29 April 2005

Fumbling towards...?

My attempt to recreate what I lost before. It will not have the fire or passion of my original attempt since that was spurred on by a specific catalyst cannot be duplicated. But I've had a couple of requests that I voice my thoughts anyway, so I'll try. It won't be nearly as empassioned, though.

I grew up, a good little Anglican. For those of you who don't know, that's the the Church of England which was "cannonized" as the official sect of the UK by that grand womanizer, King Henry VIII.

I went regularly until about high school. That's when I traded in Sundays at the alter (I was even an Alter Girl) for the semblance of a social life. You can't stay out late and have fun and get up to no good and be expected to get up early for church. I somewhat maintain that if our parish had evening services, I might not be the "lost sheep" I am now. Though, at the same time, so much has happened, I really can't make that assertion. I'm sure that having a bunch of heathen friends didn't help.

After I stopped going to church regularly, I bashed it a lot. It was boring, it didn't make sense. I "descended" into full-blown atheism for a while. I didn't engage in the debate very much. I avoided talking to my parents about it, and it was an easy lifestyle because it fit perfectly with what everyone else was doing. I guess I became a different kind of sheep.

It wasn't until I met Mo that I really started having crises about what I believed. That's when I really started thinking about what religion was and why I backed out.

Mo's a Catholic. She sometimes refers to herself as "Catholic light". She follows most of the tenets to the letter, but we've also had some interesting conversations about what doesn't work in the Roman Catholic church. The one I always bring up (and get really angry about) is this "the Pope is infallable" dogma. I have plenty of other problems with the hierarchy of the RC church, but it can originally be traced back to my realization of what Pius IX did. In 1870, he declared the Pope infallible. Immediately makes it hard to argue with, eh? Here's my problem with that: Man is fallible. God is (acclaimed) infallible. The Pope, while God's representative on earth, is a man. I see holes in the logic. Need more proof? The Pope isn't chosen by God. The Pope is elected by Cardinals (hey, that just happened!). If the Pope was truly the one true representative of God, wouldn't it be unanimous? But maybe I'm oversimplifying. Maybe that's not the point.

At any rate, in my view, I don't see how the Pope can't be wrong about things like birth control, when so many unplanned babies are born into horrible situations, and millions are infected with AIDS in Africa. I'm not saying that everyone should rush out and have premarital sex, but really, why can't we protect ourselves if we do. Especially since marital sex doesn't guarantee that nothing bad will happen. And you're also asking recognized fallible creatures to fight against millions of years of biology. But I digress.

Then there's the Catholic stance on gays. Now, before anyone jumps all over me, I know this is a view held by many religious institutions. But in my world, RCs appear to lead the charge. Maybe because of their numbers, maybe because of where I get my information. But it was from an RC that I first became aware that there was oppostion. To the people, and to their marriage. I could never really find the words for why I accept both. In researching a post to Robyn's blog, I found this website that put it into perspective for me; even backing up the arguments with Bible quotes. I also recently came across some interesting thoughts in this (Janet's) blog.

As I started becoming aware of all the different incarnations of Christianity, I really started to question how anyone could be right. Then when I realized that Christians (in various forms) have been trying to prove people wrong for years, I really got mad.

Now, I realize that this isn't a phenomenon particular to Christians -- that many faiths have been trying to peddle influence for thousands of years. But when I looked at Western history and Christians long, bloody history (crusades, colonialism, etc.), I got really confused. When did "Love thy neighbour" turn into, impose your beliefs or slaughter those who disagree?

Did they have it wrong? Were they out of line? Contemporary thought seems to agree, yes. So assertions that This Is The Way It Is or that Now We've Got It Right fall a little flat to me. My example: many (and I apologize for being non-specific) Christian sects preached slavery from the pulpit for decades. It was our "God-given right" to abuse and subjugate entire races because of skin colour and origin. Well, no one's very fond of that doctrine anymore. In fact, I've been hard pressed to find a religious organization that has make public statements to that effect (note: the Ku Klux Klan and Neo-Nazism are not religions (although the former has been recorded as promoting Prostentantism: they are secular organizations).

My point is that all this contributed to a great big WTF?!?! from me as I failed repeatedly to be able to reconcile all this history with what I was understanding from 20 years of religious instruction.

Let me make one thing clear: I do not think anyone is stupid for their religious beliefs. I might not understand the wherefores and whys of someone's faith (Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, etc.), but I don't think I need to understand in order to accept. Nor does any of what I've said mean that I think other people's beliefs are invald. Everyone thinks differently. I've just been cataloguing my experiences and my struggle with how or what to believe.

