Friday, 23 November 2012

What the hell?

The point of religion, according to comedian David Mitchell, is to explain what the hell's going on. The trouble is that each one claims to have the very best version of what the hell's going on. So far from clarifying everything, they make things even more confused. And then we really really don't know what the hell's going on.

Personally I find most religions, and the extraordinary explanations they come up with, totally baffling. Buddhism makes a lot of sense to me, but then it's more of a philosophy than a religion.

But what I admire is the way people have put so much effort into understanding what the hell's going on. Someone sits down one day and asks themself "Just what the hell's going on? There must be some ultimate explanation for all this, if I could only find out what it is."

So they sits and they thinks. And they ask themself all those crucial questions that have been asked since prehistoric times. Like "What happens after we die?", "What the fuck are we doing here?", "Why are my wages so crap I can't even afford a new iPhone?", "Why do I have to wear a tie?", "Who eats pot noodle anyway?". You know, all those absolutely basic questions we're all desperate for an answer to.

And they come up with the ultimate rationale, the all-inclusive, everything-you've-ever-wanted-to-know easy reference guide to what the hell's going on. And it's called the Bible, or the Koran, or the Upanishads or whatever, and bingo, all those mystified souls who were forever scratching their heads in utter bemusement suddenly have The Answer. And they heave a massive sigh of relief and pore gratefully through the pristine pages.

But then as David Mitchell says, some other bearded guy in a robe* comes up with what he insists is A Better Answer, and everything's thrown into the melting pot again.

So we're still none the wiser. And God knows what the hell's going on.

*And why is it invariably a bearded guy in a robe? Doesn't he have some housework to do?

35 comments:

kylie said...

Nick,
I have faith( I hope I dont have religion) but I dont know whats going on and I dont have faith because it gives me The Answer but it does give me some answers.
I was raised in the church but I live in a world where young people are taught critical thinking, which tends to lead to agnosticism so my decision to remain in a life of faith started out to be a default position but then i started to take it all more seriously. I thought about the application to my life, watched a very good example of a life of faith and immersed myself in the principles I have long known but not always understood and I can say now that I still have no idea what is going on but Christianity gives me instruction on how to live, it gives me hope and confidence for the future.
I cant speak for any other religion but I think all of us are looking for the best way and religions try to provide direction.

Nick said...

Kylie: I think you take a very sensible and pragmatic approach to religion, using the bits that help you to live your own life better. That's exactly how it should be used. The people who puzzle me are the ones who treat religious teachings as some kind of sacred and unalterable dogma. And try to foist it on everyone else.

Bijoux said...

I have a different take on your last comment, Nick. I question the believability of faiths that do change their dogma. It makes me suspicious that all they care about are their numbers.

Nick said...

Bijoux: But surely religious beliefs have to change according to social changes? Surely the esence of religion is an underlying approach to life rather than a set of fixed ideas, and that underlying approach is going to adapt to changing circumstances? Like the idea of kindness means different things in different situations?

Bijoux said...

Nope. I believe that God doesn't change, so His Word doesn't change either. As you said in your post, there are a lot of faiths and different denominations within those faiths, all interpreting their scripture in heir own way. If I don't like one interpretation, I'm free to find one that aligns with my beliefs better. Where I have the problem is when the denomination changes to become more acceptable to the masses. It cheapens the faith, in my opinion.

Nick said...

Bijoux: But as you say, there are a lot of faiths and denominations all interpreting the Word differently. So how can the Word stay the same? Are they all misunderstanding it?

Grannymar said...

Nick, you ask "Why is it invariably a bearded guy in a robe?" I have the answer.... He cannot afford a tie!

Nick said...

Grannymar: Of course, that must be it! And a robe is so much cheaper than a suit! Very thrifty, these gurus.

Wisewebwoman said...

One of my blog friends calls herself an "apatheist" and I have adopted it.It suits me to a tee.

I never, ever understand the deliberations, discussions and arguments about the Invisible Cosmic Housekeeper who comes in a robe, fresh out of the shower, spouting hyrogliphics that only our *male* betters can interpret.

Spare me.

XO
WWW

Bijoux said...

As fallible beings, I think none of us can say we know for certain that our interpretation is the one true way , though many sure do try, don't they? Just because we read something differently doesn't mean that the intention or original inspiration has changed...that's what I'm trying to say.

For example, if you wrote a post saying that you think cake is the best dessert and I interpreted that to mean you dislike pie, would I be correct? Maybe, maybe not. But just me saying that about you doesn't make it true, nor does it change YOU. Does that make any sense?

Nick said...

www: Ah, that's Murr isn't it? It's a good word. Yes, like you most of the time I listen to these mysterious religious utterances with a sense of total bewilderment. Except when they're talking about straightforward stuff like behaving decently and caring for other people. But then, we don't need religion to remind us of that.

Nick said...

Bijoux: Yes, I get that. You're right that different interpretations don't change the essence of what someone is saying. But I'm not sure where that leaves us!

Can I have pie AND cake for dessert? My next post will make the case for double-desserts.

kylie said...

