Lets Talk Religion

“Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it, you’d have good people doing good things and evil people doing bad things, but for good people to do bad things, it takes religion.”
- Steven Weinberg

Not too long ago I started the conversation about faith. From the comments and conversations that followed we came to the same fork on the road. Religion.

I actually don’t talk about religion as much as I would like to in here because I don’t truly like to alienate people based on my views of it. If you have never met me I will give you a little bit of my background with religion.

I grew up in a Catholic household with both parents being churchgoers at different times in their lives. Church was not a family affair. I also went to a Catholic high school which kind of gave me a different view on going to church and religion. Religion IS a subject down in Colombia for even non parochial schools. I have never been married in the Catholic church even though I would not mind it. I identify with the cultural aspect of Catholicism because it is very familiar to me. I have also explored other faiths specially in the protestant side of things.

I have attended protestant or “Born Again christian” churches for months with various degrees of creepiness at the end. They have always ended up the same way. First is the push for me to take more of an outreach position when they see that I can speak in front of people without much issue. Then when I decline and want to be just a member it seems like I become “one of those that doesn’t want to spread the message.” The moment I started to ask too many questions that challenged leadership in any way steps are taken to make me either follow in line or be labeled as an “outsider.” The chronology is different depending on the church but it has happened twice now.

I have always ended up in a protestant church thanks to a friend that thinks it will be good for me. I love the singing and bible studies. I love talking ideas, good, bad, salvation, sin. I love the volunteer work. The problem is that I was brought up by Franciscans and some of them taught me that religion is not what is important, that true understanding comes from questioning things. Faith is not something that you can give to others, they have to feel it themselves… its like trying to make someone happy, you can only “try” for so long. It has to come from within.

(Well known mathematician Freeman Dyson has criticized Weinberg’s remark: “And for bad people to do good things—that [also] takes religion.”)

A Franciscan monk is the one that pointed out that our history books in school left a lot of stuff out.

The problem with taking advice about religion from others is that for people like me it is a journey. If you would have asked me 10 years ago, I would have one answer. If you would have asked me during the Bears vs Broncos game, I would have another. If you ask me 10 years from now, I might have another one.

I don’t think I lack faith. I just don’t like to rely on intangibles for things to happen. That said, I have leaned on praying before to get me through tough times. Probably the reason that I could not become a full atheist because when the ship was sinking I would be asking for God. My brain, my debates with others, the books I read, all make me question the validity of both faith and religion. I don’t need it to get through my daily life, but faith is a powerful thing… like love.

The bible is a cool book, Jesus was a cool man… but there are other books and there are other great men.

A lot of horrible things have been done in the name of religion. Also a lot of good is done in the same name. I think in the end everything with an arterial motive goes back to human weakness. All tools can be used for good or evil, it depends a lot on who’s hands is holding them.

Things get a lot more complicated when you are the “Godfather” to 3 kids!

I love the honor that comes with the title. I also want to make sure that if I am ever called to answer questions about it I will have good answers. Note I did not say the “right” answer, but a good one.

Lying

I am the default person in the house to deal with telemarketers or customer service representatives. Working in conjunction with a third party collection agency gave me a glimpse at how some of those places work. People will say whatever they think it will get them a result, and in the end they end up lying.

We might not realize it, but every time we see someone else lie our trust for that person starts to diminish. What I never realized before reading this short essay by Sam Harris is that it goes well beyond that. It seems that from a psychological stand point, the person lying starts to get hostile towards the person that they lie to.

There is a saying we use back in Colombia “El ladron juzga por su condicion.” This can be losely translated without losing all its meaning to “A thief believes everyone else steals.”

People that routinely lie to themselves or others also think others are also liars. Furthermore, people that routinely lie start to dislike the people that they lie to,

In fact, suspicion often grown on both sides of a lie: Research indicates that liars trust those they deceive less than they otherwise might-and the more damaging their lies, the less they trus, or even like, their victims. It seems that in protecting their egos, and interpreting their own behavior as justified, liars ten to deprecate the people they lie to.

Sam Harris then cites the research “Deceiver’s Distrust: Denigration as a Consequence of Undiscovered Deception.”

I grew up with the notion that you should always tell the truth, but it was accentuated by the saying. “Traigame un herido, no un muerto.” That was a saying from my Grandfather, passed down to my Dad and then to me. Be honest about anything you face, if you “Bring me an injured person, don’t bring me a dead one.” That has always stayed in my head, not only to make sure that I ask for help before a problem escalates, but also to always tell the truth.

