Coffee Rhetoric: Religion
Showing posts with label Religion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Religion. Show all posts

July 22, 2012

Black Folks Don't Do Atheism, But This One Does

The one looming thing that has always been an enduring force in the Black community (since slavery was abolished), is the Black Church. The Black Church comes in several different denominations and almost seems to be a given, if you're part of the Diaspora and specifically if you're Black-American. While it may not always come up during casual conversations, it's always assumed that if you're Black, you belong to a church, or that you're in-between different congregations while you weigh your options trying to find the perfect one to suit your needs and sensibilities. As a young(er) adult, I always loathed the question, "So, what church do you belong to?" because I didn't and don't.

I would always dance around the question or come up with some evasive answer to placate the query because potential friendships, opportunities, or social settings always seemed contingent upon whether or not I attended a church or if I'd be willing (without question) to attend a prospective friend's church or religious gathering under the guise of a candle or jewelry party. I've never alluded to or written about my religious affiliations or lack thereof because, quite frankly, I never felt comfortable having these sorts of conversations and I just didn't and don't think it's anybody's business. 

Whenever the topic of religion would casually make its way into my interactions, I'd often go out of my way to pacify people's egos (at the expense of my own ego and comfort) and feign interest with the proverbial "I don't go to church, but I'm a spiritual person" canned answer. I've never been religious, even as a young girl, or had any inclination to perform the rituals of worship. I'm finally comfortable enough to publicly state this fact about myself, and have been so for a while. Perhaps age has emboldened me. 

March 30, 2007

Chocolate Jesus

I'm flummoxed, because I don't understand why Catholic organizations, churches, and the Vatican don't get this up and arms over pederasty and abuse against young children, perpetrated by some of their priests. Artist, Cosimo Cavallaro caused an uproar with his chocolate Jesus sculpture, which he christened, "My Sweet Lord." Art, birth control, women's bodies, women's issues, sex, gay marriage, ... Slowly and surely, the religious right and other fanatics are trying to desperately bring us back to our puritanical roots, and have a monopoly over the civil and constitutional rights of the masses. I feel it in my spirit.

December 23, 2006

Heaven Sent?

Last night, I watched a television special hosted by Barbara Walters on ABC; Does Heaven Exist; How do we get there? Walters explored the concept of Heaven and Hell and what people from various backgrounds, countries, and religions, believe about heaven and the afterlife. Walters interviewed different types of Christians, Muslims (including an extremist and failed suicide bomber who suggested that if Barbara didn’t follow the prophet Mohammed, that she would go to Hell), a Rabbi, the Dalai Lama himself , and actor Richard Gere. I called my older sister (who told me once that she has a “relationship with Christ”), and suggested that she might be interested in watching the program, as she and her family were recently saved and attend church every Sunday. Somehow, my well intentioned phone call promptly turned into a mini religious debate, as my sister suggested that she didn’t need to watch, as she read the bible, already knew about heaven, and that she felt bad for people who didn’t believe in the concept of Heaven. She also opined that it was good that I was watching the program, as I might learn something from it, and be more at peace… *insert me shivering with annoyance* I responded that I was watching the program not because I'm wayward or in need of any guidance, but because I thought it was interesting, and figured she would find it interesting too, to hear diverse groups of people’s perspectives on religion and Heaven. She asked me what it was I believed in, exactly, if I didn’t believe in God or Christ. I responded that just because I had doubts didn't make me any less spiritual than she is. I also stated that I classified myself as an agnostic (with atheist leanings), and that I don't believe in organized religion. I also suggested that my personal and philosophical views didn’t mean that I lacked morals, ideals, or spirituality. I honestly did not feel comfortable having this discussion, because I felt proselytized to and judged. I finally answered that I believed in humanity and consciousness, and this answer seemed to placate her enough to end the discussion on a “let’s agree to disagree” note.

