Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Not Even All That Late Night Maunderings

You know I started a really long rant about how just believing in God doesn't necessarily mean anything but I'm not feeling it anymore so I deleted it.

My point, I think, was that it's not just enough to believe in God or gods or what have you. You can have an incredibly passive kind of faith in that way. After all, I believe in God but does that inform my life in any way?

I can tell you that at this point it really doesn't. It's not even as though it's an elephant in the room or something that I worry about very much. I know that I'm a better person when I believe, when I follow a religious path in my life. General *waves hands* belief doesn't do it for me in the long run. I actually forget about it and treat religion like an interesting though experiment. But it doesn't make me want to be better, for all it's inherent fascination when you're picking theology apart.

So for me, agnosticism (though what I've described really isn't agnosticism after all) doesn't really work. It leaves me *wanting*. I know that many people can live quite happily like this or without any faith at all and more power to them, right? But I need the framework of a religion in order to feel *correct*, I guess.

Then again, that brings me back to the always present issue....which one?

So far I've wavered mostly between Christianity and Islam. But neither feel right in the way I need them to in order to make a choice. Why not just choose the one that seems almost right? Well, but I did that when I converted to Catholicism and we see that I just eventually fell out again because I couldn't make it stick, mentally. I've no desire to do that again. And maybe I should take the 'feel' of things out of the equation, but what else are you supposed to go on when nothing seems factually more likely than anything else?

Arguments can be made for and against pretty much everything. When you choose a religion there must inherently be that leap of faith. Ha ha, see what I did there? LOL Okay it wasn't *that* punny. :P

Still, that leap has to be based on something, right? A feeling or the certain knowledge that what you're leaping to is correct. Lacking the knowledge of 'correctness' and the feeling of rightness, what am I supposed to do?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Who Do You Think You Are?

Every so often I get an urge to really get into my genealogy. My great-grandfather did a family tree (back before you could do such things on the internet) and my grandmother and now my mother became the keepers of it. So I even have a pretty good place to start.

Well the bug has bitten again, only this time I mean to do something about it. I joined Ancestry.com and they have this thing which I think is pretty neat where you can get your DNA tested and they'll tell you the genetic background of your family. As in, you're 50% Scottish, 10% German, 5% Native American, etc. etc.

I bought the kit for this, so now I'm just waiting for it to show up in the mail so I can spit in a tube and learn my past! Admittedly, on my mothers side there's not much mystery. We're German. So German. Much German. And some Czech. Maybe some Polish. But mostly German. So sayeth the Family Tree! And my grandmother, when she was alive, bless her So Very German soul.

But my father, for obvious reasons, is a mystery. I was always told his family was Scottish but his last name actually has an Irish...flavor to it, I guess? And honestly, who knows? Not me.

I'm actually kind of excited to find out where my genes come from, in broad strokes. And I'm working on the genealogy itself, as I get time. This coming weekend I'm going to dig out all the boxes of family stuff my mother has and lay claim to it for a while. The site is really interesting, even just knowing the couple of things I know off the top of my head I've found censuses from when my Grandmother was growing up and from my great-grandfather's childhood too. And they have a picture of my great-grandparents' headstone up in Ohio which I found pretty neat.

I'm not telling my mother about the DNA testing though. Couldn't tell you why, but I feel like I want to keep that private (as she posts about it on the internet for all and sundry to see). It'll be a couple of months anyway, between waiting to get the kit and then waiting for the results, but there you go. Aside from goggling at the idiotic kinds of books that get published and the people we have running for president, that's my new hobby.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

I want to write blogs (and fic) but I also want to continue mainlining Outlander....

So in lieu of a more in depth post, a question for any random wanderers in here.

Did Adam ever ask for God's forgiveness for the whole serpent/fruit debacle?

There's a thought process behind this question, I swear.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

You say 'Father' and I hear nothing good...

I sometimes feel like I'm beating a dead horse every time I come back to the concept of God as 'Father' and how it just does. not. work. for. me.

But here we are again.

I had a nightmare about my step-father last night.

Keep in mind that this is a man I haven't seen in more than a decade.

I haven't spoken to him in probably two years, even briefly.

I don't think about him...ever, really. Not as anything other than a thing that happened.

And I had a nightmare about him finding me last night.

That's what a 'father' is to me, at the end of it all. Someone to be afraid of, to try and appease their mercurial whims even when you know that no matter what you do, no matter how good you think you are, there will be some new and arbitrary rule that you missed and broke and that's when the screaming starts.

Or not. And the anger will still descend.

Just because.

There's no dissonance for me between the 'angry' God of the Old Testament and the 'loving' God of the New. Because fathers do that. They act loving and caring and 'no one else would have taken you in, made you their own, I chose you', one second and rain blood and terror on you the next.

I *get* the 'fatherhood' of God, I do.

But I don't want it.

It scares me.

Because 'father' is a frightening concept for me.

