Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ancient History

My latest Netflix viewing was the documentary The God Who Wasn't There (written and directed by Brian Flemming). The movie was primarily an examination of the history of Christianity, coming to the conclusion that Christianity and related religions are more likely fictional stories and are full of contradiction. He also emphasizes the dangers of fundamentalist Christianity (and other extremist religious leanings as well). The movie is done very much in the style that Morgan Spurlock and Michael Moore have made popular recently. For the most part, I did enjoy the movie -- it had a lot of excellent insight and information. The only thing I didn't like was the "music" throughout.

One thing I do think is getting old in these documentaries is the parts where the opposition is interviewed and put on the spot when asked to defend their positions. Yes, we all knew that Dr. Ronald Sipus (superintendent of Village Christian Schools) was going to flip out when asked to allow students to critically question the beliefs that were being taught in the school. I think there are other ways to get the point across without embarrassing people in the process. This kind of interviewing technique is sometimes effective, but more often than not it tends to make me sympathetic to the interviewee, regardless of how much I disagree with them.

One of the most important things I walked away thinking after watching the movie was how justifying an action "because it's my faith" essentially ends the conversation. If you say that I will be destined for a life in hell because I don't believe there is a holy spirit, or that homosexuals should be put to death, and I question the morality of those statements on scientific or secular principles, and you say that I'm wrong "because God said so, and that's who I believe," there is nothing I can say to respond. Clearly facts, scientific principles, common sense, and considerate behavior will not convince someone who believes that an omnipotent being, only supported through faith, indicates otherwise.

There are days I take pause to think about why I don't believe in some "higher power" or "holy spirit," and wonder whether believing would fix things that are wrong in my life. On the days when I feel like my life is pointless, I wonder if dedicating my life to serve "God" would give my life meaning. When all is said and done, the scientist in me realizes that turning to religion to find meaning in my life is nothing more than a crutch, at best, and at worst I am depriving the world and myself from doing something truly constructive. Every one of us has the potential to contribute something positive to the world around us, including those who are religious. However, I still assert that if there were a higher power, that being would not want us to waste the resources we have been blessed with sitting around worshiping it (and working to convince others to do the same). My morals and values are based on the principle that I try to treat others as I would like to be treated, in ways similar to Buddhist belief.

What we currently view as organized religion had its place in a time in history where less was known and understood about the physical world where we live. It could be argued, and very well argued as well, that while these concepts did lay the foundation for ethical behavior where perhaps none existed, some of the teachings of the Judeo-Christian religions and their offshoots were (and still are) barbaric and downright violent. Furthermore, it really is my belief that supernatural explanations for how the world works just makes little sense in light of what we have learned over the past 2,000 years.

I know I've said a lot of this before, but sometimes I find myself being able to say it better, and now is one of those times. Since I've been pondering the lack of point in living a lot lately, and because that thought scares me at times, I've had to do some serious thinking about life in general. While I don't consider myself a martyr or that my thoughts are terribly original, I do realize that throughout my entire life I have tended to be a non-conformist and an independent thinker. By definition, independent thought and non-conformity will always leave one very alone at times. That's not to say I am always striving to "buck the system," but I do question the motives and the reason behind why the system is as it is. There are times that I have rallied behind conventional thought, some times when I reluctantly went along with convention (because I had no choice), and times when my principles lead me far from convention. While this isn't an easy life, my personality, for better or worse, won't let me behave otherwise, and my mistakes are unfortunately permanently etched into my mind. Also unfortunately, some of the right choices haven't been etched as permanently...

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