Thoughtful Thursday – Religion

thoughtfulA topic we aren’t supposed to talk about is on my mind today. I’m going to try to discuss it without pissing people off, but it is the kind of topic that tends to do that, so it may not be possible.

There’s a lot of commotion about M-103 going on. It involves anti-Islamophobia and other racist and religious persecution. The fear is that it will lead to widespread Shariah Law applied to everyone, not just Muslims. Also that it will lead to anti-blasphemy laws so, for example, atheists couldn’t say that your God doesn’t exist. There is also a fear that our Canadian Criminal Code will become second to Shariah.

I consider myself to be quite open minded. I have friends who are Christian, Jewish, Taoist, Buddhist, Druid, Wiccan, Mormon, Pastafarian, Atheist, etc. I’ve also worked with Muslims and there’s a nice Muslim woman in my building. Not one has ever tried to convert me or convince me their God is the only God. That’s actually why we’re friends. Many of my religious friends are often active in their communities. Some have dinners regularly with people from their churches, synagogues, temples, etc. Some do camping or other trips with them. That’s cool. I’m glad they are connecting with people who share their beliefs. Just like I enjoy hanging out with my writer friends and my martial arts friends as well as my B-Movie club.

In high school, I was part of the choir and one boy was a Jehovah’s Witness. He abstained from singing Christmas songs that were Christian in nature and only sang the ones that were about Santa. Our choir director was Jewish and she sang all the songs. I think both of these are options people should have when it comes to religion.

I had a piano teacher. She was generally nice, but at Christmas she tried to insist I should go to church with her. I cancelled the rest of my lessons. It’s not appropriate to try to convert or recruit someone to your religion. But all religions do it anyway. They come door-to-door and do this just like Rogers does to try and get more customers. Especially the Jehovah’s. One came to my house as a kid and insulted our dog. My dad told them where they could stick their pamphlets. Another man visited my former husband and I every weekend for a while. He was nice and we had interesting discussions, but I had no interest in bible study. I’ve also attended youth groups, which largely played the same games as we did in drama class with the addition of bible drills (a race to find a passage first). I didn’t join that either.

When I was lugging a bunch of heavy bags to my home before my wedding, I was approached by two Mormons who wanted to discuss Jesus with me. I was obviously laden down and struggling and thought that Jesus would have offered to help me with my burden. I turned them down and continued my struggle home. I wondered how they had become so disconnected from the fundamentals of who Jesus was.

Religion is a very personal thing. I think people need the freedom to believe what they believe as long as it doesn’t harm another including impingement of their rights and freedoms. The laws we have protect us and if our criminal code is not protecting a group than a tweak may be needed. Sometimes things need to be updated to reflect reality, but I think people are worried that there is a movement to convert Canada to an Islamic State. And when you see recent videos where an innocent woman is stoned to death because she found a copy of the Quran burning in a garbage can and one man accused her of being the one that burned it, you can understand some of the fear. Many of us do fit the criteria of non-believer and obviously no one wants to be stoned to death.

People are often scared of the unknown. This is ingrained in us by evolution. Strange food, strange people, and strange places often resulted in death. How else would we know which berries are safe to eat?

Recently, I did a search for violence in holy books. I found this quantitative article very interesting. All of them speak of violence. Some encourage it (both Christian bibles and the Quran have passages that allow stoning) and others say things like that we bring suffering upon ourselves when we care too much about the outcome and not enough about the journey, so they have violent words but are actually condemning violence. Some say killing is never acceptable (including the most basic of life forms). Others are lenient with killing in terms of things like pests. If your wooden house is infested with termites, are you going to let them cave the roof in on you? Are you going to let mouse droppings make you ill?

But one can’t look at a religion based on one item. That would be like voting a politician in because he wants to legalize marijuana or save the environment and ignoring policies that say he wants to lock children up and force them to do awful things.

Going to Catholic School as a child while not being Roman Catholic perhaps has given me a different view of religion. That happened because my first school converted to all French and I guess my parents were paying Catholic taxes at the time because my dad is Catholic. There was a group of us in that boat. We didn’t do confession or communion, so we just remained seated respectfully at Mass while the other kids took the host. Was this part of why some kids picked on me? If so, it was never mentioned. I did have a cross stolen from me. A necklace my aunt had bought me when she visited New Orleans one year, got broken by a “friend” who “helped” me bag it up to bring home. It was beautiful. It had a number of different jewels on it. I don’t know if they were real or not. For a long time, I was angry at myself for wearing it to school at all. Later on, I realized that the thought my aunt put into buying it and the letter she wrote to me about it were more precious than the cross itself.

I’ve been to church a number of times in my life and I always feel like I’m visiting a cult. But in looking at how some dojos recite their dojo kun and perform their etiquette, I can see martial arts being seen that way by some as well. Actually, I think martial arts has done more to lead me down a spiritual path than anything else. What do I like about it? Everyone lets you experience the spiritual side in your own way.

