I think you and your legacy, are grossly overrated! While I really hope never to be one of those people, who can't even talk about you without getting red in the face, the idea of you as kindness and mercifulness personified is just a little too hard to diges

Its just too hard to reconcile the demonic mind reading ogre of the bible, who obsesses over the daily thoughts and actions of all of mankind, with a ps he really loves you viewpoint. 

There aren't too many people around now who are content to pay, pray and obey. People are so widely travelled, free to soak up, and acquaint themselves with many different ideologies and value systems. How arrogant it is to dismiss these beliefs. I think it is entirely honest to put your hands up, and say you just don't know if there is an afterlife or not.

Anyway, I think I would much prefer to go to hell anyway. If everyone who disobeyed church teaching is hell bound, then hell is going to be crammed full of spirited people with a mind of their own, and the conviction to back it up. I think I'd much rather spend eternity there, rather than upstairs saying non stop rosaries with mother teresa & co. With all the elaborate religious doctrines, can someone please tell me what the hell you do all day? An eternity of boredom, does not seem like a prize worthy enough, of a lifetime of self denial and repression.

This also brings me neatly, to the relationship between eternity and a human life. Its ridiculous to think that on the basis of one life, be it very long or short, that someone's eternal fate is sealed. If someone had been kind, decent and giving every single day of their life, and lived long, I still don't think it justifies an eternity of a reward, conversely even Hitler and every other evil maniac you can think of, doesn't deserve an eternity of fire and brimstone. Sure, give them a couple of trillion years, but not forever and ever without end. Also, what about those people who died prematurely, who really did'nt get much of a run at life?

We know for a fact that the earth is tens of millions years old, (actually estimated to be 13 billion years old), and yet because of the Christian calendar, we tend to think of it merely in terms of just a few mellenia. There is an awful big gap in between. There is so much that could have happened, and has been lost in the abyss of time. Could it be possible that in a thousand years from now, we will look back on Christianity, Judaism, islam and all the others as condescendingly as we now look back on the beliefs of the ancient greeks?

I can almost safely make the prediction, that even as today we can see the slow disinegration of the big monotheistic religions, and the slow rise of others (scientology,various new age sects etc) that the world will keep on turning. Even if we try to destroy the world through global warming or nucleur methods, that the earth will slowly regenerate herself. In the absense of gods, what next will we look to for the source of explanations, which so many of us seem to crave?

I also realise that it would not have been possible to raise any questions of religious doubt, centuries ago it would have led to death and then later and more recently social ostracism. So, a lot of people shut their mouths and closed their minds, and continued to pay, pray and obey. Some have said that the church comes in for too much criticism. I can't really accept this, as criticism of them, and their practices is still a relatively new phenomenon. Then agan why should any cult or belief system, which cloaks itself with the mantle title of religion, be automatically elevated to a position where criticism of any kind is not allowed, and all rhetoric can only go one way?

The masses are free thinking, independent and analytical (for the most part) and so a confrontation with an imposing dogmatic set of beliefs is inevitable. Religion for me equals brainwashing and relentless programming, you are born into a belief system, brought up in a particular society, go to religious school etc. We are social animals and people feel the need to identify with, and belong to a certain group. On digital tv there is an islamic channel,catholic channel and a few other channels emanating from the bible belt, with a heavy emphasis on screaming and dogged ranting. Its interesting to see how many similarities there are between them.

With great certainty and conviction, they recite the same things again and again to an unquestioning audience, who are devoted and steadfastly loyal to whichever camp they are in. If you notice, there is seldom any dialogue, the flow of conversation is almost always one way. Its a huge brainwashing process, but who is worse, the charismatic priest, preacher or imaan, or the happy clapping morons on the receiving end?

When I was younger, there was no debate, you were going to mass on Sunday at 9am final! That sort of force, doesn't exactly engender any great connection. You go to mass because you want to, you are desiring of that time for contemplation and reflection. It often seemed to me that most of the people who went to mass were just perpetuating the custom they were brought up with, and Sunday mass was a convenient way for the community to meet and gossip. There was very little substance!

