May 14, 2007

Wats And Whatnot
Bangkok, Thailand

I was wandering aimlessly in Bangkok—an attempt to walk far away from the influence of the tourist bubble around Khaosan Road—when I stumbled across a temple sporting a massive golden Buddha statue. A Lonely Planet tourist attraction… (sigh)

What is it about wats—Buddhist temples—that makes me prefer them to Christian cathedrals? One is generally no less gaudy or grandiose than the other. I suppose it's probably along the same lines as why westerners like to get tattoos of Asian characters inked on their skin—it's exotic. Oh the other hand, Buddhist temples seem more about prayer, and less about repentance for the "evil" you've done recently.

Cathedral in Nicaragua

I was raised Catholic; there is no mysticism there for me. Latin America had myriad churches and cathedrals—from the unique and impressive, to the humble and unassuming—but few could hold my interest for long, as they're as common a part of the landscape as crops of corn and sugarcane.

I have a thirst to learn more about more religions. They are as much of an integral part of the culture of a given country as the topography of the land. This region of the world is full of Buddhists, Muslims, and Hindus.

But there's a catch—I don't like religion. In fact, if I could rid the world of the need to believe in a higher power greater than themselves, I would live out the rest of my days a happy man.

I think one of my biggest problems with religion is that I don't like the idea of worship. I don't like it in religion, and I don't like it in nobility. And when the two are combined—God save the King!—it just makes me frown.

I also hate how money factors into the systems of belief. The passed collection baskets in churches of Christian descent; donation boxes, gold leafing, and prayer offerings of cash in Buddhism; and 30% of your income if you're Mormon. Some folks genuinely believe they can buy their way into a better afterlife, whereas others enjoy supporting their local place of worship and the perpetuation of their religion. Personally, I see nothing but greed and guilt.

I'm not a practicing anything. I don't believe in an afterlife. I don't believe in reincarnation. I don't believe in unconventional means of resurrection (jolts from electrified paddles, yes; Christ or zombies rising from the grave, no). I'm skeptical about aliens visiting our planet, but believe there is intelligent life in this universe not of this world. And I'm on the bubble with the notion of ghosts, but the whole no afterlife thing sort of negates most of that—inner conflict.

Too much discrimination and conflict has been fought under a worshiped or idolized deity, figurehead, or flag. I sometimes wonder what kind of world we would live in if all people embraced this life as if it's the only one they've got, without reverence for nobility and Gods.

…Forgive me for being so blunt; I'm not trying to start a debate. This is just the record of my thoughts at this particular moment in time.

Comments:

Erik

May 14th, 2007

No debate, huh? Yet you stick it on a public site and allow commenting. :)

I don't really care for religion. I respect others' choice to worship how they see fit and if having a place of worship helps, the so be it. I must say I agree that religion has built some of the most spectacular structures. You might be more moved when you know more of the history. I care a great deal for Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's Cathedral for the nod to Americans and WWI and WWII within. A US Medal of Honor hangs within one of them.

But I digress. I don't care much for organized religion and its intolerance. Unlike you, I prefer to claim agnosticism. I have just as much evidence that there is a higher power or an afterlife as I do to prove their non-existence. I figure I'll know when I get there. :)

Ben

May 14th, 2007

I often wonder if so-called religious people even believe half of what their religion says, or if it's belief for the sake of convenience and/or comfort.

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