I watched Bill Maher’s documentary, Religulous, last week. I had a bit of a problem with the film: it made far too much sense.
As Maher goes about the world examining the better known world religions, he concludes that all of them have violent tendencies – and a promise that as long as followers do whatever it takes (live in polygamy, strap on a suicide bomb, “save” others, etc.), they will have a better existence in the next life. At the end of the film, he suggests that maybe we’d be a more peaceable people if each of us weren’t intent on proving that our particular religion is the one, right way.
A few years ago, I was briefly involved in a theological conversation with a group of college professors about the necessity of religion. The main reason religion exists, one of them suggested, is to make people behave. I disagreed but wondered how true that concept was. So in the days following my viewing of Religulous, I decided to take a few days off from my religion and see whether anything changed. It did, but not in the way the professor predicted. It wasn’t that I suddenly felt free to misbehave or do bad things, but I did feel my days driven by more of an urgency to live the day to the fullest. If this is the only life I get (removing the after-life concept from my thinking), then I wanted to enjoy today as much as possible, while there was still time. I felt more of a sense to give hands-on, direct-contact help rather than just write a check. I decided that sitting on the deck watching the breeze blow through the trees was a worthy occupation. I took the time to buy small gifts for my daughters that were facing new challenges in their work lives. I went for coffee with a friend.
The other thing I had to drop were my superstitions. Sure, I have them. They go something like, “If I pray hard enough, my mother won’t die,” or “It must be a sign from God that I didn’t get that job.” I set them aside, and my life improved. Suddenly, the fact that it was raining didn’t mean it would be a bad day, and God wasn’t trying to tell me something through signs that I needed to vigilantly watch for and interpret. No, now I could just spend my time living in the moment, enjoying the good times as they come.
In Religulous, Maher says that 19% of the population now professes to have no religion at all. Many will find that sad, but I have to wonder if that’s an indication that we’re on the cusp of a new Age of Enlightenment. Perhaps those old rituals and superstitions need to go. Perhaps it is time to be free.
Okay, so it’s true. I watch tv. Doesn’t everyone? Two of my particular guilty pleasures are HBO’s Big Love and FX’s Damages. Big Love is the story of a modern-day Mormon family living the Principle of polygamy. Bill and his three wives, Barb, Nicki, and Margene, are caught between the rigid, backward life of the compound Bill and Nicki grew up on and the modern-day Mormon church in which Barb was raised. The photo at left shows Bill, at wit’s end as his family disintegrates in face of the compound’s corruption and the Mormon Church’s disgust with their lifestyle, asking the blessing of Heavenly Father on a new community he will now lead. The cast is absolutely fantastic, Tom Hanks is one of the co-producers, and Brian Wilson’s God Only Knows offers the theme song for the show, a perfect musicial illustration of the juxtaposition of idyllic romantic love and the realistic fallibility of daily life. More, please.
Damages is a finely-crafted drama full of mystery and intrigue. There are more twists and turns than I can count, and that’s what keeps me on the edge of my seat. Glenn Close (pictured at right) plays Patty Hewes, a ruthless lawyer who, along with her side-kicks Rose Byrne (Ellen) and Tate Donovan (Tom), wants truth and justice above all else. Don’t they? I mean, I think so. I thought last season’s storyline featuring the antics of Arthur Frobisher, played by Ted Danson, couldn’t be topped. Then this season, Marcia Gay Harden and William Hurt were added to the cast. I think I’m in heaven.
Yes, these are my guilty pleasures. And so you’ll respect me in the morning, I won’t mention Eureka, Ghost Hunters, or The Young and the Restless – except to say they need to clear up that Marge/Catherine DNA scandal asap.
If you’re like me and not familiar with Tidewater Arts Outreach, visit their website. Coming soon is their Second Annual Singer/Songwriter Festival featuring Jonatha Brooke, formerly of The Story (The Angel in the House, 1993).
During President Obama’s press conference last night (transcript here), Ed Henry asked him why he waited two days before expressing his outrage that AIG officials received bonuses paid for with taxpayer bailout monies. Obama replied that he waited two days because he likes to be sure he knows what he’s talking about before he speaks. As Keith Olbermann later pointed out, that’s going to take some getting used to.
The story of Hands to Soul is in the online newsletter from Christian Feminism Today. Check out the story, and while you’re there, be sure and look at all of the great articles CFT has to offer. CFT is a publication of the Evangelical & Ecumenical Women’s Caucus (EEWC). For more information about EEWC, go here. The newsletter’s editor is my dear friend Letha Dawson Scanzoni. You may remember that Letha and I attended the film Milk together. If you’ve forgotten, here’s the story.
My son-in-law Brian was here this weekend, and being around Brian is fun because he occasionally drops what we in our family call Brian-isms. Today’s Brian-ism is, “Sometimes you just have to treat crazy with crazy.”
In the past week as I’ve wondered about resuming my online life in the wake of my stalker experience, I’ve come to believe that I might as well throw my crazy right back at his crazy. Besides, the stalker hasn’t bothered me since I used his real name. Guess he is smart enough to figure out I can tell the cops just where to find him.
How did I find his real name? My daughter stalked him for me, connecting online dots until she nailed down his true identity.
Sometimes you just have to treat crazy with crazy.
I know, I know. We tell our children all the time: don’t put personal info or photos on the blog – and then we do it. What was I thinking? Do you know how much personal info is out there on the web about me? Let me put it this way, there’s enough to cause someone to harass me. I have taken down all the personal info I can find and requested that personal info about me that others have posted be removed. I haven’t yet decided whether I can continue the blog, and if I do continue, I suppose I will need to censor myself (sigh).
I am launching a one-woman campaign to get my personal info off the web. If anyone has any suggestions, please leave a comment. Thanks.
The linen dishcloth lives up to its reputation, kinda. It does smell, but not so much. It’s a joy to use. I can’t imagine anyone not appreciating a gift of a linen washcloth and handmade soap, for those of you looking for gift ideas.
USAToday has a religion blog that’s quite interesting. Check it out here. The latest is a post by Dallas Morning News columnist Rod Dreher on Tough Love and Faith. Rod also writes the Crunchy Con blog on BeliefNet.
I finished the linen dishcloth, then knitted another in cotton (Cascade Yarn’s Luna). Frankly, I like the cotton much better, and it was more fun to knit. I’ll let you know how the odor experiment goes with the linen.
If you saw USAToday today (March 9), you had a chance to read up on the status of religious life in the US. Go here to read the article. Apparently, those saying they have “no religion” are the third largest group in our population (around 15%). Catholicism ranks first at around 25%, and in second place are those professing that they are Baptists (around 16%).
Perhaps more interesting is the assessment one researcher makes that circa 1990 religion was merely a “hobby” in most people’s lives but has now deteriorated to something more like a fashion statement. The researcher concludes that “a deep personal commitment” is no longer requisite for those engaged in religious practices.