Wednesday, June 13, 2007

God, Karen Armstrong and a Pair of Speedos

Irritating Annoyance #453: “So what do you believe in?” Unfortunately, “Why do I have to believe in anything?” is not an answer people are satisfied with, so…

I believe in God, humanity and Karen Armstrong.

I also believe in Bart Erhman, John Boswell, Elaine Pagels, Morton Smith and Gary Wills. I believe in Biblical scholars. I’ll listen to people who have studied ancient Hebrew, ancient Greek, Assyrian, Sumerian, Aramaic and maybe a little Coptic. Also: the anthropology, geology, archeology, ancient history and sociology of Palestine and Mesopotamia.

I believe in a spherical earth. I believe the earth rotates on an axis (some don’t – read this:

I believe in the Greek virtues: Knowledge, Wisdom, Compassion, and Love. Oh, and the gay virtue: looking great in a pair of Speedos.

I believe that man was created to survive and, as a result, he has a mandate to help everyone survive by making the earth a better place to live.

I believe that hatred is man’s most absurd emotion. Anything that negative and counter to survival is abysmally stupid. There is only a small difference between hating someone for what they've done and hating a piece of furniture you crash into in the dark. However, “Love the sinner, hate the sin” is against human nature. That’s why Christ was considered such a rebel: he was the first to tell the Jews to love their enemies. To be fair, however, Socrates and Confucius came up with the idea 300 years before Christ. I don’t think Christ was that original. Looking back at its history, Christianity wasn’t all that original either.

I believe in pure, unequivocal compassion: writing about the Axial Age which began our religious traditions, Karen Armstrong states:

What mattered was not what you believed but how you behaved. Religion was about doing things that changed you at a profound level….The only way you could encounter what they called “God,” “Nirvana,” “Brahman,” or the “Way” was to live a compassionate life. (Armstrong, The Great Transformation, p.xvii)

Now for the “don’t believes”:

I don’t believe in religion as entertainment, so I don’t believe we need megachurches. Spirituality and connection with God do not need fog machines, rock bands, or congregations singing the latest Kumbaya.

I don’t believe in faith-healing or glossolalia (speaking in tongues). I think there’s a hooker near where I live and she might be named Glossolalia, but she only speaks English (I think).

I don’t believe in automatic “reverence” for a person just because they have “Reverend” in front of their name. Same for “Dr.” I don’t believe in Pat Robertson, Creflo Dollar, D. James Kennedy or James Dobson. "Dr." Jerry Falwell received not one, but two honorary "doctorates from unacredited colleges. He never corrected anyone. And donations don’t necessarily have to go hand-in-hand with respect.

I certainly don’t believe in Beverly LaHaye.

I don’t believe in Original Sin. I think it was an invention of St. Augustine. After all, he felt so guilty about stealing pears from a neighbor’s garden when he was a teenager that he felt everyone else in the world must be born in sin. Original Sin (like “The Rapture”) isn’t in the Bible. Look it up. Human beings aren’t born with black marks against them. It’s the biggest guilt trip ever perpetrated by Catholic nuns and televangelists. And it’s insulting to assume that anyone is a sinner just because they were born. While no one should be told they were born perfect, guilt of self and fear of God have done more damage to the human race than anything else.

Again, I believe in God, humanity and Karen Armstrong.

Oh, and I believe that looking great in a pair of Speedos should become a religion.