At least I have the comfort of knowing that eventually my step-father will die. One day he will overdose or drink himself to death or just flat out die and be gone.

Part of me will still be afraid of him. But he'll be dead.

So there's that.

God as father...it's an eternally angry, hovering presence waiting for me at the edge of my life. Because I will always be failing, somehow, always be waiting for that loving face to turn.

But - but you can ask God for forgiveness, and He will because He is merciful, right? Right.

Only I can't trust it.

I can't tell you how many times I said I was sorry for whatever random offense I had committed and was 'forgiven' only for it to come back later, still that hovering accusation of how terrible I was. Even now, knowing that I am no more terrible than any other person on the planet, that I was actually a terribly well behaved child - out of fear if nothing else, I know that forgiveness is something you can't trust.

Not from a father.

Other people, sure.

Father's are creatures outside of human understanding or control.


I listen to preachers talk about the love of God the Father and I assume that when they hold the idea of father in their minds it is a very different sort of father than the one I have.

I certainly hope so, I wouldn't wish mine on anyone.

At the end of it all though, it means that I can't be comfortable with a Father-God. I can't.

This confuses some people that I've tried to explain it to, they always want to point out the good male role-models I've had, and I've tried to take what they say and apply it, to look at my grandfather as an example of God the Father, or my mothers' husband, who is also technically my step-father, but is an actual good man. And it might work, for a while, but I can't undo decades of learned association, I guess.

I always come back to the image of the 'father' I grew up with. The one scarred into my soul.

And I can't fit the two things together with any sort of comfort.

I can't worship God as a 'father' when a father is a terrible thing to have.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

There are trees and then there's a Tree

I haven't posted in so long I figure this is going to be rather like speaking into the void. But here we are anyway.

I'm reading the Qur'an this Ramadan, and can I just take a moment to tell you how pleased I was when I discovered that my shiny new Qur'an indicates where it breaks into juz? I had a list printed and everything, which was a little annoying but you do what you must, and then I discovered this feature.

Shiny new Qur'an has many features. Yay shiny new Qur'an!

It's this one, in case you're curious: Al-Qur'an. 

So I'm reading the other night and I come across some verses in relation to Adam and Eve in the Garden. Now, the Qur'an is laid out differently from the Bible, and in many cases a story is revisited in different surahs throughout the Qur'an, spreading the details of the story out. Which, I admit, can get annoying when you're used to having the style of the Bible to look at. Story begins, story ends.

I know that there are more verses that deal with Adam and Eve and the 'fall', but this isn't about those, it's about the thought I had while reading these early verses. They're Surat al-Baqarah, 35-37. It's just a short little reference to a story that is familiar to most people. Adam and Eve are in the Garden and God tells them that they can eat from any of the trees therein. Except for this one.

In the Bible, it is called the 'tree of the knowledge of good and evil'. We see it in Genesis 2:16-17 and 3:1-7, generally speaking. There's obviously more to those chapters, but those are the verses that refer to the same incident. Here's a link to Genesis 2-3 for reference.

Now, having been raised in Christianity, more or less, I have always filled in the blank when reading Qur'anic references to this story and known that it was the Tree of Knowledge (because the whole name is long and I'm being a lazy typist). However, when I was reading these verses again, it struck me that the Qur'an doesn't spell any such thing out. One might infer it, given the stance that the Qur'an is there to correct mistakes in the previous revelations (mistakes by people, not God) or places where the stories have been corrupted. The fact that the Qur'an doesn't explicitly correct the attribution could be considered support for it or you could look at the fact that the Qur'an doesn't name the tree similarly to say that it was not, in fact, the Tree of Knowledge.

Adam and Eve do realize their nakedness after eating the fruit, which could be taken as another sign that this is the Tree of Knowledge, but it could also be taken that there was nothing special about the tree itself, knowledge wise, only that their first sin brought into possibility shame and other sins.

So. What I was thinking was, there are two different messages that are being presented here, depending on how you look at it. In the Biblical story, the prohibition with regard to the Tree was specifically because it was the Tree of Knowledge. There was also the Tree of Life, but there doesn't seem to be an edict not to eat the fruit of that one. One could interpret the prohibition to mean that knowledge is a part and parcel with sin.

I don't think most people do interpret it that way, or have historically, but it's a thought. I know plenty of people who wish to go back to what they view as the simplicity of the 'Garden times' and I could easily see some of them making this connection. Adam and Eve were happy and in line with God when they were ignorant. Then they gained knowledge (against God's edict) and boom. Everything went to pot.

On the other hand, you have the Qur'anic version of the story which makes no mention of the tree being anything other than a tree. Just a tree that God said not to touch. Which makes Adam and Eve's sin fairly straight forward. God said 'no', they did it anyway. Much simpler. God's not, in this story, even appearing to be wanting to keep them from knowing things as He is in the Biblical version.

There's a rule. They break it. They get punished and forgiven.

