Lately I've gone through a slight paradigm shift on my life philosophy which is a return back to earlier principles. I was raised in the Evangelical Lutheran Church - a special kind of "creepy" Christian denomination, which was so Fundamentalist that women weren't provided the right to vote on church matters. How's that for democracy? These are the people who are right now trying to destroy our country, our freedoms, our technology to bring about Armageddon. Trust me when I say that these people are frightening in their single-minded devotion to the concepts of Virgin Birth, Transubstiantion, Creationism, and God's Law. We're talking about the cultish mind-control practiced by those "true believers." You're either in, or you're out. After suffering beatings from my father to make me attend a place that so contradicted any rational thought I could work out in my brain (that God gave me!) that I nearly became psychotic as a result, I decided I was definitely out. I'm not a "true believer." Now, go away and leave me alone.
The sad thing about having been in that church is that it killed God in my world. Before we started going to church, God was someone who loved us and looked after us and wanted us to be the best people we could be. I believed in that God just fine. Of course, I was a mere child then and I didn't understand it. I also believed in the Force, from Star Wars. And I wanted to marry Fred Rogers (Mister Rogers' Neighborhood) when I grew up. I can tell you that the thought of having an all-loving being, who's got our back forever as long as we love him and love each other, sure does sound like a good idea. It sounded like a good idea when I was 6, 8, 10. It wasn't until I spent time with the scary Evangelicals that I found out that God was a whole lot more like the Dark Side of the Force.
So, I got out of that place as quick as I could. The months and months of illnesses that were the eventual reason for me to stop going to church were really a blessing, if there are such things. I stopped going to church altogether eventually, after I witnessed people I called friends lambaste one of my best friends for getting married to a man they disapproved of. It all just made me sick. If these people, these Christians, are going to treat each other like that, I don't want to have anything to do with it or them. I don't believe in any of that. I don't think that's what Christ taught at all. I don't think it's right to endorse such behavior. The lies, the maniuplation, the scare tactics. I spent 5 years trembling in my boots that at any time I could be thrown into a fiery pit of buring pitch, and had persistent nightmares of nuclear warfare. That was no fun way to grow up.
I'm sure I decided at some point, "There IS No God." I'm sure I proclaimed it. I don't know if I ever really believed it, though. I've always felt connected to something "other," "bigger," "eternal." I don't know what it is. God's as good as word as any to describe it. I could call it a chair. Call it the Force. These are the dreams of a little girl who saw Star Wars and grew up with the fight against oppression, cruelty, and megalomaniacial tyrants - the fight for A New Hope. I say that this is the fight we are fighting now - that fight between good and the fight between merciless evil. Today's Fundementalism, whatever it's flavor, is the merciless evil out there in the world.
The term "Nazi" has been bandied about quite a lot recently. It's the thing you accuse when you have nothing else to say. One of the more frightening aspects of the Nazi regime was their undying loyalty to God. They were Fundamentalists, they were sent To Save The Human Race by God. Hitler was also into the occult, and there have been allegations that he participated in Black Magic. Don't say that the Holocaust wasn't entirely about the "Good Christians" against the Jews. Seriously. I think sometimes people miss the forest for the trees in that respect. WWII and every atrocity committed by the Nazis had to do with God. Not my God, not your God, but their God. And we've got other genocides happening all over the world, and it's still all about God. People are fighting over GOD. God, who's supposed to love us and save us from the eternal pitfires of hell. That makes no sense.
If we're all saved, why do we have to fight with each other all the time? Whatever your particular brand of religion, they all pretty much say the same things. "Don't be greedy, help your neighbor, be a steward to the Earth." Some have different rules, and some go way further, and it doesn't apply to every single religion, but it applies to most of them. Most of them also have some variant of "no fighting" thrown in there for good measure. Of course, those aren't the parts most Fundamentalists focus on.
The true Fundies want everyone else to just die, since everyone else is already going to Hell, they might as well help us along. Not only are they gonna get theirs in Heaven (or analog), they want it here too. Well, I say Hell NO! If Heaven is going to be full of those people, I don't wanna go there. I wanna have at least a reasonably decent life here on Earth. I do not want to spend any possible afterlife with those Fundies. If there's an afterlife, I wanna hang out with Ghandi, Gallileo, Plato, Aristotle, and all the brilliant (many atheist) scientists whom God created. I want to meet Einstein, who said, "'I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings.'"
Clearly, God does not meddle in our lives. Of if it does, God does it in very tiny ways you almost wouldn't see if you weren't looking. Which you can't do if you're busy being a shit to all the other human beings on the Earth. If you'd start paying attention to the things around you, your path to Heaven is paved - seriously because there's a pretty good chance that when this life is over, it's over. So, you'd better make peace and be friendly while you're still here. It's all we get. Just this. Nothing more. Quit pissing in the bathwater, it's starting to stink.
