America and Religion

Yesterday, across all networks the story was repeated over and over that 24% of Americans believe Barack Obama is a Muslim.

Upon reading this I really had to fight the urge to bash my head into my keyboard.  I usually try to refrain from causing myself bodily harm but the onslaught of stupid news is causing me tremendous mental damage.  It looks like I will have to go re-read my previous post “Mind Control” in order to remain sane.

I have so many thoughts about this that this post is practically jumping from my fingertips and the keyboard struggling to respond to the furious typing.  It may be difficult to write a clean, neat post with all the ends tied up so I’ll promise you this.  I won’t even try.  It is going to be more of an opinion dump but I’ll do my best to keep things clear.  So, let’s start simple.

1. Separation of Church and State

– In theory, it really shouldn’t matter what the religion of the president is as we have separation of Church and State in this country.  However, that is a pipe dream.

We all very well know that the public expects the President to be “Christian” and it would be impossible to win the presidency unless the contender explicitly promises the public that he in fact is.  The caveat is, he must make his decisions independently from any religious institution as the power he holds is supposed to come from the people and not any specific institution.

But why is this and what is it that people fear from religious institutions.  Now, that is a pretty good question for a Ph. D candidate and I would love to read a dissertation on the matter.  But I am no Ph. D but believe I have a general idea.

I think it all relates back to England and the split from the Roman Catholic Church during Henry V’s reign.  Henry did not like being told what to do from the man in the pointy hat who resides in Rome.  So, he made himself the head of the Church of England and everyone had to follow the king.  As the founders of America were English, they too had no mind to give any power what-so-ever back to Rome.

But according to Wikipedia, The Church of England considers itself to be both Catholic and Reformed (Protestant).  As both of these religious groups share many of the same ideas it’s not a huge deal to try and find the differences except for one.  That difference is the powerful “reformists” prefer to not grant any authority to the Pope.

So, fast forward from then until now, we have always had “WASP” Presidents (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant Males) except for one, JFK.  The fact that JFK was a Catholic caused quite a stir as many Americans were afraid the Pope would gain more influence in the USA with Kennedy.  Looking at the state of religion in Latin America (where the Pope does retain influence) the elite members of society were pretty concerned.

And look what happened to JFK (Enter conspiracy theories).  Then we return to the WASPS for a while until President Obama.  Given his exotic childhood people have their concerns and he does not fit the lock-tight WASP model.  Can you guess which letter does not apply to Obama?

However, Obama attended a “Christian” church and professed his faith very clearly a couple of times but many Americans still have their doubts.  This leads me to my next point “What is a Christian?”

*Side Note: Imagine how we feel when we hear that the country is an “Islamic Country.”  Most Americans would then get on their high horse and point out that we have separation of Church and State, and how “advanced” we are.  But when it comes to our own President, he better well be Christian.  If we look at “Islamic” countries with distrust, I wonder if citizens of those countries would feel the same way towards America in terms of religion.  After all, we do demand that the President be Christian, so to say that there is a separation is a bit silly.

2.  What is a Christian?

There was a decent article in USA Today called “Who, exactly, is a ‘Christian’?  Obama?  You?

They point out some interesting facts in that all of us “Christians” think the other “Christians” may not actually be a “Christian” or have got it all wrong!

If I were to ask a normal American “Christian” what they thought of the Eastern Orthodox Religion, I wonder what kind of answers I would get.  I’m sure I would be met with a blank stare.  I would half expect them to call the priests in the picture above Muslims!

In fact, that might not be a bad idea.  Let’s release this picture to the general public and take a poll.  I’m quite certain that 35% of Americans would identify them as Muslims.  This is just to point out how I feel about polls and the opinions of a third of the population.

So what exactly is a Christian?  Do all “Christians” believe other sects, denominations etc are equally as “Christian as them?  The answer to that is probably a resounding no, or a very weak yes.

For example, if we compare Evangelicals and Catholics, I’m certain that Catholics would feel superior due to the authority of the Roman Catholic Church and the Evangelicals would think the Catholics to be mindless sheep who really do not feel passion when worshiping God.

The Catholics would look at the Evangelical and believe them to be in complete disarray with no direction, simply homegrown countryside bumpkins who like to shout and jump around in Church.  Where is the ORDER people!?  You can’t just construct a building, call it “House of Holy Salvation of the Divine Angel” and get any respect!