All this has led me personally to Taoism. It’s quite simple to follow. The major thing is that we all come from Tao, which could be God or just energy, and we all return to Tao when we die. Otherwise it’s about not being a jerk. Some Taoists are vegan, others eat responsibly raised meat that hasn’t been tortured. Clergy are free to marry. Members are free to be atheists. It’s not at odds with science. It doesn’t shun gays. Basically, you make your own path, try to be a good person, and strive for balance in all things. You’re free to decide what makes sense for you. Not trying to convert anyone, just listing the items that made me feel like it’s the belief structure for me.

Anyway, I guess my point is that I don’t care what religion anyone else is as long as I’m free to follow my own path. The moment someone decides to tell me what I should believe or that religion should be taught at school, I’m going to be upset.

So I think Muslims should be free to practice their religion, but they must allow the rest of us to do the same. Canada is a melting pot. As long as you are respectful and allow for certain circumstances where some clothing would be dangerous, for example, it’s a bad idea to wear loose items when operating a table or band saw because you could get strangled by your clothing.

The fear about Shariah has to do with the fact that implementations of it may vary widely. As widely as the full spectrum of extreme left politics (communism) to extreme right politics (fascism). We hear a lot about fascism lately because of Trump and Putin, but there’s a lot of awful stuff that happens in communist countries too. The way Shariah is implemented in Canada is much different than the way it is implemented in some parts of the Middle East.

But Muslims are far from the only religion to have such “laws”. This article from the Vancouver Sun talks about Shariah but also what several other religions do. I particularly like this part:

Fortunately, most of the planet’s Muslims uphold some form of religious freedom – believing shariah should apply only to Muslims.

Pew also found most Muslims stand up for the right of non-Muslims to practice their faiths. However, Muslims in some countries were concerned that principle was often broken.”

It’s important to note that sometimes things look excellent in theory, but when it comes to implementation there could be a bunch of corrupt data or some other problem that makes it impossible to be a good thing. Maybe some of Nikola Tesla’s ideas work better today because we have advanced materials that make it safer to produce. Of course, it’s also possible they didn’t get funded because someone else was better at selling their idea. He may have had the idea for things like Wi-Fi, but society just wasn’t ready.

I’m not sure attending Catholic School has left me unaffected. I think it’s possible my own understanding of the scientific method has been affected. I’ve never understood basic things about experiments. I did fine in biology, but the other sciences were thick with math and scientific method and there was always something fundamental that I’ve never been able to grasp. Give me a piece of technology, give me a social science, give me English, or give me history and I can figure it out, but for chemistry or physics you might as well be talking to a monkey. And not one of the super smart ones either.

But wait, I sometimes write sci-fi, right?

Sci-fi doesn’t have to go in depth about the particulars of a chemical compound. Stories are about people. Also, I try to make sure everything else is accurate and let suspension of disbelief handle the rest.

So, to recap, I feel like as long as Shariah is applied reasonably to only Muslims just as the Catholics, Mormons, Jewish, etc apply religious laws AND that the Canadian legal code comes first, there should be no reason we can’t all get along. Live and let live. Stop attacking Mosques and go play a video game or something else that doesn’t hurt other people.

Also, it would be awesome if the rest of Canada would stop claiming that all the racists live in Quebec. Racism is widespread in this country and if you think otherwise, you’re lying to yourself. Yes, I realize Muslim is a religion and not a race. Stop blaming the French for the bad things.

I have a Steampunk story to finish.


Thoughtful Thursday – Alien Thoughts


The world is a strange place. It’s also wonderful. I love how diverse it is, but I wonder if this is a problem for our future.

Please, hear me out.

When you watch shows like Star Trek, it seems as though the human race is united and well defined. We all speak one language (maybe there’s a ship-wide translation system?). I don’t think religion or politics are an issue. Neither is race. Though the humans aboard these ships have differences, the issues that currently divide us are not dividing them. They meet different alien species who war with each other, but most Klingons aren’t killing other Klingons, nor Romulans other Romulans, etc.

But if Star Trek is an example of what the future of humanity is, will we have to approach a singularity as this person suggests in their article?

If this singularity is needed, does this mean that we must eradicate all cultural, religious, political, and language differences to get there? Do we need to adopt one language? Do we redefine culture by taking only some aspects from each culture to make one super culture? Do we need to leave all spiritual thought on the curb and decide we just happened and it doesn’t really matter how we came to be? Do we need to become a people of Earth rather than remember which countries we are from?

How can we truly unite when we spend so much time deciding which political ideology we identify with and attack others who think differently? This question applies to religion also.

How will we present ourselves to aliens as a unified species?