Heaven on Earth makes the most sense to me. Everyone getting along with each other. Everyone using good manners, and not being so rude to each other. A life like that on "Leave it to Beaver." People are friendly, and when they make mistakes, they fess right up for the most part. There's no genocide. There's no starvation, or poverty, or sex crimes.
The more you pay attention to the natural rhythms of the world, and spend less time controlling everything, you start being able to see God everywhere. If that's what it is. You find out amazing things about this world when you're not so self-possessed to be on a 'mission' or a 'Crusade.' When you take the time to be present in as many moments as possible, beauty is revealed. Beauty of every variety. One of the things I love about the film, American Beauty, is that it shows how Lester learns to appreciate all the beauty he'd missed all those years he'd been spending as a tight-assed-dorkwad. He found his spirituality by working out, smoking dope, and figuring out how to have the most integrity he could have as a human being. Even though it backfired on him in the end, it was not surprisingly because of the twisted next-door-neighbor. Fundies! They're everywhere.
I believe in Love. I believe in the power of Love. I'm also as close as one could get to being a hippie, given that I'm only 35. You go your way, I go my way, and if we groove like that - it's all good. I'm not into conflict, reallly. I like peace, harmony, joy. I don' t like being on a downer. I don't really like rollercoasters either. I like boat rides. With seagulls. I like doing those things as much as possible, even if I'm only by myself - I'm totally hip with that. I'd rather do all those things with someone with whom to share them.
I'd love to travel and write about everything. I want to paint sunsets while hanging out in the South West. I want to visit the craziest parts of America. I want to see where the punks live in Seattle. I'd like to visit friends, other writers, all over the country. I'd like to go to writing conventions and workshops. I think I could write some awesome stories with enough experience in those places. I'm lucky that I've had a real taste or two of many places here in the U. S. There are so many more I want to see. I see God in everything, if I look hard enough. God, or whatever it is that made all this beauty out here in the world.
I've heard that the sunsets in Afghanistan have no rival. It has something to do with the arid climate and the thin-air, as well as the deep points of the mountains... I hear the sunsets last for hours, and are breathtaking. As I write this I think of all the men and women, theirs and ours, who are out there dying. Right now. If I close my eyes and pay attention, I can even feel it. The only comfort those people are going to have is that, if they're lucky, they'll see God in that sunset over the mountains in Afghanistan. Ain't no one else doin' nothing but gettin' on with the killin'. Over what? God. Right, Him. Fundies. Y'all are psycho!
Put down your Fundamentalist hat. Put down your grenade launchers, your IEDs, your swords. Talk to one another. We're all just men and women here. We're all just people. We're all just trying to survive. Darwin gave us everything when he revealed the divinity of God's Creation. We're just evolving, surviving, the best that we can. And, we have these magnificent brains that can figure out how to get out of this shit we're in. If we'd only use our powers for good, instead of evil. Natural Selection is what happens when a species overpopulates and starts to destroy the Earth. Uh, yeah, that's us. Right about now.
I believe in God, if that's what it is when I feel joy. I believe in anything that makes me feel more connected to the Earth and my fellow human. I believe there are some forces of evil, and I like to avoid those as much as I can. I don't like evil, evil is bad. I'm okay with the idea of believing in the power of good to do good and the power of evil to do evil, and that we have a choice as to what we want to do with our lives. It's all very rational to me. You should be nice to each other because it's good. Being mean psycho people is bad. Simple morality, and I've not even blamed God for any of it.It's all up to you, human.
I believe in the idea of Jesus's sacrifice for the suffering for all man. That's pretty cool when you really think about it. I believe in the power of that kind of love. Jesus was pretty awesome. Yeah, but I don't believe he really died. Didn't happen. Nope. Maybe he was in a deep meditative trance, like one of those Sufis who can stop and restart their own hearts, but he didn't die and come back to life three days later. That's a crock of something. That's like a zombie. I've seen zombie movies, and they're not nice. They're quite scary. I don't want God to be scary.
I don't want God to be scary. There are too many scary things out there already. God shouldn't be one of them. In my world, God isn't one of them. If there's a God, he's not a scary God. Existential angst from my youth: solved.
Today, I think I'm as close as I'm ever going to get to being a Christian. I focus my energy on doing what is right and good to the best of my ability. I work for the light side of the Force. Now that life has slowed a little, I've even seen glimmers of what could be God. It could be. That's all I'm willing to say. It's all I'm willing to say, because I can't quite give up the fear that was instilled in me about that brimstone and fire stuff. To quote Joni Mitchell, "I'm frightened by the devil, and I'm drawn to those ones that ain't afraid." So, I hang my hat on the peg marked "Agnostic," and I focus on as many joyful moments as possible. I routinely express my gratitude for not having the misfortune to be born in Afghanistan.
End the war, folks. Let's save each other.