BEDA #22: Another Essay for You Guys to Edit For Me

Posted on April 23, 2010

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It’s due at 5:00 tomorrow, so, let me know. That would be badass. You guys would be like the definition of helpful and badass. I’ll invent a word that means both those things and call you that if you give me some pointers on this essay/personal narrative/thing. Also, let me know if you get the reference in the title, because if you don’t, then it just sounds like Trig Palin. And it has little relevance to the theme of my essay. Then again, Trig Palin has very little relevance to the theme of anything, and yet I still wrote that, even though no one will get that reference, either. I don’t know if you know this, but it is very, very, very early in the morning. I’m going to sleep now.

World Religions (RS 105)

Three Book Essay

April 23, 2010

Three Book Essay, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Religion

Growing up, my parents were militant with regards to forcing me to make my own decisions about religion and politics. They were careful to never teach me any religious biases, and to this day, I’m still not sure about their beliefs. This approach to parenting manifested itself differently in each of my two siblings and myself. The effect it had on me was that I had never given much thought to my own worldview until very recently, when I became very interested in religion, which is why I took the World Religions class in the first place. The three books I read to aid in my exploration of religion are The Hindu View of Life, by Radhakrishnan, The Presumption of Atheism, by Antony Flew, and The Book of Luke and Acts from the Contemporary English Version of the New Testament. Reading these books gave me new insight into my own spirituality and the religions of others around the world.

Although I had little exposure to religion at home, I was constantly faced with it in my hometown of Placerville, California. One would not be mistaken to describe the town I grew up in as “a redneck, white-trash ghetto in the middle of nowhere,” as I have been known to call it on more than one occasion. The majority of Placerville is Christian, and if they’re not practicing Christians, they’ve been indoctrinated with strong Christian values. I don’t know what kind particular sect of Christian dominated my hometown, because most of the self-proclaimed religious people I spoke to didn’t know themselves. All they knew was that they were Christian because that’s how their parents raised them, and they never asked questions about it. Growing up exposed to this kind of thinking, I had always thought that that was what a Christian was.  And when, in my senior year, I became involved in the campaign against Prop. 8, the proposition banning gay marriage, I found myself in direct opposition to the so-called “Christian values,” that dominated the morality of my peers and community members. At my school, that debate was not pretty. I found myself the subject of prejudice and contempt and hatred, and the excuse I heard for this hatred was “because it says so in the Bible.” In my mind, “Christian values” became synonymous with bigotry and ignorance. I left Placerville with a lot of contempt for Christianity.

When I came to Humboldt, my understanding of religion began to change. I’ve met intelligent, articulate, open-minded people who turned out to be active Christians, Christians who embrace science, and learning, and the ideals of others. I realized that I didn’t actually know what the religion of Christianity is about. That is why I decided to read the book of Luke for my three-book essay. In addition to learning about Christianity in World Religions, actually reading from the New Testament gave me an entirely different perspective on the religion.

The main impression I got from reading parts of the New Testament was that is was open to almost limitless interpretations. And that was just from the version I read, and I know that there are a multitude of different translations and versions.  However, I have a difficult time imagining how the many modern Christians could have arrived at their current belief system using the book I read as a guide. In the Book of Luke, I read about Jesus Christ healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and surrounding himself with sinners and the poor. In his teachings, he preaches generosity to an extreme level, peace, and love for all of mankind. My experience with Christians in my hometown did not reflect these principles.

The Hindu View of Life opened my eyes to some ideals of eastern religions and philosophy, and forced me to question my pre-conceived notions about what a religion actually is. Reading about Hinduism, and especially the general worldview of cultures that practice Hinduism, forced me to realize that I look at philosophy and religion with a heavy western bias. I always thought that a religion meant that one followed the instructions of an omnipotent, omniscient deity. However, I only had immediate experience with one religion, Christianity. Hinduism struck me in that it is not advertising a belief system so much as it is offering a guide on living a harmonious and balanced life. This general outlook on religion has a great appeal for me, and there are principles of Hinduism I would like to incorporate into my own belief system.

In The Presumption of Atheism, I became acquainted with the foundations of many ideas I see in religious debate. Recently, I have become very interested in the idea of Christian apologetics, and have absorbed a lot of discourse between virulent atheists and Christian apologists, all who claim to be able to prove, or disprove, the existence of God through logic and the application of syllogism. Although I am endlessly fascinated by the thought, I do not think that one can apply logic such as this to metaphysical and spiritual concepts, and I do not think that many people can be persuaded into adopting a worldview through this method, myself included.

I am currently in a state of flux about my own beliefs with regard to religion or spirituality. However, the three books I read have given me a lot to think about personally, as well as with how I think about the religions of others.

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