Tibetan Buddhists, are not necessarily believers in God, yet they have an inner peace, humility, and compassion for others. The Dalai Lama suggested that the purpose of life is to be happy and warm toward others. He spoke about the concept of reincarnation, explaining that Heaven was a holding place for people to develop “spiritual practice” and that the goal for Buddhists is not to end there, but to reach a heightened sense of enlightenment or Nirvana; so, essentially it’s a never-ending process. He suggested that if someone did bad things, they can become reincarnated as an animal, or possibly as another human life form, if they lived an honest life. Richard Gere, who is a devout Buddhist, commented that he didn’t believe that Heaven or Hell happened some place else, but existed in the present… and that people who walked around unhappy, conflicted, and miserable were, undoubtedly, living some sort of hell and that he has met some people who are truly happy and enlightened.

Early Christians and Jews believed that a man wasn’t suitable enough to enter Heaven, as a flesh and blood human being, and so was transformed into some spiritual entity, becoming an angel. The program also featured Evangelicals in this country, who believe they are the purest incarnation of the Christian faith, and that it’s their mission (God given) to save the world from itself. That only those who believe in Christ can get to heaven. *sigh* As someone who has recently struggled with angry, growling demons, I am more apt to agree with Richard Gere and the Dalai Lama’s concept of peace and happiness. I am a person who has spirit. I also believe that my recently deceased niece, is an entity I feel in nature. I carry her in me. I carry her spirit with me. I’ve always said that whenever a pleasant gust of wind touched my face, it was her. And I honestly believe this; feeling and believing this is what brings me peace, with that tragedy. One pastor commented that Heaven was another dimension entirely… a “fourth dimension” that you don’t have to “look up at" to experience… that you can “look out” and see it as well, but that you should definitely never “look down." I think it’s great that people believe in whatever it is, that makes them become better people. It is no one’s place to judge how someone else should find their peace of the pi, however. I think someone who doesn’t believe in God or organized religion isn’t necessarily unhappy or immoral. Someone who is devout and attends church everyday, isn’t necessarily happier or more at peace than I am. Particularly when you consider religious wars we’ve had in the past and what is being experienced at present, i.e. the recent outbreak of violence in Lebanon and in Jerusalem.

A geneticist on the program suggested that a person’s spirituality is not a matter of will, but something that may be innate within their personalities, something that’s encoded in our genes. He researched 1000 or so people and their DNA, asking them a series of questions about religion and spirituality. Those who scored the highest had some sort of mutated gene that dictated their level of spirituality… a gene he deemed “the God gene” or VMAT2. This gene can, apparently, be isolated and studied. This “God gene” also sets off certain chemicals that determine how consciousness functions, and how we react to certain events occurring around us. *sighs even more heavily* Why can't we just learn to be? Why does existence, life, the whole process of living have to be labeled, boxed, and bowed? I think it’s up to each individual to find his or her own peace, however or whatever that process is. If it's via Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and believing in the concept of heaven and an evenutal reunion with loved ones... so be it... but don't belittle me for refusing to simply accept that as my reality. My peace comes in the form of being the best ME I can be… reserving the right to err; learning and growing from my mistakes, living and letting live. I don’t know that I have a fart or reduced/increased levels of chemicals in my brain, that determine what level of spirituality I harbor. I do know that I am human. I would like to suggest that if you’re a devout Christian however, don’t feel sorry for me, don't tsk tsk or look down your nose at me- (I don't need your pity)- just because I don’t believe in this cut and dry concept of heaven or hell. I struggle with the trials and tribulations of life, like everyone else, and am not perfect. While I may not be religious enough for your taste, this doesn’t make me any less spiritual or content, despite (and in spite of) my struggles. It doesn’t make me any less of a decent or productive person. It may make me a tad more complex. But so what? My reflection, my meditative state, my thought processes, looking inward, being introspective… this is how I cope and grapple with my spirit. It’s not up to anybody else to determine how I should attain happiness or peace, or where my spirit will ascend (or descend) to after I'm departed. The beauty of living in this country is the freedom we have to express ourselves, freedom of religion or the freedom to pass on religion.