Thursday, August 17, 2006

On Religion

I've been thinking about religion more lately and have decided to change my rule against religious posting. I make the rules, I can change the rules. I'm not trying to preach or force my opinions upon anyone. That said, I have a lot to learn. I welcome comments about my posts, but do not try to convert me to your way of thinking/believing. Information is great, persuasion will be ignored.

On Church Attendance: I was not raised in church, as most of you know. Sundays are just another day of the week, although NASCAR played a huge part in my Sunday activities growing up. Forget catechism, I can recite drivers and sponsors. Not that I sit there watching cars drive around the tri-oval all morning and afternoon... I work on craft projects, go places, or spend time with my family most of the weekend. The few times I have gone to church, I've been disappointed with how "church people" treated me. Churches seem to be clique-y, unwelcoming of outsiders. I don't know the music, and I don't really like someone preaching to me like there is only one way to believe in God. I'm not opposed to going to church. I have no problem with anyone else going. I do, however, believe that one can be a good Christian and not attend a ritualized weekly service.

My friends sometimes say that it is unacceptable for me to question God. They say, "either you are a Christian and believe Christian things, or you are not." But when I was attending youth group, the youth pastor told me to question everything, to never stop seeking answers to my many questions. I have to agree with him. I can't claim to read God's mind, but I must believe that we will be accepted for learning about other religions, for seeing for ourselves what else is out there. Experimenting and learning about Islam doesn't mean I'm turning my back on God. Reading about Buddhism and Hinduism and Native American legends doesn't make me any less Christian. It also doesn't mean I'm disrespecting any of those religious options. I don't think there is one "true" religion... and I've never thought Christianity holds all the answers. All of these religious groups/options/faiths do hold being a good person pretty high though, and that's all I aim to be.

On Creation/Evolution: I think most of my friends assume I'm an evolutionist because I am a scientist. I took three college courses (all from different departments) on evolution: HSTS415, History of the Theory of Evolution; Z345, Intro to Evolution; and PH474, Philosophy of Biology and Evolution. I do not, for one instant, claim to be an expert in the field. But I'm not uninformed either. HSTS415 covered both evolutionism and creationism, and had strong arguments in either direction. The reason I have a hard time believing that God created all things at the same time and that evolution is the "wrong" theory is that evolution exists. Evolution itself is no longer a theory. We can see evolution happening in different species around the world with recorded history and modern DNA evidence. However, human evolution is still a theory. Maybe people are afraid that they may have evolved in the same genus as modern apes. I think people also think we evolved from modern apes, and that is simply not true: a common ancestor might be possible (Leakey's evidence points strongly in that direction). If God created all creatures at the same time as the Bible suggests, that would mean humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time. There is a 65-million-year gap between dinosaurs extinction and human existence--if humans lived when dinosaurs did, we would have been walking kabobs. I don't know how life started on earth. Primordial ooze is hard for me to wrap my brain around. The big bang? Maybe. All humans coming from Adam and Eve, maybe that's true too. I don't know. I cannot discount creationism. I cannot turn away from science. I just don't know... and I'm okay with that. The argument is long, the reality is that it doesn't really matter in the end--we all die dead.

On Western Medicine vs. Ancient Practices: I don't really think western medicine has the healing process and every remedy figured out. Don't get me wrong, if I'm hurt, by all means stuff me full of your ultra-scientific synthetic drugs and fix me up! But what about those times when surgery and drugs won't fix me? Prayer is a great alternative... there is absolutely a place for meditation, relaxation, medicinal herbs, nature walks, chants, and other forms of healing. Maybe they're bunk. But I'm not going to argue with century-old traditions until science and hard evidence prove me wrong.

On the Acceptance of Others: All our lives, as U.S. Citizens, we have been told we "tolerate" other people. I don't tolerate anyone. To "tolerate" means "to put up with." It sounds kind of negative to say that I simply "put up with" Latinos or Muslims or Italians. Granted, I'm not running out of my house every day to befriend every person different than me, but I certainly do more than "tolerate." Forgive me for thinking we should all do more than "tolerate." I accept people are different. I like that we are different--provided we are nice about not saying who/what is better. Ask questions about something you don't understand. Try to do more than sit idly by, tolerating when you could be accepting, even embracing. Sorry to get soapboxy, but it makes me mad when people say they're tolerating others. Just grates at me.

So there you have it... a few opinions about religious topics. This time I leave you with two quotes:

"Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it." -Buddha

"Shake off all fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God, because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blind faith." -Thomas Jefferson

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