What does religion mean?

Arguing your religion

Cathedral in Spain

While I’ve been pretty busy lately, I’ve not been so busy to avoid getting embroiled in religious arguments – online and off.

And I’ve gotten into no less than three just in the past 24 hours – mainly due to Pope Francis supporting evolution, which the Church as done since at least 1950.

Oddly, all three arguments have been with atheists. The thing is that they don’t understand the basic definition of the word, “religion.”

Is religion a belief in god?

No, because that would mean that religions like Taoism and Buddhism, which have no god, are not religions. Yet they are.

Religion is “an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence.”

It’s how we organize the world for ourselves.

The reason why you get so annoyed with all those gun enthusiasts, staunch vegetarians, rabid animals righters, virulent Liberals/Conservatives, etc. is because you’re tired of having their religion shoved down your throat.

It’s how they see the world and they want – badly for some reason – for you to see it the same way.

In any case, atheists see the world and our role in it sans god. And that is absolutely fine with me.

But just like you probably don’t want to be harangued at the airport by (American) Christian fundamentalists, I don’t want want to asked to explain how I see the world as it relates to me while eating a late-night gyro.

Logically, there’s zero difference in those that utilize peer pressure and shame to put down a religion as there is to build one up. The core point is the same: see the world as I see it, or you are dammed/wrong/stupid, descended from apes, etc.

It’s this weird militant atheism that people seem to have that I find the most peculiar – like furiously sleeping. As if how I see the world affects them.

Some people just wanna eat a gyro in peace and I say, let them.

Him: You don’t really believe in god do you?
Me: Why does what I do in my head matter so much to you?

Location: work
Mood: wishing for a breakfast gyro
Music: can’t stop can’t stop, I’m still looking now
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The militant religious and non-religious

I don’t understand militant atheists

Cathedral in the UWS in NYC

Spent yesterday in church because it was Palm Sunday and also because I had a meeting. I still volunteer there after all these years.

I don’t think of myself as a particularly devout Christian in the big city. I merely am one

It’s a bit like when I wrote about being left-handed and proud – not exactly since one can choose to be religious or not – it’s similar in that it’s merely a state of being.

At least for me.

I do take issue with the number of people that – particularly on Facebook – feel it’s their duty in life to shame those that are religious. Moreover, I don’t think they would ever sign on and mock Muslims or Jews but Christians seem to be fair game.

A Salon article sent to me this morning by my Columbia University educated wrasslin coach sums up my thoughts on the matter whereby militant atheism has itself become it’s own religion.

And that’s precisely why I find it all so puzzling.

I am not 100% that there even is a god, let alone my god. But in my moments of doubt and belief, I find myself more often than not siding with my belief.

After all, if there is a god, he exists completely separate from my belief in him.

Yet a day doesn’t go by where I don’t have someone post something about their love of Atheism. Atheism, by definition, a rejection of all religions. It is the absence of religion. This is also different from Agnosticism where one is neither certain there is or isn’t a god.

Yet the people I run across are so smugly sure that there isn’t a god that it’s elevated to it’s own belief system.

“As one philosopher put it, being a militant atheist is like ‘sleeping furiously.'”

And with any belief system, there is that sense of superiority that I detest so very much.

The thing that jumped out at me from the article is the line that went: Dogmatists have one advantage: they are poor listeners.

In the very last tiff that I got into regarding someone bashing Christianity, this young fella that goes to my gym engaged me but only to tell me his beliefs and then write: “I will not be further commenting on this thread.”

At which point, I also stopped; partly because I found him childish, partly because of his sloppy grammar, and partly because trying to discuss anything with a militant – any militant – is a waste of time.

It’s like trying to teach a pig to sing: It’s a waste of your time and annoys the pig.

Speaking of my gym, there are dozens of really dangerous people that walk around. But you’d never know it because they know they’re dangerous. They don’t need to prove it to anyone else.

And if asked to prove it, they would and not simply say, I choose not to engage.

Again, that’s why I find militant atheism so peculiar.

If they were so sure of their beliefs, they wouldn’t feel the need to constantly prove it. I don’t.

Moreover, why would they care what I or anyone else believes?

I can assure you, my wrassln coach doesn’t care if I think I can beat him in a fight or not, he knows he can beat me in a fight. I know he can – that’s why he’s the coach.

As for my needing to say something, I read something by Elie Wiesel in junior high school where he “swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere.”

That is a good thing to swear to, I think.

Someone should always say something.

Location: getting dressed to see my pop
Mood: devout(ish)
Music: I have to climb Up on the side of this mountain of mine
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Render unto Caesar

The Republican Party at a Crossroads

One of the three passages from the Bible that I quote most often is Matthew 22:21, which goes: Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.

Jesus said this after being asked by his enemies if the Jews should pay taxes:

  • If he answered Yes, they could brand him a sellout to the Roman occupation.
  • If he answered No, they could report him to the Romans as a subversive.

He sidestepped the question entirely by saying the above.

Which brings me to last night’s vote. In all of these years of posting, I don’t think I’ve ever told you what political party I adhere to.

