I have always had a somewhat problematic relationship with the bible, and therefore I have always had a somewhat awkward relationship with those who live their lives by it. I was born into fertile ground as far as having religious based confusion went – what with a mother who is a lapsed catholic and my father who believes but doesn’t regularly attend any church. I read the bible from cover to cover early and had problems with some of the logic contained therein – add in a growing knowledge of science and religion’s failure to answer some pretty important questions thrown up by that discipline and you have a recipe for dissent. Dissent tends to grow when questions are stone-walled too, at least they do with me – that whole idea of blind faith in someone who never offers proof makes little sense to me and it built on the whole children should be seen and not heard type of response that my early forays into philosophy provoked.
Don’t ask questions that might possibly embarrass people. Don’t ask questions. Trust. They try and link all of these things to being a humble person – a good person. The thing is, how exactly are you supposed to learn and grow as a person if you never ask questions? How are you supposed to stem the growth of a disbelief if you never answer a question? If you have a whole group of people who don’t ask and don’t answer and trust to blind faith what do you have? A group of ignorant children living in a box as far as I can see.
You aren’t supposed to lie either – but I remember several revised versions of where dinosaurs fit into the picture as far as the creationists go. Shouldn’t you be able to keep your story straight? The bible is contradictory enough as it is. After a while of being confronted by people who appear to have no answers to your questions you have to conclude that they are not the place to go to find things out; your suspicions that they may not really know that much at all seem to borne out by the constant falling back on rhetoric that they have learned parrot fashion but which they cannot argue around.
Of course there are your bible scholars and there are people that believe in God who can hold a decent conversation – a reasonable and logical dialogue that doesn’t end with you both tearing your hair out. Unfortunately it is not my experience that these people constitute the majority. In fairness I would point out that there are many non-religious people who also cling to ignorant beliefs that are not as reasoned out as they should be.
Am I an atheist? Strange word that. Theism having the same root as theology you would think that atheism would be concerned with a disbelief in religion. I can quite freely admit to disbelieving in a relgion. God? Now that is a different matter – I don’t know everything and physics seems to go only so far in explaining how this whole show got on the road. So, am I an agnostic? I actually think that is the most sensible thing to be – for all the negative press they get for being fence sitters, for hedging their bets, their position seems the most tenable. To believe in a religion that struggles to reframe itself every time a new discovery is made about the universe seems to be building your life on shifting sand – even though it has captured the imaginations of so many and seems a pretty tenacious entity, even if actual church attendance is way down now on what it was. To categorically state that there is no god at all out there? It seems an ignorant thing to do – we don’t know what lies at the bottom of our oceans, we have only a fairly rudimentary knowledge of how the brain works, how certain things in the body work – and as far as the universe goes and where it came from and where it is going most of that is just guesstimation.
I try to engage certain people in a conversation about their beliefs and they instantly grow hostile as if I am attacking them. I have studied a fair few things to do with their religion so I am not coming at this from an ignorant perspective – I have read The Dead Sea Scrolls, The Talmud, The Torah, various Gnostic scriptures, the writings of religious scholars, and of course various versions of the bible itself. So what am I doing when I try to initiate these conversations? I am trying to do the same thing I did as a child – trying to ask the big questions and find some kind of answer. What is so wrong in that? I am trying to do it from a more informed perspective. I am not poking fun at someone’s religion or asking them to stop believing in it – on the contrary I am fascinated by why they do believe; I really want to know how they explain away the inconsistencies to themselves. Do they read these draft versions of scripture and wonder how the word of God can be handed straight to someone and need so much editing? Or do they discount them? Do they revise their idea of what their religion is and what it is built upon in order to shore it up when the rug is pulled out from under them in certain respects. Are they like me? Do they ask questions and want answers and if they feel differently when they get no satisfactory response? I of course understand that this goes on – and I know you, the reader, understand, or should at least suspect, that I put these questions here to outline a thought process.
Why this latest rash of religious contemplation? Well, my stepsons have joined a church and it has brought me back in contact with a social group that I have largely avoided, save funerals and marriages, for a very long time. They ask questions of you, even if mutely, and your lack of involvement in their church seems,if not a problem, then at least a cause for concern. I don’t have a problem with the kids going to church – they enjoy it. I don’t have a problem with the people in the church. What I have, still, and I wish it wasn’t so – is a problem with the idea of churches, the way they use the bible, and all that stuff that is bundled up in a lifetime of questions and processed information. Still, make you think, which is definitely a good thing.