Day 4 - Your views on religion.
So… I’m concerned with this post. I’m concerned that there isn’t enough space to adequately express how I feel about this topic. I feel like i’ll miss crucial components to my thought process… if they even exist at all. Oh well… I guess I’ll just jump right in..?
I think religion is a great way to maintain order with large groups of people. I believe that there are internal inconsistencies within Christianity specifically that, independent of the validity of the texts that define the religion, are enough to negate the possibility of the faith being itself valid.
It’s easy to look at religions that are far from your current belief and geographical location and notice the flaws within both the practice of the religion and the religion itself. One could look at Hinduism and at once point out the caste system and the oppressive quality of this classification of their societies. I wonder if we’re ok with this easy acceptance because of the distance between what we ( americans ) typically believe or if it is because the oppressive nature is genuinely that much more transparent. I would assume that it’s somewhere in between, but it’s really not important. Either way we look at it, Hinduism seems like a way in which large groups of people are kept in line.
I think it’s a great place to start, Hinduism, because it’s such a shining example that we can later relate to other, more subtle examples of oppression within differing religions. Sure, there are specifics, but they all really come down to one specific way, implemented in specific, different expressions, in which religions across the globe oppress those with the faith. This oppression comes from, and truly is the worship of another, whether creator or not.
Religion calls for a forfeit of freedom, and there is always a reward for such ‘selfless’ action. Though to be clear at this point I should state that I don’t consider eastern philosophy to be that of religious nature. In fact, I would define religion by the oppressive system in which I’ve just stated, that there is a deity that requires devotion.
The response from the Christian would then of course be that ‘when one is worshiping God, they are truly free,’ and I would simply respond by questioning the definition of freedom. Surely it’s clear that one is utilizing their freedom in the act of sacrificing, or forfeiting their freedom, and so it is clear that it was a free choice to give up that freedom. But then it seems simple that there is no longer any freedom as one has used that freedom to give that option away. So it seems that, when Christians claim freedom, they really mean that they are free to be the property of another.
But then the argument goes to what one owes a ‘god’ who has given the individual life. Apparently, according to Christian thought, we don’t truly deserve freedom as we did not create ourselves but rather we owe our existence to the one who gave it to us. But then this thought doesn’t make much sense either as gifts have never been seen as something to be repaid. But it seems that it is ok to be created into servitude because there is a reward at the end of this life if we are to be compliant throughout the entirety of life.
So this is the system as I see it:
God creates man, and in that creation he gives man free will and opportunity
This creation, however affords God the inherent right to own you
If you exercise your free will in any other way other than giving it up, you are punished
So why do we flock to this system that seems to be structured around control, either by a deity or ( more likely ) the religious establishment? Well.. that seems the simple question which gets a simple answer: People seek purpose.
Religion offers purpose, it offers reason. If it’s true that existence precedes essence, then it must be the case that people refuse to accept this truth as a possibility. It’s safer, more secure to have your essence predetermined, and so people search out this end. And what do they find but religion?
By seeking purpose I would state that people do not like to be free. Not truly free. They prefer to be slaves, to have masters ruling their lives and setting the parameters by which they live. I know I certainly don’t. Why do I hate change? Why do I reflect on the concrete past and fear the unclear, uncertain future? Because I’m just like everyone else. That’s the answer. I, like everyone else, inherently fear our ‘ontological state of being’… our freedom.
I don’t like using phrases or thoughts that I’ve just stumbled upon either in class or in readings done outside of school, but it just so happens that Sartre’s discussion on freedom is one that is relevant to this conversation… this monologue. We give up this freedom for ‘certainty’. We give up our option, our potentiality for the sake of security. And the funny thing about this is that we tend to grasp for the first available branch we find without truly looking at what this branch is attached to. But this isn’t reserved for religion, is it?
Girls ( and guys for sure ) who don’t let go of the last ‘branch’ until they have a firm hold on the next do the same thing. No one wants to be alone and so it’s rare to find someone single for any decent amount of time after they’ve been in their first real relationship. Sure.. it happens, but these reasons that cause such isolation only temporarily supersede this need for security…. or the individual just can’t find someone else to be with.
