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Baltimore - 23 April, 2000 - We come to the end of a week in which two religions which have shaped much of Western culture and society, Judaism and Christianity, commemorate stories central to their messages. Both deal with the blood of lambs, one an actual lamb, the other a figurative one. Both deal with sacrifice and redemption. With the Passover and Easter rituals an affirmation of these faiths is confirmed. Both are about givers of law and covenant. What I have tried to contemplate this weekend is how these sets of laws and convenants were made with the self-same God, while the results are different.
Part of my philosophical problem is that, despite my best efforts, my upbringing, and the fact that I have many, many friends who practice Judaism and Catholicism with sincere belief and involvement, I have always remained a confirmed agnostic. I simply don't believe we humans have the capacity to understand or apprehend the nature of a Supreme Being, the Force behind the Universe, or the Prime Spark. I just don't.
I think we are too incapable and too brutish simultaneously. I think we think too highly of ourselves. As I have said over the years, dogs can hear sounds that we can't and detect smells far better. If our brains are handicapped on that elemental a level, how we can trust our beliefs about the Universe and Creation?
Dogs are not the smartest creatures on the planet, after all. They're mostly stupid enough to believe that anyone of us who feeds them is the best thing since sliced bread. Want to feel like you're wonderful? Buy a dog. Want to feel like you're insignificant? Buy a cat.
FEED THE HUNGRY. You can help someone else in this world and IT WON'T COST YOU A DIME. If you simply remember to drop by The Hunger Site every day that you surf and click a simple button ONE LESS PERSON WILL GO HUNGRY. The food is distributed by the United Nations World Food Programme and paid for through the sponsorship of companies that care. Do your part.
Over the past several days I have watched Dreamwork's "Prince of Egypt," and MGM's "The Greatest Story Ever Told." I was searching for some reason to accept these stories. It is not the philosophical or ethical underpinnings which I find so disturbing or off-putting, but that central to the acceptance is the belief in burning bushes, plagues, seas parting, walking on water, raising from the dead, the bodily resurrection of one poor man who has to be the son of God.
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Event # 212: HONOR THE LAMB
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Even when I want to accept everything else, this bombardment of "miracles" puts me off. Why is it needed if the core issues could stand on their own merit?
The miracle glut is not my *only* problem certainly. I find the tenets advocated in Deuteronomy and Leviticus enough to make Judaism morally reprehensible, if we are to take it as a whole cloth, for any rational person. And Christianity embraces all of these while also providing us a "new" testament in which love and compassion are the central themes of the Master, but his apostles focus on tests of faith and the Apocalyse, the torture of non-believers.
"Honor the Lamb," my note to myself, scratched three-quarters of the way down a blank, yellow sheet on the legal pad said. That brings us here.
You will recall that I was a Religion major. Unlike most people suspect, I did not study a religion. My concentration was in the historical-critical approach to religion. What that means is that, while studying the texts upon which various religions are based, I also studied the historical contexts from which they sprang.
What *that* means is my interest was in WHY people created the religions they did.
It's the why that is always more important to me than the what. You don't understand a crime if you don't comprehend its motive(s.)
What conclusion did I reach this past week, watching films about religions (I also watched "Sodom and Gomorrah," both the silent and recent versions of "Ben Hur," the silent film "Noah's Ark,") what did I learn?
Not a lot.
I have always known that Marx was partially right about religion being the "opiate of the masses." De Sade said much the same thing a century earlier in his novel Justine; his thesis was that the Church, State, and aristocracy were using religion to keep the peasants subservient and docile, they never paid much attention to it themselves.
I have also accepted that having the belief in some watchful eyes, the Lord and angels and all that, taking a personal interest in one's life provides lot of people with comfort. That's why people are so ecstatic about the notion of their "personal relationship" with God --- especially charismatic Christians.
I know that for many people its a frightening thing to face that we are all alone in the Universe and that the Universe is completely indifferent to our personal well-being. The word "crutch" comes to mind when thinking about religion in these terms.
I am simply left with my question: Why is the miracle glut needed if these stories and ideas could stand on their own? I would have accepted a good idea based on little more than the blood of a lamb...
THINGS THAT BOTHER ME THIS WEEK1. Budgetting time to learn new software.
2. Wanting to read more books. My backlog is piling up, literally, again.
3. Two out of town road trips, two days apart.
4. Trying to decide if I should go back "home" to California.
5. That certain graphics show up in my "test" runs of these pages in iCab and Netscape, but never in Internet Explorer.
Thanks for coming back this week.
"Work like you don't need the money,
"Love like you've never been hurt,
"Dance like no one is watching..."
This is another Web site made on a Macintosh.
ROD AMIS has published this magazine since 1990. It first appeared as a hardcopy 'Zine. In March, 1996, he launched it here on the Web. Rod was a Contributing Editor at Suite101.com, where he wrote the " 'Net Publishing" feature. His work has been featured in the San Francisco Bay Guardian Online, NRV8, and at WebLab's Reality Check site. Rod was also a contributing writer on technology for Faulkner Information Services.
Rod was a columnist for the Andover News Network, where he wrote over two hundred articles on web design and development issues. He is principal writer and Editor for IT Manager's Journal, where he reviews technology issues weekly. His opinions on the Info Age began appearing on MethodFive's HYPER technology newsletter in March. 1999. He became the Managing Editor for Electronic Mail/Newsletter Publications at Andover.net at the end of February, 2000.
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