Posts tagged ‘religion’

First of all, I begin with a simple postulate, that all men are fallible; that is to say, all human beings are capable — and even given to — declaring a falsity beit knowlingly or not. More simply put, we are all capable of being wrong by virtue of being human. Secondly, I observe that all religious teaching is passed along by and through humans, and furthermore that all religious knowledge comes to each of us from another human beit a pastor, a parent, a teacher. Thirdly, the first two points being made, one must conclude that the entirety of religious knowledge is capable of being false being that it is handed down from human to human and humans have the capability — and even the propensity — for being fallible. Therefore, I ask: how can I trust this knowledge? How can I be sure that it is true? How can I know that it was not misinterpreted in some way having been marred by the hands of history. How do I know that these are indeed the words to escape the lips of God?

Imagine Moses atop Mount Sinai receiving he Ten Commandments. One can say that God made Moses’s ears ripe for the listening. One can say that the words in and of themselves are such that their anunciation creates the perfection of their understanding, that is to say, the words are so powerful that they cannot be misintereted or falsified. And yet how am I to know what is and isn’t the word of God? Because I am told so? How do I trust THAT? And so we return to our dilemma.

One could also say that religious knowledge is true by virtue of one’s knowing it is true. In other words, it is true because I know that it is true and, through free will, I am able to distinguish between truth and untruth. And yet what is often the case is that one man’s truth is nonsense to another. You see, when we say this, we step away from reason and into the realm of faith. And in so doing we circle back to our original dilemma.

We are left with the simple conclusion that all religious knowledge is fallible. If this is true, then whether you are a Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, you must ultimately ask yourself the question: Can one speak for God? In fact, wouldn’t it be a sin to speak on God’s behalf? Couldn’t it be the greatest sin of all?

It is well known that oxygen inhaled in pure form is an intoxicant. In fact, pure oxygen in excess can cause brain damage. And that is the irony, for although we need oxygen to live, it is oxygen itself that can kill us. Oxygen — clean and pure — is a poison.

In the name of God, country, religion, ethnicity, community, what-have-you, people have always echoed the cry for purity. Individuals of different ethnic origins have been hunted down. Marriages between different races have been denounced. Even ideas borne of a different perspective are eradicated. All on a mission for purity.

But purity is neither the way of nature nor the way of God. Indeed the inherent yearning of all life is towards impurity. Children bred of small gene pools have a smaller survival rate. We all come from dust and return to dust. Our very bodies, in fact, are inhabited by millions of bacteria that we rely on to live. No, mixing is the way or nature, mixing is the admonition of God. We are meant to mix.

So when people cry for purity, I think of oxygen. A little bit of pure oxygen creates euphoria, blurs your vision of reality, makes you think and behave in irrational ways. And so it is with purity itself. It intoxicates. And those intoxicated by it see the world not as it is, but as their delusions demand it to be. And this is how prejudice breeds, crimes are perpetrated, and wars are begun — out of the insanity of purity.

But purity is a poison. It is unnatural. It snubs its nose at the world. And it is misunderstood. Pure white light is not pure at all. White light — pure and natural — is actually a mixture of all the colors of the spectrum.

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So I’m trekking around Washington like I always do…on foot, when I decide to give ol’ Mr. Lincoln a visit. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to the Lincoln Memorial, I think to myself as a meander through the throngs of tourists and midday joggers. It was a sweltering day beautiful as it were and the city was awash in vibrant colors. If any of you have been to the Washington, you’d know what a long, arudous journey it can be between the Capitol and the Memorial. Doesn’t seem that long. The walk is almost laughable. But there you are trudging onwards thinking when the hell am I gonna get there???

But I finally made it. I swept up to the top of the steps — one by one — seeing Honest Abe peek out onto the capital horizan. And there I was, all of a sudden, in the presence of the Great Emancipator himself in all his glory. It’s almost a religious experience…even after all the times I’ve been there. It always reminds me of the ancient Temple of Zeus from the days of yore…whatever yore means. And when you think about it, all the cities of the world…from Rio and its Christ the Redeemer statue at Corcovado to Paris and Notre-Dame Cathedral…the rest of the world is littered with monumental tributes in the name of religion. Yet here in Washington, our tributes are not generally for the sake of religious figures but rather ordinary men and women. OUR capital city contains tributes to fallen soldiers and great political leaders. Rather than Jesus or the Virgin Mary, we see visions of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

So then I think about what it is in the American spirit that impels us to “worship” these figures and give them god-like status in our American pantheon. But then it struck me. It’s not that we are raising them to the level of gods. All of these people stood for something, symbolized a value, and it is not these people that we are elevating, but the values they stood for. It is these American values that we wish to worship and hold sacred. It binds us all as Americans. When Jefferson wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident…that all men are created equal…”, when Martin Luther King said, “I have a dream…”, when Roosevelt shouted, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself…”, they were espousing our values.

So whenever I see a monument — which happens often in this city — I think about these values. I think about the American religion. It is something deeper than partisan rancor, deeper than Jesus. It’s the thing that truly unites all of us Americans. The anthem, the flag, the eagle all prostrate themselves in this temple, the temple of the great American experiment. So if a politician were to ask me how to get in touch with the American people, I’d smile and point to the Lincoln Memorial and say, “Talk to the man upstairs.”