Monday, 20 September 2010

In which I discuss (somewhat) Christianity.

As you may know, I live in Glasgow. A city I love so much, I'm working on a blog about it. But for now, I'm here to talk about something I've been thinking about since Thursday. Yes, it's one of those posts.

The Papal Visit has got me thinking.

Now, let me begin by saying that although I think Christianity is a beautiful religion, for too long the simple idea that Jesus had has been bogged down by politics and oppression in many forms. It's my personal belief, and one I am happy to discuss and deliberate. I am not egotistical enough to believe I am right, and I fully respect and support anyone and everyone's own belief structure. As the saying goes,

"I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it"

So here's where I'm at. I believe Jesus existed. I believed he thought he was the Son of God, and wanted to make the world he lived in a better place. I believe that he lived and died as a holy man, holding to his morals and principals. I believe, when the first stories about him where written, some 30 years after his death, by people who may have not even known him, on behalf of the people that did - certain stories were embellished and exaggerated and even out right made up. Some of these writers did it out of a love of the message, and again, a desire to see the world be a better place. Some didn't. Some wrote for their own selfish reasons and started twisting the stories to fit with their own views on the world and on how life should be. It's human nature. No one is perfect. There is proof, then, when the stories came together, that a certain amount of editing happened, to make it "fit" with the beliefs of the people who collated them. Again, maybe not out of any ill thought, but it happened.

Then, many many years after the fact, the works were translated, and badly. There is also continuing work happening today to see what could have been if the translation was done with more than a basic knowledge of the language being translated. I'm curious to see the results. But back to the first translation. They attempted it several times, and each time they translated from the previous attempt, not going back to the original text. I can imagine how muddled those words got.

And then there were a few different versions floating around. People who followed one book denounced the others. There was no way to reconcile them all. Religious fervour had taken hold. In the end, the group with the most political clout, with the biggest sticks, won. The Church became a powerful entity.

Fast forward to today, and the idea of religion is almost distasteful. Too many wars, killings, conspiracies; and these days most people consider themselves atheist without fully exploring what that choice means. They assume it is the lack of a belief in a god. It isn't. That isn't the full story, the same way most believe Satanists are blood thirsty goat killing goths. Those people aren't truly Satanists either. I think J Michael Straczynski said it best.

As an atheist, I believe that all life is unspeakably precious, because it’s only here for a brief moment, a flare against the dark, and then it’s gone forever. No afterlives, no second chances, no backsies. So there can be nothing crueler than the abuse, destruction or wanton taking of a life. It is a crime no less than burning the Mona Lisa, for there is always just one of each. So I cannot forgive. 

Most people who consider themselves Christian, in my personal experience, are lovely normal sweet people who just want a better world, and in the way that makes most sense to them. It means there are certain ideas I cannot agree with, but I know it comes from a place of love and an innate goodness that I can't help but love anyway. Then there are those who use Christianity as a tool for hate, an excuse to do and spread vile ideas and actions - but I do not identify them as Christians the same way I don't see the no god brigade as atheists or the aforementioned blood thirsty goat killing goths as true Satanists. *side note, I enjoy letting those people know they are the same Christians they claim to hate because they believe in the same god and devil - they just worship the other side. Scary, isn't it? And emphatically NOT what true Satanists are about* 

In my eyes, the Pope is dangerously close to becoming one of the dangerous kinds of Christian. The kind I see as using religion, instead of practising it. I liked Pope John Paul II. He had ideas and a belief system I didn't always agree with, but I felt, in his heart, he loved his God and was intent on doing as much as he could, as a good man. Pope Benedict XVI however, is a god-fearing man, and seems to have an angle. It's strange, some of his beliefs about how the world should be are, on the surface, exactly the same as Pope John Paul II had, but it comes from a darker place. This isn't because of the whole Nazi Pope thing - to be honest, I empathise with how difficult it would have been to be forced into that in his youth. 

Maybe it's as simple as something about him gets my back up. My hackles are on full alert. Maybe it's entirely down to personality. I've definitely considered that option. I guess I just don't understand how anyone can worship something they fear. 

I will continue to write the implications of The Papal Visit - the finance and everything else that got people's panties in a twist. But for now, I wanted to make my position clear. Like I said before, I have huge respect for those who appreciate religion as a way to live a better life. I love the idea that faith enriches peoples lives. But organised religion causes me pause. And I would like to explore why.

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