But like a dating partner, people tend to search for a branch at all times. I wonder what the statistics are for people who change religions vs the people who simply give religion up. I would assume converters are much more common than abandoners.
And what happens when people change? When they tend to seek more, or something different? Well.. the religion is transformed, bit by bit, into something else that better accommodates the people. Different sects spring up in order to allow the people to maintain a belief in something despite their desire to slowly seek something else, something better. We can see the Christian church as an example, going from greek orthodox/catholic to protestant. We can also look at the line of Abrahamic tradition in a general sense in order to see the same trend. The same can be said for philosophies such as Buddhism that have many different interpretations that all changed in order to appease the people.
So it seems that religion ( and philosophy as well ) changes constantly, adapting to the whims of the people, and yet no one within the fold seems to question the validity? How interesting.
So how does this relate to me? Because I’m sure you were thinking that this post wasn’t long enough….
It freaks me out! Just because I have this understanding doesn’t mean that I prefer it. The best times of my life were when I was working with a church. I felt that purpose, I felt that stability. I ‘knew’ that everything in life was going to be alright because ‘God’ was in control. The scariest thing in life, in my opinion, is this simple fact that there is no destiny other than what one makes for himself.
I constantly reflect on the past, to those safer times in my life. And it makes me sick because I feel like there’s no point anymore… but there really isn’t! That’s what’s awesome here… my fear that there is no point… well that IS the point. I can define my life as I see fit, and yet I cling to previous understandings as they make me feel more secure. I live in the past as the future, to quote MCST, freaks me out.
So what do I do?
I watch everyone around me live a happier life than the one I’m living. Gah! It’s just not fair. And by fair.. I simply mean that ‘what I want’. I just feel like my life’s falling apart and it hasn’t even really started yet. I feel like any potential I had is gone and I haven’t the slightest idea how to get control of my groundless existence. None of this matters. Look around. That’s right. You. Look out your window. Call your significant other. Go to work tomorrow. Do whatever you want. at some point, maybe now or later, your job will end, your significant other will either leave you or die, and the scenery outside of your window, representing life itself, will cease to be. One could argue that permanency decreases value, but I state in strong opposition that impermanence, while allowing change and possibility, negates any value as there is no true, valued end result to life itself. How can one NOT be a nihilist?
This is why I’m interested in the Buddhist thought, specifically the idea that there is no abiding self. Because.. when we get down to it, there isn’t. And this means that there is NOTHING to cling on to. There is nothing other than the present. The future concerns a ‘you’ that isn’t the present ‘you’ and the past is more of the same thought. So all value is truly in the moment, for the Time-Being as Dogen says ( if I’m understanding him at all ).
So what I’m saying, if I’m saying anything at all ( which I genuinely am doubting as I go on ), is that I want to give meaning, purpose to a world that cannot have such things. For both myself and for the world around me, I want the one thing we cannot have. But do we want this unobtainable for the sake of its unobtainable nature? I would assume that we do not, that we, as conscious beings, simply want to find value where there is none.
But if there is none to be found, where did we get this idea from, this idea of value? If there is no abiding self, where did we get the notion from in the first place? Did we extrapolate the existence of objects around us to the application of said sustained existence of ourselves as a conscious subject? Dude. I don’t know.
If you’ve made it this far, you’re a far better person than I deserve in my life. Either that or you’re just really bored.
What? How do I see life? Ok. I’ll tell you.
Life is a struggle.
This thought comes to me in response to friends and teachers who are much more liberl than I am.
There is no such thing as equality. There is no such thing in any sense. We are all capable of different things, whether this is due to our social relation or simply with regard to our inherent capabilities independent of any such social limitations. If we want to talk about transcendence, I would consider any point to life that one could muster for oneself as this: the ability to transcend the current state in which one resides.
If we want to discuss this with regard to existentialism:
Sartre states, in Being and Nothingness, “Thus this perpetually absent being which haunts the for-itself is itself fixed in the in-self. It is the impossible synthesis of the for-itself and the in-self: it would be its own foundation not as nothingness but as being and would preserve within it the necessary translucency of consciousness along with the coincidence with itself of being-in-itself”.
