Tuesday, August 10, 2010

When I Speak of Myself 3a

It seems lately that I always start with an apology for taking so long. You'd think I'd learn from this and, well, post more often. Ah well, we'll see how it goes.

And to be fair, my life has been more than interesting of late, what with car troubles, illness, temporary census jobs...so much so that when I sit at my puter at night, the last thing I want to do is try and be informative on my blog. You guys deserve, at the very least, coherent sentences. ;)

So I had quite the conversation happen after my last post (I have some awesome friends). A few questions were asked, and I thought I'd put them together here instead of trying to put them in the comments.

Diedre said:
"Maybe I'm overstepping here, but I couldn't quite grasp what you feel about this statement you have made about deity being beyond our experience. Do you feel comfort in this knowledge, or insignificance, or freedom, or simply satisfaction in being able to articulate the way you understand deity? Or something else? Anyway, I'm just curious how this makes you feel. Or perhaps the answer would contain spoilers for your next post..."

You're not overstepping at all, and it's a very good question. So good in fact that I had to seriously ask myself and try to hammer an answer together. Let's see if I can get it...

There's a part of me that reacts to it like I would a star going nova, or the Yellowstone Supervolcano, a detached awe. I cannot effect this in any way, so it is relegated to knowledge in the back of my head. When I do bring it forward to think about, it's scary, beautiful and humbling.

There's another part that reacts to it with hope. The human experience *now* isn't the same as it was 1000 years ago, and won't be the same as the one 1000 years from now. I have had experiences where I've touched something other, something greater than myself, and while I don't know what exactly it is, I like to think that it's some little facet of deity. As we look farther out and deeper within, we learn more about what's possible and we become capable of *more*. Hopefully a time will come when humanity grows past its infancy and becomes able to communicate more directly with whatever it is that's out there.

Then there's the sense of security. I have found a definition that fits me. I like it, it makes sense to me. This is a very basic and selfish part, as it's completely about what makes me feel best about my life and the events that have happened in it. It's also fluid and evolving, so I don't feel the need to defend my view when challenged.

And last, but not least, is an overwhelming sense of awe (not the same as the detached awe above) that I have touched or been touched by something so vast it defies comprehension. I feel that deity wants us to grow, learn, change...become the very best we are capable of, and will help us if we but become perceptive enough to notice. It is this connection that helps me put my feet on the floor on the bad days, and makes the good days all the brighter.

I hope that helps explain things...it did for me! ^^

Diedre then said:
"I googled "petrified religion" and didn't come up with any good explanations. I could wager a guess, but could you explain what you mean by this?"

A petrified religion is one that does not change with the society. A simple example of this is when the "Great Mother Goddess" became an agricultural deity after farming was invented. The religion and the deity(ies) involved changed as not only the culture, but as science did.

The Abrahamic faiths have been tied to their respective books for thousands of years, and each change that happens is often seen as a massive dogmatic shift that results in a sect breaking off to remain with the "good old days".

The books still say things like, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live," (gee, thanks...), "Man shalt not lie with man as with a woman," there's all sorts of "shalt not's" that frankly have no place in this modern world. We shouldn't even be having the conversation about gay marriage, but because the book says, we are. There are people who believe that dinosaur bones were placed by Satan to trick us into believing the world is older than the Bible says it is. Really?

Not being able to reconcile what's in front of our faces with our spiritual systems of belief just leads to a lot of unhappy people.

Mr. One Eyebrow Priest says:

"And finally the resurrection completely ruined it for me. I think I may have asked my sunday school teacher about it. I don't remember the answer if there was one. I asked "If Jesus is God, then he can't really die, can he?" I remember at some point being told how wonderful it was that God was willing to experience death for us. But that didn't make any sense to me either. If you give your life to save mine, you do it for keeps. God wasn't playing for keeps, he got to take back any marbles he lost and go home. What is the meaning of sacrifice if nothing is lost?"

