A Christian’s View: The Other Side of the Coin
I would like to preface this by saying this is not a retort. I am not trying to disrespect the view of anybody who reads this (or it’s not my intent to anyway) and I am not speaking directly for a faith, religion or for any group necessarily (and if it sounds like I am, consider this your disclaimer). I speak for myself and only myself. Those who agree or see it my way, that’s cool, but know that I am not trying to sway anybody, but instead to simply inform on my view. If anybody has questions about what I am saying please leave them in the comments and I would be glad to answer. If anybody wants to speak against what I am saying or wants to call me an idiot for these beliefs, please leave them in the comments and I would be happy to leave them up.
I am a Christian. I have been all of my life. Like most, if not all people at some point in their lives, I have had my misgivings and doubts about certain aspects of my faith. However, a few things have held true for the entirety of my short existence. To start, I have never felt others are less than me based on their belief structure. I have, now, many friends who are atheist (many colleagues as well) and through my life a few things with this group have held constant. I am viewed as stupid, misguided, and even irrational by some, though not all, for my beliefs. I am a Catholic. I have friends who are Catholic who think I am stupid, irreverent, and misguided because of some of my beliefs. So, perhaps getting my beliefs out there in a nutshell will help me to put out what it is I am trying to say.
I believe in Jesus Christ. Was he the son of God? Perhaps, perhaps not. Did he get a BUNCH of people on board with a good message? I think so. Is there a God? I believe so. Is he a flying sky man? This, I don’t believe at all. You know what? I’ll bullet point this bitch:
When I think of God, when I see God, I don’t think of a puppet master controlling all the shots. I don’t see an old man telling me what to do and what not to do. I see how there can be a tree, a single tree as big as an entire forest, all connected by the same roots. I see the formation of the universe from a single explosion creating all of the cosmos and what lies beyond our realm of understanding. We can create little life forms inside of us. We are kept alive by micro-organisms that work in perfect harmony. We live on a planet the perfect distance from the sun with the perfect mix of hydrogen,oxygen and various other gasses to sustain life. There are creatures that live in stupendous pressure and heat and we can fly in little tin cans across the world in hours. A deaf man can create a piece of music so amazing, so breathtaking that every time I hear it I am brought to tears .There are forces of nature so powerful they could eliminate all life on Earth and level entire cities, countries and continents. This, to me, is the vision of God. I see God as the unifying energy that we all feel, don’t feel, breathe, touch, so small we can only see it in a microscope and so big that we can’t even comprehend it. Is this blasphemy? To some yes, but the feeling of wonderment that it inspires in me is too big. Too big for science, too big for philosophy. Too big for my little insignificant brain to comprehend. Does this mean it IS God? No, but, again, this is what I see it as.
This is a great story. My faith holds it as the word of God. I am constantly pointed to inconsistencies, contradictions, and the old testament laws. I get all of this, I see what everybody is saying but the message is what is important to me. This book was written by man with about 40 different authors over an extended period of time. It has been edited by man. Translated by man. The message one could boil down to is to accept and be good to all. To love all. This is what is important. And, yes, I know, it has led to the opposite but anything held dear to many will do so, in the hands of man. This book, as it stands today, is most likely unrecognizable from its original copy. It has been swayed and had whole books taken out of it (Apocrypha). I, as a Christian, understand this and feel we all should. We cant take the Bible literally (in my opinion). Not verbatim. Not if we truly believe a greater being or collective universal knowledge gave this message to man, because man would have tainted that message. In the end, perhaps it is just a collection of fables, but even Aesop’s fables have a message for us, some of which I hold to be equally true about life and how we should treat each other.
Church is something people talk to me a lot about, especially as a Catholic. I don’t believe you HAVE to go to church unless you want to. To me church is a kind of club house. I can be around people who feel the same as me (mostly) and not worry about passersby or naysayers. However, I spend most of my time in what I consider the actual House of God. Everywhere. Forests, skyscrapers, hospitals. Church is a holy place where we consider the achievements of man, the sheer brilliance of some things and the wonderment of science. It’s beautiful. When we look at how leaves are built by nature, how the rocks that hold up our houses are formed over millenia, how rivers dig through miles of earth, I feel like I am in a holy place.
Death, Destruction, and Hate
The crusades were a terrible mark on Christianity. The hate propagated by many today is equally terrible, but again, this is mankind we are dealing with. This would come about no matter what because that is what mankind is. We are just as capable of the terrible as we are of the wonderful. For every Mother Theresa (figure of speech) there is a Hitler somewhere. I think South Park put it best in some senses. Even in a world without God and Christianity or Hinduism or Satanism or Judaism there would be death and destruction at the hands of man over something that one group holds higher than another. It is what mankind does best. We control, manipulate and build and destroy with whatever is powerful and faith is a very powerful thing. I, as a Christian, think gays should marry. Marriage is based on love, and they have so, so much love to show each other. No different than us. I don’t believe that those who commit suicide go to hell. Who are we to understand the hell these people have already been through to end their life knowing what/who they leave behind? We all need to love each other as humans. Nobody is wrong if everybody is right and nobody is right if everybody is wrong. We are here. We live. Let’s do it together, in peace, and without judgement from either side.