Although, on the occasions lately that I have wanted to go to mass, I would inevitably fall out of the chair while exercising, or drinking a cup of tea (yes my trunk muscles are becoming that unstable), and the thought of worshipping someone who suffered for a few hours didnt seem too appealing, while I and a lot of others are being crucified daily. Compared to the plethora of problems and obstacles which we humans go through, every single day, the suffering of jesus for a few hours is absolutely insignificant!

Sacrilege? Maybe, or just maybe I'm onto something and there is some method to my madness. You don't have much choice about the family or belief system you are born into and raised with. In my humble opinion, all organised religions are cults, pue and simple. They get you while you are young (mostly through their control of schools) and keep a firm hold through sociaL pressure during life. How many people do you know who chose their own belief system? I was born into the catholic cult, but could not call myself a catholic now, even though it is a very rich tradition, and it did bring me comfort at one time, but certainly not much anymore.

I have a relation, heavily into the charismatic movement. He has a fundamentalist based, black and white attitude, but I know that if he had been born in Palestine for example, and indoctrinated with that particular brand of fundamentalism, that he would be strapping bombs onto himself and walking into bus stops, taking as many innocent people with him as possible, thinking he was doing a glorious and heroic deed.

Once a belief system starts organizing and exerting control over people's minds then some very strange and terrible things can happen. I remember watching cnn, after pope john paul II had died. They interviewed a man, who said he had left the church after Humanae Vitae, the encyclical which marked the church's opposition to artificial birth control. He saw it as a sign that the church wanted control of the person from conception to the grave.

Lets examine the evidence,
(a) you were born into a good close family while so many others have been scarred by incest, abuses both physical and mental of all sorts. There are many people still trying to overcome the legacy of being raised by a repressive unit, or maybe there was no "unit" thanks to divorce or sickness. There are so many stories of the nightmarish conditions that so many people have gone through day in day out, left with festering scars that may take a long time to redress or heal if they are lucky.

(b) You had physical & mental health unlike so many of us here that are trapped in bodies and minds which can be like prisons, with no possibility of parole.

(c)You had lots of friends and a good support system. OK you had one friend who betrayed you at the end, but I/12 isn't bad. You never knew that terrible empty feeling of going through life all alone, of having no one to turn to when times get tough.

(d) You died young. You didn't have to endure any of the negatives associated with the aging process, no cancers, alzheimers or hip replacements for you ( Bette Davis once said "old age aint for cissies" and she was dead right). So, you suffered a lot for a few hours. I'm sure it wasn't pleasant, but it certainly doesn't warrant mankind being on its knees in supplication for all of eternity.

(e) You lived a very sheltered life, lived at home with your parents,had no trials associated with bringing up kids............(let me know any more you can think of).

Indeed, the opposite scenario may be more true. I think most of us humans go through an awful lot more.Sometimes I feel that instead of the traditional notion of dying and being scrutinized and sentenced by jesus, that instead he is going to be meeting us with a big bottle of chamagne, to toast the fact that we MADE IT through all the ups and downs of life.

So it is obvious (to me at least from all of this, that my problems and questions do not end with a resurrected christ, indeed they only begin with it.

I think religion performs a strictly social function. You worship in congregations, go to church meetings and groups. Issues become more black or white, you become more pro or anti. I think over the years, I have slowly factored god out of the equation, and it is not an easy thing to do. It seems an easier option to believe that there is a divine order to everything and that all things happen for a reason. You can wax very lyrical about god, but I think it is good that we are coming now into a post god age, where people stop looking outwards for a saviour, and start looking inside and to the nature of their relations with others.

To be honest, I am loathe to voice these opinions elsewhere, as people would take one look at me and the chair, and conclude very emotivally that "oh he is bitter, angry......" No, these thoughts and opinions have not been hurried into, but rather distilled over the course of many years!

There are some great people out there, who don't get the attention they deserve. I think we are all a part of this human experiment, and no one is inherently better or worse than the next. With all families there are going to be rebels, black sheep or just downright nasty pieces of work, but we are inevitably interconnected. I don't believe that it is right or somehow divinely ordained that some people have a lot of wealth, success and personal happiness while others are constantly struggling through one hardship or another.

