Archive for February, 2007

Prayer circle

The way I see it, you don’t need to be in any religion to care deeply when someone’s mother is very ill. A dear friend of mine is caring for her mother, who is very ill with cancer, and she has asked for me to send my best thoughts and prayers so that her mother will be less afraid. I plan to do that, but I thought I’d use this blog for an unusual personal request.

If anyone who reads this blog could find it in their hearts to pray for my friend’s mother, I would appreciate it and I know that she would too. It’s not fair, this stupid cancer thing, and I’d feel much better if I knew that more than just little agnostic me would be pulling for her. I don’t know why this stuff happens but I feel inadequate in the face of it.

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Ignorance is…well, it’s something.

Part of the fun of being an agnostic is being wildly ignorant of things that others are well versed in. What’s a communion veil? What’s Ash Wednesday again? How does that whole salvation business work again? But on occasion, the ignorance of the agnostic works against her. For example, an agnostic who gets all excited about visiting a synagogue would do well to remember that the Jewish holy day is Saturday, not Sunday. She would also do well to remember this before, say, Saturday evening.

Having done nothing of the sort, I missed my opportunity to visit the Jews this week. So instead, I visited the Catholics. More on this soon, except to say that what with Ash Wednesday this past week, it was probably a better choice. Right then! Catholics ahoy!

Next church

I’ve bagged on the esoteric church for the time being, because I’ve been going to all Christian churches and I don’t want to be so one-note. So this Sunday, I’m planning to go to a synagogue. I’ve never been to any Jewish anything, not a service or a seder or even Shabbas dinner. But Judaism is the forerunner of Christianity and I’m looking forward to learning more about it.

Any Jews out there who would like to tell me the basics so I don’t make a fool of myself? I think it’s remarkable that I’ve reached the ripe old age of 30-mumble and I’ve never even set foot in a synagogue.

Reason #7: The Bible

In a comment below, Tom G. asks a fine question: How’s my Bible reading coming? It’s a good question, since I’m questing a great deal about religion and thus far, my blog has explored several Christian churches. At the moment, I’m not reading the Bible, although I have been reading a lot about all religions.

This actually leads me to another reason that traditional religion has never worked for me. This may seem personal to Christianity, but don’t worry, it applies to Judaism too. That reason has to do with the Bible. Before I explain, though, everyone should keep in mind that nothing I say is intended to denigrate or question others’ beliefs in said Bible. For others, it’s a sacred text and my comments should be read as my own take on that text, not the sacredness of that text for others. I should have a special font for these disclaimers I spill out from time to time.

Anyhoo, the Bible. Here’s the thing. I haven’t read all of it, so feel free to whip several grains of salt at what I say. I have, however, read other ancient texts as well as the Bible. In an ancient Near East history class with Professor Eva Von Dossow at the University of Minnesota, I read “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” a story that predated the Bible but contains a story that’s remarkably similar to the story of the Flood. It is significantly different in several details, but it is definitely the same story.

Similarly, there are Sumerian texts I remember reading, in which one king or another (I took this class in 2001) claimed to have been found in a basket that had drifted down the river. I don’t know whether these texts predated the Bible or assumed written form at the same time as the Bible, but the point was that these were very similar stories that showed up in different forms with significant differences.

Is that the whole of my point? Why, no, I’ve gotta go on a smidgen more. The remainder of my point is that I saw numerous examples of this, where similar stories showed up over and over in different cultures and at different ties in history, with shifts in names, details, and even meaning. To me, this suggests that stories are recycled and reinterpreted according to the needs of the culture that encounters it. (This happened with Greek myths, Sumerian tales, Egyptian texts, and other cultures whose names I can’t remember because the final for this class is long over.)

For this reason, I have trouble treating the Bible as truly different from other texts that existed at the same time or other stories that circulated prior to written records. I don’t deny it as a source of wisdom, but when the same processes affected the Bible as other texts and stories I have a hard time accepting it as sacred above those texts and stories. Why, when one story is so similar to another, is one sacred while the other is just an old tale?

Sigh.

Relapse. Thanks for all your well wishes. I will be well tomorrow. I have spoken.

Spirit United

The church I’m heading to Sunday is called Spirit United. I’ll add more to this later, but this ought to be interesting.

Ahhhh.

I think we can all agree that colds, nasty winters, and sprained knees are no fun. But it sure is fun to recover from them. I feel better and I feel kind of giddy about that. Next up: Sleeping well at night and minimal nose-blowing! Hee.

Anyway, enough about the healing power of TV and slacking off. I looked a little further into the idea of a mystery religion, since that was mentioned in the Wikipedia entry about esoteric Christianity. Wikipedia suggests that early Christianity may have originally been a mystery religion, which revealed secret knowledge to initiates, that eventually departed from that form to become what it is today.

Religion often interests me because it is also unrevealed history. Leaving aside the parts of it that are sacred to its followers, every religion is also history. Whatever happened to inspire Muhammad to dictate the Koran, there were events that surrounded it, followed it, and even obscured it or shaped it. I believe the same is true of every religion, even if there are many adherents who wish to deny that because of the difference they see between historical time and sacred time. But most of that history is clouded by the amount of time that has passed and the interpretations of those events that have sometimes obscured what “really” happened.

What happened to Noah’s Ark? What was the point of Macchu Picchu? Why do the Mayans think the world will end in 2012? This is my point. At some point, history is a mystery, and that’s part of the appeal for me.