Monday, October 22, 2007

Religion Cocktail Continued

Another favorite book of mine is Kaffir Boy. I had to read it for the first time in my 10th grade English class, and I've read it twice more since. It is an autobiography of the life of Mark Mathabane. Johannes Mathabane lived in South Africa during the reign of Apartheid. He later changed his first name to Mark when he came to the United States. The book is full of great lessons and stories about politics, sports, and religion. There is one in particular that plays into my last blog, and is the subject of this one.

Johannes' mother was a very hard working woman who managed to raise over five children on almost nothing. She was very open minded, with the idea that she would try anything that could help her and her children's situations. When Christian missionaries came to The Johannesberg ghetto, she converter herself and her children. However, she still held onto her tribal beliefs and traditions. She would pray when things were going badly, but when things were not (at least by her standards) she felt no need to pray. Once, when Johannes came down with some sort of eye infection that made him blind for some time, his mother believed it was bad voodoo set upon him by jealous neighbors. She believed this even though she had converted to Christianity. Along with taking Johannes to a witch doctor, she took him to the clinic as well.

I don't want to say that Johannes' mother was ignorant, for she was a very wise woman and she just wanted the best for her family. But it seems that religion is just a fall-to for so many people. It's a typical and popular stories, and many people have experienced at least some of what Johannes' mother went through. When things are going well, we don't give God the credit, but when things are going bad, we pray for his help. We don't want to blame ourselves for our misfortunes, but we want credit for our own success.

There was a speaker at my bachloriette ceremony who spoke of this very thing. He said that God is just as much a part of our success as he is of our misfortunes. On another but similar hand, we will thank God when something good happens to us, but what do we do when something bad happens? We pray for help, or for forgiveness, and sometimes, if the strain is too much, we look for some other means of comfort. This speaker said that we need to thank God for the bad things that happen to us as well. He makes bad things happen to us so that we learn, and because he loves us. Johannes' mother prayed for help during bad times, and thanked him for some good things, but did she ever thank Him for making her life miserable? I know, this seems like a completely rediculous thing to do, and it sounded that way when I heard it from this speaker. The book made Johannes' mother out to be a saint, so why should anything bad happen to her. It falls into the question yet again of why bad things happen to good people, but I don't want to dig into that again just now. I only want to ask how we as a people should take in religion? I don't believe that it should be used solely to comfort us in times of need. It shouldn't be a leaning post or a way of putting off the wrong-doing onto something else. But should we thank God for everything that goes wrong? Is He always responsible, or do we need to take more responsibility for our actions? Jonas finally thanked God for making the whale eat him. Jonas acknowledged that he was in the wrong, that God was just, and once that was done, God set him free. Just as important, should we thank God just as much or more for the good things in life, or do we need to give ourselves more credit?

Wow, I always sit here to write about something and give my opinion, but all I ever come up with are questions. I suppose the questions will eventually end and the more knowledgable opinions will some day begin, but until then, I don't think my blogs are making for very good learning experiences.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Religion Cocktail

My last World Religions class brought up an interesting discussion topic. We were discussing how the concept of time in the Hindu religion could be taken in and believed by a Christian in every other sence.

The Hindu religion believes in four time intervals between each destruction and rebirth of the universe: the Krta Yuga, known as the Golden Age, the Treta Yuga, the Drapara Age, and the Kali Age. My professor asked how this concept could be added into a Christian system. Some answered that the start of the Kali Age, which lasts 432,000 years (also the shortest of each time period, amazing as it is to believe) could be recognized as the birth of Jesus. The end of this age could be the seen as the apocalypse, since this is believed as the "temporary" end of the universe in the Hindu religion. By this measurement, it would seem that Jesus' time was not so long ago, and it also means that our "version" of the universe has been around for millions upon millions of years. The Golden Age would have been long before dinosaurs, so this draws the question "what was the Golden Age?" And while we're at it, was the Golden Age even on this planet? What was life like? It's so hard to imagine a world perfect in every way.

But this is straying from the point and the question. Could all this be taken into a Christian belief? And this question isn't even the real question, only an example. Can any part of any religion be shared by another? I could not even answer this question during class, and I still can't. The only thing that came to mind was a book that I have mentioned in an earlier blog: The Life of Pi. As said before, the main plot has nothing really to do with religion, but it adds depth and meaning to the story, and without it the hero of the story surely would have made different decisions over the course of the book. Pi, the hero, practices Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. The novel does not go into much detail about his practices, only that he was born a Hindu, began to believe in Jesus after learning that he was the mortal son of God, and prayed constantly during the day as Muslims do. The combination of concepts of Hinduism and Christianity during class made me think of Pi. Did he ask himself the same questions? How did he clear his mind over combining these religions? Did he try to fit the Hindu time frame into Christian, or Islamic, context? Did he try to fit Christianty's one God, or Trinity for that matter, into Hindu context? I almost wish the author would create a second book which discussed solely the philosophy behind Pi's faith. I like to believe that the boy found a solution for these puzzles. He must have at least found a way around them, otherwise why would he keep practicing all three? How could he live the life he was living without some reconciliation between the three?

