our own sun is a star that one day will burn out. Everything that is evolves into something else. We ourselves continue to evolve. What and who we are today is not what and who we will be in 3000.
We make up stories to explain the universe to ourselves. Every culture has a creation myth. Christianity took hold in Europe, Islam in the Middle East, Buddhism in the Far East, Hinduism in India. Jews pray to Yahweh. Christians pray to Jesus Christ. Muslims kneel to Allah.
We have an amazing capacity: to invent what we need, and this holds true for the human imagination. We need explanations and so we spin them. Our myths take on lives of their own and our rituals reinforce those myths so that they feel true.
We are all entitled to practice our faith and hold true to our beliefs. But we should examine the tenets of a faith with the intellect, and we should fight the extremist beliefs and practices that exclude, divide, and wage war.
Atrocities perpetrated in the name of religion are innumerable and legendary. There is no true separation of church and state in the U.S. at this time. Christian extremism has hijacked the Republican party and the Tea Party movement is coffee grounds in the sink of the entire travesty that is our government.
For years I held a belief born of desperation that I would die if I didn’t “surrender” my life and will to a “Higher Power.” It finally occured to me that while I needed and still need support to deal with certain things, it is the courage of the individual and that individual’s stamina that brings about change, and not some occult force at work. My desperation made me vulnerable to an idea that held to the light of reason, doesn’t hold water.
I will raise the hackles of a few of my already few readers when I state that it has occured to me that perhaps we have invented a God in our own image rather than the other way around.
One day we will unravel the helix at the heart of the mystery of our existence. In the meantime we must act on behalf of humanity and the World; we must view ourselves globally in terms of our individual and cultural impact upon each other and our planet. If our myths divide us, they are not useful.
Who are the most foul-mouthed attackers of our legitimately elected president, Barack Obama: the Christian right. The Christian right. How Christian is it to denigrate and demonize the president of the United States? The most dangerous people in our own society are those who listen to Beck and Limbaugh and fail to think for themselves. They are asleep at the wheel and out of control. They are the human equivalent of the spew of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
You don’t raise my hackles. The sad truth, we all know, is that too many human beings pervert religion for their own execrable uses.
Some days I feel I despair, and then there are days when I come across people who make a difference, who live the words in the Charter of Compassion, who don’t chase money, who spend time thinking and offering solutions instead of bad-mouthing, rabble-rousing, and spewing filth, who take responsibility, who care beyond themselves.
I’ll have to look up the Charter of Compassion. Somehow it seems to me we have devalued the now and the richness of the moment. We see it as secular or something. Perhaps all of these roads diverge if we think in terms of incarnating all that is good and giving within ourselves. xxxj
Fanaticism in any form is terrifying to me. This includes the “hatred of Americans” dogma forced on many, many Middle Eastern children from birth on up — to what end, I don’t know, aside from roadside bombs et al (good productive way to spend your time, isn’t it?). This also includes the “born again” crew of Christians, many of whom (but certainly not all) I have found to be the most hypocritical bunch of people I have ever known. Religion is peculiar. I have sought help and strength from a higher power while wondering, is it all intelligent design? In any case, I know we have it within us to make peace. I think that even as we are helping to destroy our home, we can turn it around if we really want to. But sadly it takes more than just you and me.
It seems to be hard for us to admit to ourselves that many questions don’t have answers. I have always sought answers and explanations, wasting so much time! I can’t fathom a “higher power” anymore than I can fathom the vastness of the universe and what I thought I believed revealed itself to me as the meaning I brought to a religious tradition rather than anything absolute coming into my heart and mind from that tradition. But anyway we look at it, there is beauty, mystery, power, glory, together with all of the negatives of the human condition. I once had a therapist who said that I needed to embrace all of it to be free. I’m beginning to understand what he meant, but it does frighten me to death to hear people pound the Bible and preach The End. Where are the messages of hope and love, the things that can nurture and sustain us, in all of that? Thanks for commenting…xj
Lyle Daggett said:
Whenever anyone asks, or the subject comes up in conversation, I tell people that I’m an atheist, which is true enough — I believe no god exists. (No god, no “supreme being,” no all-encompassing consciousness, nothing by even the broadest definition of what a god might be.)
The notion of some type of “higher power” might be a slightly different question in my mind, because I can conceive of (for instance) certain types of creative work or certain types of collective human action as having a power greater than I feel in myself alone. (And without the various “god” questions ever coming into the picture.) This is maybe a separate discussion.
I obviously don’t *know* that no god exists — any scientist or mathematician will point out how difficult (if not impossible) it is to prove positively that something doesn’t exist. So in that sense, I could also call myself an “agnostic” (literally, “not knowing”), i.e. I don’t in fact know one way or another.
Sometimes I’ve described myself as a “secular atheist,” intending this with a measure of humor, and a measure of fact. I don’t find it necessary to practice atheism as a belief. What’s there to practice?
Long ago when I consulted Webster’s and looked up the etymology of the word “god,” it traced the origin back anciently to a hypothetical Indo-European root meaning “to invoke, to call out to.” So by at least one possible definition, the word “god” originally referred to a human act.
Leaving unsettled, perhaps, various questions for which some people sometimes turn to religious belief or faith or doctrine for (at least provisional) answers: how did all this get here, the universe, life, ourselves (our selves)? Why are we conscious (or seem to be) of being here? Why are we in fact (or the appearance of fact) here? Where were we before we were born? What happens to us after we die? Does such a thing as a soul exist, and if so, do only human beings have souls, or does everything have a soul, and what is a soul anyway? And so on.
Ultimately, for me, having definite answers to these questions (and an array of related ones) has become less important than understanding clearly what some of the questions are, and that I don’t have definite answers to them, or little more than guesses and speculation. This has become sufficient for me, because it’s true: I have questions, and I don’t (so far) know the answers.
The notion that all of this got here — the earth, the sky, the moon and stars, the trees and birds and fish, human beings, human feeling and thought, the human act of making poetry and music and art, all of this — that it got here without any original conscious act, that no overseeing being or mind or thought or creative impulse caused it, that it “just happened,” and continues to happen, all by itself, that we’re on our own in the great cloud of unknowing (to borrow a phrase from one religious tradition) — this in no way diminishes, for me, the miracle and beauty and wonder of it all. If anything, it merely increases the ineffable power of the stunning moment-by-moment realization of existence: to consider the possibility (or, for me, the probability) that all of this got here all by itself.
This just by way of a little of my take (currently) on a few of these questions.
This is a fabulous response. By your definition I would have to call myself an agnostic at this point in time– a big and perplexing shift for me in recent weeks. I’ve been reading D.H. Lawrence’s essays in Twilight in Italy and your last paragraph reminds me of those essays…as do your poems. You give us so much to think about. I was saying to someone tonight that if we let go of the need for answers we are free to live in the moment and fully participate in life; it is life that calls to me at this point in time, even as I contend with my “vitaphobia,” my fear of happiness/living fully. Another subject for another moonlit night….thanks for weighing in, Lyle. besos…j