Category Archives: Religion

In the Garden

japanese-garden-buddha.jpgMy 10-year-old daughter wanders out last Saturday to watch me in the garden.  She seems intrigued by my ringing wet shirt.  “You’re sweating,” she observes in a way that suggests that this is mildly inappropriate but also highly unusual.

 

I remove my hat and, hands on hips, survey the fruits of my labour.  The overgrown and tangled jungle that had blighted the fence is now an empty sandy bed wherein I can allow my imagination –as opposed to the lawn – to run wild.

As if on cue, my daughter asks, “Now what are you going to put there, Dad?”

“Oh, there’ll be about four mid-size trees, some tall grasses of different colours and probably some river stones. “ I pause. “”See that corner, I might put a statue of Buddha there.”

My daughter has remarked on my apparent fetish for Buddha statues before. She says, “Dad, don’t you think God gets offended by all these Buddhas.” I am about to remind her that there are only four in the entire house but instead say simply, “No, I don’t think God would be offended by Buddha.  I mean, he said the same sorts of things that all religions say.  You know, don’t hurt other people, treat them like you want to be treated yourself.  Don’t hang out with bad people.”

She squints up at me as if genuinely struck by a new truth.

“Is that what religions say?” she asks.  “I thought that was just Mum.”

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Filed under humour, Religion

200 Philistine Foreskins

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I think in the back of every atheist’s mind is the comforting thought that, even if they got it wrong and Heaven and Hell do exist, God will give them credit for integrity.  I mean, not believing in God is the expression of the very free will God granted, isn’t it?  And, if we are to believe anything that the Church says at all, why not the bit that says God is love. 

Or is that kind of like hedging your bets?  As if we can rely on God to forgive us because he’s merciful.   

But what if he’s not?  What if he is actually an extremely angry and punitive Father and he really art in Heaven? 

And there is definite evidence of God’s magnanimity in the Old Testament.  For example, one day King Saul offers David, Beloved of God, his daughter’s hand in marriage on the condition that he kill 100 Philistines and return with their foreskins as proof.  David, an early over-achiever, returns with 200 foreskins, which works out to be a really bad day for the court foreskin-counter.   

Now, according to the word of God, those Philistines really came in for a hammering and many and varied are the ways in which they meet their sticky ends.  Or, in this case, many are the ways in which their ends became sticky. 

And I don’t think atheists should go to their own just reward with the faint hope that Jesus will stick up for them.  Even he lost it sometimes, as is evidenced by his somewhat violent behaviour towards the sellers in the temple.  What will he make of some left wing, smart arse intellectual who spent his life claiming he had no father? 

It all sounds a bit risky to me.  Perhaps, as the foreskin-free Philistines found, no matter which we you cut it, not believing in God is even more dangerous than smoking.  Verily.

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Filed under atheism, Bible, death, fear, foreskins, jesus, Religion

Is Sunday school child abuse?

sunday_school.jpg“Parties shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”  Article 14 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children 

No, because Sunday school provides children with a moral compass. 

They already have a couple of pretty good moral compasses; one is their conscience and the other is the example of their parents.  And, you know, scaring people into goodness is a fairly tenuous approach to teaching morality. 

No, because children can always make a choice about their beliefs later in life. 

Wasn’t it the Jesuits who said, “Give me the child until he is seven and I will give you the man.”  And often it’s just a half a man. And that half usually feels guilty as hell about everything. 

No, because salvation is the greatest gift a parent can give their child. 

Hmmm kind of depends on the religion, doesn’t it?  I mean, some kids are taught that salvation comes in the form of a suicide bomb.  And some of them are getting told that you can gain salvation with multiple wives – now, after that, death will feel like salvation but it’s not really the same thing. 

No, because Jesus said to suffer little children to come unto him. 

Well, that’s true but maybe he meant to freely come unto him.  As opposed to being packed off at the age when you still believe in Father Christmas, fairies and love eternal. 