I really just wanted to comment that most of Christianity shares echoes with religions of the past. There are dozens of "So In So's descent into the Underworld" stories from different cultures around the world. There are also a ton of sacrificed son/sun deity stories too. Most often the Son was the symbol of the eternal changing of the seasons, birth in spring, youth in summer, maturity in fall and death in winter to return again in the spring. My problem with the Jesus incarnation of the story is that it became a linear, one time event, instead of remaining cyclical.

(Please don't mistake my dissatisfaction with the Christ story with my feelings for Christ as a person, real or otherwise. As a teacher, he had some truly wise and amazing things to teach, and if more people truly strived to be Christ-like, meaning that they love one another as he loved us (as a god is capable of love), then the world would by necessity be a better place.)

Descent into the underworld stories always bring something to the deity that takes the journey. One of the most famous stories is that of Inanna from Sumer. She learned the "darker" side of her powers, which was probably a metaphor for the necessity of death to continue the life cycle of life/death/rebirth. Odin hung on the World Tree for nine days and returned with the runes of power for his people.

Jesus earned the ability for humans to go to heaven through his descent, reversing his Father's decision at the garden of Eden. The issues I have with this story stem from how petty and jealous Jehovah seems. He got mad when the first people gained the knowledge of good and evil (essentially becoming like him, which was three hims to many), and condemned the species to eternal damnation. Later, after drowning the world, smiting a bunch of people, pillars of salt, death of the first born, etc, etc, he decides that he'd rather give people the chance at salvation. So instead of just changing his mind, he goes through the complex process of making a part of himself human, then has himself killed.

Now humanity has the opportunity to go to heaven, but not only do we have to be good, but we also have to make sure we keep god appeased. In other stories about the underworld, a person simply had to live a good life, their relationship with their deity(ies) was separate. You did the dance, killed the chicken, lit the candles, yadda, yadda, yadda, you were good with them. In Christianity, even the "virtuous unbelievers" go to hell. I do not like that.

Well, that went on way longer than I expected, but it was fun, and I hope you enjoy reading it. I also promise to try to get to the rest of the stuff I promised a while ago (heh) sooner rather than later. And as always, thank you for reading, I appreciate it.

Till next time, be well,


  1. Thanks for the update. I always enjoy reading and listening to the beliefs and insights of others. I feel that our individual viewpoints need expansion and only through community can we become something greater.

  2. First of all, I loved your responses to my first question. I see things much the same way. Not all the same details, but the same big picture feelings, I think. I'm putting this response first because I don't want to sound like I'm always disagreeing with you, it's just that there's less to say when we agree =)

    Also, Mr. One Eyebrow Priest--Can I call you Eyebrow?--Eyebrow, I echo your appreciation of benefiting from the views of others. I have learned much about Pagan worldviews since encountering Red's views, and I am glad
    to say they don't sound nearly as foreign to my own as I might have anticipated.

    Obviously I don't see things the same way as you describe in your response to the "petrified religion" bit and in your final paragraphs. (Surprise! Hahaha.)

    I actually really like the linear view of history in Christianity. It gives me hope & inspiration. Obviously there are repeating rhythms in the world (yearly cycles, etc.) and also in the church calendar, but overall we're headed somewhere! An entirely cyclical view of history would seem hopeless or fatalistic to me. Petrified, even (if I may be so bold).

    I think I've mentioned it before, but when I read the Bible and consider the history of my religion, it seems obvious to me that God changes the way he/she relates to humanity throughout the ages. It's a changing and
    developing relationship. I've also previously expressed what I think of blind literalism when it comes to the Bible.

    Speaking of relationship, I think an important point of understanding here is to remember that Christians often see themselves in a child-parent relationship with God. This involves knowing who created us, lots of
    love, an expectation of obedience, and lessons to learn for our own good as a result of disobedience. I'm not saying I understand all the Old Testament violence, but for me that falls under a previous era in God's relationship with humankind in which it perhaps made more sense (I hope).

