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Posts Tagged: Religion

Why Thank God?

Sunday 31st October 2010

This weekend, I’ve been down to Reading for a university friend’s wedding, which was all very pleasant indeed. Far too many of my friends are getting married or buying houses, I remarked to one over the weekend that “you’re like a proper grownup now”!

The friend that got married yesterday is very religious, as is her husband, so not surprisingly the wedding was all very religious too. Which is fine. Obviously not how I’d do things, but it’s their wedding so what does it have to do with me, so I can’t really complain. And I’m not, but some of what was said, some of the comments and revealed attitudes, were really intriguing to me.

There were a couple of readings from the Bible, and there was one in particular that I thought was odd. Ephesians 5:21-33 (hope I’ve cited that correctly):

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

I’m certain I don’t have to explain why this irked me! One of the speakers tried to explain this away, and came up with an explanation which to my ears really wasn’t much better. Needless to say that the guidance given in that extract is not how I’d want any relationship of mine to be like. Now, I’m not shocked that this is in the Bible. It’s an old text, it’s reflective of the attitudes at the time, and fair enough. I would question the wisdom of referring to such a text for moral guidance; if we start picking and choosing which bits of it we like, then surely that defeats the point of having such a text? But essentially, if people wish to do that then that’s their business. I can accept that, even if I don’t respect it.

To be honest, I find a lot of the sentiment of religion to be rather offensive. For instance during the course of the wedding there was lots of prayer to give thanks, to show gratitude for the things God has done, acknowledge the ways he has blessed us. And well, bollocks to that. Because it’s not some benevolent deity that meekly delivers good things to us. It’s us, and the people around us. I don’t need to thank some spirit in the sky for the various things I’m blessed with; I have to thank parents, family, friends, and myself for a whole lot of effort to get and do those things. And I find it really offensive to suggest otherwise, because it takes something away from that.

For instance. At the reception, someone said grace before we all started eating. They thanked God for putting the food on the table, and so on. But it wasn’t God; it was down to the efforts of people. Someone worked hard to pay for the food, someone worked hard to make it. Let’s not diminish those achievements by attributing them to God, let’s thank the people who put the effort in.

I guess that really, the whole thing seems incredibly anachronistic. I genuinely don’t understand why people are religious at all, because to my mind it all seems pretty ridiculous really.

Posted In: Rant Tagged: | 1 Comment

Braaaaiiinns!

Tuesday 18th March 2008

First, a continuation of the last entry: Holy Crap that was a good race. I got up at 4am (after an hour’s sleep. Ahem) to watch it (thus missing all the nauseating pre-race buildup, yesss!) and the didn’t feel at all tired watching it, cos of all the excitement. If the rest of the season is half as good as that race, I’ll be happy.

Anyway… I should’ve written this entry a while ago, but I had a bunch of other stuff to do at the time and by the time I didn’t have to do that stuff any more, I forgot I was going to write this. Oops.

So a while back, a Derren Brown show called The System was broadcast on C4. The premise of the show was that he’d worked out a 100% foolproof way for someone to win on the horses. The first part of the programme is concerned with how he gave tips anonymously to this (extremely irritating) woman, and how they were right each time. She gets confidence in The System, to the point where he persuades her to place one final bet for as much money as she can get together, on whichever horse he predicts will win the race. Theres some experiment/tricky bits he does as well, outside of the horse thing, to convey ideas about probability, for instance tossing a fair coin 10 times in a row and getting heads each time. He says that “the key to understanding this [trick], is the key to understanding the system”. Which really is a big hint…

After the woman places the last bet, Brown tells us how the system works. Basically, it’s a pyramid scheme; you start with a big group of people, split them into n groups (where there are n horses running in the same race), and assign each group a horse. You then tell each group that you “predict” that horse will win the race. After that, take the winning group and do it again, and again, and again. Until you end up with one person who happened to be in all the winning groups and has therefore seen a string of correct “predictions”. The person who you tell to get as much money together to place it on (effectively) a random horse…

I’ve probably summed the programme up badly, but the idea of it wasn’t to prove that there is or is not a system for winning at the horses. The idea was to basically show up faith.

The woman in the film (and by extension, the viewer, since we only see her perspective of events) assumes that there really is a system; that Derren Brown really can predict which horse will win a given race. But that’s because we can only see part of the story – we only see the one in 8000 who happens to get lucky at each level of the pyramid. The point is that to have faith in something, whether it be homeopathic remedies, religion, or in this case a system for winning at the horses, requires a certain amount of ignoring the bigger picture. The point Derren Brown is trying to get across is that just because we perceive something to be so, that doesn’t necessarily mean that our perception is correct.

The example given in the show is that of homeopathic medicine (the sort of thing where the medicines basically consist of water), but it applies to any sort of religious faith. One of the (many) things that annoys me about religion (or faith, or whatever you want to call it) is exactly this point. To believe in a religion – doesnt matter which one – requires you to blindly accept certain things. Whether that be a story of creation, a certain moral code, or simply the notion of a God, its the same thing. And that sort of blind acceptance is at best foolish, at worst downright dangerous.

As so deftly explained by xkcd (and thats quite coincidental, cos I started this post before that cartoon was published), the core of science is the notion that ideas – any ideas – are tested by experiment. You shouldn’t accept facts just because someone says they are true, or because they were written down in a book thousands of years ago. It’s so irritating when you have an argument about religion with, say, a Christian, and every response they come up with is prefaced with the phrase “well, the Bible says…”. I don’t want to know what the Bible says, I want to know what you say!