But then outward appearances can be very deceptive. Its something that I need to constantly remind myself about. I still do get pangs of jealousy when I see people going around, using and taking for granted all of their normalities. If only people understood the marvellous intricacies and ergonomics of a thing like walking.

Your body has to be strong and aligned, the brain sends out the signal cells and muscle fibres fire and respond, raise your foot up, heel out, balance all your body weight, muscles retract. I still find myself staring at people's feet, not because I have some crazy foot fetish, but because I'm aware of how complicated and amazing the process of walking actually is. Unfortunately this appreciation comes to many retrospectively. This is supposed to be about spirituality (you can see how easily I can go off in a tangent !).

I have not closed the door on religion or spirituality, and some of the nicest people I've met have been priests or nuns. But then again they are nice people full stop. I'm sure they weren't magically transformed once they were ordained or professed. You certainly don't have to be religious to be good "as the nobel prize winning physcist Steven Weinberg said, "Religion is an insult to human dignity.With or without it, you'd have good people doing good things, and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, it takes religion" ( found this great gem in Richard Dawkins The God Delusion page 249). I think we all have a spiritual dimension, whether we have the time, inclination or desire to attend to it or not. I guess I'm still open to any ideology as opposed to actively seeking and waiting for one which I can cling onto for dear life, and use as an indefatigable compass.

By the way, where do you suppose I'm going to in September? Would you believe Lourdes. I'm going there because I met a really nice group of people. I was there 8 years ago, and I swore never to come again. Myself and my brother were stuck in the hospital, at a time when neither of us needed to be there, with old men dying in their sleep in the bed beside us, only let out to go to mass or some procession. As with any trip, it's the people who make it, and I've been assured that I can make my own itinerary. I know how special Lourdes can be, being in front of the grotto is often very tangibly supernatural, but this leads to almost the biggest dichotomy or contradiction within me.

I can accept people and places like Lourdes, padre pio, sr. faustina but I just cannot buy into all of it, the teachings, rules, doctrines etc. I'll bow before no one bar myself! So what do I believe in? I believe in the human spirit, the stubbornly terrific power of people to overcome whatever hurdles and obstacles life throws at them, and I believe in the goodness of people underneath the social masks, hurt, trauma and pain. More on humanism later.

But, I just have a major problem now with people who believe that everything began 4,500 years ago with a talking snake! I find myself now giving out to my mother the intermittant times nowadays that she has the time and inclination to go to mass.

I find it hard to accept also that this is it, and that we are the sum total of everything we have done during our lives and there is nothing else. I think it is so important to keep an open mind, and not doggedly rule out anything. The whole notion of reincarnation does not sit well with me either. Even though it has this lovely benign exterior, it basically its saying that I have FA as a form of retribution for something I did in a past life.

I also wonder what happens to those people here that are mentally challenged. Are they suddenly tranformed into wonderfully "normal" people upon possession of their eternal prize, forcing their relatives to get reacquainted with them all over again, or is heaven full of people with the same difficulties tthat became part of the persons makeup here? There are so many questions and not nearly enough answers.......

I had a very interesting attempted chat with a family member about suffering and jesus. I say attempted, because very often when someone is that entrenched in a belief system, they really aren't open to a dialogue or even a pretence of it. They are right, you are wrong, end of story! My mother was telling her what I keep saying, that jesus only suffered for a few hours etc and her calm response was that it was all a mystery. To me "mystery" is a huge cop out word, that attempts to totally dissuage any dissenting voice. Well as far as I am concerned, there is no mystery why your churches are empty! I think any religious ideology is just a giant crutch for people.

Tuesday 28/2/06

The start of another lenten season. Sometimes I want to scream "wake up, you morons". Yet, I know the churches will be crammed in 7 weeks, with people on their knees, making such a big fuss about a little deed performed such a long time ago. Surely, it would be better for these people to do some acts of humanitarianism, rather than try to hedge their bets on an afterlife with jesus.

I can go to midnight mass at christmas, partly because of the effort thats made in my local church, all the flowers and beautiful hymns, but easter........FORGET IT! There are plenty of people who are crucified with whatever problems day in and day out. We are the true heroes, even without the acknowledgement, ceremonies or fanfare. Personally now, I find it absolutely infuriating to see people go to mass (how some people go everyday is just beyond me) going through the same robotic behaviours and yet not practicing what they preach. There's something very wrong, and maddening with this picture.

