Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Wind Beneath My Wings

There are several lines of thought that have formed the basis for the nature of my belief system of a God that is more existential than, for example, the beliefs of mainstream America. The first, and perhaps foremost, is the observation that much harm has been caused by organized religion, both historically and presently. I believe that the freedom to exercise one's religious beliefs is a personal and private one. I believe that each person on this planet contains within themselves the inherent spirit that forms the basis for a belief in God. It seems to me that people who would accuse me of secularism, based upon the disparities of science and old time religions, do so because I am thinking my own thoughts and coming to my own conclusion, rather than accepting somebody else's conclusion at face value. When religion in its various forms gets too big it begins to demonize those who, for one reason for another, do not accept the beliefs of that particular religion. Consider the Crusades as an historical example. The ostensible purpose of the Crusades was to expand Christianity by means of force, or conquest, of non-believers. Go our way or die. A more subtle, but no less damaging, example of this group intimidation is the pressure to force prayer into the public school system. The predictable reaction to this week's approval of gay marriage by the Republican dominated California Supreme Court is another example. Groups are lining up to change this result via a constitutional amendment in the state. Their insistence is that traditional marriage requires a male and a female is religiously motivated. From my viewpoint, if that is what an individual chooses to believe that is wonderful. But because they believe as such does not give them the right to seek to impose their values on others, less orthodox in their approach to human contacts, than the religious groups teach. Granted, this is soft stuff but lets move to Iraq where one religious groups (either Sunni or Shiite) kill members of the other group (as well as Christians) at will. Let's move next door to Afghanistan where the Talibani will cut off a hand or stone a woman to death for talking to an unmarried man, all acts done in the name of religion. This type of damage, incessant, wearing and wearying, forms the basis for my belief that religion is harmful. American Christians will not cut off my hands, but they sure as hell want to tell me what I should think, do and wear and how I should act.

Because I am an old dog I have inevitably found myself in situations which have exposed me to a variety of churches arising from weddings, attendance at Sunday services with family and friends, etc. I have been impressed nearly uniformly by these exposures about the element of fear that is brought to the messages offered. I am bad. Apparently all people are inherently evil. I find that I cannot accept these ruminations. I believe that all people are inherently good, including myself. Each individual group thinks its brand of religion is best and that everyone outside of that group are non-believers, pagans, heretics, Satanists (choose your own word). The various levels of control religion seeks to enforce over the individual within that group, and outsiders, is an indicator of the need to modify and correct these negative qualities in humans that religious thought and belief brings to human life. At this point I find the need to apologize to anyone reading this who might be offended, but I quickly discard this notion. These are my beliefs, not yours and I would no more seek to enforce my beliefs on you than permit you to enforce yours on me.

I can give an example of where I am coming from. I ride a bicycle almost daily as a part of my conditioning regimen. Occasionally, I ride with a group and, naturally, the group forms an echelon. The lead rider (which changes frequently) in the echelon sets the pace and provides a buffer, if you will, to the wind resistance for the rider immediately behind. That rider provides the same buffer against the following riders and so on. The net result is that the group functions together in an inherent unit of efficiency (and beauty). Individual riders participating in the echelon can ride 20% faster at substantially less effort than if they were riding alone. It is the most basic example of how aligning oneself with the principles of the universe makes things better, not only for the individual, but for others. If one were to stop here and say 'this is the beauty of the group' and claim that it underscores the need for a group to work together, it would be correct, but there is an additional factor. The ease and grace of the group dynamic is as a result of a universal scientific phenomenon. One has only to look up in the sky and observe groups of migrating birds in their echelon formations to understand the universality of this principle. It is my belief that man's function on earth is to seek to continuously align oneself with the principles of the universe. If I understand the science of the echelon, I understand how to promote this efficiency and assistance to others better than I can if I just ''wing it." Sorry about the lame metaphor. If I ignore the findings of science I do so at my own risk. If I get hung up on the issue of how many angels are on the head of a pin I risk missing the obvious. The echelon functions efficiently if the individual riders are black, gay, Russian, Iraqi, male or female.

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