What we do with what we have before us is up to us. The crusades didn’t kill millions for Christianity or Jesus, it did so for man. Because man held these beliefs higher than human life; higher than the message behind the faith, higher than the subtext. Man, not Christianity, pickets funerals and says, “God hates fags”. These are the ways of man. We are a brutal creature, one with limited understanding and unlimited fear. We can take something beautiful and make it vicious. I look out from my titles of “Christian” and “Catholic” and know the stigma which we have granted ourselves, but what was it over? Power? Money? Confusion? No. As a people, we have done in the past what people have done since mankind became mankind (yes I believe in evolution). We have taken what was before us and changed it to what we wanted it to be, rather than leaving it for what it is.
I believe in evolution. When presented with the “So you believe everything was made in 7 days?” question (and given what I have already said I feel about God), I say this: What is 7 days in the scheme of things if, to a creator (even if this creator is science based and an overwhelmingly unifying energy that links all things in the universe), time is nothing? 7 days is something man created. A time frame. We can barely understand what a trillion dollars is. How can we comprehend tens of billions of years? The process of the creation of the universe (or man or iPods) in the frame of time from the beginning is all a blink of an eye. What is a million years against 14 billion (roughly how long ago scientists believe The Big Bang to have occurred)? Its nothing. It’s 7 hundred thousandths of that time frame. Is it inconceivable that, to a creator, this is 7 days or weeks or minutes? That said, I recognize that it is not inconceivable that there was absolutely nothing behind it and it simply happened.
How has my faith, God, etc influenced me as a person? How has it changed my personal life? In truth, it led me down a path I may have found without it at all. My belief in God has opened my eyes to the “evil” of man. I have seen this most clearly within the confines of my own faith; through the actions carried out in God’s name, through the hate propagated toward those who see or feel or believe differently. My belief in God has challenged my mind and forced me to look at all possible and probable views (or as many as I have discovered thus far). Atheism, perhaps, makes the most sense by virtue of evidence. Facts and hard truth are lacking for my views, but my experiences and feelings are no different than any other. I simply have viewed and interpreted them differently. A coincidence is a coincidence to some. To me, it often represents a mile marker. To some, it is a divine sign. The way I feel about it is evidence, but only to me. I accept this. My understanding has helped me make sure to never try to convert anybody, to never force my beliefs on others, and to accept all within the construct of morality that I have established for myself and that we have set up, as a whole, for each other. I experience the world around me (the good, the bad, the terrible and awful) with the understanding that everything is what we make of it. My personal faith lets me see it as life. Pure and simple. My beliefs have shaped me into a person who is open to all possibilities because I understand that it would be stupid to close myself off to the other possibilities that exist. Can I still be offended from time to time? Yes, I’m human. My offense doesn’t stem from feeling I am in the right, though. It stems from the belief that my beliefs are impossible; from having something that has helped me through hard times equated to childish lore. I think anybody could be offended when confronted with this and I don’t look at those who feel this way about me in any less of a positive light (unless it is hateful) because, again, if I have learned anything from my experience it is that I could absolutely be in the wrong.
I have read the works of many men. I have studied under many churches (mostly protestant based). I have spoken to so many people of so many faiths, and atheism, and points in between and still know nothing. At the end of all of my “soul searching” I have come to one overwhelming conclusion, but I’ll save that for the end. Through all of this, I feel better. Not as a Christian or a Catholic, but as a human being. Understanding and knowledge is what breaks down walls. Theists and atheists both are at an impasse. Neither try to truly understand the other, and I include myself in that statement. This isn’t necessarily anybody’s direct fault. We are dealing with some serious issues. How can somebody expect anybody else to see HOW they can believe in a God as some Christians do? How can Atheists expect people of strong faith to understand the lack of a God in their universe? It’s bigger than anybody on both sides.
I suppose I should wrap this up. So what about that sweeping conclusion I came to for myself? I could die tomorrow and find myself on a stereotypical cloud. I could find myself at a gate and have somebody tell me “Sorry, Calvinists were right. You chose poorly.” I could die and find nothing. Blank. Empty. Perhaps, I would be reincarnated (something I also believe in, but that’s for another time). At the end of the day… what does that matter? Who cares? If we could prove tomorrow that God does not exist, Jesus was just a psychologically impaired mad man and that everything I have ever believed was wrong… nothing would change for me because religion, faith, belief and lack of those things makes no man more stupid than another. It does not make them child-like. I feel it is a path which one can follow in relation to other men and women or apart from them. I run with you all. I treat others as I want to be treated, not because of a book or a priest, but because, as a human, it is right. We owe it to each other to understand and accept, not separate and discriminate. Remember that the loudest on both sides represent the ends of a bell curve. Most Christians don’t hate anybody for who they are or what they are. Most atheists are totally cool people who hold intelligent debates and leave room for options, just as we as Christians should. As cliched as it is, we should coexist because the truth is, as humanity, we have called God many things and had many Gods. Our faiths are ever changing and our knowledge is ever growing.
I just want everybody to know that no matter what, we reap what we sow. If we plant hate, we get it. If we plant love, understanding and acceptance, we get it. Don’t push to convert or try to take away from faith. Let people come and go. When we die we will find out what is right, wrong or unknown. Until then, we should just live. Live by what we hold to be true to our knowledge but don’t hold others to your beliefs. Nietzsche once said, “All truth is simple… is that not doubly a lie?” There is no simple truth, and perhaps no definitive truth at all. One last quote, this one from Beethoven: “Nothing is more intolerable than to have to admit to yourself your own errors.” I am more than prepared for that man to be me.