Monday, July 04, 2005

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Yesterday I spent the day with Fellow Seeker. We had lunch and then saw Skeptic for a while. Afterwards, we planned to go to church but wound up going to our bar instead because, as we see it, going to a bar is more relaxing than going to church. A very close friend of mine, the Traveler, called me while we were there. When I told her where I was, she laughed and said, "Every time I call you, you're in a bar. Is there something you want to tell me?" I said, "Hey, I have a lot on my mind!" In reality, we only had one drink with F.S.'s coworker. We discussed politics, religion, the suspension of disbelief in literature, and tornadoes. F.S. has a habit of saying "Shame the devil" and when he did, his co-worker told us about the Tom Waits quote, "There ain't no devil, there's just God when he's drunk." So now when he says "Shame the devil" I correct him and say, "Shame the drunken God." Yet I get offended when someone says I'm going to hell. I have problems.

Mother always wants me to be careful what I say and how I joke because it could be considered blasphemy. I know I should have more respect. I don't because:

a) I'm not positive about the specifics, so how do I have ultimate respect for something / Someone I don't understand at all? I wish this deity would help me out a bit. You see me struggling!

b) As I've said in previous posts, I'm on my way to becoming the opposite of how I used to be. Skeptic told me yesterday, "Yeah, it's inevitable that when you go through certain things, you become a little hardened." I definitely see that and other people are starting to see it as well. I don't want to let it get too far, but I can't say that I'm very interested in putting the brakes on, either. I think I cared about things too much before, and I was way too nice. It came back to haunt me. I don't want to be like that anymore.

Mother has said to me that my generation is so disrespectful compared to hers (and she is not an old mother by any means). I think that she's right. Not to make a generalization or anything - of course it's not true for everyone - but I think it's worth thinking about. Maybe our generation is fed up with double-talk, hypocrisy, and being lied to, and doesn't feel compelled to show respect. I think that the older generations felt that it was a duty of theirs to show it, whether they really felt it or not. I'm not so sure about us.

Another thing that I have been worrying about is how social conditioning affects spirituality. For example, F.S. said yesterday that you can't have a democracy combined with religion. Religion tells you all the things you can and cannot do, while a democracy is supposed to be about freedom. He was saying this while we talked about the government not letting gays marry and how religion is the strong force behind this. Now, I'm not going to say that my generation is like this (because I have no proof of that), but I will say that I personally have been wondering why I should have to refrain from doing certain things just because the Bible says to. I wonder why I should be told what to do at all. I'm willing to accept "Don't kill" because I wouldn't want to anyway, but when it comes to things I want to do, I resent commands. I'm sure part of this stems from being raised in America, land of the free, at the particular time in which I am living. People in other countries, or in previous time periods, may have / have had an easier time obeying commands because of their social conditioning. So whenever I have a problem with religion, is it because there is a flaw in religion, or is my problem only relative? Shouldn't religion be applicable to everyone, everywhere, if it is true? But how could it be? The whole concept of eternal truth is really starting to not make sense to me. Things change, people change, the world changes. How could anything be eternally true for us all?

Or maybe I am just a prideful, disrespectful, disobedient person. It's possible. My issue is, I will be obedient if there is logic to the command. If someone gives me a good reason why I should listen to them, I will. I don't have a chronic case of disobedience. However, there are many things in the Bible and in religion that are not explained, or are explained poorly, and I have a hard time doing things just because "the Bible says so." No one has proven to me that the Bible is God's Word, and I will only live once. What if I get to my death bed regretting that I lived a somewhat ascetic life because I thought something was true and wasn't? If I did it out of fear of retribution alone? I was listening to that Smile Empty Soul song, "Silhouettes," in the car the other day, and it completely speaks to how being brought up with religion ingrained in us can limit us:

Silhouettes above the cradle hold me down
They won't let me go the wrong way
My mother taught me all the fables, told me how
In the end all the sinners have to pay

But...I don't wanna live like my mother
I don't wanna let fear rule my life
And I don't wanna live like my father
I don't wanna give up before I die

When I have kids
I won't put any chains on their wrists, I won't
I'll tell them this
There's nothing in this world that you can't be if you want it enough

2 comments:

Nightocean said...

Hi Soujourness,

I'm sorry you're having a hard time. I remember reading an exchange over at beliefnet.com. Someone had converted to a religion (I don't even remember what it was), and was disillusioned after a while. Someone else responded by saying that it's natural to be angry at people who claimed to know the truth, then it turns out that they didn't. I know I've experienced (and am still experiencing) anger toward people who have misled me.

I wanted to share one other thing. It's from a book, "Putting on the Mind of Christ," by Jim Marion. In the first part of the book, he talks about levels of consciousness human beings experience. This idea is from the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget. These levels can be expanded to apply to societies. Here's a brief synopsis of the first few levels:

1. Archaic. Humans experience this as infants. There are two passages at this level: the infant must differentiate between its body and that of its mother's, and then differentiate its emotions from its mother's. The societal equivalent of this level is early Stone Age people.

2. Magical. Occurs in children ages 2 to 7. Includes belief in multiple gods, such as fairies, monsters and other creatures that exist in the child's imagination. Can't yet distinguish between the content of her mind and content of the external world. Consciousness is egocentric. The societal equivalent is polytheistic, animistic, tribally-organized cultures.

3. Mythic. (This may sound familiar.) Age 7 to adolescence. First of the mental levels. Child at this level believes in the "God in the Sky," who, like his parents, can work any miracle to meet the child's needs. It is a conformist, law-and-order level, in which everything in the child's parochial world is seen as "true" and "best." This level of consciousness has been, until recently, the dominant level of consciousness in the world's "universal" religions, including Christianity.

4. Rational. Adolescence. Child develops the ability to reason beyond the concrete. Can handle abstract ideas and grasp universal principles. The ability to understand math or science is dependent on a rational level of consciousness. This is the dominant level of consciousness in our society.

Here's what Marion says about the passage from mythic to rational consciousness for Christian teens: "In order for the teenager to be reborn into rational consciousness, the teenager must die to the mythic worldview, which can be an extremely painful process for teens who love God, but who belong to Christian denominations in which the leadership itself has not yet been able to successfully complete this transition. These denominations often try to get teenagers to 'confirm' their belief in a literal understanding of the Christian myths, or to assent to the myths even if the teenager has no rational understanding of them. ... The development of reason will allow the teenager, for the first time, to analyze and even criticize the conventional rules and role of the society (including religion) with which the teen has been school (programmed) during the years of mythic consciousness. It will allow the teenager's imagination to envision possible worlds, different worlds with different values, and possibly better, more sensible worlds. ... To the mythic believer, these teens and future adults have 'lost the faith.' But the only faith they've lost is in the imaginary God of children, and in teachers who would continue to saddle them with mythic consciousness."

I hope this is useful to you.

sojourness said...

That is useful, and very interesting. Thanks for sharing it.