A friend of mine posted something on Facebook the other day. The post was a photo showing a black and white outline of a kid with a werewolf towering over him. The text accompanying the photo went something like this: “Some of us stopped believing in myths when we were children. Others still have religion.”
I don’t understand how some folks can think this way. I have plenty of Catholics on my social networks, and an equal number of agnostics and atheists. I’m not sure if I have any Islamic friends, or buddies from other religions (no, dead religions do not count). Sometimes, people post something tongue in cheek about either side, not unlike the photo I was talking about in the previous paragraph. I read through them, let it go. It’s their belief, and I think there’s always some merit to what somebody else believes.
The same goes for the friend who posted the above picture on Facebook. But I had just finished watching through most of season 8 of the TV show Bones (I do it while working; it’s a show you can just leave in the background), and one of the lines Emily Deschanel’s character said in one of the episodes resonated with me:
“The Jesus myth is all about forgiveness, isn’t it? Absolution, our ability to transform ourselves. So you grow up suffering; in the myth, Jesus suffers and he forgave those. Water to wine, raising the dead, walking on water… These defy the basic laws of Physics, but forgiveness, that is value. That’s why the myth has endured.”
That’s a really well-written paragraph. It’s a tad apologetic, true, but like with what she says, there’s value to be taken from the statement: the reason Christianity has endured for far so long is that it promises values that endure. Not that religions themselves have practiced the values that they preach as often as they should (the Moslem Jihad and Catholic Crusades come to mind), but as a common individual with very little say in the big scheme of these things, these values have value.
I find that I don’t care what your religion is, although if I just met you, and just learned that you have a different religion from mine, I might be a little bit more cautious about you, since I don’t want to insult you. But if you’re a buddy and you choose to live your life according to Jesus, Allah, Buddha, or even through science, it makes no difference to me. One of my core beliefs is that these religions stem from just one initial belief – sort of like how all life in the universe started from just one miniscule particle – and that it’s all interconnected.
Another core belief of mine posits that you can be as mystical as you want to be, and it won’t do you one dram of good if you don’t try to practice any of the positive values of that religion. That’s where discernment comes in. What is positive, what is negative, and what makes sense from all the mumbo jumbo these priests, shamans, what have you, is up to you.
Now, I’m not saying you’re not responsible for what you believe in. I believe that it’s quite the opposite. What you believe in, and in turn, what you say, can affect the people you are immediately with. That’s a lot of power (which is a negation of what I said earlier in this post, I know, but bear with me here). And if you choose to say things like how people who believe in religion are worse off than the people who choose to grow up and embrace freedom from religious belief, then you’re influencing these people. And, you know, you might actually be insulting them. Again, that responsibility is on you.
The question is, can you handle that responsibility?
That Bones quote is pretty nice, but I think I have my Catholic upbringing to thank in convincing me that the greatest thing the Jesus myth has to teach is far bigger than forgiveness. What that is – well, you’ll have to ask me personally, yeah?