I can't recall what it was I was watching, but whatever it was that was playing in the background got me thinking about religion and how silly it really is. I saw Religulous a few days ago, and it touched on the same sorts of ideas I have in mind. But in a poorly articulated and failing to be funny assholic Bill Maher sort of way.
The thing is, most of religion is really undocumented. I'm going to be discussing primarily, if not entirely, Western religion, because I just don't know enough about Eastern religion to have anything meaningful to say. But I think that I'm going to be making broadly sweeping enough generalities that a lot of Eastern religions could be included as well.
So, let's look at Christianity and its pillar of beliefs. We'll ignore, for the moment, the Old Testament. Even though it is the more important Testament, it's somewhere in the back in terms of importance in the mind of the average Christian.
Now, I'm far from a biblical scholar, so I could be way off base with my characterization of a lot of this, but it seems to me the entire religion is based off of a belief that there was once a virgin in a faraway place who one day found that she was pregnant. As far as I know she wasn't visited by God himself, although that would probably make the story better. She was just pregnant one day. I a assume she thought she was just getting fat for a while there, because EPT had not yet released their tests.
So, she gives birth to the kid, we'll say in December even though historically it wasn't. Three intelligent men bring the child presents for his day of birth. Then nothing important happens for thirty years.
Thirty years later we pick up the story and Jesus is a great fellow. He has magical abilities the likes of which have never before been seen except in other religious texts that predate Christianity. He heals the sick and he walks on water. He turns bits of himself into food and drink to feed the hungry. The Romans don't like him because he preaches a different religion than they believe (that was why, right? I'm admittedly a bit hazy on this point) and so they torture him with whips and spikes, and he is forced to carry the cross on which he will be crucified.
Which he does! For he is the foretold Messiah, and his death will cleanse the world of its sin, and bring about a period of Heaven on Earth.
If we delve a little deeper into the mythology, it turns out that Jesus is the physical incarnation of God on Earth. So there's God, and then there's God on Earth, who is the same person (for lack of a better term) and also his son. Then there's the Holy Ghost, which completes the Holy Trinity, and at that point I'm just completely lost. I don't really know what the Holy Ghost is, or where it really fits into the story.
I think it has something to do with the resurrection, which is the next fantastical part of the story. So they bury The Christ in a cave and seal it with a big rock, and a few days later they find that the rock has been moved and Jesus is alive. Another feat that has never before been achieved except in prior, eerily similar religious texts!
I'm not sure what happens after that. Maybe Jesus resurrected into the Holy Ghost and floated up into Heaven where the three entities meld back into the one all-powerful God that Moses had warned us about oh-so long ago. Back in the good old Smiting Days.
So, that all makes a good story. You want to believe in that, fine. I'm just saying, really, how much crazier is it to believe in Lord Xenu (Zenu?) and his alien fighter jet Volcano version of history? Or really, any other science fiction novel for that matter.
Okay, so maybe Scientology is crazier than most, but no one at all believes in Roman/Greek mythology anymore. And why not?
No, really. I'm seriously asking. Why is it easier to believe in the Jesus myth than it is in the various Zeus myths? Zeus came down to Earth in the guise of animals and impregnated humans all the time. At least in the Greek Mythology, it adds a bit of realism in that his wife was always super pissed at him about it. Is it the multiple gods thing? Is there something in the modern Western Psyche that intuitively believes there should just be one guy at the top who is in charge of it all? I don't think it's that. The Catholics have all their various saints, so how is that really different from having loads of gods? Does it matter that the person in the sky who you pray to for a good harvest is a dead human instead of a god? Wouldn't it make more sense to be praying to a god anyway?
I know it seems like I was picking on Christianity almost exclusively here, but that's just because the Jesus story is the easiest to relate, and really the most widely known and referenced. All of the same things could be said of the Old Testament, or as it's less commonly known "The Torah." I've a feeling, though I don't know for sure, that it is also known, in certain circles, as the Quran. Although the stories probably diverge fairly significantly around the Kane and Abel bit.