Does the Biblical story even mention forgiveness? There's a lot of punishment, a lot of blame going around, but I don't see or recall an explicit mention of Adam or Eve repenting and seeking forgiveness for their transgression.

In the Qur'an they do receive a punishment, they're put out of the Garden to live on/in the rest of the earth and life is much more difficult there, but they are also shown to look for God's forgiveness and to receive it.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

I'm Not Really a Responsible Adult. I Don't Even Play One on TV.

I keep meaning to get back to blogging, restart this blog, be myself again, but then I get distracted by a book or a show or I sit down to write and all I want to write about is angry things which is not what I really want to write about.

So I haven't done any of it.

Partially this is because I've been bad about taking my medicine like I should. Certainly my thyroid is not on the level of people who take prescriptions to keep them alive, though it is a permanent and degenerative autoimmune disorder. But if I forget to take my pill one morning it's not going to kill me or endanger me significantly. But it does throw me off. If I miss enough days or am off schedule enough I start to feel sick and cranky and irrationally out of control of my emotions. And I get to feeling like what I imagine depression feels like to some people. I don't want to do anything. I start to lack the energy to do anything but sleep.

Don't get me wrong, this is all my own fault. I know that I have a permanent health problem and I know what to do to maintain a base level of normalcy in my body. But sometimes I forget to do what I should, and since one of the side effects of my thyroid levels dipping in my memory gets worse, it's a slippery little slope.

But I'm being good and I'm feeling better, so inshallah, that won't be a problem anymore.

I've noticed that I'm angrier lately, and I'm not sure how much of that is just being out of whack hormonally and how much is that I've been without a solid religion for so long.

I know that there are plenty of people have no problem living without a faith to follow, but I suspect that I'm not one of them. Or maybe it's just a lingering disappointment in still not having a place to set my feet, so to speak.

Okay.

So I'll get back to the real posts soon, inshallah, but for now, a random observation.

There's a billboard that I pass sometimes that, unfortunately, is in a place I can't get a picture of. There's nowhere to pull over and get a shot of it and I'm not stupid enough to try and take a picture while driving. In spite of some extensive Googling I can't find an example anywhere. But let me tell you how amused I am at some of the billboards that *do* come up. And the fact that one of them is a Hobbit billboard.

Wait. Three. Three Hobbit billboards that Google thinks are about God.

*FOUR*. Google knows something we don't, people.

And one that tells people they can't hold hands with God while masturbating. Which...

I've got nothing.

It's got a sort of clouds and light background and the wording says, 'God is Lord and His is the Glory'.

Want to know what my first thought was, when I saw it?

'When did the Muslims get a billboard?'

I mean I've thought about it since then and I assume that it's actually another Christian billboard but the phrasing just feels so odd to me because I can't remember the last time I heard a Christian say 'God is Lord'. It's always 'Jesus is Lord'.

I really wish they'd put it in a better place so I could get a pic or put the name of their church on it somewhere. Of course it might be on it and I just can't see it because a) driving and b) there are trees.

Okay, end of randomness.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The First Rule of Religion Is...

...we don't talk about religion.

At least in my house.

I don't discuss it with my parents because they follow a distinctly....*waves hands in the air* version of Christianity. They *believe*, but know very little about their own faith.

I cannot tell you how many times I have had to point out/remind one of them that according to their beliefs God didn't just *send* Jesus, that Jesus *was* God. Or how many times I have to point out that the New Testament didn't just spring out of nothingness and that historical context is important to understanding what they're reading.

BUT NO. THEY *BELIEVE* AND THAT'S ALL THAT'S NEEDED.

Logic and reason need not freaking apply.

But I made the mistake on Thursday of talking about religion with my father. And it all boiled down to him telling me that I think too much, throwing out the old line about having the faith of a child and that I need to 'shit or get off the pot'.

*headdesk*

*headdesk FOREVER*

So.

I admit that the minute you start telling me that my *thinking* is getting in the way of God and that I need to be a child who just *trusts* and *believes* that you have lost me.

Because I think. It's what I do. I lack the emotional gullibility to just *believe*. I have seen no miracles. I have experienced no transcendent moments of faith. If I cannot think my way to a point then how can I be expected to believe it?

And I was never the child who just *trusted*. Maybe parents are supposed to be our models of that, they're supposed to be trustworthy so that we can have that blind, loving trust in certain things. But I grew up without parents who could be trusted. And I cannot remember ever blindly believing anything anyone told me. I'm sure there was a time. It's a thing that kids do. But for me that time is so far in the past, was so fleeting that it's as good as a non-event.

But really my favorite part of his argument for why I need to just believe so I can make my choice was that if *his* choice (though he swears he has reasons for belief that he can't explain to anyone) is right then I'm going to hell if I don't make the right choice. Implied, of course, being that it's the same choice that he made.

So we have, in my father's Christianity, this: don't think too hard and be afraid of going to hell.

Yeah.

I can't imagine why none of this appeals to me.
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