I trust people easily. I know this can be a bad thing. However, I always feel that the more you give to people the more you will get in return. People know I am blunt, trying to make that more about honesty than lack of tact. I have in recent years just told people I am not interested rather than just hanging up on them. I don’t like to lie or hypocrisy, but I think it shows more trough action than through words.

The more you build trust with people, the more powerful your words become. The consequences of what you say have a profound effect. The more you lose trust on someone, the less their words weight. I chose to see the positive in situations and people, and I have been accused by those that don’t know me of flattery. It could not be further from the truth, I honestly believe in the potential of those around me to succeed and be awesome. All my friends keep proving me right by just being amazing people, so it is not flattery if they really are that freaking cool.

The essay was an easy read, and it made me think a lot. It is good to make a commitment to yourself to always tell the truth… and also learn a little tact. There will always be someone asking you if their puppy is the cutest of them all.

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Do we need faith?

Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.
-Khalil Gibran

Notice that I did not say “do we need religion?” before you get your panties all wadded up; but I might touch on that too. So before you go any further let me explain something about faith.

Many words have tons of meanings that can be defined and interpreted differently. Take for example a color, while it is something that can be defined and classified it is a lot more than that. Blue can be your favorite t-shirt, team, car. Words carry a lot of meaning and faith, like the word love is one of the heavy ones.

How necessary is faith though? Do we need it in our lives? Is it an innate thing or something we learn?

I respect and often times admire people of faith. Some of the happiest people are those with strong faith. Then there are those that make me want to give up on faith as an idea, see “Tim Tebow” sport antics and wanting to push his agenda for Christianity and God helping him score 316 touchdowns!

Our society is losing the sense of honor and heroes. We call lots of people’s heroes, but who do we really follow or put our faith into?

Celebrity culture is yet another form of worship that some even find a mental disease associated with compulsive behavior. Yet you look at the definition for it and in some ways believing in a Kardashian (no I am not looking up if that is the correct spelling) seems no different than believing in Jesus. Same infatuation with a fabricated thing.

Yet I love Christianity in so many ways, I still feel comforted by praying “our father.”

Faith helps people get through life. It gives them energy to keep going, it gives them that sense of companionship when we feel all alone. Some would not be able to get up every day without it. So is there something wrong with those that don’t have it all?

Do we always need someone or something to worship? is it just part of the human makeup?

This topic does have more questions than answer I am afraid. One of the most important lessons I have come across in life is that to really learn you have to question. If you have faith in something, it is ok to question it… if you don’t it might not be that strong after all.

Audience

Most of my blog career I have not written for an audience. The blog has been personal and more of a brain dump than a cohesive piece of work. It goes all over the place, but this year I am trying to spark ideas, both inside of my head and others using quotes.

I tend to ramble a lot, I tend to write on run on sentences, I am no Hemingway by any stretch of the imagination but I think that he was right when he thought the audience should be smart enough to figure stuff out.

That is how I view my audience. If I use guilt, or emotion to make you feel something when I write it… I want people to say, whatever, I don’t feel that way… or I really don’t care… or that is not for me. Even if they never comment on what I write, most of the time what I want to do is to have people consider that thought for even just a second. I don’t want to change minds, I just want to kind of record and share a little of what mine goes to when I read a quote, react to an event or watch a movie.

I have started to use twitter again @logtar and some of my recent posts could have been simple tweets.

Understanding – I think people don’t really understand situations until they or someone close to them experience them.

Why the American dream is a lie that only Americans believe – The middle class in America is dying or already dead.

But I wanted to go further than that, not just create conversation around the topic but write what my mind came up with. Passion is just one of the things that drives me, and even though I am an engineer by trait and work a lot with computers I am still driven by emotions… a lot, for some of my friends maybe too much.

I can understand pure logic, and trying to achieve Logos (in the sense that true persuasion is more likely to be achieved by pure logic means) is one of my personal goals. Planting an idea on the ground of emotion only works for so long, people eventually wake up and realize that emotions while real can change. Hopefully most logic arguments don’t change. Now that is a discussion for another day.

I value my audience, and I also value and think all humans are capable of anything they put their mind to. I don’t think that what I write goes over peoples heads (it might end up confusing, wrong and very convoluted but I never think it will not be understood.) I list two editors here because when I write something that I think might only make sense to me, I check with them… and they help steer me a bit.

I am having a lot of fun exploring this new way direction I am taking here. I hope you guys are too.

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