Growing up in the Reagan years, I’ve traditionally been a Republican and then, more recently, an Independent.

Like the Republicans, I want smaller government, less wasteful spending, and tighter reins on government programs.

But their social bent makes it difficult to see myself aligning with them in the near future, or ever again for that matter: The jaw-droppingly misplaced views on women’s rights, the virulent anti-immigration bent, and (most annoying to me as a practicing Christian that has actually read the Bible) the pseudo-Christianity.

My friends think I’ve moved left. I’ve not.

With the exception of certain items, my views have been fairly consistent through the years. It’s the political landscape that’s moved right. Even Obama, with the healthcare reform – a traditionally Republican ideal spearheaded by Nixon – his aggressive hunt for Bin Laden, and his extensive use of drones for strikes, is far more right than I would have expected.

Unfortunately, the right has moved ever more right as well, particularly socially. To the point that my vote is not wanted, even though it is needed. The same goes for the Hispanic and female vote, which were deciding factors in this last election.

So now the party has a choice: Continue to alienate the fiscally conservative but socially moderate voters like myself or tack back to the middle where compromise is a virtue not a vice.

Romney won more white male votes than any candidate ever – 6 out of 10 white males voted for him. And yet that was not enough.

Moreover, it will never again be enough.

So back to the Bible quote.

Papers are noting that the party is at a crossroads: continue to cling to this ridiculously intolerant RHINO Tea-Party view and become completely irrelevant OR see the world as it is.

My suggestion is to crack open the Bible and give that quote a re-read: Give unto Caesar (the government) what the government requires for you to survive and unto your own beliefs what you need to make it through your day.

The two are separate and should always remain separate. If God is god, he is god without needing a seat on Pennsylvania Avenue. If He’s not, the problem’s moot.

And here’s the main thing: Even the big guy Himself said that.

Explicitly.

Finally, when my breakup happened years ago, the only thing I knew clearly in my haze of insomnia and sadness was this: I do not want someone that does not want me.

Every time I thought of calling or writing her, that sentence stopped me. And now I’m happier for it we’re both happier for it.

Put another way, you don’t want me? Fine. I’m going to take my ball and go home.

God bless and protect the man and the office. Le Roi est mort, vive le Roi…

 

Location: going to the office for the first time in a while
Mood: conflicted
Music: Why am I the one always packing all my stuff?
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Grace and Mercy

Do you know the difference between Grace and Mercy?

Him: The fine is $2,000 a day for non-compliance.
Me: (coughing) You either gotta kill me and sell my body parts a nickel a shot, or we’ve gotta work something out.
Him: (laughing) We don’t have a department for that type of collection. (pause) I can give you two more days. Can you be in compliance by then?
Me: (nodding) Hell or high water.

Do y’know the difference between Grace and Mercy? They’re two sides of the same coin.

  • Grace is when you get the good things you don’t deserve.
  • Mercy is when you don’t get the bad things you do deserve.

Been posting less these days – cause I’ve never been into ranty posts. I did call my brother about two days ago, though. Guess something in my voice worried him. Or maybe mom told him about my shaking. Dunno.

Today I was running around all morning, having one unpleasant meeting after another, before I finally made it to my office.

And there sat my brother.

He dropped everything and took the 7AM flight outta Florida. I was in the hood, thought I’d see you, he joked. Then he looked down for a moment and asked, You ok?

Outside, my three employees were working, my partner was in her office, and I had clients waiting. I said it before, the words that’ll make a grown man cry are, I’m on my way. Just showing up’s even better.

But a boss weeping in his office doesn’t do anyone any good. So instead, I coughed, cleared my throat, frowned and nodded. He got it.

Later that night he and his friend Kathy had dinner with my folks, laughed, and sang about two American kids growing up in this heartland on the road home.

Today I got mercy from a total stranger and grace from my earliest memory.

Yes, I said honestly, I’m ok, now.

Location: 22:00 yest, Rego Park
Mood: hopeful
Music: life goes on Long after the thrill of livin is gone

Somehow Stay

Heard a song by Tara Leigh Cobble that I liked

Called the ex today. Purely practical reasons, I assure you. Wasn’t that bad. Like I said yesterday, forgetting is good.

More on that later.

Went to church last Sunday.

Met this woman named named Tara-Leigh Cobble who sang a song called Somehow Stay. I liked it because I thought that it sounded like something I might have written; it’s a gospel but works as a love song too.

Liked it so much that I picked it up; you can also go to her website and hear it to decide if you like it.

OK, back to coughing up a lung…

Location: haven’t moved
Mood: sick
Music: none of us Are living the lives we planned
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A million ways to buy it

I started volunteering in my church

(c) AP Photo/Seth Wenig

I heard one guy died in that explosion. Sad.

The thing about living here, is that there’s a million ways to buy it in the big city.

When my accident happened, it was exactly like those VW commercials where two people are just chatting and a half-second later, BAM!

Your life can really change just like that.

I know a few people on the East Side, two in particular spring to mind. But we’ve lost touch. They’re all, by chance, part of the people I cut yesterday.

Just as well, what would I say?

