Sunday, September 30, 2007


So I'm taking a World Religions class. I admit, I didn't start this blog out of sheer love for religion and a lot of free time. It is a requirement. One of the many. For a class that doesn't take care of a writing general ed requirement, it sure seems like we write a lot. Maybe it's just me and my writers block. Writing two blogs per week doesn't sound hard at all, but then a week goes by, you haven't written them, and suddenly you've got four to write in two days. That's when it does get hard. But all that is another story. My complaining doesn't solve anything. Sometimes I just ask myself why I added this class and four more credits to my already decently busy schedule by some standards.

Obviously one reason is the credits themselves. I get two general ed credits out of the way taking it, and though I wish it covered the writing requirement, it still beats taking a four credit class that clears only one requirement.

That, however, is just a superficial reason, icing on the cake you could say. As unbelievable as it sounds, I'm not as shallow as I sometimes act. I know it's hard to believe, but it is true.

A few years back, my mom got me this book for Christmas called Life of Pi. If you've read it, you might have thought it was absolutely rediculous, or you may understand why it was so influential. It completely opened my eyes to other religions, even if it didn't cover every aspect. It made me curious about other religions and the good sides of them. The book's hero is a boy named Piscine, who nick names himself Pi (pronounced like pie). The main plot of the book really has nothing to do with religion, but it's Pi's background that was so interesting. He's from India, and he was raised Hindu by his parents. But in various occasions he ends up meeting a man who practices Islam, and Pi becomes taken in by it. He then starts to practice both Hinduism and Islam. This in itself was completely unheard of to me. How can someone believe in two religions and practice both at the same time. But it didn't stop there. He later had a meeting with a Christian minister who went into the history of Jesus Christ and told Pi all about Christianity. After that Pi began practicing all three religions. At first, I wanted to get rid of the book. I couldn't believe that some one would, in real life, be cabable of understanding and practicing the beliefs of three different religions, let alone combining Islam with Christianity. I had the presumption that Islam and Christianity were opposites, and the only justification or knowledge of Islam before reading the book was the news, which spoke constantly about terrorist groups who were "radical Muslims" and called their fight a "holy war". I thought all Muslims thought that way, that all were against Christianity, and that Islam preached the things that these terrorists were doing. I discovered from reading this book that I was wrong. The way that Islam is described in the book completely contradicted every idea I had of the religion. I can't recall how the book described each religion, but they were all positive. It didn't change my views of Christianity, but rather made me realize that there is a lot more to theology than meets the eye. If I was wrong about Islam, than I could be wrong about a lot of other things, too. It is possible to practice three religions as seemingly unlike each other as Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity. But it wasn't the actual practice of these three religions that I wanted to learn about, but rather the concept. This boy had knowledge of all of these religions and thus knew about the cultures that practiced them. In the book he was judged as naive, but I admired him as an extremely wise fictional character. He was fictional, but the concept is real.

So it ended up being a book that made me want to take World Religions. I wanted to become as wise as Pi was concerning religion. I made up my mind that I would learn as much as possible about as many religions as possible, not to eventually practice them, but rather to take the lessons that each one has to give. Pi had a philosophy on life based on his experiences of his three religions, and that philosophy is what I hope to have in common with him evenutally.

Friday, September 28, 2007


My last blog talked a little about the diary that I recieved from my youth group when I left for college. Inside there were notes from each member of the youth group. Some of these notes had scriptures that were either some of the writers favorites, or just ones that they thought would do me some good. I thought I'd share them, because they are now some of my favorite scriptures, also.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help. Again, if two lie together, they keep warm; but how can one keep warm alone? And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one. A threefold cord is not quickly broken."

Mathew 11:28-30
"'Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.'"

James 1:2-8
"My brothers and sister, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.
"If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord."

Proverbs 16:9
"The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps."

Luke 6:27-28
"But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you."

Jeremiah 1:7-10
"But the Lord said to me,
'Do not say, 'I am only a boy'; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you, Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.' Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me, 'Now I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.'"

Thursday, September 27, 2007

My Church

Going away to college was a big deal at my church. I attended the Forest Grove United Methodist Church back home in Oregon, and you could say that I am Methodist, since my parents both are and I was baptized in one. Anyway, the second to last Sunday before I left, there was a big section of the service devoted to myself and another friend from church who was graduating also.

I should also let you know that my church has a fantastic youth program. It's undergone a lot of changes over the years, all of which I have been present for, and though I did very little to affect anything with it, it evolved into a great one with two amazing youth pastors. They're husband and wife, and they recently had a baby boy.

