Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Big Ideas


I'm not a religious man.

I was raised Catholic and am glad to have been taught that way. Back in first grade I remember Sister Philomena telling us that God is, always was, and always will be. As you can imagine, we first graders asked, "when was he born," "when will he die" and, of course, "what's his birthday." Sister impatiently repeated that he wasn't born and wouldn't ever die. God, she said, had no beginning or end.

This is the sort of thing I'm glad to have run into when I was small. I spent the walk home and most of the next few days trying to come to some sort of grips with the idea that something could be without beginning or ending. That the concept was attached to God doesn't amount to much for me now. It's more that I realized that there were things beyond my ken. I usually try to apply the same type of thinking to ideas like the universe when I hear a physicist try to explain to me that there is no "outside" the universe because the universe is everything even though it's not infinite. These things make my brain hurt in good ways.

What makes my brain hurt in ways that are anything but good are things like the Mormon church "baptizing" people after they are dead or even beforehand without that person asking for such a favor. Elie Wiesel today spoke out about this and asked Presidential candidate Mitt Romney to stand up on this issue. Wiesel, whose book Night   is the single most powerful book I have ever read, has been "baptized" by the Mormons against his will and he is outraged. So am I.

Mitt won't touch this issue for anything. He's not a stand up type of guy. He's a smarmy politician who doesn't seem to give a damn about much of anything other than getting elected. If he talks much about being a Mormon, he reduces his chances. And I don't think he believes he should call the Mormons out on this.

Oh, and Harry Reid, another Mormon, is unlikely to say anything either. They're not impressive people, Reid and Romney.

It has been a hell of a week for the religious. The Mormons have this to explain and the Catholic bishops, a true boy's club if ever there was one, are condemning the funding of contraceptive care for women. I wonder why they aren't speaking up much about funding of vasectomies for men. I got mine through my health insurance provider which is provided by my employer. Shouldn't that be curbed by the Catholic bishops as well? Or is it different for men? Yeah, I'm sure it is.

I think that I could have remained a Catholic if not for the politics. I wish they had just stuck to the sorts of things Jesus is supposed to have said. Jesus, it seems to me, was a great guy and someone I would listen to any time his number rang my cell phone. He would be a great Google+ friend just like the Dalai Lama is. When I read the Dalai Lama I hear the message that the nuns and some of the priests told us Jesus was all about. Kindness, generosity, compassion, empathy, and understanding are at the heart of what I believe. All that and the constant work to better understand and explore the universe.

Oh, and having a good time in bed with our wives without worrying about having more children. I believe in that too.

Yeah, and not inducting someone into a club they never joined, a club that would offend them. I believe in that one too.

I don't believe in a god who condemns. I don't believe that Jesus would have wanted women and the poor to suffer. I don't think Jesus would have thought less of people who had darker skin than me. (I bet all the money I have that Jesus was a lot darker than I am.) And I know that Jesus wouldn't have cast stones at homosexuals.

And here's something else: I believe that it's a good idea for my kids to get some religious education if for nothing else than the literature. We'll help them think deeply about the political stuff instead of taking it carte blanche from anyone's interpretation of God's thinking. My daughters have heard the same thing I heard in first grade and they struggle with those big ideas about as I did way back when. I imagine that even thirty or forty years from now they will be trying to make sense of the world and ideas that remain over their heads. Maybe they will, like their old man, write on toward understanding.