Often, when I look back through old posts, I’m fairly impressed with what I write. True, a lot of it is psycho-babble, but I’m proud of a few where I, at least, think I make a good point. Of course, I’m probably more than a little biased, as they are by me, and they probably do make more sense to me, since I did write them, but still.
This morning I was contemplating religion while playing sudoku, which made me come into the library and look up some old posts I made on religion. As some of you may or may not remember, 4.5 years ago (god that was ages ago) I wrote a post that lay out the culmination of many weeks, perhaps even more, of thoughts on religion. Almost five years later, I still stand by the main points of this end result. I thought maybe I’d revisit the topic, and try to clarify and simplify from the jumble of words that makes up that original post. So, here’s fair warning. If you didn’t like the original or don’t want a recap, or just hate going back in time, scuttle away. Similarly, if you have a shaky foundation in your own religious beliefs and avoid all other religions/religious ideas in the fear that your faith will be shattered, or just don’t like religious topics, run away quickly!
I was never one very comfortable with the idea of sins and of the absolute word of the Bible. I remember in high school I knew a few people with many different conflicting ideas about what God wanted/didn’t want, what really pissed him off, what was a sin, and how to get into heaven. It all seemed so complicated. But from other things they said, it seemed like it should be much more simple. From the words of those who ‘knew,’ God was described as two things overall: ever-loving and ever-forgiving. And, coming in third, the father, or parent, of humanity. So I started with that – the three things that seemed most likely to be true – God loves us, He forgives us, and He’s the ultimate parent.
This is getting a little somber for me, as personally I like to take religion and God with some salsa and humour, but for now, we’ll keep it simple, and thus somber.
From God being the ultimate parents, you can obviously redraw the idea of idea of Him being loving and forgiving, but you can add that He wants what any parent wants: for us to be happy. I can’t think of any parents I know that, at the end of the day, want differently. Of course there are exceptions, but I’m thinking they’re probably not good models to use for figuring out ‘the ultimate parent’.
From God loving us and God wanting us to be happy, the conclusion can be drawn that God probably is not down with people hurting or killing each other – since that’s usually a pretty big downer on the other person’s happiness.
From the above, the two ideas that make up my whole religious belief:
1. Do Not Infringe on the Happiness of Others
2. To Thine Own Self Be True
1 is pretty self-explanatory. There are some puzzles, such as euthanasia and suicide, but that comes down to (as far as I know) the one and only dilemma in my two little kernels of religion: What is happiness? Is the person’s happiness really decreasing or being infringed upon if they’re asking to be killed because they’re going to die slowly and painfully anyway? Is it if they feel they’ve got no happiness in this life anyway and would rather zip off to whatever’s next? First, it’s obviously different for every situation. Secondly, I don’t believe I’m in a position to know conclusively what’s best for someone else.
The same issue is presented in 2. ‘To thine own self be true.’ That’s Shakespeare, by the way – and one of my favorite quotes. In non-quote-speak, it means do what makes you happy, don’t do what hurts you, don’t do what impedes your own happiness. Obviously, we can’t always be happy all the time, and we all must do things that make us unhappy, like take out the garbage. But looking at a bigger picture, is your lifestyle making you happy? Are your actions making you happy? Is your job or schooling making you happy, or setting you on a path to something that will make you happy?
Therein lies the rub: (that’s misquoted Shakespeare, BTW) to be honest enough with yourself to admit when you’re not happy. It’s so very easy to convince yourself you are, when if you drag away the self pity and denial, you’re really not as happy as you could be or you want to be. Again, it’s different for everyone, and again, I don’t think I can say conclusively what makes anyone truly happy. Sure, I can give you advice about whether I think what you’re doing is really a good idea, but it comes down to looking inward, being honest, and deciding for yourself.
AND THAT IS SO HARD! In my experience, being true to yourself is one of the hardest things in the world. I’m willing to vouch that often we really don’t even know what makes us happy, let alone can admit that we’re not happy. And that doesn’t even touch on the fact that once you do figure out you’re unhappy, you’ve got to actually do something differently to get happy!