Then the Evangelical would look at the Catholics and disapprove of their boring, repetitious way of worship and think that is no way to really feel the joy that Jesus is supposed to bring.  The would see a kind of corporation directing their “flock” to the grinding mill every Sunday and see no passion in that service at all!

Now, let’s go deeper into the Catholic Religion.  This is worth a complete library of research but for lack of time let’s just get to the point.  The Catholic Church has its own divisions.  It has: Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits, Benedictines and so on and so on.  In fact, there are well over 300 according to Wikipedia and I’m sure that is not even close to a complete list.  So, I ask, which one is the right one to belong to?  Is there a right one?  Are they all equal or do some look down on others?

Now, coming back out of the Catholic Church, we have all different types of “Christians” – Baptists, Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, Shakers, Quakers, Lutherans, Methodists etcetera etcetera.

Well, I’ve bored myself with all the different divisions in Christianity, but I can tell you that each one will not believe they are equally “Christian” as the other denominations.  In short, their denomination is right and all the others are wrong.

The answer to what is a “Christian” is simply one who follows Christ.  (Christ – ian).  That’s it!

So, if Obama “follows Christ” then he is a Christian.  The issue is that a small portion of Americans do not believe him.  And even if they did, he is probably not following the right one, unless it is considered “Protestant.”  Then we will have all the divisions with those that call themselves “Protestant” and none of the denominations will satisfy this small portion of Americans.

3. Are you a “good” Christian?

What a
question!  This might be very hard to answer in that if you do not belong to the ‘right’ denomination then you can still be a Christian but just in the wrong group.  Which is the correct group?  Well, the one I’m in,,,, unless of course I’m you, then it is the one you are in.  But I’m not you, I’m me, ergo, you are wrong.

How stupid, how mundane!  If we were to really ask this question of the population, they may try to dodge the question unless we really pin them down on scripture.  Then they would refer to their denomination’s “authorized” scripture and repeat from that.  Which would make all the others wrong, strictly speaking.  Then they would feel uncomfortable and not want to discuss it anymore.

Since we are uncomfortable confronting each other, let’s just confront ourselves for fun.  Do we really even know that much about our own religion?  This brings me to my next point along with a personal story.

4.  How well do we know our own Religion?

To start off, I’ll give you the answer; Not very well.

I had the pleasure of taking a trip to Ireland with my family.  I was under the assumption that it was simply a vacation but I was mislead!  In fact, it was a PILGRIMAGE!!!  My family knew I would have reservations with hanging out in Ireland with a bunch of old church ladies so they conveniently skipped that detail.  Yet, it turned out to be wonderful and I learned a lot.

I would say the best thing I got out of that trip were discussions with a very intelligent priest.  At that time, I had read too much and had a lot of questions.  I was also starting to break free from the authority of priests and starting to think for myself.  As I was developing into an adult, I had started to think of many priests (not all – some were good) as almost adolescent, undeveloped aberration of men.  I started to see them from the eyes of an adult and saw how incomplete they were.  Yet, they asked me to call them “Father!”  (I’ll return to language and it’s usage later on)  In fact, quite a few had been suspected of pedophilia and had left the church.  So, my opinion of priests was not good at this time to say the least.

But, the priest who was directing this pilgrimage, was very intelligent and I respected him for a number of reasons.

1. He spoke Gaelic
2. He played the SPOONS!
3. He had no problems drinking a few pints with me
4. He was an academic.  No more of “It’s a mystery” nonsense, this guy had actual answers!
5.  He did not try to duck any of my questions and we could be open.
6. He became frustrated with some members in that they really didn’t know much about the faith they adhered to.  He said “Study your faith people!”  To me, this was refreshing in that the history and theology of the Catholic Church really is fascinating, but unfortunately, church is often filled with the same old boring readings and absolutely NO academic inquiry.  Just a blind following of whatever happened to be uttered from the priests mouth.

On one of the first nights, I was very surprised that he agreed to come to the bar with us and seemed enthusiastic about it.   There was a band and after ordering our pints of Guinness we sat down to listen.  He pulled out his spoons and was just itching to get up and play with the band.  And get up and play he did!!  This was a priest unlike any other I had ever met!

Afterwards we were walking back we started to get into a religious discussion.  I forget all the points but about halfway in I decided to blow this conversation wide open.

