Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Some Lies: Sisyphus probably had it worse

First, let me start out by saying this post only reflects my crazy ideas based on my limited personal experiences, and it is not meant as an attack or judgement of any one else's beliefs. Tideliars post Some Lies: Sisyphus probably had it worse as well as the other numerous holiday themed posts got me thinking (about stuff other than research and teaching).

I was raised Catholic in a family where my mother is blindly devout while my father says that aliens created us as part of some grand experiment (He was raised Catholic, but lost his faith years ago). This should lead to some interesting and philosophical discussions, but my parents being who they are, instead produce nonsensical insults and shouting matches.

Despite this, they did end up sending me to private Catholic schools throughout grade and high school. As a result, I as was exposed to extensive religious education. At the higher levels (junior and senior year of high school) it was decided by my teachers (mostly Christian Brothers) that we were finally educated enough to be exposed to some of the deeper truths of the faith. (I like to think of it as moving up in the ranks, since the Church has a similar structure as most businesses and/or military operations.) We were told that it was ok and even encouraged to doubt and question. Everything was up for debate and we even had classes on world religions so that we could compare and contrast.

Many priests and other religious folks (monks, nuns, brothers) these days are well educated and hold advanced degrees. You cannot reach those levels of education and remain blind followers. I was able to have intelligent, philosophical conversations with these types of folks on a few occasions. The conclusion I got out of them was that they can't afford to let the masses in on this "secret" as chaos would result. The policy is to have the general public kept in the dark about religion and to use fear and guilt as motivators. The thinking is that the general public cannot handle this kind of freedom and if they found out that it is ok to doubt and change things in the church, they would lose followers. You would have people splitting off and forming their own factions whenever they disagreed on something, as is the case in a few other denominations.

The problem in the Catholic Church is that it is so slow to change, many policies and rules are left over from the dark ages, when the average church goer didn't know how to read and never left the village that they were born in. The dogma that is preached to the public is what is alienating many of today's educated adults. On the flip side, I feel like many people are still very much in the dark when it comes to organized religion, which leads to so much of the fanaticism that exists today. They don't know the history or underlying motivation for why things are done a certain way. I stopped attending mass after high school because I got tired of being told the same stories over and over. I am a decent person that follows the general rules set out by most of the organized religions. I don't need a weekly reminder of how I should lead my life or a reaffirmation of why my religion is the right choice. If there could be an open discussion, I would consider attending again.

On a more personal level, I'm pretty sure that there is a higher power out there, at least until physics comes up with a more complete and satisfactory explanation for our existence. My qualm with organized religions lie with the notion that this higher power would care about any and every individual. If there is a force out there that set the big bang in motion that led to the creation of this vast universe, it's very hard to believe that it has a personal identification number and file assigned to me. If anything, I have a much easier time relating with an angry and vengeful deity (more like in the old testament) that smites disobedient subjects and should be feared and offered sacrifices, and maybe, if we are lucky, acknowledges us humans collectively as a blip on its radar. 

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