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Thoughts about gods

I discovered a new blog today, full of interesting thoughts and rants. Found the site through a link on a writer’s website. Sometimes it is worth exploring those hyperlinks, wherever thou might find them. 🙂  Anyway, I have added Sean the Blogonaut to my list of links over at the side of your screen.

The Blogonaut uses his blog to talk about atheism, religions, and associated material, amongst other subjects. At first glance I thought he’s a bit over the top, almost felt like he was turning atheism into an alternative religion. But I think he’s just very, very thorough with his research.  A quick scan through some of his posts, especially the many written on Mercy Ministries (think Hillsong Church, Gloria Jeans sponsorship, multiple bad press stories last year here in Oz), shows up one of many bad facets within Christianity today.  I thank Sean for spending so much time covering the issue,  especially the residential courses for young women, for I cannot bring myself to write coherent arguments about what I regard as an appalling abuse of power in Australia. Go read for yourself.

Anyhow, the Blogonaut got me thinking about where religion and spiritual beliefs fit in to my own life these days. Actually I’ve been giving this some thought in recent months and the Blogonaut’s site is simply the latest in a line that I’ve read in the past few weeks dealing with the whole question of philosophy.

I once discussed with my sister the desirability of living in a nunnery, monastery or cloistered religious society. We both had problems with the believing in God bit. But living like a hermit, spending the day meditating (in order to save the world?) is attractive. I suspect it’s more the living reclusive aspect that attracts me. Yoga retreats and other New Age retreats look nice and glossy on the surface, but they cost a lot of money and often require a belief in something quite bizarre to my way of thinking. I’m too scientific and logical. I’m guessing joining a nunnery is out of the question for me. (This short video produced by Unreasonable Adults sums up where my thinking was until recent times, http://tinyurl.com/pwnzqs )

It’s strange. I have good memories of the church (Anglican & occasionally RC) during childhood & teenage years. No hint of any scandals, no paedaphelia, no abuse. Just quiet, simple, faithful people joining in ritual and community. Tradition. Although my mother really never, ever believed (very lapsed Catholic) and I’m sure my late father only attended for the “Men’s Night” and the free booze. My current partner also has good memories of his Catholic upbringing. He is most definitely an atheist these days, has been since his teenage years. We were lucky. We were both encouraged to think and question both the church and belief systems. I was particularly encouraged by both my church and my parents to accept the validity of other, non-christian beliefs, and accord the people who follow them due respect. As people. People who were exercising their own choices in beliefs. Which I did. Although these days I would question how much choice some peoples of the world really have in their religions.

My children were fortunate enough to attend a very multi-cultural school in Oman (middle eastern country, between Yemen & Dubai, on Arabian peninsula).  There were Muslims, Hindus, Christians (practising & not-really-believing), Buddhists, Bah’ais and a scattering of other faiths.  Roughly 44 nationalities were represented at this small school (K – 12) of 600 pupils. A wonderful place for my children to be formally educated.  Part of the curriculum included philosophy and community service. They got to see first hand the work of UNICEF and other aid agencies who were working both in Oman (yes, there’s stark poverty in the middle east) and varying countries in Africa (an hour or two away by air).  Prior to 9/11 we saw how it is possible for many faiths and cultures to live together peacefully and respectfully. We saw true Islamic community service in action, and it was wondrous. At least it was in most parts of Oman in the 90s.  So, there is some good to be had in religion/church and the role they can play in wider society.

But I, as an adult, saw great hypocrisy in many of the major religions. I witnessed disempowerment of women occasionally, I saw a lot of alcohol drinking by those whose religious laws forbade it. I also saw atheists plying their skills in aid work and wondered if religious believers ever looked at them and questioned the “necessity” for “faith”.

I thought I liked the concept of a spirituality. At the turn of the century I was right in to a handful of New Age beliefs.  These days, as I age, I find myself realizing that what I am looking for is respect: respect for self, others, all living creatures and the environment. And time out. To meditate quietly and reflect upon how beautiful the earth is, how beautiful life is, no matter the challenges one is facing.

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  1. May 21, 2009 at 8:41 am

    Hey thanks for adding me to the blogroll.

    Now atheism into a religion? Them’s fightin’ words 🙂 to an atheist. If I have a religion/philosophy the closest fit is secular humanism. Atheist is really just a descriptor, a label that needs to be worn for the time being while we rein(sp?) back the unquestioned and undue hold religion has over politics and society. It is simply an answer to the question – do I believe in a god(s), the answer being no. – are you bored yet?

    I am passionate about a few issues, Mercy being one of them – they ride on the coattails of other Christian organizations that do have a good name earned through action and who have checks and balances in place.

    I have passed the one year anniversary of blogging about Mercy Ministries, I have met some really wonderful people through the experience and met some people who I think a missing a few sheep in the top paddock.

    I had a really ordinary Catholic upbringing here in Alice, was even captain of the School. Although our principal was arrested and charged with pedophilia he didn’t commit offenses here. No it was a pretty liberal education – I even got taught evolution :).

    I have gone from Catholicism to Celtic Magic to Buddhism to Atheism. I finally decided to turn a really critical eye to this “life” we have and found that a) most of it was horseshit IMHO
    b) if you are looking for some magical/spiritual answer you are missing the true wonder that happens everyday around you.

    Would I call myself spiritual, probably not the words been hijacked and used in a religious context for too long, I like to think I am contemplative.

    • May 21, 2009 at 12:51 pm

      How many of us have tinkered with the ancient & modern variations of the Celtic rituals I wonder? 🙂 I found that the nature-based “religions”, the ones that don’t involve worship of a higher being other than acknowledgement of the “universe” as a whole and the earth merely one insignificant part, do often focus on the glory and wonder that is our world today. But, unfortunately there are way too many people looking to make a quick buck or achieve power status within the “industry” (look at the cost of attending a retreat or seminar run by any one of these “religions”), and people are seemingly so willing to be led astray and relinquish personal responsibility.

      Contemplative. It’s a good choice of word. Agree with you about the word “spiritual”.

      I went through the whole experimenting/believing/hoping process with alternative therapies too, such as homeopathy, aromatherapy, reiki etc etc. Think it’s a rite of passage women go through post divorce. 🙂 I found a website a while back run by skeptical scientists looking to disprove the new age therapies. It resonated with my scientific mind and led me one day to Tim Minchin (who I note you feature at times on your blog). And it’s Minchin’s words that really got to me and started my re-evaluation of “just what the hell do I believe in and more importantly, why?” questions. Funny where and how life takes us.

  2. seantheblogonaut
    May 24, 2009 at 11:09 am

    Sorry I missed your response to this it seems I have not subscribed to your comments, only your posts.

    I wonder is its our training as consumers that leads us to thinking there must be more and there are plenty willing to sell us something to give us a quick fix.

    What’s the name of the skeptical site?

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