Me: Father, why are you Catholic?
Father:  It is what I believe (this was the standard answer I was used to getting)
Me: Father (I hate using that word, but out of respect I stuck with the standard)  Did you go to a Catholic grade school?
Father: Yes
Me: Did you go to a Catholic High School?
Father: Yes
Me: I would venture to say you even went to a Catholic College
Father: Yes, I went to (insert, I forgot the name)
Me:  Then Father, how did you think you would turn out?  Buddhist?  You were told your whole life to be Catholic and that is what you became!  How can you be so certain that it is the correct religion when that is the path the majority of people will take?  They will simply follow the religion that their parents and grandparents were!?  You ask a lot of interesting questions about your own faith, but are stuck within these parameters and have never even given a though to venturing outside them!

Enter alcohol infused haze and I cannot recall how the rest of the conversation went.  I was just pretty amazed at myself for having asked such a question when up until that point, I would never have dared to.  The only other thing I can remember is I asked him about the Masonic Order and what he knew, but he really didn’t have any information that I didn’t already know.

The point of all this is here was a priest that was not afraid to reach into the depths of Catholicism and explore as far as it will go.  Again, I had never met a priest as academic as he was.  He left an impression which left me wanting more information.

5. Diving into Christianity

Again, how well do we know our own faith?  I’d like to share with you a few examples that were very eye opening for me and provide some answers.  These are not answers that will solve the ultimate mystery but they are fascinating none the less.

I’ve met very few people who actually question their own religion.  They are told x is representative of y and ask no questions.  As for me, I ask questions, I want to know!  I’m not sure how I came to discover these things but I’m sure it was a mix of my travels and readings.  As for books, I can’t quite recall which book I read but I’m sure it was something like this (Religions of the World: Illustrated Guide To Origins, Beliefs, Traditions and Festivals).  I’m not sure how many examples I can come up with but lets give it a shot.

a.) The Cross is More Powerful Than the Sun

One of the most interesting things I learned is that the ancient religions always worshiped the Sun.  As Christianity spread the duty of the priests was to convert the locals.  To help with this, they placed their religious symbols in front of the sun.

If you have ever seen a Celtic cross, you will notice a circle around the cross.  This symbolizes the cross being in front of the sun and therefore the cross is more powerful than the sun.

Therefore, it conveyed to the locals that the priest’s religious imagery was more powerful than their own.  Make a symbol, put your own in front of the local symbol and automatically it is more powerful.

In Mexico, the most powerful image is La Virgen de Guadalupe.  Again, we can see that Mary has been placed in front of the sun.  But why is this?  The truth is the Spanish were very merciless with the natives and killed so many.  To win them over a miracle was necessary.

The story goes, that a native “Mexican” Juan Diego actually saw Mary and she spoke with him.  There are different versions to the story but some say he healed Juan’s uncle and at other another time presented him with roses to prove he was not lying (Roses did not grow in Winter, when she appeared).  In short, his uncle got better and local priests believed Mary had appeared due to the roses he presented them with.  Now, let’s pay attention to what she said:

“I shall be there to listen to your cries, your sadness.  I shall be there to cure your grievances, Your misery, your sufferings.”

But we have to ask ourselves, who was causing these “sufferings.”  Well, it was the Spanish who just happened to be the same people who brought the Catholic religion to Mexico!  So, the same people that were causing these horrible sufferings also brought the solution with the Virgin Mary and converted an entire empire.

Also, we notice an “aura” around the Virgin Mary.  The Aztecs worshiped the sun and again we follow the same formula of putting a Christian symbol directly in front of the sun to make it more powerful.  It would not do well to put the cross in front of the sun because that is the symbol the Spanish used and they were the ones killing everybody!  Therefore, it is much better to put a delicate, caring “mother” which would take care of the people that her religion was directly responsible for killing the locals!

Spanish Cathedral

To make matters more interesting, those humongous cathedrals you will find in Spain were directly financed by gold plundered from “The New World.”  That is to say, they were funded by exterminating a group of people and taking their gold to build something religious.  How is that for irony?

People are praying in a building funded by the blood of native Americans and praying for peace!!

b.) Festivals

How well do we know our own festivals?  Why is it that Christmas falls directly on the Winter Solstice?  The dates are both on December 25th.  Then, we have Easter falling directly on the Spring Equinox!  And why is it that we use Easter bunnies to also commemorate this holiday?  The reason is the ancient people saw the rabbit as a sign of fertility.  So, killing two birds with one stone, it is very convenient to have Jesus rise at the same time of the Spring Equinox.  Then, mixing traditions we throw in the Easter Bunny.

