THE ANFIELD NOISE

Religion in all its Forms

I was born into a deeply Catholic family. I vividly remember having a picture of the pope on my window ledge, several pairs of rosary beads and a crucifix over my bed. Choir boy and avid fan of the whole Jesus thing. I started to question in high school. Instead of losing interest, I actually studied Mark’s Gospel (RE GCSE) and was thrown out of several lessons for asking rather uncomfortable questions. Particularly “Sir, if Jesus went out into the desert alone for 40 days and 40 nights and was tempted by the devil 3 times, who was there to witness and write it down as I don’t think Jesus was the type to brag on his return?” etc.
I was never able to shake the indoctrination though, when we got married and spent every Sunday in church for 2 years, it just came back naturally. Mrs got what she wanted when we got married, me being back in church was one of them. Pretty sure that if you could search my posts on the old forum, you’d find one of me stating that I believed in the existence of god. I absolutely admit that I did. But did I come to this decision through my own investigation of the merits of soteriology? Nah, was being hit by nuns since I was old enough to talk. I heard a comedian on Radio 4 once who said that her primary school was just painting and Jesus. Yep, that was me. Oh and holding hands with Clare in hymn practice but that’s another story. Thankfully our priest (Father Up) wasn’t one of the really bad ones. Did once tell me to do ten male hairies as a penance after confession but I always assumed his Freudian slip was because he had something on his mind.
Anyway, it was Brian Cox who mentioned a guy called Christopher Hitchens on the Monkey Cage. That was a real watershed moment for me. I inhaled his works, videos and books. Went through Dawkins, Kraus the new age atheists etc etc. The video of the i2 debate with Hitch and Fry really is the perfect introduction to the wonderful path away from religion: The Catholic Church is a Force for Good in the World - Full Version - YouTube
As I’ve posted elsewhere, a very grumpy me was dragged to the Vatican aged 16 (leaving my rather tasty girlfriend at home) and was utterly gobsmacked by St Peter’s. Apart from its shattering size and magnificence, my earlier research of Mark’s Gospel really did set alarm bells ringing. JC’s teachings were very much NOT about building golden palaces in his name. Easy to divert this thread as a funnel through which to pour bile and hatred at the Catholic Church, however that’s like throwing bricks at the floor.
It stuns me now how little Christians (in general) know about the bible. My parents are as socialist and Labour is it’s possible to be. When I told mum that Boris was chosen by god, she laughed at me. So I asked her for her bible and gave her the reference Romans 13:1 She won’t discuss religion or the bible with me now. She can’t abide any conversation or thoughts that might bring her religion into question. Thankfully, I can and did.
I’ve spent the last week in London (South) which has been great fun. I walked past a local church early Sunday morning and was stopped (shame) by a very smart and well pressed young gentleman who wanted to earnestly explain the peace and love of his lord Jesus Christ. I did start by asking if he really wanted to have that conversation. He was absolute that he did as he wanted to help all sinners. Oh dear. Now he was a friendly and well-meaning man but brainwashed almost to the point of the loss of the ability to think for himself. Once somebody claims that everything in the bible is true, it’s very easy to make them look foolish. My usual path is to ask the person if they believe that the bible is the divine word of god. If it is then everything in the book must be true and god’s will. So murder, child rape, slavery etc etc is all mandated by god. “No it isn’t!” is almost always the retort. So I quote exactly these passages back at them. “Ah well, you’re taking these things out of context and the real meaning is lost in translation from the originals” Which originals? And how do you mis-translate taking the female virgins for yourself after slaughtering all the men and women?
There are so many problems with the bible, so many contradictions, so many logical inconsistencies and so many blatantly immoral teachings that the concept of it being the divine word of god is just ludicrous. I’ve been thinking of this thread for ages but it was Sunday morning’s discussion with a very keen gentleman at Speakers’ Corner that lead me to a revelation climbing up 10 flights of stairs to our apartment. He refuted that Jesus condoned any of the Old Testament and it could be cast aside and ignored. My standard retort is Matthew 5:18 I come not to change a jot nor tittle of the law. But it occurred to me climbing the stairs that when he turned over the money lenders’ tables in the temple he said “How dare you turn my father’s house into a marketplace?” Absolutely claiming that his dad is the same person who murdered millions in the flood (amongst other things). For details : All The People God Kills In The Bible - Vocativ
So where does this go? I’m partial to debate with people who are keen to engage. I’ll never knock on people’s doors and ask them renounce religion but I’m very happy to put the kettle on for Witnesses who want to sell me their huge list of incorrect prophesies. You stop me in the street and ask why I think people suffer and I’ll answer. A little bit of me is still shaking from the man who said to my face that my mother-in-law’s horrific death due to a brain tumour was punishment for her actions in life. He was in tears by the end and he utterly deserved it. I can be a vicious bastard when I want to be and I make no apologies for it when provoked. However I stress I raised nothing but my voice.
I’m curious as to why people still believe in religion in this day and age. There has been no testable or repeatable evidence of any supernatural event in history. God turns up 2000 years ago for a bit then plays the world’s greatest game of hide and seek? I doubt it a lot. Now I’ll never say that a god doesn’t exist, who knows what lurks under a stone on the 3rd moon of Jagalon Beta? But the god of the bible (or any other world religion)? Nah, not having any of it for a second.
To me, if I wanted to believe in a god, I’d do the following:

