The Words of God

There has been a lot of debate over the validity of the Bible, and whether we should trust the people that decided what should be in it. I think that debate is such a waste of time. If there is a God, and he is an ultimate being, he wouln’t let his message to us be lost in translation. Again, I willl admit that the Bible might not be the message of the ultimate creator at all, but that is an entirely separate issue. If the Christian God is real, then his message is valid. If the Christian God is a lie, then his message is a lie. It might be interesting to read the “gospels” that didn’t make it into the Holy Bible but, if the Christian God is legitimate, then he let those get left out for a reason. Things get slighlty more complicated when things are added to the Bible. The Book of Mormon, for example, seems absolutely ridiculous, and defies the rule in the Bible that says to follow no other doctrine, but the Mormons generally believe that this text is simply an extension of the Bible, not a different book. I certainly have some biases against the Mormons so I would love to believe that they are all crazy and foolish, but they could be right. I mean the entire New Testament serves as my Book of Mormon of sorts, and I am sure a lot of Jews think that I am crazy for believing in it, but I genuinely think it is the truth. I guess the bottom line is that if what you believe in is true, then you don’t have to worry, but it is probably wise to do everything possible to make sure that what you believe is true.

Jayden Olsen

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Do You Need A Hug?

Physical contact with people builds relationships.  The sensations of touches and hugs for various durations signal the brain to release different hormones, like oxytocin, that create emotional bonds between people.  After living with your parents and siblings for eighteen years or being in a long term relationship, you grow accustomed to these touches and emotions.  Humans are creatures of habit, so when displaced away from these familiar things—like when moving into college—that have grown into a necessity over the years, the body craves that connection both physically and emotionally.

Religion strikes me as much the same.  It seems to have begun from human nature and the quest for answers.  Then it has been cultivated for thousands of years.  Now, it is simply a necessity.  The human body craves the ritual, and purpose and connection to a higher power or ultimate reality that is greater than his own existence. The basis for religion may be flawed; however, I don’t believe this dismisses all accountability for the beliefs and practices that go along with it.  The need for hope and light in the winter created several holidays, festivals, feasts, and other celebrations that commonly fall around the winter solstice.  Water represents life, rebirth, cleansing, and purity in the majority of religious and cultural traditions.  Commonalities connect all religious practices, whether they are mono- or polytheistic or believe in no god at all, affirm that these practices have root in human necessity and survival and not the presence of the same ultimate reality.  It is proof we are all human and all want some of the same things, thrive in similar ways.  Religion, beliefs, some form of worship, or presence of a higher being is necessary, just like a hug. ~B.G.

What Is The Point?

Why bother even asking why we are here or if we are here at all?  Whether or not we “exist,” we experience some form of consciousness that allows us to live in this world with other people who are on the same level of awareness.  Science will never explain without a doubt how or why people, planets, solar systems and galaxies all formed and no one religion will ever become universal, and answer these questions beyond a reasonable doubt.  The time wasted on the endless search for answers could be spent creating a worthwhile life that means nothing in relation to the greater cosmos.  There are ways to feel success, significance and purpose without unlocking all the mysteries of the universe, reaching a state of enlightenment or living eternally in the kingdom of heaven.  The life we are aware of is probably insignificant and unmemorable when put in the context of the bigger picture, so why not focus on what is happening now?  A person does not have to go on an existential journey to ultimately understand the nature of all beings to have a life worth living.  Without emphasis on the unanswerable questions, time and energy can be focused on the reality we all share.  This boils down to a material life, which some may see as vain, but I see it as tangible.  A life with love, good memories, adventure, and happiness is all the significance I need.  It is still possible to be remembered and make an impact on the world through business, charity, technological innovation, leadership, or other means.  However, there will always be substantial resistance in the philosophical and theological worlds because of the vast amounts of uncertainty.  The negative backlash and obsession with proof is entirely unnecessary and has proven detrimental to the stability of many societies and civilizations, the modern world included. Religion is continuously evolving and changing as the world changes, for all we know the religion with all the answers hasn’t even been established yet. ~B.G.

To Leave It All

The sacred might be an illusion, but there is no denying its power. What could make someone leave everything behind to follow something they cannot even prove is real? I can’t even imagine what it would take to make me leave all of my family and possessions behind, to make me vow to never fall in love. And yet, across all traditions, people are drawn by some mysterious force to give up everything that they have ever had and ever will have in this life to follow and serve beings that they cannot see and that cannot all be real. I think that this phenomenon speaks to just how much we need religion. Even the absolute best of what we can experience in this life are worth giving up for the slightest chance that there is something better out there. I think that the sadhus and the monks and the nuns and everyone else who has taken vows of silence and poverty are just people who have realized that we don’t have much hope in this life, and that no matter what we do, we will never be satisfied. At  the same time, this phenomenon reveals some of the dangers behind sacred forces. If not everything can be true, but we all need something to be true, then a lot of people are blindly following the wind, giving up everything in their current life for either hell or absolute inexistence in the afterlife. On top of that, some people are called to do really stupid things by whatever they believe is sacred, and they are so drawn in by the need for something more, that they often follow without question. If it weren’t for sacred forces, events like 9/11 would probably never happen. Of course, there is always the chance that those terrorists were doing what Allah wanted them to do, and if Allah is the one true creator, they might be rewarded for their sacrifice in the afterlife. We also can’t ignore all of the good that following nothing has led to. There are men following Allah that do good works every single day, just as their are Christians doing good works every day, though both of them can’t be following the one true God at the same time. So the dilemma becomes whether or not we can take the bad with the good, and whether or not we can justify cutting people off from what may actually be the truth to save people who are following lies. I think this is why it is so important that everyone do everything in their power to find out what the truth is and to become educated about what others believe the truth is. We can’t be blind anymore. There is too much at stake.