In fact, use any “Christian Holiday” and you will find it has replaced a more ancient holiday.  Why is this?  Because the local population was used to celebrating at that time and to encourage them to convert, Christianity had to create a holiday at the exact same time.  This made things easy.

Now, does any of this matter?

For many, the answer is no.  They were simply taught to believe in Christianity because their parents and their parents before them did so.  They work themselves into a tizzy with no understanding of why things are the way they are.  For some, the euphoria of telling yourself something is true and getting yourself excited about it is enough!

c.) The Cult of Osiris

This is going to be a very long post and for those of you looking for parallels between Christianity and other religions, it would do you well to take a look at the Egyptian, “Cult of Osiris.”  Osiris also rose from the dead and there are many other similarities.  In the tradition of replacing old religions with the Christian teaching we cannot fail to examine this one.  It seems Christ wasn’t the only one to rise from the dead.

6. Language

The language of Christianity has been refined over many centuries.  If we were to truly understand, then we would have to study Aramaic which was the language of Jesus.  But instead, most of us only have English to go on and therefore that is what we use.

One aspect that has always irked me is the submissive nature of the language of the church.  We are expected to refer to priests as “Father” and he refers to the rest of us as his “flock.”  In the language alone, we submit to the priest’s authority.

Why is this?

In the past, the priest was the learned, the one who could read.  He was more intelligent then the rest of the population and a leader.  Now, that a good part of the population have attended University and perhaps studied more than the priest, this use of language might not fit so well.  I highly doubt the priest calling a layman “father” since it is only supposed to work one way.

The priest often refers to his subordinate as his “son.”  As I mentioned earlier I have no use for these dysfunctional, shells of men referring to me as their son.  We can have an intelligent discussion if we are on equal ground and respect can still (sometimes) be due but let’s dispense with this “Father/Son” nonsense.

The reason people still use it is because that is how they were taught.  They were told not to question and that the priest is the authority.  No questions.

Further, to add a bit of “sanctity” to the language, some still speak with terms such as “Thou, thee, thine,” such as “Thine is the Kingdom of God.”  This does nothing more than create a false sense of “holiness” to the language, as though it is superior than speaking in the common tongue!

Most people do not use those types of words, and therefore, if one is able to use it, it might seem superior to the less educated and thus more powerful.  The truth is, it does absolutely nothing than make the speaker sound silly.

7. The Usefulness of Christianity

Academics and those that study history always take the fun out of the party.  They deflate what people have taught themselves to believe.  But does this mean their passion does not serve a purpose?  The answer is no.

We as humans are not very good at taking care of each other.  We look to our own needs first and to be honest treat each other very poorly.  The fact is we need a guide to tell us to behave because the truth is we are not very good at doing it on our own!

Religion fills a void, it provides a road map on how to behave and treat one another.  The instruction is very clear which is simply “Love Each Other.”  Yet, even with a very clear teaching, we still have trouble doing this!!  We look to the scripture to find reasons to kill and hate.

Going back to Barack Obama, what those people are looking for is a reason to dislike the President and hate!  We humans are very good at twisting very simple teachings and the reason that people are calling Barack Obama a Muslim is they want to find a reason to dislike him, I daresay to HATE him!

Therefore, they use religion which tries to teach us to love and being a typical human use it in a perverse way and to hate.  How despicable!  How low and base!!  Only human beings could take something so simple and turn it completely on it’s head!

With the lessons above about the origins above, the fact is, they really do not matter.  Sure they are good things to know, but they have absolutely no influence on the core teaching which is simply to love.  I used the examples above to prove to people how little they know about religion and to provoke a bit of shame.  How dare they use religion, which they know very little about, to provoke hate, which is the exact opposite of the main point religion is trying to co
nvey!!!!  How stupid, how silly and how shameful!

As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, reading a new article stating that a third of Americans believe Obama is a Muslim is simply stupid.  These are people that are looking for a reason to hate and by turning Obama into something he is not gives them this right.  The irony is their own religion teaches them to love yet, the purposefully seek out a reason do the opposite.


By Mateo de Colón

Global Citizen! こんにちは!僕の名前はマットです. Es decir soy Mateo. Aussi, je m'appelle Mathieu. Likes: Languages, Cultures, Computers, History, being Alive! \(^.^)/