Sunday, March 23, 2014

On religion.

So, Fred Phelps died this week.

Am I happy about that? I suppose. But not very, because the church he created (and apparently from which he was excommunicated last year) lives on. George Takei had a good take on it; to summarize, he suggested that love always triumphs over hate, in the end. And, more generally, I think it was Mark Twain who observed that there can be people whose deaths aren't to be celebrated, but aren't necessarily appropriate to feel sad about. Phelps being gone fits that bill pretty well.

The Westboro Baptist Church is an extreme flavour of religion, of course; its extreme-ness is why anyone talks about that particular, tiny congregation in a nondescript part of the US at all. But, religions find their way into a lot of corners of our lives, either through overt displays/rituals/symbols/practices, or though more subtle ways like the idioms in our language ("god forbid...").

The more I think about the whole concept of religion -- blind faith in something you can't prove is there, rituals that go back thousands of years that have weird and nonsensical meanings, rules that defy logic -- the more ridiculous the whole thing seems. It's a waste of time. I used to think it was interesting to think about different religions, and I guess it has a bit of a value in terms of historical curiosity, but these days that's fast losing its appeal.

Maybe part of it is because I'm actively seeking out a significant other, and in this town you've got a lot of people from a lot of backgrounds, and a lot of 'em belong to cultural groups that have a lot of rules, and a lot of those come from religion. (Full disclosure: I find a lot of different women attractive. Haven't always, but this place tends to open up your eyes.)

I am a member of the following groups:
  • males
  • white males
  • straight white males
  • straight white males who are passably Christian-ish
  • straight white males who are passably Christian-ish with an education
  • straight white males who are passably Christian-ish with an education who are employed
  • straight white males who are passably Christian-ish with an education who are employed in an occupation that is near-universally respected
To quote Louis CK, "you can't even hurt my feelings!" As such, there aren't a lot of explicit "rules" I have to follow in my day-to-day life. I can kinda do whatever I want, and that's pretty bitchin'. I wish more people had the freedoms that I have, and, boy-howdy, does religion (in some cases) handcuff some people.

(I used the phrase "passably Christian-ish" because I was raised in it, but don't consider myself Christian anymore, but can speak most of the lingo and am familiar with the general ideas, some of which are actually quite nice.)

But, just think about what we could do as a world if we just stopped thinking about religion, giving money to religious organizations, paying attention to who fucked who over, thousands of years ago. Who's specially-chosen, who's not. How much you have to cover your head/face/body in public. Who has a historical/divine right to certain places. Wasting time sitting on uncomfortable seats/kneeling on rugs/burning incense in shrines/getting up early/fasting/whipping yourself/going on missions to far-flung places/and so on.

The moral of the story is that it's Sunday morning, and Sunday mornings are for sleeping in.

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