No, because Sunday school doesn’t include sex. 

Well, if you’re lucky, it doesn’t but I wouldn’t count on it, would you? And even if you are lucky, some of that stuff they teach you is going to seriously affect your future sex life forever, including the one you have with yourself! 

No, because Sunday school is a family activity. 

So is incest. 

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Filed under life, Religion, school, sex, youth

The Coward’s Curse

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — The U.S. military is calling on all Iraqi leaders, Sunni and Shiite, to condemn the recent kidnapping and killing of 15 Iraqi police officers in retaliation for the alleged rape of a Sunni woman. CNN News  Australia is a member of the Coalition of the Willing. Here then is death.  Here is the end of dreams and hope and memory.  Fifteen mothers’ sons, born of love’s embraces and obliterated in a single moment of hate. The men were taken at night, tied and blindfolded, and in the morning they were forced to kneel in a field between date palms.  They smelt for the last time the ancient earth and the new morning.  They listened to the litany of sins for which they must pay – not because they committed them but because they represented them. Here is the hand that holds the gun that sends a bullet into the head of my brother.  Here is evil incarnate and dressed in the garb of righteousness.  Here is oblivion delivered for God. And my blood rises like a hot tide to drown all the evil of this world, to kill the man who kills the man, to rip away the criminal from his mask. And I, now hating, dare to judge and toss my coward’s curse at the feet of a coward.  And who am I, cloistered in my green street growing roses and sending soldiers off to fight the enemies of my friend?  Am I less a brute? Just because I do not pull the trigger or wipe the spattered brain from my shoes?   Just because I do not look on the result of what I do? Just because I kill with missiles? From a distance?  

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Filed under australia, cowardice, fear, Iraq, Islam, life, Men, Religion, war

At the Drive In

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I have to admit that it wasn’t that hard to be the resident intellectual in my little town.  We lived on the edge of the Indian Ocean; each day it crept timidly up the usually dry riverbed around whose mouth the town had grown.  Then it would shyly retreat leaving large tidal expanses in which sawfish and stingrays basked.  It was a hot place made liveable by the afternoon sou’ wester that filled the air with the smell of salt and pushed the heat back across the low hills that bordered our community.  Beyond the hills, Australia reached inwards through low scrub and claypans towards the great thirsty interior.  This was not the place for an intellectual. 

Of course, I wasn’t really an intellectual, but as I grew older, I came to pass for one.  Suspicions that had been founded on my love of reading and an ambivalent attitude towards sports were confirmed when, at 17, I left home for College.  It was funny – we had spent our teen years roaming aimlessly around the town bemoaning our boredom and promising to leave at the first opportunity.  Those of us that left at the end of school never came back; those that stayed never left. 

I knew that my reputation was irrefutable, however, when I returned home for holidays at the end of my first college year.  It was Friday night and the Drive In theatre was packed.  In those days, the Drive In was the centre of whatever passed for youth culture in my town.  We learnt to fight there; to drink, to smoke, to love and to nurse our broken hearts and noses. 

I was parked near the boys from the Public Works Department.  Most had left school at 15 and now they drove water trucks, fixed roads and laid pipes across the sprawling brown district.  Their acknowledged leader, and my oldest friend, was Bandy, a skinny, eccentric kid with a quick tongue and a taste for the laconic. 

It was soon clear from the conversations in the PWD car that the film, “Jesus Christ Superstar” was receiving increasingly negative critiques.  Between the clink of beer bottles I could hear murmured disbelief as actors strode into scenes wearing ancient garments but carrying machine guns.  Mild discontent became outright incredulity when a large tank appeared and chased Judas through the desert. 

Finally a voice arose clearly above the rest, “Bandy, they didn’t have fuckin’ tanks in those days did they?” 

Bandy, without pause, and loud enough to let me know that he was publicly recognising my superior knowledge in all things literary, answered his erstwhile student thus: 

“I dunno, mate.  Ask Oscarandre; he’s read the Bible.”  

