While in high school, I started to have misgivings about the years of Catholic education. I began to see that the story really did not make sense. The all-powerful God did not align well with our complex universe. I discovered Zen (while in college) mostly in the books of Alan Watts, who also was brought up in a Christian environment. His books come from a similar perspective – comparisons between the Christian religions and the Eastern religions including Zen.
During my college years, I bought a number of books regarding religion, many of them by Alan Watts. The list of books that I find very interesting is available on this site. (A list of books about religion, including Zen)
I live in Wisconsin, which is certainly not part of the United States sometimes called the Bible Belt. Even so, we have our Christian radio stations and we have our regular letter writers to our local newspaper that often talk about needing more prayer and more teaching of the Bible in our schools and how God said or did this and that. The Christian God is simultaneously all-good (and we should thank Him endlessly for his goodness), merciless (and we should beg Him endlessly for the forgiveness of our sins as we are not perfect beings) and arbitrary (and we should thank Him endlessly if anything good happens to us but if anything bad happens to us it must be our fault – and since God did not prevent it from happening and since we are less than perfect, we should grovel (or pray) that it does not happen next time).
... % said it was because they genuinely try to follow the Christian religion, with 41% saying it was because they try to be ... we don’t need to believe in God to be good people and no, religion is certainly not necessary in modern day ... mugging, murdering and mutilating is that they are afraid of God; that the only reason they are good is because they ...
At times, it seems incredible to me that our civilization is on the verge of interplanetary space travel and we still have large numbers of people still holding on to primitive religions that are many hundreds of years old.
One of the central concepts of Christianity is that God is the maker of the world and so the world is just an artifact that followed a plan. In our world, we have things that are made, like machines, furniture, etc. There are also things that are grown, like any life form (such as plants, animals, and people).
A plant does not grow by adding on more blocks like a building, it grows from within. A child does not grow by adding on skin, the child grows from within. In the Eastern religions (which lack the authoritarian figurehead for a God that rules with a firmness reminiscent of the ancient kings), nature has a flow (the Tao) and is not made. (I have written a few other web pages that describe evolution as well as the concept of a human community.)
I grew up a Catholic and went to a Catholic grade school so I spent a great deal of time within a church. The Alan Watts book ‘Nature, Man and Woman’ offered an interesting perspective on the world as viewed when in church versus the world as viewed when not in church. In church, the universe has been made. God stands outside of his creation as a carpenter views his work. When not in church, the world has been grown. The world is vibrant with variety and change. There are literally millions of different life forms, all in competition for survival. Our environment is also in a constant state of flux – warm or dry one day, cold or wet another. There are continual changes in everything. Certain fish will prosper in their current environment and others will not. Certain bugs will spread into new territories while others will have dwindling numbers. With time any of those changes can reverse their course – perhaps as a result of a new influence (like people?).
When I contemplate the intricacies of nature, I have a problem considering that everything is controlled by God. If He has control over everything (including whether my child will pass a math test today or I will have a car accident tomorrow), then this life is meaningless. At times growing up, I felt that way. As a Catholic, I was taught that we live our life for however many years – more years for some than others. When we die, we will live forever in heaven or hell. If our goal is just to get to heaven, it seemed odd that we struggle not to die rather than welcoming it. As soon as we have done what we believe is God’s work (although neither the script nor the bill of materials are ever written down!?), we could die and go to heaven. Unfortunately at an early age (i.e., Catholic grade school), I was informed the game is not played by those rules. We have to live for as many years as God decides and then ‘your time is up’ and you die. Along the way, you will have to confront many temptations but those are a test of your worthiness to go to heaven. Within this set of rules, you still have to survive. The human body is not perfect, sometimes prone to illness and susceptible to injury. The Devil tempts us to do things that are wrong but offer short-term gains.
... As the world grows so do our challenges. Not only are our problems ... people of the world have so many similarities in comparison ... exchange student, I saw the world from a different point of view. For the first time, I realized that the ... make the people of the world unite would merely take time in convincing people of the world that we are all in ...
The presence of the Devil in this picture offers an interesting observation. Since God is all-knowing and all-powerful, when a person does something really bad (due to temptation by the Devil?), God must have let the person do that. Supposedly God always has the power to intercede. Therefore God lets some people go to hell while others will go to heaven. Similarly, God lets some people die in accidents while others survive. After all, God has his ‘plan’ for everyone – right? I remember being taught that babies that die before they are baptized must go to ‘limbo’, not heaven or hell, because the baptism is so important. All this sounds so arbitrary to me.