So, what do I believe? Well, usually, I simplify things and label myself an agnostic. People like labels. They allow us to categorize easily and make unsubstantiated snap judgements. I know, because I do it too. The thing is, agnosticism doesn't cover it for me. I'm not just unclear about the existence of God or a god. I'm confused over how anyone can think they have it right and that 5 billion or 3.4 billion or 5.75 billion people (depending on which cult you're in) are all completely wrong. And for the record, I don't think I have it right either; just that I have it right for me right now. I guess I believe that's all anyone has the right to expect for themselves or for anyone else.

There are many things I don't get. I don't understand how (as happened on Desperate Houswives recently) a mother can say to her son, "I don't believe you'll go to heaven." I don't understand how minor variations in personality or biology can be the basis to reject someone on an institutional level. While education systems are bending over backwards to include everyone in the learning process (which doesn't necessarily work either), it seems like religious institutions are holding on rigidly to whip people into shape and get them to fall in line.

So, maybe I'm a Moral Relativist, or a Pluralist, or an Agnostic, or an Existentialist. When it comes down to it, I don't know what to call myself. And maybe I'll be proven wrong some day in whatever it is I believe. But I don't disparage anyone who believes in a particular religious doctrine, nor do I disparage those who believe there isn't anything to believe. I do take issue with people who manipulate doctrines to acheive a larger political or social agenda, or to justify the subjugation or abuse of others. Maybe that's right, and maybe I somehow contradict myself by making that assertion, but I'm currently comfortable with myself. I'm glad I took time and energy to think about it all. And I'm glad I made another attempt at this blog (even though I know I went way off course from my original intent that is lost in cyberspace).

I welcome thoughts, opinions, and healthy debate. Random personal attacks, name-calling, and otherwise unintelligent commentary will be deleted -- and I reserve the right to rebut the author of such with derision and mockery. :)

[Endnote: I apologize if my blog seems to skew unfairly toward Roman Catholics. It's true that I could have done more research into other denominations of Christianity, but since I was talking about what I believe and how I came to it, I had to go with what I knew. I guess it's funny that I didn't poke at Anglicanism more: what a (lapsed) Catholic ex once referred to as the religion of fickle, skeptical whores. Maybe I should have stuck with my own. ;)]

28 April 2005

It feels no different

As the song goes, I'm "One Year Closer to Death". I celebrated my birthday on the weekend and it was a good one.

Everyone keeps asking "Wha'd'ya get?" But it isn't the stuff that made my birthday this year. I got some great presents (heated car-seat pad!), some not so great presents ("move out" salad-spinner), and some tasty presents (sushi dinner). But what I liked best about this birthday was that it all worked.

I wanted to have a party. The initial planning was really stressful to me. I couldn't figure something out that worked. But one I settled on my idea, it was great. I got so many of my friends together in one place, and that never happens. Of course there were some people who couldn't make it. Daphne, Nayana, and some out-of-province friends, but even some passing acquaintances made an effort, so it was great.

I find I'm less and less interested in stuff. I always have a list of DVDs or CDs or miscellaneous things that I'd like to have, but I'm not dying for specific things. Is this an age thing? More and more I just want people around. I want to see my friends and family. It might sound selfish, but I like that I can use my birthday as coercion to get people to hang out, because I want to see people and talk to people and laugh with my friends.

Between my parents, my friends, Andrew, and Lew, I had five days of birthday going. Yesterday, my brother's gift arrived in the mail, so it just kept going!

I'm dogsitting again this week, so having my own house to stay in is like an extended gift too.

Things are also going well at work, but more on that later.

Please Note

The Lost Blog Entry has been reconstructed.

Stay tuned for the fucked up process that led me to what I believe.

12 April 2005

I feel better now

Yesterday was a weird brain day.

4 nights of less-than-adequate sleep, plug dog, plus frustrating debate (times 2), plus a blog that made me go "huh?" equalled brain implosion. That's the root of my blog from yesterday.

Last night I slept well. The dog made me laugh -- she wouldn't go to bed because she was expecting deadwriter to come in. I think she was actually pining; she sighed a lot last night. Frustrating debates weren't solved, but I came to terms with my issues (although, I'll probably get upset if I have to go through the debate again). I found a non-reactionary, civil, respectful, and intelligent way to respond to the blog.

My boss is away this week and I'm running out of things to do. How much would you pay to see Dr. Phil or Oprah live?

11 April 2005

Arrogance, ignorance, and indignation

I guess I'm wrong.

I'm so tired of reading and hearing about people who scream from the rooftops that This is how it needs to be, and that alternatives will only lead to the downfall of society, the family, government, school, etc.