Jayden Olsen

Things That Don’t Make Sense

The following is a list of things I do not understand. I mean no disrespect by anything that I say, I am simply trying to get my thoughts down. This list will be running and I will be constantly engaged in trying to figure out solutions.

1. Hindu gods: How can there be so many of them and how can they change every few centuries and how can they sometimes include gods outside of Hinduism? I mean how can so many people follow such a disorganized, seemingly random, and often completely unrealistic religion?

2. Christian denominations: These really get me confused. I grew up thinking that the Bible was all that I needed to follow God’s will, so when I first went to Catholic mass and was told that I coudn’t take communion because I wasn’t Catholic, I was a little bit upset. I mean the Bible doesn’t teach that and it doesn’t teach a lot of things that Catholics enforce, yet the Catholics still are convinced that they are following the word of God thrrough their practices. I guess that they might just interpret the Bible differrently from me but I have found that very little in the Bible is capable of carrying multiple interpretations, just misunderstandings. Maybe I am just being unfair and bitter.

3. Mormons: I don’t even consider Mormonism a Christian denomintion. It is just too different. I was actually born in Salt Lake City and most of my family lives out there so I get to spend a lot of time around Mormons. My grandpa is actually a very devout Mormon and he clashes with my mom, who is simply a Christian, all the time. The thing that confuses me the most about Mormons is that they follow both the Book of Mormon and the Bible, which says to not follow any other books. Plus, they are extremely ridiculous in a lot of ways and have to recall at least one of their beliefs every decade or so.

4. Women: I don’t even know how to describe what confuses me about women. That is how confusing they are.

5. Math: It is so crazy that, at a fundamental level, everything makes sense, and that we try to use all this logic to try to prove that things don’t make sense. Why learn math and science if we are just going to use them to undermine math and science?

6. Me: I make no sense. Do I exist? Do I even care? Why is it so easy for me to ask some questions and ignore more obvious ones that might undermine my beliefs? If there are ideas that make my ideas wrong, then shouldn’t I be open to them? Probably not. Life is too short.

7. The sacred: I am conviced that it is made up but I guess it could be real. Maybe I am just not open to it. But if I have to make myself believe it, is it real? Can it really be real for some people and not for others?

Jayden Olsen

Do You Doubt It?

For our course experiment, we are analyzing religion in the context of movies.  This week we watched The Life of Pi.  One moment in the movie caught my attention.  Pi was telling the writer about when he was young and first discovering different religions.

Adult Pi Patel: Faith is a house with many rooms.

Writer: But no room for doubt?

Adult Pi Patel: Oh plenty, on every floor. Doubt is useful, it keeps faith a living thing. After all, you cannot know the strength of your faith until it is tested.

How important is doubt in relation to religion?  What role does it play? How does it perpetuate or validate beliefs?

The search for understanding and meaning in the world is ongoing and unaccommodating as far as definite answers go.  I think doubt plays a significant and under-appreciated role in the continuation of religion.  If there was no doubt, there would be a universally accepted religion; however, that religion would never be challenged or tested.  Without adversity, there would be no diversity; if there is no diversity than nothing is set apart, holy or sacred which is a necessary component in religion.  A blanket of a singular belief would be the same as no belief at all.  I believe that if there was not doubt in the world, neither would there be religion.  It is impossible for me to ponder a world without religion, entirely.  But there is doubt and plenty of it in this world.  This provides many different religions, methods to counter doubt, in the search for answers.  It is up to each individual person to decide how they will conduct themselves spiritually through all the doubts of life.  Doubt must be over come, at least partially, for someone to accept a religion. Then, when one runs into disbelief or uncertainty, the strength and conviction of whichever path was chosen are tested.  The result of testing, is either a stringer belief or more doubt.

There are so many things I am unsure of in this world, especially in regards to religion; however, there is one thing I am very certain of: There will always be doubt. ~B.G.

Searching for the Sacred

The sacred is nothing more than an illusion. Someone simply has to say “this is sacred” and we will often choose to believe him. Why? Because we all want our lives to mean more than they actually do. By claiming that this little grotto is sacred because Jesus may have been born here, we are simply trying to make sense of a world that has no inherent worthwhile meaning. Personally, I think that God would prefer we put our time and money into service and spreading His Word rather than spend it looking at some fancy hole in the ground. I agree that some places deserve a different degree of respect than other places but I don’t think that anything is so inherently different from what Eliade calls the “profane” that we can call it sacred, or ganz andere. These thoughts are not exclusive to places either. I feel that sacred traditions and sacred people are no different from anything or anyone else except by popular belief. I will admit that I am biased. I am a nondenominational Christian so I really don’t understand what is so important about certain Catholic traditions, and I really don’t understand why so many Muslims feel that they have to bow to something so inevitably temporary to worship a god that they believe is everlasting and all powerful. And maybe I have a hard time believing in the sacred because I have never really experienced it for myself. Regardless, I can’t help but be weary of people giving too much of their time to things that are more than likely meaningless. Even if that is all that any religion is in the first place.

Jayden Olsen

Unveiling the Mysteries Behind the World's Religions