  1. Confirm the existence of a god
  2. Confirm which god it is
  3. Decide which flavour of its religion makes the most sense
  4. Pray
    Sadly my parents started at point 4 and as the tower was built on sand, it eventually collapsed. Until you can prove to me that god exists, keep trying. And to go a step further, if you can prove that the god of the bible exists, I’ll accept it but I won’t worship such a hideous creature.
    I shook the yoke and feel so much happier for it, one life, live it. Pascal’s wager? Not for me.
    I do urge you to watch the video at the top if you haven’t seen it before.
    Looking forward to getting to Texas sometime soon and meeting Matt Dilahunty, if you know, you know.

So that’s my story. What do you believe and if you’ll indulge me, why? And to go a step further, have you ever considered why you believe and do you want to? My mum believes because her mum did. Doesn’t seem like a good reason to me. Certainly not when it’s probably the most important and longest standing question in history (42)

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When it comes to God, I’m an agnostic. You can’t prove there is a deity (or deities, depending upon your faith) but, equally, you can’t prove that there isn’t one.

If religion is seen as a set of moral guidelines by which people should live their lives, I’m broadly in favour of such principles. The problem, of course, is that those guidelines differ between religions and, people being fuckwits, this leads to trouble instead of a willingness to simply agree to disagree.

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The problem with getting morals from the bible is that slavery is then moral. No thanks.

Absolutely can’t prove that god (you must define what a god is though) doesn’t exist.

Similarly.

For years I struggled to find anything that expressed how I felt about religion or God until, finally, I read Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason.

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Whilst I do agree, my big issue with this is whose morals do you use as thebase guide?

Morals are constantly changing throughout the course of history, so what might have been moral 20-30000 years ago would have been different to 1500 years ago which again would been vastly different to what was morally accepted 100 years ago

How do you define morality?

For me, that which aids or increases human wellbeing. Immorality that which is deleterious to the same.

And so how does the age / time affect it?

Personally, I consider myself a Pantheist. That is to say that I believe that nature is the guiding force of the universe and it is best understood through science. Pantheists revere nature and do not believe in a supernatural creator God or Gods.

I hope this discussion remains respectful. Our beliefs are personal and nobody should force their ideas on anyone else.

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A point I think I made. I don’t knock on doors :wink:

But if people are happy to discuss then we should I think.

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100 years ago, slavery was morally accepted in large parts of the world - today, whilst it still exists it is no longer so widely seen as acceptable. Throughout the 20th Century, being gay was seen as immoral/illegal, but towards the end on the millenium that changed to nowdays it is a lot more open and acceptable for people to be gay, lesbian, bi, transgender or what ever they want to be.

So who is to say what we find morally acceptable or unacceptable may not change in 3-400 years time and the people then look at our time as being totally barbaric

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I go back to human wellbeing. Seems as good a yardstick as anything else. Because it was accepted 100 years ago didn’t make it moral then.

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but is that not apply your morals retrospectively?

For all we know, future generations may look at how we keep cats and dogs as pets as immoral.

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As a typical chinese born in the 70s in this part of the world, a large majority are born into families believing some forms of Buddhism or Taoism. Back then, while there are definitely chinese people who are catholics or protestants, it is definitely not as common as nowadays.

So naturally I am brought up believing alot of the taoist beliefs that my family practiced. The multitude of deities who are responsible for different stuff in your life. Your studies, your safety, your marriage, your health etc have different deities being responsible. I am also generally very curious about religion and is always very happy to listen to other beliefs and there were plenty of opportunities to considering that we are very multi religions and multi racial. We go to school with kids of all races and religions and the schools and public places are catered for various religions together.

So I grew up pretty religious but when I remembered in July 1994, I was exposed to Christianity for the very first time in details from another christian. I always believed in God because even then I believe the sophisticated nature of how this world operates, there must be an engineer, a creator somewhere, though I may not have subscribed to any religion that claims that at that point of time. I just knew I could not believe in the ridiculous claim that this earth and universe…just happened, through a big bang or something. So in long story short, after being exposed to christianity, I did my own research and was sufficiently convinced that protestant version of Christianity presents the best evidence that the ‘God’ or ‘Creator’ I always believed in.

And when my parents found out, I was around 16 then, I was whipped with a belt, my bibles burnt and was chased out of my house because you have to understand, traditional chinese believe that as a son, I am the incense carrier when my parents passed eventually and having a different religion, they believed I would not do it anymore. Only when my Grandfather intervenes by saying to my parents, while the chinese religion is important to them, its more important that I was not doing anything bad and as long as I am a good person, why would it matter. I was allowed back to the house.

