"It's like the Lotto: You can't get saved if you don't play!"

"I am preaching the gospel of 'I don't know'!" -- Bill Maher

We own a few documentaries in this house: The Corporation; Outfoxed; Fahrenheit 9/11. This last Friday, we splurged on a copy of Religulous. We had seen it at the local movie theater with a packed audience - all of them as eager as we were to see something so taboo challenged. One scene in particular really cracked me up.

In an interview with the Reverend Dr. Jeremiah Cummings (a former member of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, and not an actual doctor), Cummings tells Maher about a man he is counseling in his church. He says,"I had a young man who was about to go crazy over a woman, he was about to kill hisself, you know? I said, that kind of passion you should have for God! I said, I said, turn that to God and see what happens." The camera cuts away to a scene in the middle east; a car with, what one can only guess, a suicide bomber inside, drives by and explodes in a great black cloud.

I am certain of very little in matters of faith. The only thing that has remained unchanged in my search is doubt. Most people are afraid to examine what they believe, when confronted with the questions of someone who is sincerely uncertain. My own mother used to hang up on me because she thought I was attacking HER; even now, communications are not exactly perfect with us, but she's learned to at least stay on the phone and listen. It's been hard work to get here.

Remember the annoying religious kid in school who carried their Bible everywhere with them, wore T-shirts with scriptures and phrases like "His Pain, Your Gain"? They listened to Sandi Patti and Micheal W. Smith on their Walkman, and read all the Frank Peretti novels? They showed up to school exhausted from a church service the night before that lasted until midnight? Yeah, that was me. I was brainwashed.

Now I'm in the "great untapped minority of this nation" - the 16% of America who considers themselves unaffiliated with any religion. Maher points out that Jews comprise a minority of only 1.4%, Blacks 12.2%, Homosexuals 3%, and surprisingly, NRA members come to 1.3%. If nothing else, this information makes me feel a little less alone in the world.


  1. But then again... why do I have that feeling that you'd drink to just about anything, Ben? ;-)

  2. Well, certainly not to just "anything," but close enough. I am pretty open minded to that regard. I remember many a drink I had with some Jesuit priests I used to know. They could be funny and were always great company. I never put it to the test but I suspect that anyone of them could have drunk me under the table. They never tried to "convert" me or anything. As a matter of fact they were some of the most tolerant people I know.

  3. Ben Trovato brought up a good point. There is obviously more to this than just a simple matter of religious confession. Extremism and fundamentalism can be found everywhere, even amongst Buddhists (like the Japanese Nichiren sect which believes that other forms of Buddhism are heretical). And some atheists can be just as fanatic about their beliefs as the most extreme religious fundamentalists. And so are some scientists... politicians... economists... you name it… who can get pretty religulous themselves about their own beliefs and the way they try to impose their "understanding" upon the rest of the world. Some of them, who subscribe to a religion called "Neoconservatism" (they worship Mammon and the invisible hand of the market), happen to be part of the reason why we are in Iraq.

    I am reminded of an old Sufi saying:

    Thought that is planned is tradition.
    Thought that is unplanned is imagination.
    Thought that is both is spirit.

    It has been my experience that literalistic mentalities tend to thwart the spirit.

    I find it a profound irony that some of the worst literalists I have met happens to be a so-called Libertarian. (Jazzolog and Quinty might know whom it is that I am talking about). On the other hand, I only met him online so I can't claim that I knew him all that well, but he seemed to see the world in very black and white, Manichean terms. I personally believe that to be an intellectual limitation.

    Fundamentalism often is a matter of intellectual limitation.

    There are Christians who sees "truth" as something established in the Bible and known only by "true Christians" (and they have very definite ideas about what a "good Christian" is---and when other Christians who disagree with them happen to cross their path, you end-up with the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre, which was not a very Christian thing, if you ask me.) And, then, you also have Christians who see truth as something "known wholly only by God" toward which the belief statements of religions can only attempt to point the way. The latter is usually easier to get along with as they share in common with some of the followers of other faiths and some agnostics a recognition of "Mystery."

    There is a post that a friend of mine put up on another network some four years ago, and Lady Fizzlebottom's entry reminded me of it and inspired me to put it up. But I'll need to get his permission first.

    I value that little phrase "I don't know" so highly. It's small, but it flies on mighty wings. It expands our lives to include spaces within us as well as the outer expanses in which our tiny Earth hangs suspended.
    ---Wislawa Szymborska

  4. I see I am among friends - so nice to meet you.