FAITH ….Is It Powered by Mystery or Reason ? Or Both ? Or Does It Really Matter?

| February 8, 2012 | Comments (0)

(Dear Reader, As I begin this posting, I must confess to you that I am much more comfortable writing about “lighter” topics – gossip, my favorite recipe, the state of the world as seen from my rowdy street in the South Bronx…you get the picture, I’m sure, especially if you have read some of my earlier, less weighty articles, frothy material, I must admit. But today I feel compelled to pursue a more lofty topic, the issue of faith – how and why we get it …and sustain it. Without realizing it, I got ensnared in this heavy topic  while watching televison over dinner a few nights ago. The program on the tube dealt with Tajweed, or competitive Quran recitation and I became fascinated by the fact that many, if not most, of the participants were non-Arab-speaking Muslims from such countries as Senegal and Bangladesh who recited passages from the Holy Book without really understanding what they were saying. Faith without comprehension. I couldn’t get this thought out of my head, so please bear with me for the next few paragraphs while I puzzle out to myself what this “faith thing” is all about !)

My friend, Miz G, freezing, as we speak, in the City of Light, had this to say about my “dilemma” : How much does anyone who quotes the holy texts (of any religion) understand of the arcane vocabulary from ancient passages ? She continues by rightly observing that one can sing-song a laundry list, and, with the right amount of smoke and mirrors, achieve religious fervor …and total submission to God (as an animal-loving atheist, she prefers the handle Dog to God; that’s God spelled backwards if you didn’t get it !) Latin liturgy is a good example.

Mis G continues with a childhood anecdote that makes the point with humor. As a child growing up in Lapland in the very north of Sweden, she and her little mates learned and misunderstood a psalm meant for kids which went : “Tryggare kan ingen vara…”  meaning:  “Nobody can be more secure than a child in God’s flock.”  But she and her friends, she said, invariably heard this preachy homily as “Trygga rakan…..No shrimp can be more secure….”  She confessed that this passage gave her food for thought especially when the family meal consisted of crevettes and everybody around the table were chomping on those little pink morsels. The point being, we sing and chant and accept even if we don’t really understand. As in, “Be quiet and eat your shrimp, little girl !”

Another friend, steeped in both Hindu and Catholic faiths,  has opined that “it is not necessary to understand the exact meaning of religious texts; the mere reciting of them is enough to derive spiritual benefit. So if this is the case, what are we to say about the juxtapositon of reason and mystery when we adopt a given belief ? And should we subject the scriptures of various holy books to rational scrutiny ?

After numerous burnings at the stake for attempts to do so a few hundred years ago, the Christian Bible has been translated into the vernacular and exposed to examination and analysis by both believers and skeptics thereby revealing it to be, at least in many of its key passages, an outdated and eccentric text. The Quran has, wisely, not been made available in widespread translation, thus preserving the mystery of the original ancient meaning.

Several  quirky examples from the Bible will illustrate my point.

Leviticus 18:22 states that homosexuality is an abomination. With gay marriage the law of the land in many advanced countries today, this passage would seem problematic. Is clean-cut, hockey-loving Canada,where saame-sex marriage is the law of the land, a country drenched in sin ?

But let’s leave that one behind and look at what the Bible says about parenting in Exodus 21:7  which sanctions selling one’s daughter into slavery. Leviticus 25:44 gives us even more room for bondage, saying that we may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. In the case of the USA I assume this would mean it’s OK to buy slaves from Canada and Mexico, but not Venezuela…? How about Cuba ? It’s only 90 miles from Miami and the GOP says Cubans  are  already living like slaves anyway. Surely there would be wiggle-room for purchasing a few Cubans ?

On occasion, although I really don’t like doing it, I am obliged to work on Sunday. Exodus 35:2 clearly states that I should be put to death. Should I give second thought to this reckless habit even though I get over-time pay?

According to Levicitus  11:10 eating shellfish is  also an abomination. I am wondering:  is it a lesser abomination than homosexuality ? What if you’re allergic to lobsters ? I guess being taken to the ER answers that question.

My aunt curses alot and often she mixes and matches, wearing  clothes made from two different kinds of fiber. Is it really required that I organize all of her neighbors to come together to stone her to death as prescribed in Leviticus 24:10-16. Couldn’t we just burn her to death in a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws  which is called for in Leviticus 20:14 ?

Pious cherry-pickers who defend the Bible would patronize me and say, with an expression of loving kindness reserved for the less-than-bright, that OBVIOUSLY these outdated  scriptures are NO longer to be honored and obeyed. But tell that to fundamentalists who would just as soon run a queer out of town as they would have their daughter marry a Muslim or  Jew. If these passages of the Bible are out-dated, WHICH segments of the scripture are still au courant ?
And who has the power and authority to decide which ones are good and which are bad ? Jerry Falwell ?  Tom Cruise ? Mitt Romney? As a Committee ?

So, Dear Reader, my conclusion is, with regard to religion and its scriptures : ignorance is bliss. But what do I know ? I am just a card-carrying atheist ! Let the Faith and Mystery Crowd keep their beliefs…as long as they don’t rain on MY parade.

I promise the next posting will be more fun…as merry as a flock of   God’s shrimp !






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