There is an impossible synthesis between who we are and who we are. Sartre states that the crescent of the moon is only defined as a crescent with relation to the totality of the moon, but humanity differs as the moon can be the full moon and humanity cannot have a true synthesis between the for-itself and the in-itself. Given this, humanity is always propelling itself forward towards an ever-unobtainable goal. So this is the point then, is it? To constantly define ourselves with a totality never truly a potential end.
So why it is that these same people were all about the idea that capitalism is such an unjust system? Sure, this system depends on a class difference. There must be businesses that provide jobs for the people who aren’t the ‘big business’. But therein lies the point of transcendence towards something else, the ability to become for yourself whatever you wish. it isn’t about your potential ending point, it’s about your moving forward, your transcendence toward this ‘in-self’ that you can never truly reach.
So you grow up poor. Ok. You can either make something of yourself by working harder than those with more advantage, or you can not. Let’s say you’re black. We can talk about how this affects you historically ( placing your further back in the ‘race’ ) or we can talk about it with regard to the interactions with others you have. A. This isn’t a race. If you think about it that way, you’ll never win. There are far too many ways in which one can ‘win’ at life. There is no race, and thus there is no inherent competition for one to end at a better place than those around himself. B. There are different opportunities for black people than for white people. This isn’t to state that there are equal amounts for both sides, as most would state that there are still more opportunities for whites than blacks. BUT THAT IS NOT THE POINT!
Equality is a myth, and so it’s time that we stop looking at life in terms of equality. This isn’t to state that we shouldn’t seek to make things as fair as possible, but this is to state that we shouldn’t limit others in an attempt to even a playing field which can’t actually ever be even. BTW. handicapping a certain group to allow another to catch up enables a weaker upcoming group that will then never be able to maintain its status once restrictions are lifted.
So should we, as individuals, strive to treat everyone equally? Sure. Should we hire the best and brightest? Absolutely, independent of age, sex, and race.
Does that mean that previous social injustice won’t affect the numbers? No way. Of course. But the best we can do is to allow everyone the freedom to start where they are in order to make the best for themselves.
Do we really want our government to be our religion, something that we devote ourselves to at the expense of our freedom? Absolutely not.
What? Did you ask about Tony Stark and why he’s a great American?
Fine. I’ll talk about that for a bit then.
I was once told, by an intelligent ( but way too liberal :p ) lady that my ethics scare the shit out of her. I believe she misunderstood me and I’d like to take the moment to compare my feelings on libertarianism to that of Tony Stark. Tony Stark, using the resources of his business that he inherited, creates a suit to fight America’s enemies. Specifically, he uses his suit to maintain peace, not siding with America’s conquesting ventures.
In one of my favorite lines of the second movie he states that he will continue to fight for the American people at the pleasure of himself. This is why I love objectivism. This philosophy gives the individual the power to use the advantages he may or may not have in whichever way he sees fit. If for no other reason, though I believe that there are, Tony Stark defends his country as a benefit to himself. A stable nation is good for a man running a business within it. And look at what we have…. this same action of ‘selfishly’ defending the nation also… defends the nation! This is what we call a rational self interest. This isn’t the hedonistic approach that would show our ‘hero’ taking what he could from who he could take it from. This is the educated individual who understands that he is ‘being-in-the-world’. He exists as a part of this world and thus the success of the world benefits him as well. Thus, he is afforded the ability to help others as a side benefit to helping himself.
This is why I love Objectivism.
This is why I love Tony Stark.
When we look at a socialist agenda, we take away the very freedom that we are claiming to attempt to support and cultivate in the ‘oppressed’.
What sense of self value does one have if we are all forced to give what we can and take only what we need? It’s like a religion, taking all we have and giving what it sees fit. Where’s the freedom there? I certainly don’t see it. The only problem one could have with objectivism is that one could assume that objectivism and hedonism are the same. I disagree. And I believe that educated people, who are the ones who rise through the ranks, are the ones who best understand the interconnectedness of the world. This isn’t to state that all big players in the world are altruistic, clearly. But I think freedom is important. And I think that taking away one’s freedom to truly exist as an entity transcending the for-itself is what socialism does… this is what religion does.