And of course, you can’t really get much help. You can get advice, but no one else can really tell you if you’re happy or not, because your individual happiness is different from anyone else’s. I mean, they can, and they might be right, but it’s up to you to recognize that they’re right in yourself. And there are obviously some things that make most people happy, but overall, we all have individual happinesses.
So this is both the greatness and the difficulty of the second idea:
1. It’s individual! There are no set rules. So loving and having sex with a guy makes you happy, really happy. Great! Go forth and be happy! So going to church and reading the Bible makes you happy. Great! Go forth and be happy! So having sex with people for money makes you happy. Great! Go forth and be happy!
I might not be able to see how that brings you happiness. I might feel that it’s impossible for that to bring you happiness. But who am I to judge? I’m not you, I’m not God. If you’re being true to yourself, and honestly doing what makes you happy, you will love life, you will be happy.
2. It’s individual! There are no set rules. The responsibility is on you to figure out your own rules. Sorry, but the Bible just became like the Pirate’s Code: “more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules.” Maybe the ideas presented in there will make you happy, maybe they won’t. It’s here that I can see why so many turn to organized religion. It’s much easier. They lay out the rules, you follow them, and they tell you the rules’ll make you happy and give you a good afterlife, cuz God’ll like you. No need for introspection and brutal, painful honesty.
So what if you’re not happy. Is it a sin? Will God punish you? Will it keep you from heaven (more on heaven later)? Why would it need to be a sin or keep you out of heaven? You’ve just lived your life not truly happy, not experiencing all the great things you might have. I’d say you probably suffered exactly proportionally to how far from actual personal happiness you were. Not really much need for further punishment. Will God be mad? Personally, I highly doubt it. In relation to him, with this omniscience and his universal powers and ability to create life, etc, we’re like 3-year-olds. I see Him being much more sad that we weren’t as happy as he knew we could have been and would have loved more than anything to have seen us be than angry that we did something wrong. Maybe He’ll remark that He hopes we learned something from that experience, and hopes we make better choices next time (if there is a next time), but I can’t imagine much more than that from an ever-loving, ever-forgiving ultimate parent.
Lastly, I’ll touch quickly on heaven. Is there one? Hell, I donno. I’d like to think there’s something just because it makes me sad to think of never seeing my friends
and family again. But if there’s nothing after this life, I doubt I’ll be worrying about it much, either.
Honestly, I think the idea of heaven is dangerous. I’ve met many people who seem to be living just to die because they’re so convinced of this wonderful, glorious heaven. To me it seems like the best idea is to live life like it’s all you get. Heaven is like a bonus round – if it’s there, great, if not, at least you had a great time while you were alive. Relying on heaven seems about as smart as relying on your teacher to drop a test grade – in theory it seems like a great back-up plan, but in reality there’s a good chance you’ll end up leaning on that crutch way too much, and then when it never happens, you’re kind of fucked.
To fill in the extra few minutes I have, I also don’t think there’s a hell. If you really really messed up on Earth, say, intentionally killing some people, my own personal belief is when you get to heaven you will be given the insight, knowledge, and understanding, to really, truly comprehend what you’ve done to the point where you feel 100% honest remorse, sadness, and pain about what you did. You’ll be in a lot of pain when you first get that dose of understanding, but once you’ve truly understood your actions and torn your heart out and wept for what you’ve done, need there be more punishment? The past can’t be undone, definitely not so by hurting you. The next best thing, it seems, is ultimate remorse and pain from understanding and feeling the pain you created. And then, a chance to be forgiven and to heal.
Honestly, I think that’s what happens to all of us if/when we go to heaven. We all get a dose of understanding and insight and feel ourselves the pain we caused others in our lives, whether minor or major. We mourn and hurt for those we hurt, and then we are forgiven, and we slowly heal, and learn.
Well, that’s my religious ramble. It was good to pass the time.