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Filed under australia, Film, humour, jesus, life, Religion

Zen and the art of not finishing stuff

Satori is the spiritual goal of Zen Buddhism. (in Chinese: wu.) Satori roughly translates into individual Enlightenment, or a flash of sudden awareness. Satori is as well an intuitive experience. A brief experience of Enlightenment is sometimes called Kensho. 

I hate Zen, you know?  Like, all that satori stuff, those little anecdotes and riddles that lead to enlightenment.  I don’t buy that thing.  They should tell a long story for guys like me, you know, stories with a beginning, middle and end.  And then, if you still don’t get it, they should just tell you what it means.  That’s what it was like at my Sunday school, man.  No ambiguity, you know.

But those Zen people – it’s all fucking ambiguity!  OK try this out; see if this brings you closer to the meaning of life:

“A man is being chased by a lion.  He falls over a cliff but as he falls he grabs hold of a root sticking out from the cliff face.  As he looks up he sees the lion waiting for him to come back so he can devour him.  He looks down and sees the earth thousands of feet below him.  Then, he notices a single red flower clinging to the wall of the mountain.”

Now that is the START of a good story; that is not THE story!  That story is not finished, man.  Where I come from that is the story you tell when you are really drunk and can’t remember how it ends.  That is the kind of story you tell when you are really OLD!  My grandmother told lots of those stories.  She’d say, “Your cousin, Eric, he bought a chainsaw once.  Locked it in the shed one Christmas.”  And she told that story over and over and no-one said, “Fuck, Gran, I think I just glimpsed Nirvana.”  Actually no one even visited her by that time but you get what I mean.

I don’t know why but it just shits me.  It’s lazy, isn’t it, not taking the time to finish a good story and just when it was getting interesting.

Like the time this dwarf in a red Volkswagen parks on my lawn and starts making love to my hand painted stone Aborigine statue.  Angry, I go outside ready to kick the little bastard to kingdom come.  Then, looking up, I notice this feather floating out of the gum tree.

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Filed under humour, life, Religion, zen

What’s so funny?

They say you can tell alot about people from what they laugh at.   

I am sitting in a bar on the Champs Elysees with an American I met on the ferry to Calais that day.  This is just after the US election that sees Jimmy Carter ousted from the White House and the end of the Iranian hostage crisis.  My new friend tells a joke.  “Hey, “ he asks, “What is very flat and glows at night?”  I shake my head.  “Iran, five minutes after Reagan becomes president.”  We laugh. canned-laughter.gif

The joke glides calmly over nuclear conflagration and the deaths of thousands of men, women and children.  Would we have laughed at a joke about Hiroshima?  What if a Japanese person told it? 

Friends visit for dinner.  They bring their first child, aged about two.  We always drink too much, talk, argue, cross boundaries.  She is particularly iconoclastic.  “There is nothing you can’t make a joke about,” she says.  “OK,” I say.  “What about child abuse?”  Her demeanour changes immediately, she is genuinely unsettled and uncomfortable.  “What is the worst thing about being a paedophile?” I ask.  She shakes her head. “I don’t want to go there.”  I persist, “You have to be in bed by 7 o’clock.”  No one laughs. 

This second joke, about the rape of children, crosses into territory that is universally decried and represents perhaps the cruellest form of human behaviour.  Can there ever be a time when it is funny? 

 As the film Borat shows, we may be entering into a post politically-correct period when all subjects are presented to us as humour.  Some of these topics  – e.g. Islam, the Jewish Holocaust, the lynching of slaves, abortion  – will deeply offend and even hurt many people. 

Is this just an expression of the age-old role that humour has in revealing hypocrisy, exposing lies, challenging beliefs?  Or are such jokes simply in bad taste irrespective of their “funniness?” 

And how will we know the difference?   

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Filed under art, humour, life, Religion