Tomorrow is "Good Friday" and so begins the annual "Easter Break" for most Canadian school children and their teachers. The celebration of Easter is a part of Canadian culture and recognises the associations most Canadians who were involved in sorting out this country had with Christianity. It just seems fitting that on a big holiday like this one, that we realise some of the connections we have with religious experience and how it can and does play a very big part in the lives of us all even if we are not practicing members of a religious community.
Though this story may just seem like a bit of a rant, it is really intended to be a warning to us all to turn up the awareness levels on developments in a portion of our society that can not help but affect us all.
The first point I want to make is fundamental, it is basic to the success and survival of all things, be they intellectual, biological or social. Gosh, this basic principle also applies to the innovative world of science and technology and that principle is, that success for most things, is the ability to adapt to changing conditions, while still holding onto the essential concepts that lead to the development of that entity. As a computer geek, it seems only natural to use the desk top computer as an example of adaptation.
When I first discussed acquiring a computer with my wife it was in 1980, at the time, there were only a handful of them around and what we all knew about computers was the demonstrated functional manipulation of data and information accomplished with IBM mainframes. My wife is a practical and sensible person, but she is also one that has the insight to question the status quo and so she asked me what we would do with such a thing and I was pretty much winging it when I tried to explain what little I knew at the time of the potential for the use of computers in our lives and our line of work.
For Christmas of 1981 we acquired an inexpensive clone of an Apple][+ and of course, it was pretty useless. But I have been working with the evolving technology ever since then and now, after twenty-five year,s we still have no idea where this technology is taking us, but we do know that it has changed our lives and the way we do everything.
The success of the personal computer is entirely related to the technology's adaptive nature, people have found uses for computation machines that their inventors and programmers never once imagined and the surface has barely been scratched.
The people who called themselves Jews, the descendents of Abraham, all twelve tribes of them, realised that their culture and their success depended upon an intellectual and spiritual system that would give the people of their community some direction, some means of guiding their lives and experiencing meaningful life. So it was that about five thousand years ago they set to work creating a story about themselves and their interaction with the creator. This written work comprised the five books attributed to Moses and is referred to as the "Torah", this is the scriptures that formed the basis for their religion and their society. It was within this context that Jesus of Nazareth was raised and the subsequent religion established in his name had its roots. These are the same scriptures that form a major part of the basis of the Moslem faith.
The stories Christians refer to as the "Old Testament" where originally intended to provide the individual with examples and guides toward appropriate behaviour. It was found that this needed interpretation and an oral version developed that included explanations and "what if" scenarios to help people with the problems of life and around eighteen hundred years ago this became a second book that is today referred to as the Talmud, of which there are two versions. Essentially, this is an excellent example of adaptation. The Talmud is not fixed as scholars continue to add to this work and practicing Rabbis give their learned interpretation. What I am telling you is that for the followers of the Jewish faith, their religion is not fixed in tim,e or frozen in dogma, but is a living evolving religion.
Quite simply, the faith of the world's Jewish population experience a religious dialogue with each other and to some extent with themselves, as they develop their faith, a faith that adapts to the change of time and obviously a successful evolution, as this religion is as strong as it ever was.
Christianity popped up with the death of Jesus of Nazareth, the event commemorated this weekend and seemed to expand exponentially as his original small group of followers fanned out through the Roman Empire. Stories of the man's life and death were told, but it was a very long time before those stories were committed to written documents and even then the writers; Matthew, Mark and Luke were generations later when they put down what they had heard of the stories of the founder of their faith.
To work, a religion has to take people from whatever background they have, and give them something that will make their lives better, and give them some form of hope. Christianity was good at this and the early leaders of the religion were quick to include elements of the absorbing cultures into the basics of the religion. Things like pine trees into the celebration of the birth of the founder and adaptation of the Roman calendar. The all seeing, omnipotent God was just as easily called the "father" as "the creator" or adapted in North America to "the great spirit".
Ultimately, a spiritual experience can not be truly separated from an intellectual one and it is priculiar that several times in the history of Christianity the dummies have dominated. The Romanisation of Christianity saw the inclusion of political totalitarianism with the control of the church in the hands of a single leader, the pope. Surprisingly, a religion of peace and love was able to manifest itself as a thing of extreme violence and cruelty as a Roman religion. When a split occurred between East and West portions of the governing structure of the political and religious world in the 1,200s, a whole set of fragmented faiths evolved, the so-called "anabaptist" movement developing the Hutterites and Dukabors, then the even more fragmentary protestant movement, which in part, produced the various fundamentalist Pentecostal sects.
It is to me a complete and total puzzle and well beyond my comprehension that faith has come to mean almost entirely "blind faith" so that there is a divorce from thought and logic as the "true believers", those who boast that they are "Christians," are proud of their condemnation of intellectualism. There is a remarkable glorification of just plain stupidity. What is even more surprising is that this trend not only exists in organised Christian religions but the exact same pattern is found with in Islam.
To me is seems like at some point, all the smart, thinking people died and left things in the hands of raving idiots. The basic conflict within each and ever person is a sort of constant war between intellect and emotion. Chemicals like alcohol suppress the individual's ability to process and use his, or her intelligence, and what we see is uncontrolled behaviour, as the base portions of the brain are left to function without restraint. When you drop your cognitive operations, in favour of irrational emotions, you are spiritually drunk and the examples of this are just to numerous to mention, or to catalogue.
Not only do we find this curious phenomena in the so-called bible belt, but right within the Roman Catholic religion there are brain dead individuals in power who ignore the fundamental principles of a successful organisation, and that is adaptability. Here we are, living in a time where Catholic priests still claim to be chase, while their organisation is the biggest form of organised child molestation. Women in all fundamentalist religions seem to be placed outside the realm of human beings, as a subgroup, a servant race, meant to be subjugated by the males of their society. Notice that the Anglicans and Catholics just can't seem to swallow the ordination of women and the whole of the Pentecostal group of churches advocate keeping "women in their place".
Time after time this world has seen blood spilled over religious differences and right up there leading the way are those that claim to be those who speak for the divine. The KKK, Al Qeda, Jesuits, every Jihad to come along, involve using violence and warfare to carry forth the word of God. The facts, be they often totally ignored, are that there is no such thing, there is no word of God, we have stories and antidotes written by humans about the interaction with the almighty, but the word of God is something between you and voices you hear, internally or otherwise.
This Easter focus on what little we know about the founder of Christianity. "love thy neighbour as thy self." There are basic principles of spiritual experience and they have evolved to help us live and succeed in life, but let no man claim to speak on behalf of God, live your life as you determine, for ultimately you and only you, must account for what you have and will do.