    Also, I should add that throughout the Bible, God is the initiator of relationships and covenants and salvation with humankind, and he/she never breaks them, even when humankind does so repeatedly. That doesn't seem so
    petty to me, that seems like a good and loving way for a parent to behave towards his/her children.

    Finally, I need to say that Christianity expressly says we do NOT need to keep God appeased. Perhaps I misunderstood you on this point. Forgiveness is forgiveness, can't be any strings attached, otherwise it's not really forgiveness. All the "doing good stuff" is simply an appropriate response that flows from gratitude at being forgiven and a
    desire to deepen the child-parent relationship. But it's NOT a pre-requisite for forgiveness.

    Frankly, an ethic of "just live a good life, etc." would stress me out. How would you define that? How would you ever know if you got it right? What if you screwed up the dance or forgot to buy candles that day? Forgiveness and love is much simpler because I can just do my best and not worry about my errors. Just like I how know my biological parents won't stop loving me or talking to me when I screw up.

    Oh, and sorry (that's the Canuckistani apology reflex) but I need to mention that you are misspelling my name. Thanks!

  3. My issue with the "once through" linear way that the Abrahamic faiths view the world is that it seems really unfair to those who don't get a chance to do anything. Through disease, accident, other circumstances they don't have the opportunity to live. So they end up at whatever eternal afterlife, and then what? It seems rather pointless to me.

    I'd rather think that we've all been here a few times. Each time we learn some new lesson, becoming wiser with each go around. Eventually there will come a time when it is enough, and we just stay on the other side, helping those we can.

    I've met people who are "old souls". They are deeper, kinder, wiser people. They fill the room with light, have meaningful relationships with strangers, possess that quality that makes people feel better just being around them.

    And then there are those who are obviously young souls. There is a blank canvas quality to them. These people tend to have blinders on and bump their way through life. Often they make the same mistakes over and over and rarely learn the lesson.

  4. (I decided to post comments instead of doing another blog post, cuz I want to get on with the story. ^^)

    "Frankly, an ethic of "just live a good life, etc." would stress me out. How would you define that? How would you ever know if you got it right? What if you screwed up the dance or forgot to buy candles that day? "

    Perhaps I wasn't exactly clear in what I meant by this. One's relationship with deity(ies) is a separate thing than one's movement through the days.

    It shouldn't take divine commandments to know what behavior is acceptable and what is not. God shouldn't have to tell us not to murder or steal or generally cause harm to those around us. One should do good because it is the right thing to do, not because they are afraid of punishment, or are desiring of reward.

    And Christians "do the dance" just like any other religion. You go to church once a week, celebrate the high holidays, Easter and Christmas...these are the steps laid out by church doctrine to establish and maintain a connection with God.

    I know there are those who say that the "dance" isn't necessary, and that your connection with God is between you and Him. But the same can be said of nearly every religion. There are those who believe that the "dance" is more important, and those who believe that the self is more important. For myself, I think our actions to those around us are most important, and the rest will settle itself out in due course.

  5. I like your commenting on my comments. Sometimes when I get a whole blog post response, I feel kinda bad, like I'm dominating your blog or something.

    I think I must have misunderstood something in your original post. You wrote: "Now humanity has the opportunity to go to heaven, but not only do we have to be good, but we also have to make sure we keep god appeased." Are you saying here that this is what Christians believe? Or were you talking about someone else? If you were talking about Christians, then I object. Certainly some Christians might behave that way, but it is not good Christian theology according to any branch of Christianity I know.

    And yes, I agree that Christians "do the dance" too. "Dances" and other rituals are excellent tools for developing good habits, strong community, relationship with God, religious education, spiritual awareness, morality, and so on. I would be sad to live without my "dances". But they are not necessary for my forgivenness or to gain God's love. They're just some really great ways to develop a relationship with God (or whatever you want to call it), and I think a very natural response of gratitude and curiousity and passion and humility and so on towards a God who loves you just the way you are and forgives you. It literally makes me want to dance!