Do we need to?

In many of our fictional representations of aliens, we assume they are one unified species. They all look similar and they don’t appear to have as much division as we do on our planet. Alien Nation did touch on some different views as some frowned upon mating with humans. They also talked about different physiology as the alien women needed to mate with more than one male to become pregnant. Of course, the human male wasn’t happy about this and needed time to accept that he had to share his bride. Yes, I realize that sounds bad given that women are all too often thought of as the property of their father or husband still today. It was an 80s show, so give it a break.

Can we ever overcome our issues with gender?

V is rather like our nightmare situation. Aliens come to convince us that they are here to save us, but they really just want to take our planet from us.

I haven’t watched much Star Trek. I loved The Next Generation, but Deep Space 9 didn’t captivate me. I’m interested in Discovery and thinking that while I wait for it to come, I’ll watch Beyond.

Maybe the aliens are as messed up as Earth and that’s why they haven’t made contact yet. Maybe they’re just as scared as we are that we’d just want to conquer them. Our history as a species really doesn’t help us in this regard.

The Doctor would eradicate the Daleks if a human companion didn’t stop him. Are some differences impossible to overcome?

Is total forgiveness for past atrocities really possible?

I have no idea where humanity is really headed, but I hope we sort some of this out before we populate the galaxy with more humans.


It’s not about one book, it’s about language

The vast amount of bombings and shootings that have happened recently,(Baghdad, Paris, Beirut), have been affecting me. I have trouble dealing with problems that are unsolvable. Probably part of the reason I enjoyed House M.D. so much.

I woke up on November 18, 2015 and realized that the problem isn’t about any specific book. I believe it is, in part, about language. Not a specific one, but human language altogether.

From what I understand, most holy books are guides to being good people. There is a fundamental problem in how they depart that knowledge. Those guiding principles are open to interpretation. People will interpret them how it makes sense to their lives rather than know explicitly what it means.

Thou shall not kill.

Orthodox Buddhists view this as anything. Don’t kill humans, ants, ladybugs, mice, etc. They don’t eat meat either.

For the rest of us who do eat meat, we might wonder if we are already doomed to hell, yet our Creator made us omnivores. This may be news for some, but eating meat is okay as a Buddhist as long as the animal wasn’t expressly killed for you.

There’s also radical Buddhists. They kill people just like every other radical group.

It’s not just our holy books that have this language issue. It can be seen in the U.S. Second Amendment right to carry guns. What was their intention? Did they mean everyone can carry a gun everywhere? Did they mean one can have a gun at home for self and property defense? Did they mean everyone has the right to the arms of a bear?

I’m spiritual, not religious. I see a lot of issues blamed on a specific book by one group while their book is just as ambiguous.

People will use whatever they can to rationalize behaviour that is horrid if it’s in line with their goals. They will say a book said it was okay. They also argue that the book filled with stories is factual and to question it is to question all human existence.

I guess that’s scary for people to realize. These holy books were all written by humans with agendas of their own.

I guess other things too.

If a bee stings me, did I kill it or did it commit suicide? Perhaps I angered or startled it. It reacts instinctively. I react that way when a spider intrudes upon my shower.

One of the things I love about language is that it can be perceived in multiple ways. I love subtext and depth. I wonder though if it has no business being in a holy book. Is this the root of the problem?

What if one book was written to guide humanity as a whole? It could take good lessons from every holy book. But put them into this new book with clean, clear language explicitly detailing the acceptable range of behaviour. It would need to be written by the foremost technical writers and probably lawyers.

Some are likely cringing that I brought lawyers into this. Contracts are often hard to understand and a lot of people feel cheated by one in a divorce situation. Here’s the thing. Lawyers are good at addressing every scenario. The technical writers will ensure the language isn’t convoluted.

It could also be updated as necessary to ensure it is accurate and covers all it should.

But I also worry there are more sinister issues lurking. Racism, greed, fascism. Some people simply want to exert control over others rather than let them live happily. We can see this in workplaces. One might have a boss that cares more about following orders than getting the work done. Or constantly changes performance targets. We see it in abusive relationships. “You know that one friend of yours? I don’t like them. So you can’t like them anymore either.” The mean teacher who constantly yells at his/her students. Or the teacher who needs to have one student they ride all semester. And obviously dictators. Often the delivery of food and other items to their country’s poorest is blocked or stolen. It’s not that people aren’t giving. There’s a roadblock because someone feels a need to control. In Mad Max, the water was used to exert control over the masses. Some people use access to their bodies, sex, to control their partner. They’ll do this in platonic ways as well by threatening to leave.

Who gets to decide what is acceptable behaviour? I don’t want the responsibility of that on my shoulders. But I still think something has to be done before we lead the human race to extinction.

I don’t pretend to have the answers. I just have a lot of questions.