So at this service the youth group gave both of us diaries. What's more is that each member of my youth group had written in these diaries little notes to each of us. It was probably the most touching experience I've had at that church, and that's saying a lot considering there have been many special experiences there. Having all of those kids from my church write to me in itself was an amazing feeling. But the things that they wrote, about how much they would miss me and how much I meant to them and the church, made me understand, more than any other occasion in my life, how much that church and those people meant to me. When I think about it, that church allowed me to make friends that I never would have made if I hadn't attended. The memories and lessons from going there ever since I was little are absolutely priceless to me. I didnt even attend that often. As long as I can remember, the tradition with my family was to wake up Sunday morning and ask each other, "do you feel like going to church today". Sometimes there were things that happened during the week that would cause one or all of us to want to go, and if one of us wanted to go, then we would usually all go. Other times, if there was nothing special going on that Sunday, or if our Saturday had been a particularly late one, we just wouldn't go. And I'd think about what the rest of the congregation, the "regulars", thought about us. "Oh, the Hummels didn't show up again," I'd think, "they just aren't good followers". I would think that the rest of the congregation looked down upon us for not attending every Sunday. But that was never the case. If we didn't show up that was ok, and when we came, all the better. They never looked down on us, they simply appreciated us more, at least it seemed like to me, when we did attend!

And I attended youth group even less than I attended church. The one idea that I came up with for this youth group was "Breakfast Club". It started out as a Saturday morning thing where we would get together, make breakfast in the kitchen, then take it to the youth room where we would eat, watch a movie, and just discuss life, religious or not. This seemed like a good plan, but usually it would be me, Bobby (my youth pastor), and maybe one or two other people. Bobby would bring all this breakfast food (which he graciously usually paid for straight from his wallet) and there would be no one to eat it. Gradually, more people caught on, but then the issue of money came up. An idea was brought up to have one Saturday a month where we would make breakfast for the congregation, whoever felt like attending, instead of making ourselves breakfast. Yes, we would still pay for the food, but we were hoping on getting some donations. The food was free, but donations were welcome, that kind of idea. Well the first Saturday for this congregation breakfast was poorly announced, and only one person came. This one person however was a very well respected member of our church, and the following day at church he made an announcement to the entire congregation about how wonderful our food was, and how more people should come next month. That was apparently advertisemnt enough, because the very next month over thirty members came to breakfast, we nearly ran out of food, and gained almost two hundred dollars in donations. The point of telling this story is not to glorify myself, but to glorify my youth group and my church. My idea would have never travelled that far had it not been for the amazing people that I was surrounded by.

So Breafast Club took off, and once it did, for some reason, I started going less. I had almost stopped completely going to youth group meetings on Sunday evenings, and I rarely did any other youth group activites. But when I read those notes written to me in my journal which was to go with me to college, it was as if I had gone to every possible activity that there was.

I have gained some unbelievable lessons from my church days back home, but one of the greatest that I took is that with the right people, the right congregation, nobody will ever judge you on how often you attend church or go on activities. They judge you on your personality and actions while you are with them. If you are good to them when you see them, they will cherish every moment that you are with them, and in turn you cherish every moment you spend with them. I was always forgiven when I forgot an important activity or just didnt feel like attending service; my absence was taken with a grain of salt. But my presence was always an extra gift. I was welcome and I was family. As far as I'm concerned, they were my family too. They still are.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

What happens after we die?

“What happens after you die?” If there could be yet another ultimate question asked of religion, that would be it. Every culture has its theories, every faith has its theories, and every individual has their theories. Yes, I say theories as in plural because it is only human nature to be curious. Death is the single greatest mystery surrounding life. Everyone dies, that much we understand, but obviously after than no one living knows for certain. Does it all end; mind and soul? Or is there really just another adventure waiting to begin? Is there a Heaven or Hell? Is there even another place to go, or do we reincarnate? If we do, what do we reincarnate as? I’ve asked myself each of these questions, but those questions only spawn more.

If you have read the few blogs I’ve posted, you may have guessed the religion I was raised in, you may have not. I was raised as a Methodist Christian. I’ve been taught to believe in a heaven and a hell, and that the choices I make in this world will influence to which place I go after I die. I still believe that, but just to be certain, I’ve covered all bases. Countless times I’ve thought about what it would be like if it all ended, if my soul died with my body. I’ve gone over human reincarnation and with that animal reincarnation too. I’ve come up with a few select animals I’d come back as, just in case I have a choice in the matter. Though it could probably change in time, I’m currently at the owl. I narrowed it down to a bird from a lifelong dream to fly; then to a bird of prey because, hell, I am a guy. Owls are considered wise in every society; their likely the most mysterious of any bird of prey; their powerful; and for a wild animal, they don’t appear wild at all. I must admit that I consider myself a romantic, and in my mind owls are frontrunners for the most romantic animal in the entire kingdom. These ideas are of course only preparations. I want to be ready for any possibility, in case those golden gates don’t show up at the end of the dark tunnel.

