Saturday, October 31, 2009

Converting to Polytheism

We had a joke, Langley and I: Someone dying asks if there is life after death. Yes, comes the answer, only not yours.
From "Homer and Langley: a Novel" by E. L. Doctorow (2009)

The Lord is helping me. I was once one bad sister, but now he works for me and is my friend. There's a reason for this, THANK YOU LORD!
Woman on just missing a bus, Queens, New York

aetheist fanatics? hitler, stalin, pol pot, mao - did they do it not in the name of god - dunno but they mostly enjoyed knocking of the religious in particular.
Comment on Grated Saccharine

Tibetan child, Nepal
There's nothing like the mention of religion to get people going. I usually don't partake in discussions on religion, as up till now I've been an atheist and not terribly interested other people's religious beliefs.

But when I read readers' comments on my Grated Saccharine posting, I started to rethink my position. Those people commenting that atheism is a belief system too, that it even has fanatics and fundamentalists, were pointing out something that I'd never before considered. Atheists have fought wars and killed, in the belief that religion is dangerous. It just never occurred to me.

So I've been on the wrong track all these years! I had better change, quick smart. But to what?

It isn't as if I was born into any religion, which makes it I suppose, easier. I have no preconceptions. No, that makes it harder, as I have no direction.

I'm not keen on any of the major religions. I quite like Hinduism as the stories are interesting and I like all the characters. Hanuman the monkey is my fave. But I can't see the point of reincarnation. If you are born as someone else, and have no memory of your prior self, then you prior 'self' is effectively dead. So Hinduism's reincarnation is functionally not so much different than atheism's mortality. And as I assume part of the attraction of any religion is the belief in eternal life, then how does this loss of knowledge of self reconcile itself to the idea of immortality?

I remember being somewhere in Nepal and asking a Nepalese about his belief in god. He explained to me that I could go and see his god anytime, as he lived less than a block away. So off we went together and there on a street corner was a statue of a tiger-like divinity. "Hello," said the man. "Hello," said I.

I felt good about this experience. It made a lot of sense to me at the time. Here was a concrete manifestation of god. And it was a personal god. Having such a god must be a bit like having a personal trainer. But better.

Ever since I was fired by my personal trainer I've not trusted them. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have that problem with a my Nepalese friend's type of god.

Balinese god with umbrella
Another benefit of having statue gods, is that there can be nothing stopping anyone having several. I could even mix and match them. I could have my favorite Hindu god, Hanuman - I've seen statues of him on display in the Indian area round East 29th Street, Manhattan. I might pick one up tomorrow.

I used to have a pair of stone gods that I bought in Bali. They were happy beings and I'd give them a small offering of rice (they expect that) on mornings when I wasn't in a hurry to get to work. They even each had an umbrella to keep them out of the sun. You can see one of them here in my ex-backyard in Victoria, Australia.

Unfortunately my partner of the time kept them when we split up, and I understand they are now enjoying living in Queensland.

I even have a photo of me buying them. I'm the one with the hat.
Buying gods

I loved the Balinese healthy attitude to religion. I'd noticed that the gods like mine that were on street corners and in family compound courtyards had a light coating of moss. I asked some Balinese how I could accomplish that effect. "Oh, you just pee on them," I was told. But somehow when I got them back to OZ I couldn't bring myself to do that. A Western collective unconscious taboo I suppose.

So there you have it. My personal solution to not contributing in any way to the wars fought in the name of religions and atheism. I will make sure that I get hold of gods whose past is pure as the driven snow. And as they will be mine, and mine alone, they will not be able to be accused of starting wars.

I could have I suppose, chosen agnosticism as a way out. I'm pretty sure no wars have been fought in the name of "I don't know". But somehow I think my solution is more joyous, more life affirming, more personal.

I might even be able to take my idea to California. Now THERE'S an idea!

1 comment:

Tim said...

"If you are born as someone else, and have no memory of your prior self, then you prior 'self' is effectively dead. So Hinduism's reincarnation is functionally not so much different than atheism's mortality."
We have to dig a little deeper here. What can survive is ones conciousness as "me"or "I".What sloughs off is the ego; it is mortal indeed. What remains is the eternally evolving higher self.
When you are reborn you may not barrack for the same footy team but you will be back on the planet continuing your story.

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