20 May 2007

Connections. And interdependence.

Something posted on Very Hot Jews has me thinking. Isn't it interesting how ideas flow from one blogger to another, and how you get inspired from the most unlikely places? For the last couple of days, I've been having trouble thinking of things to write about, coming up with ideas that aren't horribly depressing, (just because I am depressed does not mean that you ought to be too) or aren't things that I've written about 10,000 times before. Which is not to say that I shall ever tire of writing about women's rights and the abortion debate, I will not. But I do like traipsing around other topics, especially occasionally religion.

Please read the post on VHJ, because it is funny and poignant, very well written, relevant, and it will explain how I got where I'm going with my post. I'll wait. You can always hit the back button.

Most of the time, I do not think about religion too much. I don't identify as "Christian." I don't believe in the male Judeo-Christian God with-a-capital-G, Abba, Father. I tend to roll my eyes when I come across mention of faith, god, prayer, et cetera in popular culture. Not always, mind you, just most of the time. Especially when it is trite or forced, or it seems forced to me. That said, I do admire those who have a deep, abiding faith. I don't have faith myself, but I'm happy for you if you do. "That's nice," is my usual audible comment when someone tells me that their faith lends them strength, while in my head I'm usually thinking, "Whatever."

But my Catholic upbringing, whether I like it or not (and I don't) has shaped the way I view the world. As I said a few days ago, nearly 30 years of indoctrination and conditioning are not so easily tossed aside. I wish they were. Guilt, a vital part of that whole Catholic experience, sure would be nice to be able to throw that overboard. In Dogma, Salma Hayek has a great line, where she says of the Catholics, "You people don't celebrate your faith, you mourn it." So, so very, sadly, true.

I'm fascinated with religions that are not Catholic, as they're so far outside of my suburban hell, white-bread experience. My hometown, where I spent the majority of my formative years didn't have any Jewish kids. Nor Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu or anyone, really, that wasn't either Presbyterian or Catholic, in the hallways of the schools I attended. Ahhh, wait, that's not 100% true. In elementary school, I had a singular Jewish classmate who moved away when I was in 6th grade. And then in the latter part of high school, another singular Jewish classmate who became (and remains) a very good friend.

My first experience with the Islamic faith was a propaganda-laden film called "Not Without My Daughter," which stars Sally Field. I saw it on the telly in Sweden. I much prefer the Swedish title, Inte Utan Min Dottar, because of the alliterative sounds in it, but it means the same thing. The film frightened me to death, making me cautious even about the gentle Swedish guy I was dating at the time, that he could seemingly overnight turn into a vicious abusive monster. And to my 16 year old mind, since this was the only exposure I'd ever had to any Islamic anything, it followed that of course any man who practiced this faith was a violent, misogynist jerk. Oh, youth, to be forgiven thy follies. I have, of course, since come to realize how erroneous and offensive that viewpoint is.

Consequently, I've tried to read just about anything I can get my hands on about the varied faiths of the world, from The Tao of Pooh to far more serious tomes. I have yet to read the Koran, although it is on my list. I'm sure I will find it as interesting as I thought The Jewish Book of Why was.

At a funeral a few years ago for a friend of DH's family, the Methodist minister went on and on and on about how the Christian God was "better"than the God of the Islamists, the Jews, of any other deity that anyone believed in, which wasn't as valid as the triumvirate of Father-Son-Holy Spirit. When he (of course this was a male minister, silly) began this diatribe, I sucked in deep, irritated and offended breath. DH, who knows me so very well, tightened his grip on my hand in the pew and under his breath muttered, "Don't."

Not that I would have stood up and debated theology with that fool during a funeral service, but I certainly did want to! Or, what was far more likely, stood and shouted at him about what an idiot he is/was. Wanted to, yes, but didn't. At the wake, I took care to avoid the old gasbag, because it certainly wasn't the proper venue for such a debate.

How dull the world would be if we all followed the same faith, prescribed to the same set of beliefs. An essential part of our humanity is our uniqueness, the fact that every single person you meet has a different spin than you do on any issue you care to discuss. We depend very much on that which is 'other' and different from us to educate us, to change our worldviews. We are connected to those who are like us, but dependent upon those who are not. As VHJ said, "We need each other."


MotherMe said...

A turning point in my own views of religion was when this thought occurred to me: If any one of the worlds' religions was "right", or "better" than the others, there would not be so many different manifestations of faith. I think we concentrate far too much on our differences, and then justify how our own ideas are better than others'. I myself am quite guilty of this, intellectual snob that I am....



Lucy Arin said...


When that youth group that I belonged to started to insist that the Christian god was 'better' than anybody else's god, I was very confused. (I was also about 14.)

Didn't make too much sense to me then, still does not make sense to me now.

In some ways, I still fail to see the difference between the major monotheistic religions.

Mama and I used to say about the difference in cultures between the US and Sweden, "Not better, not worse, just different." That applies here, too, in spades.