I was momentarily confused by the debate between you and Bijoux about whether the dogma should change or not. I agree with you both. Change without good reason does indeed cheapen a faith but the inability to change does, too.

What needs to be remembered is that any interpretation of The Word must be done at an individual level and in tandem with the Holy Spirit (sorry about the jargon, Nick)
In the church, just as in secular life, revolution takes place in individuals and eventually becomes a groundswell. When enough individuals are convinced to change the institution will need to follow.
Imagine if there was still a church that supported slavery, just because it was once acceptable? that would be laughable. One day we will be able to make the same comment about homosexuality and female ordination.

Nick said...

Kylie: Goodness me, this is getting very erudite.

Personally I wonder why it's necessary to put a lot of energy into changing your church's position on something when you can just change your own position any time you like.

kylie said...

well that is my point, nick. if every Christian was open to have their hearts redirected by God nobody would need to put any energy in to it, it would be a natural progression.
i dont put energy into changing the church but i do give myself and my children permission to take a different viewpoint and if everyone was to do that the church would change.
unfortunately humanity operates on the basis that what we were first taught is "the truth" and any deviation from that truth takes a massive amount of effort. its an obvious phenomenon in healthcare as well as the church and i am sure that people expert in other fields see it in their areas too. what this means is that if i was first taught that homosexuality is an abomination i will have a problem to shift that idea but if i am surrendered to Gods voice in my life and He says (for instance) homosexuality is ok, not only am i obliged to believe it because its the big guy talking but He will empower me to adjust my thinking on that issue.

I like to try a bit of erudition! and a lot of the problems with religion would not exist if people would really try to grasp some of this stuff

kylie said...

that "for instance" should have been placed at the beginning of the argument, sorry. getting that wrong doesnt look good at all.

Bijoux said...

I'm always onboard for double desserts. Have a good weekend, Nick! I appreciate your willingness to dialogue on the subject.

Nick said...

Kylie: Hey you, you're taking over my blog, young lady! Not that many people are weighing in anyway....

Well, I won't try and finesse your well-thought-out viewpoints, I'll leave you to it, I think. Though I'd still say that rather than wait for God's voice to reach me, I'm happy to conclude that homosexuality ain't doing anyone any harm.

Good point about people holding on to the first thing they were taught. It's hard sometimes to demolish long-held beliefs, even if they're plainly out-of-date.

Nick said...

Bijoux: I'm always happy to swap different views, even though I'm pretty bemused by religion of any kind, as I said! And I'm not one of those atheists who simply sneers pityingly at believers.

Murr Brewster said...

I for one have avoided all the answers by not asking the questions. I have no idea why I have no urge to seek, but it has stayed true for decades now.

Nick said...

Murr: That's an excellent strategy! I do from time to time ponder the meaning of life and all that, but after a while I just give up and get on with the housework. I've little wish to consult all those weighty and rather daunting scriptures.

Rummuser said...

I am a bearded guy, usually in what could be called a robe! I am also an Easterner and so fit nicely into some of the stereotypes!

I do not practice any religion in the Abrahamic sense of the word. I am however deeply involved in Vedanta, an Indian philosophical system of study which leads one on to a path of spiritualism.

I do not propose that my system is better. I however feel sad that the three major Abrahamic religions cannot accept that the other systems of philosophy/religion can be valid and so come up with toleration as a method of coping with multicutural societies rather than giving other systems the respect that they so richly deserve!

Nick said...

Ramana: Indeed, toleration isn't the same thing as genuine acceptance. Tolerance always implies reluctant restraint, with an underlying hostility to whatever is being tolerated.

Nick said...

Ramana: So you're a bearded guy in a robe. Tell me, I'm desperate to know, what is the meaning of life, oh venerable and sagacious one?

Rummuser said...

In three words - "I don't know."

The sage has spoken.

Nick said...

Ramana: I've been robbed. I demand my money back. Or rather my generous donation to Ramana Spiritual Enterprises Inc.

Secret Agent Woman said...

Well, you already know I don't believe in a supernatural being. But I consider myself a spiritual atheist and I'm not particularly open to having people try to convince me that I'd be better off believing their way. In exchange, I don't make cutting remarks about their choice to believe in a god.

Nick said...

Agent: I guess that's kind of my attitude as well. A spiritual atheist is a good description.

blackwatertown said...

I was pondering the beardedness of it all - but Grannymar cut straight through the foliage.

Nick said...

Paul: I wonder why beards are associated with infinite wisdom? Personally I only associate them with lazy-shaver syndrome.

Liz said...

It is a massive sigh of relief that someone else knows what's going on because I certainly don't.

Nick said...

Liz: I don't either. I barely know what's going on in my own brain.

Liz said...

At the moment certainly my brain is ready to pop!

Liz said...

And, excuse me, before you go accusing beard-wearer of being lazy shavers: some of us don't wear our glasses to the bathroom so don't notice the growth until it's plaitable!

In some ways losing clear vision is good as I look better to myself - until I put my glasses on in the bathroom.

Nick said...

Liz: Wot, you have a beard? That's unfortunate. Or are you referring to hubby? All I can say is, beards seem to be proliferating among the various males I come across....