Saturday, January 19, 2008

How real is religion?

Today I finished reading the first book of a trilogy about the three Abrahamic religions. Two more to go. It doesn't seem to me that a lot of things of my own perception changed after reading the first one, which is about Judaism. I learnt some things that I didn't know before, not only religious stuff but mostly historic stuff, and although the book is written in a very dimplomatic way, I find myself in favour of Israel more than the other side in the conflict.

There is also a different tendency I notice while reading this book, and I think the next two books will even make this impression a lot stronger. The things I notice are:

-Learning more about religions and the possible explanations of how things fit together (different religious opinions against each other; science against religion, God's perfectness against the holocaust) makes me become less religious in some way. It also takes away illusions. Basically, the idea that the world was REALLY created in 6 days and that God is a humanoid being that lives in the clouds right above us, those are ideas that you start to doubt when reading this book. Not only that, you also think about your own naivity.

-The more you find out about one religion, the stronger your opinion gets. You don't change your mind about one religion, you basically get the confirmation for what you already found out for yourself. I'm not sure how that goes for other people, but for me, if I have heavy objections about a religion or a religious idea, finding out more only makes it worse. Trying to be idealistic and allowing yourself to see things from a believer's point of view leads to feeling disgusted. Before I knew a lot of things about some groups of people, I had more sympathy in ignorance. Now I feel that I've done research that already explains what is wrong to me.

I'm not sure what is worse: The claim of various religions that they own the only truth and the only way to salvation, or the fact that there is so much confusion and no way of knowing who is right?
But here it gets interesting again because of what I read: Another idea that I definitely buried is the idea that anything comes from God directly without any delay. I don't believe that any more. Because whatever is not written on stone plates and instead on pages was written down by a human being. If you claim that something you consider holy comes directly from God, that is nothing but speculation. It is a very daring idea to believe that through all the centuries, the words always remained the same just for you to read them. What makes you think that people would care about you (a person who would be born centuries later) if -they- know what they are making up, changing, or writing down by their own inspiration and not God's?

There is a similarity between things I read in this book about the creation of the world and the creation of the holy books. In both cases, what you read is not necessarily what really happened. Okay, so it says how the world was created, but does it have to be taken literally? Is it still possible to believe it in a fundamental way after science has always proven things wrong and made clerics reconsider the meaning? Some time ago, it was outrage to claim the world was round. Nowadays it's a known fact.
The same way that the world was probably created in a way that it fits in both with religion and science (created over a long amount of time but -not- by itself) also goes for the creation of the books. I don't believe that books are written without intentions. What about the polictical dimensions in books? If God is so merciful then why do we find words about conquering land and making slaves? I think that the people who wrote the books had some ideas that they wanted to convey, too.

Whatever made the people write down that stuff, it is not the way many people believe it was. Also, many people don't know -how- the books were written. They were written over long periods of time, and in many cases the stories in there were about events that happened long, long before the actual writing process. In many cases it's only hear-say. And about the godly inspiration, who does not feel inspired once in a while? Who does not have dreams or other experiences that give a very special impression? Everyone is able to claim anything out of personal experience. I don't think God became manifest in front of every prophet before that prophet wrote down what was spooking around in his head.

The special thing about religions is that they work in a totally different way than most other things. When you have a job, you need to know a lot about it. When you have a hobby, you need to be good at what you do or know what you do. If you want to learn, you need to know the facts. But in religion it's different. Religion is passed over from generation to generation and it's only based on feelings, even instincts. People strive for something to feel good in. They want hope beyond death. It's the one thing that humanity is always after, because through all the progress and innovation, there is no way to make the clock stop ticking.

Not sure what's the truth. I'm still trying to believe in God, because if I'm wrong about that then I'm probably not going to suffer from it if there is just nothingness after death. But I don't want to have to do with the world religions so much. It makes me a little angry that other people are happy in this naive make-believe world. They are so well off. The culture determines the yes and no, the right and wrong, the do and don't. Is that how it works? Does God judge people according to their regional religion? Does it perhaps not even matter? No, that would be too easy. There will be big punishment for the ones who are just too unlucky to know the truth.