I consider myself a very staunch protestant because on the night that my parents chased me out of the house, I was in tears and when I was flipping through the bible (I was still very young christian with no idea what the bible is) and for I believe a very divine reason came upon the verse in Psalm 27:10 that says even if my father and mother abandoned me, the Lord will receive me. And from then on, I was convinced that the God I worship is real. It has been almost 3 decades since then.

I also see discussions on religion and beliefs the way I see discussions on the forums. I present my point, you present yours, I have no need to win the discussion. And that is how in multi racial Singapore even with the Muslim friends I have here, we have objective discussions but I would never tell another that what I believe is the only true fact. I believe that it is, but such is God, that it has to be personally experienced and not externally transmitted. So I would share but I would never pushed it as a fact for the other party and I think it has worked pretty well for me.

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Now I know this, I’ll never say a bad word against Johnson anymore… :laughing:

My position is an open one, a bit like cynicaloldgit’s. There is no proof for or against the existence of a God or gods, so I’ll hold back any definite judgement.

Looking at it from a cold, rational point of view, our lives could be complete haphazard. Some sort of absurd exception to the rule of the big nothingness ruling the universe, a short episode which will soon enough disappear again.

On the other hand, there seems to be a dynamic at hand when looking at the birth of the solar system and on earth (we don’t know yet whether there is life somewhere else), going from the brute forces of gravity and geology forging the stars, the planets, the prime elements… then the first appearance of primitive, single-cell life on earth, the association between these cells to form bacterias, and then the ever-growing complexity and diversity of life-forms taking place…

It seems that there is a plan unfolding. Where does it come from, which force is behind it? Obviously, there can’t be a complete, definite answer. Everyone has to find his/her own answer for it imo. As far as I’m concerned, the incomparable beauty everywhere on earth makes me think that there must be something at work, whatever it is and however you name it.

However, I absolutely refuse to reduce it to a single image, a single name, nor to a single religion. I rather see all religions and all systems of thought and belief around the world as a big tree. Every religion is just one branch of that tree, with a specific vision and attitude towards what can’t be named, described nor encompassed. All religions complete each other.

If we develop our own spirituality, our own vision of what our role should be, and how we relate to life in general, then we add to that tree, which is very much a growing one, far from being achieved.

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I find religion to be a massively simplified version of philosophy. You substitute rituals and rules for critical internal inquiry and confrontations with your worse nature. It’s definitely easier, I understand that. But I don’t think the internal struggle is meant to be easy. A wild animal can be domesticated by enforcing procedures again and again but it is then used for the ‘domesticator’s’ own selfish purposes. But humans have the capacity to think and leaving the thinking to a book or others’ teachings is dangerous in my view and as proven in the past.

Reading stoic philosophy has helped me more than anything else. The idea that you can separate out what is in your control and what is not in your control and focus only on the former while simply accepting the latter.

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Of course that will happen, and hopefully so.

For instance, the way how we hold millions of animals as our slaves, to eat and exploit them as it pleases us, how we despise nature and natural spaces, and destroy them for short-term gains, how we wage wars for resources or for stupid out-dated beliefs, how we endanger all life on earth by constructing and stockpiling nuclear weapons… Also, how obsession for consumption goods endangers any non-materialistic way of looking at life (as if a decent life couldn’t be lead without consuming as many goods as possible…).

All of this will hopefully be condemned in the sharpest words in a few centuries. That is, if our stupid collective behaviour hasn’t ended all life until then.

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I agree broadly on your view of morality, but at times wonder about who sets the compass, and when it is set. As is pointed out mans treatment of fellow man has been pretty suspect over the centuries, and continues to be in lots of instances…is my moral compass which identifies that I treat all peole as equal even vaguely in sync with a Taliban fighter who beats a woman for smiling?
So, whilst I am in broad agreement with you, I dont get how the standards can be set…
Homosexual people can be beaten and stoned in a country that invests money into a plaything sports club that is supported by many people who are pillars of their community with s high moral code… I find that confusing.

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By the way, I get that this could go wrong, this discussion because we are a disparate and often pasdionate group of individuals.

But I for one will follow @Klopptimist insofar as I am not knocking doors for s fight, just interested in the global view…

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What about a willingness to be flexible, accept other points of view and even change your own if the alternative is “more correct”

That is one issue I see with religion, and through the world as a whole today to be honest. This 100% stubborn attitude of “I’m right” and everyone else is stupid.

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I was brought up Sikh - identify as Sikh, however am very much an atheist. I am extremely respectful of those that have faith - and I think that’s what matters. I want a world of love, respect, and harmony. If someone has faith in god, and that gives them guidance/direction in their life, then that’s good for them.

What I really struggle with is how religion causes so much fracture and divide through it’s interpretation - and that’s across all levels (individuals, countries, within religions even). I struggle when someone tells me how I should feel, or how I should think, or that I’m wrong (being atheist) - everyone is entitled to live their life as they please, and should respect others - but more and more, I see rigidity, I see it forming hate - that scares me.

Unfortunately, religion has and will continue to be a reason for wars, atrocities, hate, and divide on this beautiful earth.

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@gasband that’s one hell of a story. Are you still in contact with your parents?