Friday, December 23, 2016

Losing Your Religion? Consider an Upgrade!

A Short Primer for the Spiritually Conflicted

When you subscribe to a belief system that suggests, in an infinite universe spanning an infinite number of worlds on an impossible-to-know number of galaxies, that nothing has changed in *infinitaliauries, inevitably you're going to encounter a few problems. No one will hold it against you if you find yourself wondering whether or not you should upgrade your religion.

To determine if upgrading is the right choice for you, ask yourself the following questions:
  • What are the risks of keeping everything the same?
  • Will upgrading solve my problems? 
  • Do I know how to perform this upgrade?
  • Is it worth it to replace parts?
*infinitanliauries:  portmanteaux of "infinite millenia & centuries." When discussing certain concepts, sometimes it is necessary to make up new words. See also Chapter 2, "The Crux of the Biscuit is the Apostrophe," search term "giraffe filled with whipped cream," Chapter 4, "Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast," search term "Jabberwocky," all of Chapters (Prince symbol) through 😭 and in fact most of the rest of the book.
What are the risks of keeping everything the same?

Decent people don't act like assholes in the name of God. Put simply, if your thousands-of-years-old religion's definition of decency requires you to gather regularly and hold hands with other decent people so you can hate better, then you will almost definitely encounter a great many problems navigating 21st century America.

Let's consider an analogy: how old is your phone? When you got that phone, what were your reasons for upgrading from your old phone? Now consider relevance of "the moral code you renew each day and defend with your life" just as, if not more important than, your phone. If your phone is, say, ten years old, your whole world is at risk of becoming obsolete, is it not? And when you get your new phone, does it come with a manual for the abacus, an ancient device Wikipedia agrees came into use in 500 BC or definitely for sure 1300 AD...citation needed?

Whether it's your phone or your bible, at some point that lifeline in your hand is just too old. What had once been ideal no longer works. Your friends can't connect with you anymore, the platforms you are accustomed to using will no longer be supported even by those who created them, and eventually your operating system will be rendered obsolete. Stubbornly wishing that everything still worked exactly the same way after so much time has passed is pure folly.

Will upgrading solve my problems?

If you are becoming ashamed, embarrassed or outright appalled by the terrible way your peers treat people that do not attend your same exact house of worship, or do not live, act, talk or look just like you, then that means you're actually a decent person. You're not using your religion as a cudgel with which to bludgeon 325 million other Americans into playing a massive national game of "Monkey See, Monkey Do" with you. Your heart, as they say, is in the right place. What do you do about it? You have several options.

If you're simply enduring the occasional pang of guilt for ostracizing members of your own family, friends and total strangers that have nothing whatsoever to do with you, and if you've run out of excuses to justify the behavior of your peers and leaders, then the problem can probably be solved by swapping out the components that no longer work.

Other issues have more complicated solutions that may extend further than a basic part swap can fix. For example, if the only reason you don't go around bashing people in the face with a beer mug is because there's a religious book that says not to do that, then it may be that you lack the necessary empathy for all living things, or you may have insufficient education, are gripped with some vague kind of general rage, or are experiencing a combination of all three. Solving this problem with an upgrade may not be possible. Professional help is strongly recommended.

Do I know how to perform this upgrade?

Upgrading can be as simple as, for example, for those of the numerous Christian organizations that use the bible as their manual, retiring Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Or it may be as complex as finding another religion altogether. Always research a potential upgrade beforehand to determine if it's feasible given your family situation, where you are living, and your level of comfort with embracing a new belief system. If you become enraged every time someone merrily wishes you "Happy Holidays!" then please do start small.

Sample Exercises
Teach your kids the "do unto others" bit.  
Push Commandments 2, and 5 through 10, as those are a great start for kids in terms of a general guideline on how to not be an asshole. Swap out 1, 3 and 4 for those "Goofus and Gallant" comics in Highlights Magazine. 
Discuss with your peers how the bible specifies the exact same punishment for eating bacon as it does for homosexuality. So next church breakfast, observe in a loud voice how odd it is that nobody is actually getting smote down into a slurry of pork and flannel. Maybe you could pass the maple syrup along with a mildly worded suggestion that you congregates all ease the hell up on the gays.
Is it worth it to replace parts? 

While replacing parts can give you peace of mind for now, you will still be a card-carrying member of a group that supports all the name-calling, the spitting on and the beating and killing. Ignoring those bits may not take you quite far enough towards inner peace, especially when your Facebook and Twitter are filled with smug memes twisting your beloved scripture passages into captions justifying this week's horrific newsfeed. Don't be hard on yourself for having doubts. You love God, and you've read your bible cover to cover, but you're pretty sure that a tragic mass murder at a gay nightclub isn't any kind of fulfilled prophecy. Who do you talk to about fixing that?

In the Deuteronomy example, the scripture that is widely interpreted to be condemning homosexuality, it reads "Their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps." (Deut. 32:33). But, soft! In recent centuries, the church has swapped out "dragons" for "serpents," lest anyone suspect that this is just a book written by well-meaning thinking people who were using the best information they had available to them in their time and place in history.

Who did they ask before deciding that the "dragons" bit was what needed fixing?

Did they ask the cartographers who'd replaced "Here Be Dragons" on the map once they actually went there and dragons?

Next time they tweak the language, probably to upgrade "serpents" to "snakes," maybe it would be a good idea to consider taking some suggestions about one or two other changes. Isn't there a suggestion box?

Upgrading your religion is a pretty big decision...

You can't decide today. You're so used to hating your neighbor by now that you can't figure out when you learned to do that. You can't remember pooping your Underoos, either, but you un-learned that. You can un-learn hate, too. You'd have plenty of support if you want to try. What if you're happier? What if you take down your self-imposed fence, talk to your neighbor and find out you have everything in common except the deity you were taught to worship, or your skin color or some other thing that happened to you arbitrarily based on happenstance of birth? The worst that could happen is you find out you still don't care for that guy, but for a real reason, like maybe he doesn't recycle or he introduced you by name personally to each of his Chia Pets, in which case, sure, build a real fence and keep an eye out for weird goings on next door. But the best thing could happen, too: fellowship, in the best sense of the word.

Area Photographer Plagued By Nightmares
"I guess I was absent the day Sister Eileen taught us God Hates Fags," says local photographer, raised Catholic, name withheld out of fear of the blond kid in the red shirt.