Here's what I want: I want to be able to make up my own mind. I want to be able to marry a woman, or get an abortion, if I so choose. I don't want someone descending from some high moral pillar to chastise me and tell me that I'm wrong and that I don't know what's good for me. I don't care if those morals are based in religious beliefs or biology or "I woke up last Wendesday and decided This."

As I said to Robyn, I'm not trying to be judgemental -- I'm trying to point out that I have a right to my beliefs without being dismissed, pitied, or derided.

I don't want to tell other people that they're wrong and I'm right. I don't want to dig through mountains of "evidence" for one side or the other. I just want it to be okay for me to believe what I believe. And yes, it's fine for other people to believe what they believe -- but I do have a caveat; I don't think that it's a valid cultural or religious argument to advocate any belief that oppresses or abuses someone else.

I'll whip out the New York Times for this back up:
"I was collecting firewood for my family when three armed men on camels came and
surrounded me. They held me down, tied my hands and raped me, one after the
other. When I arrived home, I told my family what had happened.
"They threw me out of home, and I had to build my own hut away from them. I was engaged to a man, and I was so much looking forward to getting married. After I got raped, he did not want to marry me and broke off the engagement because he said I was now disgraced and spoilt. ...
"When I was eight months pregnant from the rape, the police came to my hut and forced me with their guns to go to the police station. They asked me questions, so I told them that I had been raped. They told me that as I was not married, I will deliver this baby illegally.
"They beat me with a whip on the chest and back and put me in jail."
That's a 16 year-old girl in Sudan, as quoted in an April 6th editorial by Nicholas D. Kristof.

That's a culture war. And I consider the motivations invalid because they are destructive, not just to an isolated population, but to many people, possibly all.

I don't really get how that's judgemental, but apparently it is. So, all this time and effort I've been putting into trying to look at opposing points of view and looking at things from multiple angles have been wasted. Really, I've been dismissing, invalidating, and imposing all along, so I should just jump on the bandwagon and stop trying to build bridges.

"I know what I believe and I have my reasons. Everyone else is wrong and stupid, and it's my job to show them the error of their ways."

I guess that's as pointless a battle as the one I've been fighting. Asking to be understood and accepted seems like a lot less to expect of people, but it doesn't seem to work.

So, I'm wrong. And you know what? I'm okay with that.

05 April 2005

Some days it just doesn't matter

Emotionally, I'm over the loss of that blog. It's not going to reduce me to tears anymore.

At Foo's request, I'm trying to resurrect it, but it's not going to have the same passion or narrative voice as the original. The spark is gone. I expect it to be a lot more clinical since it's organised differently now.

But I can't let that be the end of my blogs until I have it up and ready to post, so here's some fun from my weekend.

I met Andrew's parents on Friday night. I wasn't nervous until the afternoon of. Then I had a minor freak-out. I find that co-workers are great for that because they have no emotional interest in you other than whether you're going to make it difficult for them to get their work done.

Allan suggested that I break the ice with a joke:

Jesus walks into a hotel. He puts three spikes on the counter, looks at the clerk and says, "Can you put me up for the night?"

Ahahahahaha! :

Except that Andrew's parents are devout Pentecostal. I passed. Allan suggested I bring a flask instead....

So, it was fine. We had a quick meet-and-eat. I thought they seemed very nice. Jury's still out on my verdict, but preliminary indications are positive.

I kidnapped Andrew for the weekend when he got off work on Saturday. I took him out to a très posh restaurant on Saturday night. I was flush from my latest paycheque, and wanted to make up the 3 months that I piggybacked on him for everything we did while I was unemployed. It cost a little more than I expected, but it was good. I tried oysters. Didn't brave them raw, though. They kind of tasted like sand....

Sunday we watched the movie Saved! It was funny and great, but it upset me a little. I know it's meant as a parody, but it highlighted a lot of why I don't belong to a religious community (see upcoming blog that will replace the lost blog). Except for one teeny-weeny flaw, I thought the ending was great -- not too contrived, but tied up loose ends nicely. Highly recommended.

Work is busy this week with this tourism lunch I'm planning. That goes off tomorrow and it will be my first officially planned event. Things have so far gone smoothly. I think I forgot one teeny tiny detail, but hopefully I can rectify that first thing in the morning.

I start dog-sitting on Thursday. I'm getting paid a nice chunk of change (all except grocery money of which will go directly on my student loan, thereby reaching my goal by April 20th -- 10 days early!!) to look after a medium-high maintenance Wheaton Terrier. I'm already a little frustrated about being tied to the house constantly. But it's only two weeks. Mom and Andrew are going to be big helps while I'm at work/curling for charity.... Unfortunately, I don't have their internet scoped yet, so my entire life could (perhaps positively) alter for the time being. Very challenging.

Okay. That's the update. It's relaxin' time!