- Religion and Philosophy»
- The Role of Religion in History & Society
The New York Times Said God Is Dead
Pocket Money For The Medicis
Losing My Religion
I do believe that we are all products of our environment. You can't take the New York out of a New Yorker, just as you can't take a grain of brown rice and call it white. Origin is drilled into our souls from birth, taught to us by our elders and pounded into us by our peers. While spirituality is a natural phenomenon, brought to us by our dreams and imagination, our beliefs are formed by the influences around us in our daily lives. The core of our beliefs and spirituality is governed by the most influential urge of all, and that is survival. Human beings are, after all, animals, and survival and reproduction are the most powerful instincts we possess.
I understand that that concept is hard to grasp for many people on this planet, that human life is no more equal to or greater than any other thinking organism, but that is the true burden that we bear. It is the hardest and most destructive aspect of human existence, an understanding of our own mortality and the rationalizations for declaring ourselves superior to all other beings, all the while trying to maintain the purely natural pursuit of self preservation.
I guess my initial point here is that we are predisposed for religion, and it is no coincidence that all of the worlds' major religions coalesced separately but within the same (anthropologically speaking) general time frame. And they all have basically the same premise: a higher power and some sort of guarantee of an afterlife, so long as you are a believer. I was brought up an Irish Catholic in Chicago. My mother took us to church every sunday, and I sat there bewildered at the pageantry and the death. There were these intricate stained glass windows that depicted the last days of Christ, dragging his cross towards the altar, where he hung pale and pierced, dead as hell. We had an up-beat choir, who sang endlessly about the big hook; "If you believe in me, you will never die"
That is a pretty powerful message to send the young and impressionable. I never heard a word of the sermons because I was too busy wondering about this big guy in the sky and how he got there and how he stays up there and where did they get the money to buy all of these elaborate decorations? It just didn't make any sense to me. My Mom dropped a 5$ bill into the collection basket every week, so I would do the math. Let's see... there are about two hundred people here today, and if they average 5$ a head (which I knew they couldn't, because many were other kids, but I rounded up for the benefit of the doubt), that meant that they were hauling in a thousand dollars for every service. Times that by three every Sunday, and the take was around 12,000$ a month. When I got old enough to realize that they probably owned the church and didn't have to pay rent, that meant a yearly income of 144,000$ a year, tax free. And that didn't include Christmas or Easter or any of the other obligatory holiday things.
By the time I was 16, I had decided that the whole thing was a scam and Mom gave up on me. I had sided with science and common sense over a bunch of pie in the sky promises that I didn't think they could ever keep. It just seemed like a hollow, desperate fantasy to me, weak people clinging to this 2,000 year old grim fairy tale, mostly for the sake of feeling better about themselves. Mom was there because she had to be, obliged by her Irish parents to be a good catholic girl. But she didn't really care. She was much more interested in politics.
At Least We Got Some Good Art
Where To Now, St Peter?
So I went off to college as a confused agnostic and chose art as a major, where they proceeded to show me thousands of slides of renaissance paintings and sculptures and architecture, all depicting various stages of Christ getting tortured in on way or another. It was awe inspiring in more ways than one. The quality of the art was astonishing, and the buildings they created brought me to tears. But, once again, I had to wonder, where did they get the money for all of this shit?
Of course the money came from the power and enormous influence yielded by the church in the middle ages. Art was strictly confined to biblical images and all of the great artists were employees of the Pope, in one way or another. It was certainly the most positive thing to ever emerge from Christianity, despite the depressing and morbid subject matter.
This last statement will probably be met with some disagreement, given the popularity of God in this country, and the supposed righteousness associated with it. But the entire establishment of Christianity (and all of the other organized religions as well) has been so tainted by violence, oppression and hypocrisy over the last 20 centuries that they have lost much of their credibility.
John Lennon got into a lot of trouble for saying that the Beatles were more popular than God. At least he put his money where his mouth was.