There will always be radicalists who believe in the absolute truth of the Bible, but I'm not really talking about those people here. They are beyond reason. But why is it so widely accepted to believe that thousands of years ago God presented himself as a burning bush to some schlub and led his people out of persecution? If you want to believe that really happened, okay. But why wouldn't that sort of thing happen in more modern times? Is there any possibility that someone could claim to have spoken to a burning bush that didn't burn and be taken seriously today? Maybe by some crazies off in the woods somewhere who would later commit mass suicide, but not by society in general. Or is society's closed-mindedness the reason those things don't happen anymore?
That seems at odds with the god that we worship. When writing a code of laws by which to live, the first thing he thought important enough to include was "I am the Lord, your God. You shall worship no god other than me." Seems kind of ego maniacal to me. Maybe he got a little older, a little wiser, since then and decided "well, if they want to worship me they can, and if not then screw them." and so he stopped presenting definitive signs of his existence. But he helped the Jews from persecution in Egypt. Why not during the Holocaust? Because they didn't believe that some random guy was really him two thousand years ago? That's the supreme being of supreme kindness? I suppose he's also spiteful. I think that's somewhere in the Bible too.
I don't mean to be inflammatory here. I don't mean o say that none of these things are true. A lot of them probably are. Hell, it's just as likely that there is a god as it is that there isn't. I just don't think it's likely that any of the religions have "got it right." The stories all probably happened, in some respect, and then were glorified. Most major religions have some important facets in common with each other, and they originate from extremely different geographic locations. So that either means there's something to those ideas, or just that humans all over the place think in similar ways.
But you have to admit, taken at face value, these stories are pretty farfetched. The bit about the whale? Why believe in Jonah and not Pinocchio?
The one thing about the film (Religulous, remember?) that I agree with is the overarching message that it was supposed to, but failed, to carry. It's not that these religions are wrong and that the people who believe them are stupid. It's just that, well, there's a better chance that these religions are wrong than there is that they aren't. And maybe it's a good idea to put some thought into what you're believing instead of just believing it. Chances are, whatever you believe isn't going to be right. It's a big crazy world out there, and in my experience there has been no evidence of any sort of absolute truth since the advent of modern science. Once we discovered a way of testing things and figuring out why they really happened, the need to invent reasoning and mysticism has decreased. All of the things that we believe as "religion" stem from an age where accurate recording was not possible, and once it became possible the miracles ceased. So, maybe take a moment to pick out your favorite sci fi universe, think of its gods and its religions, and see if believing wholeheartedly in those things feels any differently than believing in the absolute truths you are accustomed to from your religious text of choice. That's really the only point I'm trying to make. Really. The ideas out of modern fiction are not that more radical or silly to believe than the ideas present in religion. And if your answer is that those things are new and not handed down from God like the stuff you believe, then why wasn't Judaism, or your religion of preference (except Christianity, which stemmed from Judaism) the original religion? I f Adam and Eve had this personal relationship with God, and handed it down through the generations, where did all these Greek, Roman, Chinese, Egyptian, etc. Ideas come from until Abraham got there?
I'm not trying to specifically attack Christianity here. Trust me. If I were I would bring p things like Original Sin and the time it took between Jesus’ life and the recording of Jesus’ life.
Anyway, now that that is out of the way, a little bit of housekeeping:
Another topic I wanted to cover was going to be a renewed fervor in wanting to create. Dr. Horrible has, in some of my sleepier moment, instilled in me a belief that I could write something and produce it to a point where it could generate a big enough following that I could leverage a career out of it. If you haven't seen or heard of Dr Horrible, it's a three acts short created by, basically, three brothers and a group of friends with a smallish (a few million) budget. It's what they did during the writers' strike. Oh, and it’s a musical. You know what? Here:
Watch it. You'll enjoy it. Or, you already have. It’s in six parts, but all told it comes out to roughly the length of one episode of an hour long TV show. Minus commercials. And better. Well worth the time it takes to watch. Then, go buy the DVD and support alternative methods of television/movie production.
Lastly, this post is a late birthday present to Emily. She likes to read these things, and the plan was going to be to actually write and post it on her birthday. But then I went to see her and give her a proper present instead. I was gonna put this paragraph at the top, but I didn't want to bog down my intro with a "shout out." So, Happy Birthday a few days ago, Emily.