I think one of the morals, maybe even a sub-moral, was that these religions have their similiarities. This concept I am learning in class as well. That may have been the secret point to my wise professor's question. He knows some of the similarities, and he wanted us to find our Eureka moment by discussing certain mixtures of religious beliefs. In my mind, this whole matter is like a baby toy. The baby cannot fit a square block into the round hole. That is what we are doing; one religious belief is the square block, and another religion's context is the round hole. Except this time around, the block will eventually fit. I haven't found the answer. Some may have found it, I'll call these people enlightened. Pi was one of these enlightened people, but unfortunately, he was only fictional. Someday the answer will come to me in the form of Pi. He'll knock on my door, and he'll put my mind at rest. Speaking of rest, it's 12:30. I think it's body rest time.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Good and Evil

The topic of good and evil is really a remarkable subject. People have been trying to define the two since the beginning of time, and they become words that we can only define individually. Concepts of "beauty" and "fun", for example, can not have single, specific definitions. what one person considers ugly, another considers beautiful; what one person thinks is fun might be boring, sad, sometimes even dangerous, to another individual. I've made up my mind that the same thing goes with good and evil. Over time more questions stemmed from our efforts. "Why do good things happen to evil people?"; "why do bad things happen to good people?"; "What if bad things need to happen for the good of the whole? Does that make it ok?"

For me, religion has helped gain a grasp on my own definitions of good and evil. The lessons taught from the Bible, from sermons in church, and from Sunday school complimented the main lessons which were those from my parents. I know that other religions have very similar lessons, and some have other valuable ones that Christianity doesn't focus on, and vice versa. Then I think about the Crusades, when rogue and radical self-proclaimed "Christians" killed thousands? What about similar "Christians" who lynched African Americans while hiding their own faces? What about "Christians" who stand outside of University campuses and call every other passing college girl a slut because they aren't wearing jeans? These people can't possibly have been raised with the same Christian values as I did, because I would never dream of doing any of those things. Isn't Christianity one religion, doesn't it teach the same thing to everybody? Good and evil cannot even be defined in a single religion.

And what about Islam? "The religion of peace" has lived up to it's name on countless occasions, but recently all we can seem to hear about are the ones that are blowing themselves up in the name of Allah. These radicals truly have blinds over their eyes, because all they see is an America with only Christians, and the only Christians they see are the ones who killed their ancestors during the Crusades. There is no doubt that what they are doing, they believe is either "good" or "good for the whole". I doubt it, but it's possible that some of these terrorists know that what they are doing is evil, but believe it will provide a brighter future. Again, sences of good and evil are skewed. I hate to give up, but will the human race ever come to terms so that everyone can agree on what is right and wrong? It almost seems a hopeless case because it seems as though as long as people think for themselves and act as individuals, there will always be difference. We can only hope that someday a golden age will come where individuals can think for themselves and still think as one as far as good and evil.

Why do bad things happen to good people? One would like to believe that most people in the world are good people, but it's all chance. For all we know from the lies and secret identities of so many people, the truly good ones could be a precious few, so why do bad things happen to them? Instead, ask yourself, "should bad people get a second chance?" Everyone in this world has done a bad deed, whether it was something as tiny as a little white lie, or whether it was premeditated murder. This is a known fact. But it is also a known fact that people change. Sometimes after the evil has come and gone, there is a special person who can do well in and for the world, and all they need is that second chance. This topic has caused arguments such as life imprisonment and the death penalty, and not everyone in this world deserves that chance. My point is, good things can happen to people who have been bad their whole lives. So how does God even the scale? By making bad things happen to good people. I believe that life is full of tests, and it is how God can determine who the truly good people are in the world. Some of us become bad after one or many of these "tests". As I said, people change, and it's not always for the better. On the other hand, sometimes it is hard to believe that some of the bad things are done to test us or are done for a reason. Everyone has had a moment when they thought to themselves, "that person (or I) did not deserve what happened". And in some cases, they are right. One explanation is that of God's tests, one may be karma, and one may be that there is no God, and the only explanation is that shit happens.

I don't believe that the world will come up with universal definitions for good and evil in my lifetime; therefore I will act as I see fit, and do what I believe is right in a given situation. I will believe that bad things happen because that is life, and in order to properly appreciate whatever paradise comes after death, I must have my share of sufferings. All I can do is make the best of what I have, and make the best of whatever happens. To conclude I'd like to provide a quote that is one of my favorites. I don't know who the original creator is, but I read it strangely enough in a "Opus" Sunday comic strip.

