Along the Bloody Spectrum

I am an old infidel. A practicing heathen. A believer in knowledge and a follower of facts. Those truths notwithstanding, I am no longer the active antagonist toward religion I once was.

There was a time I would have called myself an evangelical free thinker or an ardent atheist. But no more. Frankly, I don’t understand why someone else’s reliance on myth to guide their lives should ever have bothered me, except to the extent that they attempted to impose their myths or their prescriptions and prohibitions on me. I’ve reached the point of thinking, with respect to religious belief or lack thereof, people should simply live and let live. If I want to accept the divinity of jalapeño bean dip in my life, I should be left in peace to enjoy my reverie. And I should be gracious enough to do the same for others. The fact is that neither of our views are subject to valid tests; our attitudes about divinity or lack thereof cannot be proven right or wrong, no matter how much we might insist otherwise. Ultimately, it’s simply a matter of best-fit for one’s intellectual and emotional superstructure, coupled with the success or failure of society’s efforts toward indoctrination. We’re products of our interactions with the environment in which we matured.

Now, with that having been said, my philosophy lives in a world that is not necessarily accommodating to its laissez-faire attitude. That is, the pressures of reality infringe on my fantasy of gentle, forgiving tolerance. Because the world does not work the way I might want it to.

People who want or need to live disciplined, highly-structured lives must necessarily accept that the more discipline they require (or acquire), the less freedom will be available to them. And to others, by the way; because others’ freedoms can infringe on my need for order and predictability.

The contrary is true, as well; people who desire high levels of autonomy and self-determination sacrifice the reliability and certainty that structure and discipline might bring to their lives. Their disdain for regimentation has the effect of distancing the protective architecture of structure from those who demand it, creating tension. Both groups of people have to accept the trade-offs that constitute the price of their preferences. They have to, but often they don’t.

And let’s keep wandering down this path of contemplation. An open mind, the sort of field of dreams sought by those who eschew rigidity and structure. sacrifices certainty. Conversely, an insistence on certainty tends to close the door on an open mind.

I think the inevitable conflict is obvious. I wish I knew the solution; a way of tempering the fury of people at the far ends of the spectrum of religious thought. If our teachings would demand tolerance and even acceptance of disparate religious philosophies and beliefs, that education would lead us a long way down the road toward peaceful coexistence. But for some reason, the cult leaders at the far reaches of that spectrum seem to be invested in the idea that humankind’s survival depends entirely on their worldview winning the day.  A strong dose of wisdom might be the cure. But where does one get the prescription? It doesn’t necessarily come with age or experience.

Emotion has ruled me for my entire life, despite my insistence that I rely on knowledge and facts. Emotion flows through my veins in much greater measure than does stoicism. And that, I think, is the problem with humanity. I’m like other people, just more so. We’re all emotional creatures who allow emotions to rule when we would better serve ourselves and our species by repressing emotions. We’d be more successful at achieving peace if we were all stoics. Rather than react with alarm when either our freedoms or our regimentation is threatened, we would be more apt to find joy if we simply adjusted ourselves and our environments to return to a state of happy comfort.

Unfortunately for us all, the spectrum of belief, religious and otherwise, is stained with the blood of people who didn’t need to fight, but thought they did. Many wars have been fought by people who were convinced their way of life was threatened because someone else’s beliefs were different. If it weren’t so tragic, it might be funny.

“They do not eat pork. They must be killed to protect our freedom to eat as we please.”

Seriously, I can imagine a battle between cattle ranchers and vegetarians, each insisting that the “other side” is a danger to humanity. It’s not religion, in that case…well, yes it is. It’s at the very least a stand-in for religion.

All right. I’ve allowed my brain to wander into places it doesn’t belong this morning. I’ve exercised my fingers. Perhaps I should have exorcised them, instead.  If I were smart, I would open a book or write a love letter to the universe after I finish this post. Instead, I think I’ll read the news and make breakfast. Or vice versa. Maybe I’ll forego the news. That’s a better idea. Mushroom congee sounds appetizing. So, off I go.



About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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