OK, excluding extremists (who are just nuts), it all seems slightly innocent for some people to be religious, doesn’t it? If it brings comfort to them, if it gets them through the day, surely thats fine? Well no, it isnt. The very core of a religious viewpoint is this ability to accept without question; to do without thinking. It leads to flawed logic, to arbitrary judgements, to conflict. If more people accepted a more “scientific” frame of mind, the world would be a better place.

Basically, religion = bad. When I’m in charge, it’ll be classified as a mental illness…

Posted In: MotorsportProcrastinationRandom Tagged: | 3 Comments

Don’t think twice, it’s alright

Saturday 19th May 2007

Now if it’s time to recompense for what’s done
Come, come sit down on the fence in the sun
And the clouds will roll by
And we’ll never deny
It’s really too hard for to fly.

So it’s past 2am again. And once more I’m sat at my desk, not really doing much. For once, I am actually tired (and I’ve got a headache), but I’ve once again managed to distract myself. Most nights for the last week or so, I’ve been heading to bed really late. As in “shit, the sun’s coming up. I need to go to bed soon”. And then when I’ve gone to bed, i’ve found it hard to sleep.

Lately I’ve had all these thoughts and ideas floating round my head, and I’ve found it really hard to switch off from them. I’ve kinda been going over things to myself, let my mind wander, and sometimes I’ve slightly surprised myself with where I’ve ended up (and sometimes slightly annoyed myself).

To be honest, most of the reason i’ve been up has probably been because I’ve been listening to music. I’ve generally said “oh, one more track”, but that track has inevitably led to one more, and then to an album. And the reason I’ve been so introspective is probably to do with the type of music i’ve been listening to at these sort of times. If you know your music (or are good with Google), you might have realised that the lyrics at the top of the post are from Fly, by Nick Drake. It is – and I can’t over-state this – an absolutely astounding song. And most Nick Drake does seem to lend itself very well to that sort of introspective thinking. The title of this post is from a Dylan song, which I’ve fond out tonight that Drake covered. I’ve not heard it, but I reckon that if anyone were to sing that song with the right sort of bitter and semi-sarcastic manner which it so much deserves (and of which I am so approving, lets face it), it’s Nick Drake. Listen to one of his albums, and you’ll get what I mean.

I could talk about Nick Drake for a long, long time. At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old man (again…), you simply do not hear artists like him any more. Which is a shame.

Most of the posts on here are becoming slighty “diaryesque”, aren’t they? The sort of entry that I’d always sworn never to write… I don’t know if it’s because of the move, but that’s just the sort of thing I’ve wanted to write lately. I been finding it very hard to get worked up enough about something to be able to write a meaningful batch of words about it. Or I’ve had a coherent thought or idea that I’ve wanted to write about, but I’ve not been able to put that thought down with the same amount of clarity that it had in my head – I could write about it, but when I read it back to myself it just sounded muddled and confused (“like this post, ho ho ho!”).

Good example of the whole “not getting worked up” thing today. Was sat in the Taf (read: union bar, if you’re not a Cardiffite) earlier with some people, and a discussion about religion (namely Christianity) cropped up. Two of us there were atheists, the others were Christian. And I just couldnt be bothered to discuss it with them – there was no point. The thing that really pisses me off about most religious people (that I’ve spoken to about this, anyway) is that they don’t seem to appreciate where I’m coming from. For instance, someone today was saying that he’s a Christian because it “gives meaning to life”, or somesuch. And he simply couldnt comprehend that I don’t need there to be meaning to life. I am perfectly happy with the realisation that we’re born, we live, we die, and that within a few generations we’re forgotten about. I can see things for what they are, and I’d argue that that viewpoint is a lot more refreshing, much more liberating, and a lot less dangerous, than the view that “God made the Earth for us. He made us in his own image, because He loves us blah blah blah”. Oh, and Christians, when you’re asked a question about something, the answer “well it’s in the Bible” is not always acceptable:

Me: Why don’t you believe in Evolution?
Them: Oh, well the Bible says…
Me: Yes, but the Bible is a book. “2001: A Space Odyssey” says that 6 years ago we’d be living on the Moon, and would be sending a spaceship to Jupiter, piloted by a sentient computer and two men, with a bunch of the world’s leading scientists in the back of the ship snuggled in their hibernation chambers. I hate to break it to you, but books arent always true.
Them: Yes… But the Bible says…
Me: Yes, but the fossil record says…

Usually, I’m always up for a good theological discussion. But it bloody annoys me when people who are religious just dont understand your point of view, or don’t try to understand it. This seems to be something I’ve only come across at Uni – I’ve had plenty of other conversations where people have addressed me by not just saying “oh well in the Bible it says…” (yeah, I talk to Jehovas Witnesses when they come to the door), and they’ve turned out to be bloody thought-provoking discussions, for them as well as me, I’d hope.

So, lesson learned from that: theological debate is not compatable with pubs.

I was watching the Panorama on Scientology the other day, and to be honest it was quite an eye-opener. The thought I came away with was, if Christianity – or any other religion – was founded 50 years ago, how would we perceive it? What makes Scientology any different to Catholicism, or Sikhism, or Islam? Except that it’s more socially acceptable to mock Scientology…

Anyway, I’ve gone staggeringly off-piste, and have now forgotten what I was talking about, or where I was going with it. So I should probably leave this here.

Posted In: MusicProcrastinationRantSleep Tagged: | 1 Comment

Where’s Wally?

Saturday 28th April 2007

Last week, someone invited me to a talk given by the Christian Union (this is not such a rare event). The talk was entitled “Where is God in a messed-up world?”.

It’s OK – I looked on Google Maps before the talk, and it turns out that God is in Hungary.

I didn’t go to the talk.

(As an aside, I find it particularly fitting that Satan is in Texas.)

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