"Life is what happens when you are making other plans."

Friday, October 19, 2007

Take one for the team

As an athelete, I watch a lot of sports. I am always seeing atheletes praying. Some teams pray as a group. Some pray to themselves when they score a run or a touchdown or a goal. I have prayed with my team mates as a team before games, and I have prayed quietly to myself before games or matches. When I see it happening, the question comes to my mind that everyone has asked themselves. Does God take sides? Does He root for a single team during the duels that attract so much public attention? My answer to this is, directly, no, but passively, possibly. It's a touchy subject, and a tough one to answer, and obviously no one knows for sure. I believe that God is involved, but He doesn't take sides.

God created all people. He must be equally good to all of us. Anyone who has ever played a sport has experienced victory, and also defeat. Loss may be more common in some sports than others, but where there is a winner in sports, there must be a loser. We can't always tie.

When a team wins, it is not because God was rooting for them. He is too powerful and present in all things to take sides in sports. That does not mean, however, that he is completely removed from the outcomes. God created some people with more natural athletic ability than others. He also created ones more natural work ethic than others. There are those that are naturally talented and "destined", if you will, to do well in sports. On the other hand, those whom He blessed with natural ability were often not blessed with the other characteristics needed to make a great athelete, and therefore waste their talents. The point is, those who have a good combination of the traits needed will more often then not experience victory more than defeat. Sometimes God places these atheletes with teams of people whom God did not bless. Other times the atheletes find themselves with a team of other atheletes like them, and everything clicks, and these teams go far. Sometimes it is the coach who gets blessed and is sent to change a group of atheletes who have what it takes, but don't know it. I could go on and on with different scenarios. Gods atheletes are the ones who do the most with what God gave them. He sets the mold, and from there it is up to His creation to decide how far they will go.

Another religious aspect of sports is the praying, and here God is also passively involved. God does not answer the prayer directly, but it is He who allowed prayer to bring hope and confidence to those who pray. Prayer in groups can inspire more team unity, and a team that acts more as one during competition has a better chance of winning. Those who pray individually often gain more hope and self confidence, traits that never hurt when playing sports. When one side has team unity, faith, hope, and confidence, and the other team lacks those things, it is easy to see which team will come out on top.

Religion helps in sports. I believe that is a fact. But it is not because of God directly that makes religion help. It is the people, the atheletes, who play do their upmost with what God gave them and have faith in themselves, their team, and in God who make religion a deciding factor in sports.

Monday, October 1, 2007


There is so much about Hinduism that is confusing me. Some of it I was able to grasp after many questions during last class, when we first began discussing it. I went into that class already with the belief that there were things about Hinduism that didnt make sense and contradicted itself. For example, one of Hinduism's beliefs is the belief in reincarnation. It is more complicated than just reincarnating, but this already is contradicted by the belief that once a person reaches the highest caste and dies, he/she goes on to heaven. There is the belief that many paths lead to heaven, but if we reincarnate, then there is no heaven.

Then there are things called castes, where, if you are born Hindu, you are born into a certain caste. If you recieve good karma through out that life, then you will be reborn into a higher caste, or ranking. But going back to the belief that all paths lead to heaven, what if that path involves being reborn as a Christian? What happens to the caste system then? This was a question I asked in class, and it was the answer I recieved that inspired this blog. I was told that it was the context, the perception of the various Hindu ways that allows Hinduism to make sense. To people who practice Hinduism, then it is easy to grasp that all paths lead to heaven and that all people have caste. The Christian perception, however, is that they have no caste. Come to think of it, it made sense then, but now going over it and trying to write about it a week later, it doesn't make sense anymore. It was the concept of this "context" of various Hindu ideas that intrigued me when it was told to me. One has to see through the eyes of a Hindu to understand it.

That shouldn't be the case. One should be able to understand these seemingly contradicting beliefs without being a Hindu. And why aren't there more Hindus who question these beliefs? That was a hypothetical question, because the answer is that some Hindus do question them. Gandhi questioned the concept of the "Untouchables" and also fought for the rights of Hindu widows.

Maybe I just need more time to learn the right way about Hinduism. Maybe I need to listen better to my Professor when he explains reasons behind things what I've been describing. I plan to pay much more attention to detail about whatever else I learn about Hinduism, because I know that somewhere there is a little fact, a little loophole or something that will suddenly make the religion click in my brain and answer all my questions. I haven't found it yet, but I think it will happen soon.

If anybody who reads this knows something about Hinduism that I don't, and feels they can explain it to me without being to angry at my ignorance, please, I invite them to leave a comment.