Recently, my mother told me that a neighbour had complained to our local parish priest,complaining that he didn't bring communion out to me in my house. Please!!!!!! If you want to do something practical for me, give me money. A piece of bread isn't going to do much for me!

Monday 13/3/06

I am listening on the news to the legal wrangle over the davinci code book. I am embarassed to say I only read the book this christmas. It was riveting, but I really don't think it will turn people away from religion per se. There are much deeper issues at work, and whether jesus did live and died the way the bible describes, or whether or not it is all lies, whether or not he banged mary magdalene, and has a bloodline that exists today, it is all largely irrelevant. Christianity like all good books is coming to a conclusion.

Update 29/6/06 I finally saw the davinci code film last week and must look into the role of symbolism in religous (and other) movements. Certainly when I was in egypt recently, the similarities were all too apparent, from trinities of gods, to good luck charms which were very like a cross. Religions and moral ethics are transient, and very much man made.

I remember a well known priest coming to our school and telling us how he marvelled at the church's ability to see down dynasties and institutions. Well, it hasn't been around that long, and the film actually does a good job at exposing the supposed tissue of lies at its core.(After that priest's death, it was revealed that he had 2 sons with his housekeeper---------so he followed his own code on certain things!).

Sunday 6/8/06

There was a very interesting programme on tv about the whole science vs role of god debate. Well, I have major problems with both sides! I can't say evolution has all the answers, and conversely the thought of being able to fit two of every single living creature onto a boat, is just too proposterous for words.

I can't fathom the big bang theory, and that all the richness and diversity of life evolved essentially from nothing. Apparently now there is a creationist movement in the states, and apparently an alarming 47% of americans think that if it isn't referenced by the book of genesis, then it can't be true. So you had the crazy sight of a creationist standing beside the awe inspiring (and age defying) grand canyon, and trying to pin its age down as cerca 4,500 years purely in order to fit into their biblical context.

Its so obvious that there is so much we don't know between the age of the dinosaurs (would have been hard to squeeze them on the ark) and even early biblical times. I think the truth still has to be revealed, and that no one side will have a monopoly on it once its found.

Wednsday 16/8/06

I'm sorry but I watch a lot of EWTN, and I have to say most of the time it is with open mouthed incomprehension. They only (care to?) know one side, have no interest in debate, you're either with them or against them. I sometimes think it is impossible to be a free thinking person and catholic. The two seem to be totally mutually exclusive. I like mother angelica, she has a very magnetic personality, very jolly and affable, but peel back the layers and she is very dogmatic and immovable to the point of being condescending.
Monday 30/1006

At the moment I am reading about Edith Stein, a jewish born academic, philosopher and "catholic feminist", who eventually converted to catholicism and became an enclosed carmelite nun, who was later gassed in auschwitz, under hitler's mad rampage. She was a super intellectual, one whose writings have to be studied and through that, digested and translated into a more understandable language for us mere mortals.One of the things which jumped out at me, and merits comment is when she talks about the connection between human life and eternity " God has given each human being a threefold destiny: to grow into the likeness of god, through the developement of his faculties, to procreate descendants, and to hold dominion over the earth. In addition, it is promised that a life of faith, and personal union with the redeemer, will be rewarded with eternal contemplation of god!

I often would like to ask a religious person "what is your idea of a perfect world?" Imagine, we are all 100% committed believers whose highlight of the day is to spend hours in eucharistic adoration. We all love each other and yahweh so much, that there are no wars, and we all bend over backwards (not literally as we all know sex is strictly only for procreation) to help each other. We all almost have self imposed whiplash from tip toeing around each other to avoid any hint of conflict.The biggest sins we have are maybe of envy of our neighbour for being "better" or spending more time in adoration or doing more good deeds (not for want of feathering their own nest in the next world of course!) Then we die, and naturally everyone has been so good, that we all go straight to heaven, where we spend forever and ever and ever doing more of the same.

Hardly seems worth it, does it?

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