If there really is a Heaven, what will it be like? Will every single good person who has ever passed going to be there waiting, or will only the few who knew and loved me during life and died before me be there to greet me? Will there be animals there, or is there really a separate Heaven just for them? The questions really are endless, and when we think about it, so are the possibilities. Say we really do get to Heaven, then what? What would we do? Can we choose to go back as some one or something else? Maybe we can ask to go back to a different reality. I’ve pictured myself going back to a reality where there are super heroes; or a reality where magic exists. It may come off as selfish, but if we had the opportunity to live what we see in the movies or read about in our favorite novels, I bet the majority of us would take that opportunity just like I would.

Maybe we have the power to go where ever we want, do whatever we want to do. Maybe we have a destiny in this world so that we can choose our paths after death. Then again, maybe we don’t have a say in anything. Maybe this life is the only time we have to choose our own paths, and destiny is only an illusion. If we do have a destiny on this planet, if each of our existences has a pre-set place that we can’t change, I believe that we’ll find out what it is when the time comes; but until then, we should take advantage of the choices we have. Nobody can make the right choice every time. We are only human, and bad decisions happen. But are those decisions really even bad? To think that we were able to make a decision, let alone learn from the bad ones, is a concept worthy of miracle status.

My grandfather recently passed away. If he still has control over his soul, then at this moment he’s experiencing the very thing that the living population has wondered about since the beginning of time. I wish I could know how he’s doing, if everything really alright, like I have to keep telling myself. I want to know that he’s happy, that he’s finally with my grandmother again. Maybe now he can finally watch me play baseball. If I don’t have what it takes to play college baseball, maybe he has the ability to rewind and watch the high school games that he never saw. That’s what I would wish for him. The way I know he’s doing ok up there or wherever he is, is if I end up ok. Me getting over his passing, keeping him in my heart, and moving on to bigger and better things, is his way of letting me know that he’s safe.

Those who paid their dues in this world and lived good lives deserve to be happy for eternity. Passing on should just be another great adventure instead of something to fear. I hope to God that what we do is “pass on”; pass over the bridge from this reality to the next, on and on to paradise. Second star to the right, and straight on ‘till morning.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Universal Language

There have been several claims to the origin of religion itself, and people are always looking for new theories. Christianity reaches back thousands of years, Buddhism and various other dominant religions reach back even further than that, and some indiginous religion-based cultures began even before those. But why did religion even take form? Why was the concept ever imagined? I say concept not to be blasphemous, but to show my curiosity. IF there wasn't a clear religious creation of the planet, and the theory of evolution is true, why did we as humans create the phenomenon of religion? That is the question that a number of intellectuals have tried to answer, and it is the question that inspired this blog.

The hermeneutics of suspicion dishes out many reasons why religion was created. Sigmund Freud described it as a need for a "father-figure" because it is human nature. He presented any and all religious ideas as illusions by the mind based on a need for the "fullfillments of the...most urgent wishes of mankind".

Karl Marx put it as frankly as humanly possible. Critisism of religion circles around the concept that "Man makes religion, religion does not make man". Marx uses the analogy that religion is like the symptoms of a powerful drug; it shows a meaning in the world where meaning is lacking, but it is not real.

I came across a new theory just recently while discussing indiginous religions. The idea is that the worship of spirits in the earth is merely the mask covering their religion's true importance. It is instead, "a way of communicating with people of all faiths to take care of nature and treat [Earth] like we would our family...."

Might this be true of every religion? If the worship of "earth spirits" is actually the passive teaching of environmentalism, then might Christianity be simply a subtle communication between peoples about treating others how you want to be treated? Everyone knows that each religion has their own lessons and teachings, but these have always been thought of as only part of the religion. The lessons have never been considered as the reason behind the entire way of faith.

Maybe sometime hundreds of thousands of years ago some one was trying to get a message across and no one would listen, so instead of fighting them so they would or give up, they simply invented religion. They thought up some higher being, told everyone that it was the higher force that told the person what they were telling the others, then as evidence showed how successful the message was.

I'm not trying to poke fun and anyone or any religion, and this idea could be completely of base. But is it possible? You can't say no.

Monday, September 17, 2007


I couldn't sleep. Everyone has that feeling. The moment you lay your head down, your mind starts wandering, making it impossible to fall asleep. That's what has just happened to me. By the title you might have been able to tell what it was that was keeping me awake, and yes, strangely enough, it was Superman.