Me: Hey, just calling to make sure you’re alive.
Her: I picked up the phone didn’t I?
Me: (pause) Yes. Yes, you did.

I’ve decided to start volunteering in my church.

I’m hoping it’ll balance out my Thursday thru Saturday drinking and womanizing.

Location: 7PM yest., 110 & Broadway, buying a slice
Mood: still maddeningly busy
Music: I hope you know That this has nothing to do with you
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Virginia, look at the blue sky

Dr. Kelso: Are you an idiot?
JD: No sir, I’m a dreamer.

Scrubs, S06E16 : 02:53

Can you see God in the bright blue sky?

Location: @7:30 AM, Central Park in spring
Mood: thoughtful
Music: You’re good at makin’ me feel so small And I know you

Church

Atheists have as strong a belief system as anyone

Linus: Do you ever pray?
Lucy: That’s kind of a personal question, isn’t it? Are you trying to start an argument? I suppose you think you’re somebody pretty smart, don’t you? I suppose you think. . .
Linus, turning to Charlie Brown: You’re right . . . religion is a very touchy subject.”

Had a disturbing discourse the other day.

An atheist woman I know was annoyed to find that a friend was a Muslim. Religion, she noted was a bad thing. Her friend was smart, couldn’t she see how stupid religion was? Her god wouldn’t make horrible demands, kill people and do bad things, she said.

But let’s follow the bouncing ball of logic:

How does she know that God doesn’t kill people and do, what we would think, are bad things?

Because if she had a god he would not do such things.

But then, that makes her her own god.

The god of her mind hasn’t fashioned her in his image so much as she has fashioned him into her’s. Therefore her god, or lack thereof, can never be greater than herself at her best.

That is dangerous because people fail themselves all the time (I know I do). And if your god comes from within instead of without, I submit that you are headed for some grave times when misfortune does come.

And it comes – man, does it come.

Everyone falls to their knees at some point because, life is cruel.

Now, I’m totally ok with the fact that I could be wrong about everything I believe; my religion is all about that (Matthew 26:41) but it bothers me that atheists are often so smugly certain that I am wrong.

I’ve actually never met more narrow-minded people than atheists (I’m not saying all atheists but most). This one, for example, has completely cut off communication with me because she disagrees with me.

And for those that say atheism isn’t a religion, I submit that it is because: we both believe in something beyond our abilities to prove.

I cannot prove to you there is a god but you cannot prove to me there isn’t.

It’s the zealots of any religion that drive people crazy. Those that are so certain that they are right that they just don’t want to hear any other possibility. She’s a zealot for atheism because, she’d rather tune out someone rather concede she might be wrong.

I do believe in God.

To believe otherwise would mean that I’m solely in charge of my life. And that’s far too much responsibility.

As Martin Luther said to his friend, Pray, and let God worry.

I respect what you believe, regardless if you are atheist, Muslim, Buddhist, whatnot.

I worry enough as it is.

Location: still in front of a stack of papers
Mood: bored
Music: worry, worry, super-scurry; call the troops out in a hurry

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On your knees

Life gives us blows and we do what we can to survive them

(c) AP Photos

2 Samuel 12:22 tells of when: David had a kid with his buddy’s wife, killed said buddy, pissed off God, God took David’s son.

Now here’s why I like the story: David’s a wreck while the kid is sick; David won’t eat, won’t sleep, etc. But when the kid finally dies, he picks himself up and begins to live his life again.

When asked why he was such a wreck when the kid was alive but much better when the kid dies, David goes, “When the kid was alive, there was hope that he would live – that God would be gracious to me. But He was not and I can’t change what’s passed. My son can’t come back to me but I can go to him.”

At times, Life brings you to your knees.

Those phone calls you never want to get:

  • “It’s about your younger brother…”
  • “I’m sorry to have to tell you…”
  • “I thought it best that I be the one to tell you…”

Been brought to my knees twice in my life. I’m lucky because it was only twice.

Dreading the next time.

Thought about this because I went to a wake yesterday. It was my second third funeral experience; sadly, I’m sure they’ll be more.

Today is also the 65th and last official anniversary gathering of the Pearl Harbor veterans. And I’ve also been keeping up with the story of CNET editor James Kim; he wasn’t there when I was there but still…

Despite all the ugliness, we move through life with a balance of hope and acceptance. At least we try to.

Location: @2AM, missing someone I barely know
Mood: Contemplative
Music: you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it’s sinking

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Marian Fisher

I was reading this article about the Amish girls that were killed the other day. The first to die was a 13-year old named Marian Fisher who asked “Shoot me first.” Her younger sister Barbie then said “Shoot me second.” Barbie survived. The thing is that that these kids never watched TV nor movies – they didn’t learn to be brave by why some actor taught them. They just were brave.

It’s hard being a Christian in the city – I admit, enjoy my sinful life a bit more than I should. But these are people who are at peace, even when they’re not.

It’s also hard having faith and being brave. I’m 20 years older than that girl was and half as brave (if that).

Maybe I just need a little more faith.

Location: @ 2:something – snapping this pic
Mood: Hopeful
Music: take these lies and make them true somehow
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