Articles

We Do What We’re Told (or, How to be Your Own Robotic Sheep)

Sheep2 (herd)

Baaaaa!

Here now, are ideas oft repeated:

  • If we could get rid of religion, there would be no more war or social chaos.
  • God is a sadistic tyrant who eternally tortures people just because they don’t believe in him/her/it.
  • Churches expect their people to accept all their teaching, and punish independent thinking. No intelligent, informed person believes in God.
  • Religion has poisoned every culture and resisted all human progress.
  • The Bible is an incoherent mess of writing by superstitious ancients, and is full of contradictions.

I could list many more, but these are the first few that popped into my head.

These notions are dogma to a large segment of our society; ideas so pervasive it almost seems they exist in the intellectual air our minds breathe. It makes sense to turn away from “God” and religion in disgust, since religious zealots scurry about raping the environment, carrying weapons, and secretly plotting to overthrow governments and force the entire world to become a theocracy.

I wonder how many who cling tenaciously to these positions are aware that there are rational, reasoned responses to every single assertion, and others like them? Thinking people through the centuries have wrestled with gigantic questions and doubts and fears, and have come to rational conclusions and positions of faith that can be well-articulated. Whether you agree or not is your prerogative, but you should not dismiss their findings out of hand as if they are ridiculous. To do so is dishonest and foolish.

I have not set out in this post to “prove” the existence of God or the love of Jesus. I am not here to perform quantitative analysis of empirical research. I am merely a pilgrim pointing past myself, past all the garbage and the fluff and even the good and bad “stuff” to signposts, sometimes only dimly perceived, leading us to a place where we can all find hope and truth (and hopefully hope through truth).

Now, it is true that there have been terrible atrocities throughout history performed by individuals and groups claiming to be people of faith. Churches can be hotbeds of uncritical, mesmerized group hysteria, filled with preachers whipping their followers into a frenzy. Religious fundamentalists often speak out with venom and bitterness and appear to hate anyone who feels differently than they do. Since I am a christian, let me confess for us all: mea culpa.

But, consider this well-known quote:

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” (Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion)

Or this comment from a blog post:

“if your storybook was true, I find it funny your warped idea of gods love. The relationship your hold with god and jesus isn’t some friendship, your not walking through the woods skipping and dancing. you are being an obedient slave who worships him and strokes his ego and if you don’t you go to hell. seems to me god is a bit of tyrant and is extremely egotisticals and will have anybody who is willing to get on their knees and worship him. if you want to be that pathetic then i really to pitty you all.” (comment from “not stupid”)

Well. It appears christians do not “corner the market” on anger and bitterness. When I read comments containing this kind of contemptuous hostility, it actually sounds as though there is deep hurt beneath it. Maybe I am naive, but it grieves me. It also frustrates me, because many of the points made by the so-called “new atheists” are often objections that have been raised, debated, and answered centuries earlier.

Let’s be real. Anyone who holds to dogma and opinion without at least a bit of examination is a religious fundamentalist. Many militant atheists fall into that category. When we cease to process information critically, with at least a modicum of humility, we are prey to the conformity of “groupthink”.  We have moved lockstep into the herd of all the other “sheep” who bleat–excuse me, think–the same way we do. This herd mentality affects us all in one fashion or another. I have read publications by supposedly enlightened “freethinkers” who spout the same tired rhetoric over and over again.

Everyone has a worldview, a matrix through which they process information. That is important and necessary. It’s just that we need to be reminded sometimes that a great deal of mystery still exists.

I write for anyone reading, who like me, is an honest seeker. Because no matter how you slice it, none of us possesses every piece of the knowledge pie. The sheer volume of what we don’t know–and I am speaking of the entire human race en masse here–is staggering. To be a seeker is to be humble, which is one way to become truly wise. It doesn’t mean that a seeker won’t have opinions–strong ones in some cases–it just means that he or she is willing to engage with others in a respectful, open manner.

Many of us like to say we are not “religious”, we are spiritual. It has become a catchphrase. I use it here in the sense that every human ever born on this earth is a spiritual being. We crave transcendence. We seem to be “hardwired” with a desire to connect with humanity, nature, and the cosmos. Most of us sense intuitively that it is a marvelous thing to immerse our lives in causes greater than ourselves. Those who do not, who simply live for their own pleasure and gain, end up shriveled and emaciated husks.

Like so many people before me, I look at the beauty of nature, or the magnificence found in a clear night sky, and I tremble with awe for the wonders laid out before me by a loving creator. I pray, and experience a peace from something or someone outside myself. I ask for wisdom, and am granted understanding that comes from sources I didn’t uncover with my own intellectual ability.

I encounter the love of Jesus Christ, the living God, every day in numerous ways. It would take far more than one post to explain how and why I came to believe and experience him, and continue to have that experience. Many millions of other people through the millennia have lived the same way.

This is a Grand Adventure.

I do not claim to have new understanding; all I can do is share my story, which I do gladly. But I am aware that if someone fortifies themselves with disbelief, any thoughts I could offer will most likely fall on deaf ears.

You can lead a sheep to Living Water, but you can’t make him drink.

 

Sticking it Out ‘Til the End

RECYCLE

I drive my family crazy because of my environmental consciousness.

I think they would label me a borderline “eco terrorist.”

It’s so unfair. I am just attempting to be responsible.

I try to recycle everything. I race about the house, turning off lights the second anyone leaves the room (usually hearing behind me, “Dad, I was STILL USING THAT ROOM!”) I regularly holler out: “Did someone buy stock in the power company? Close the door/window!”

I drive not more than 60 mph on the freeway–unless I am in Kathi’s car; it goes fast and you don’t notice and I just can’t help myself. I drive slowly and carefully around town, while my passengers finally get out of the car and jog ahead so they can reach the destination sooner. They get aerobic exercise and I save gas. We all benefit!

On any given day you might find me rooting through wastebaskets or trash cans, up to my elbows in debris and gunk, culling through the garbage to locate discarded packaging, or organic materials for placement in a proper container.

RECYCLE2RECYCLING3

Yeah, I know: ewww. Listen, what do you think soap is for?

But there are just some things even I cannot bring myself to do. Last week, (and as one of my heroes Dave Barrylikes to say, I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP) I read this article about using flannel cloth squares instead of toilet paper.

Read the article. They are not making it up, either.

Just think what would happen if our family took part in this:

I can see it now. A kind, innocent, unsuspecting visitor to my house needs to use the facilities. As he or she heads to the head, I call out with a smile “Oh, by the way, we aren’t using toilet paper any more. We recycle. Just use the small towel squares alongside the toilet and once you are done, drop them in the bucket on the other side.”

Yeah. What would follow is not appropriate for me to write about, since my year old grandson is in the room.

JAMES SITTING

Speaking of my grandson James, what would happen to him if he grew up thinking this kind of lifestyle was normal?  Thinking ahead a few years:

He is using a public bathroom, and does not know what to do when he is *ahem* finished. Grandpa, where is all the terrycloth? How do I tell him to use paper, which he has learned is for practicing his handwriting, doing math, and cutting out snowflakes?

Or, he is at a friend’s house. A friend he really likes. Unfortunately, he won’t be invited back  to visit, and my kids will have lots of  ‘splaining to do, when the friend’s parents discover what James did to their nice guest towels.

See what I mean?

So, I will continue to be a good citizen of the planet. I will do everything I can to produce a teeny-tiny carbon footprint.

Butt (sorry–but) if this no toilet paper deal becomes a movement, I am not giving in until the very end.

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