Superman is something of an idle for me. I've always admired him and what he represents. Then I got to thinking, "how can a comic book hero represent so much to so many"? From there spawned the memory of a question that I asked my fellow students in my World Religions class. I asked them what kinds of things that they know of that symbolize religion or stand as religious "relics" if you will, to any culture. This discussion was graded, and though I recieved a decent score, I was scrutinized for not revealing my own opinions or answers to my own questions. Well now I am. To me, Superman serves as a religious symbol in the American culture. I'm sure there are, and I plan to find, literature comparing Superman to various religious figures.

Immediately the comparison would be to Jesus. In comic books about him the people go so far as to praise him as a messiah. He has followers, both human and superhuman (that would be the justice league, in case it wasn't obvious); he represents the three great, if not the greatest, virtues; not to mention his superpowers. His greatness could even inspire comparisons to God himself, as far as the Christian religion goes.

I say that because in other religions there are such things as demi-gods. With Superman's un-equaled strength and clear mind, who's stopping those believers?

Do not get me wrong, I plan to learn a lot more about my own Christian religion and enough about others to properly respect them and maybe take some of their lessons. But up to this point in my life, I have to admit that I check myself on Superman, not the bible. When I'm thinking about the decisions I would make, contrary to the common term, "what would Jesus do", I'm more likely to ask myself, "what would Superman do?"

Of course his superpowers are amazing. If I could have any super power, flying would be it. But it's not his superpowers that make him my hero. That's icing on the cake. It's his frame of mind. His ability to stay calm in the face of danger; his ability to stay true to his roots and his morals, his ability to not give in; his ability to see the best in people. Then there's his human side, which makes him easier to relate to. He struggles with his own abilities and his inability to save everyone despite his situation. He constantly puts the weight of the world on his shoulders, not because he's forced to, but because he believes that he is the only one who can hold it up. Like so many religion figures, he tries to teach goodness and rightiousness to anyone and everyone; he tries to expunge the sins of others. If there came a time where he had the choice to give his life to forgive the sins of the human race, I believe that he would give his life. That is why I believe him to be a religious symbol, and that is why I'm writing about a comic book hero at 1 in the morning.

Interestingly, the two men who first originated Superman were both Jewish.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"Religion" as in the noun

I hardly began my reading on indigenous religions before I was already drawn in to something that I read. Language has always fascinated me, though I've never tried very hard at learning new ones. The reason why they fascinate me are the translations. What one word in one language might MEAN one word in English, but the literal translation to English could be completely different. Some languages don't have a word for an English word, and vice-versa. The reading that struck me comes from Chris Partridge's An Introduction to Religion. The very first page, second paragraph states, "Few indigenous languages have a word like 'religion' and some people have drawn the conclusion that it is inappropriate to speak of 'religion' with reference to indigenous cultures."

As I said before, the fact that a language can lack any word, let alone one for "religion", where it is so freely used and seemingly understood in our country, baffles me. But this realization does two things. It makes us question what the word "religion" means, and it tells us something quite interesting about that language's people and culture.

How can we define religion? Webster has a few definitions for it. "1. a system of faith in and worship of a deity. 2. devoutness; dedication to a holy life. 3. a doctrine or custom accepted on faith." While we're at it, deity means "devine nature" or "a god or goddess", at least still according to Webster.

The glossary of ITWR has a similar yet different definition. They include very cleverly it's latin origin, "(religere: to pay careful attention to some activity) A system of belief or worship, held by a community who may express their religion through shared myths, doctrines, ethical teachings, rituals, or the remembrance of special experiences.

To me, this definition covers more bases. Indigionous cultures and languages may lack the word "religion" because religion is intertwined with their culture. In some cases, it most likely determines the culture. The culture exists because of the so called "religious" systems, myths, and practices of the people. The Religion and society are one and the same, so how can that society's language have two different words for the same thing? That thought can be extended outrageously far. Why do we have a word for it, then? Because as a 1st world industrial country, we've learned of different religions and have accepted them. The constitution requires a seperation of church and state, but were those not already seperated by language? Some countries may require integration of a single religious belief in the running of the culture and country, but the moment the "state" does something outide the dictations of the "religion", it is seperated, at least some what. This church and state business is a tangent, but it is curious. We are obviously the better country for acknowledging and accepting other religions thus giving meaning to "religion".

So there it is. The subject of this blog has already been answered. I, at least, am to some extent satisfied by the definition presented by ITWR because inlike Webster's definition it doesn't restrict the word to the worship of "a deity", "a god or goddess", but rather acknowledges that it is simply a system of worship period, and that worship can be expressed in multiple fashions. Now what religion means is something completely different. Can that question ever be answered?

There's something odd. We ask for definitions by asking what a word means, but with many words, even in our own language, definition and meaning are completely different. As I said, language is fascinating.