Category: religion


The Book Of Moron

Somehow tonight I ended up just hanging out with a bunch of our neighbors. My roommate Sofia has become pretty good friends with one of our neighbors, Krystal. They were sitting on the front porch chatting and another neighbor, Angela, came up. I’ve been friends with her for a while, and her crazy little dog tagged along, so I decided to join them. Two people moved into the next building over not long ago, and one of them, Dustin, came by. Eventually his roommate, the extremely adorable Michelle joined us. We were having basic get-to-know-you chats when we saw two guys approaching…

Sure enough, they were Mormon missionaries. They were nice and friendly, but it quickly became apparent that this was five-against-two. My roommate, Krystal, and Michelle (who has a gay best friend) started giving them a lot of crap about their stance on homosexuality. Then I jumped on board and started dissecting their philosophy (ie, the stuff they don’t usually mention when they come to your door). I asked all about becoming a god and getting your own planet and whatnot, and they insisted these beliefs (which they correctly did not deny were part of LDS doctrine) came not from The Book Of Mormon or The Pearl Of Great Price, but from the Bible itself.

I’m pretty sure this was just an attempt to make these ideas seem less crazy, now that they had been brought out into the open and they couldn’t just gloss over things and make the LDS church sound more like mainstream Christian denominations. Instead, they had to show us how mainstream Christianity was just as crazy, but that non-Mormons had been misinterpreting it. They showed me plenty of Bible verses and talked a lot about what mainstream churches believe, but I was able to counter everything they said, based on the fact that I spent around twelve years studying the Bible, theology, and the beliefs of various denominations.

When they could see that I knew more about their beliefs than most people they talk to, they had no choice but to back down and try to sell me on a pamphlet that would explain everything. I told the guy who offered me the pamphlet that I wasn’t going to read it, that I have probably already read the material that it cited, and that I would rather it go to someone who might be interested and sitting on the fence. I didn’t want that one person to miss out on this pamphlet because he ran out of them, meanwhile mine sat on a shelf and collected dust. He assured me that he has never run out, so I told him I would take it and put it in the free bin at Downtown Books and News, and perhaps someone else will find it more helpful. This seemed to him to be a good compromise.

We had a few more debates about human nature, the concept of sin, the existence of God, and the validity of the Bible, and then they decided their work was done. I started playing Michelle’s guitar and then one of our other neighbors, Ty, came out with his guitar. I grabbed my derbuka and we had a short little jam session until it started raining and we all dispersed. Overall it was a pretty fun evening. It’s not every day a group of people living in an apartment complex in the city hang out around a front porch and shoot the shit. And it’s definitely not every day five people gang up on some Mormons and have a good laugh at their expense.

In a completely unrelated note, my stuff is ready at the frame shop. My bank account isn’t exactly happy about that, but oh well. Two-and-a-half weeks until my show! w00t!!! And yeah, I guess that’s about it for now.

 

Edumacashun

Rick Santorum said that the president was a snob for encouraging everyone to go to college. The only reason I can see for him saying such a thing is that an educated populace certainly wouldn’t vote for an idiot like him. Keep them dumb and you’ll keep racking up the votes. After all, that’s been the Republican way since W’s first term.

He claims that college is a liberal conspiracy. Yep. Just like birth control. And JFK. Damn liberals, trying to ruin our once-great nation.

Ricky boy says that when people go to college, they fall away from their faith. Another time-honored Republican tactic. Thump your Bible, talk shit about gays and women, and call the other guy a Muslim, and it really doesn’t matter what else you stand for. You can basically write up any policy you like, no one will pay any attention. Jesus said we can’t take it up the ass, kill babies, or get along with people who believe differently than us. So fuck the poor and make it that much easier for giant corporations to take over the world. We won’t notice, and we won’t care. Because that other guy, the radical Moooslem, he wants to see abortion on the lunch menu at every middle school in the country.

Somehow this moron is actually getting votes. Not that I have a problem with it. If I believed in God I’d actually pray for a Santorum nomination. Regardless of what the usually way off base polls say, it would only lead to an Obama landslide. All six women who vote for Santorum will be devastated to see him go down in flames.

Also, anytime you get to use the words “Santorum,” “go down,” and “flames” in the same sentence, I’d say it’s a pretty good day.

 

Mani padme .com

In a city like Asheville, with a diverse population and a lot of hippies, it’s not uncommon to walk into store after store filled with statues of the Buddha, prayer flags, and books about Buddhism. But somewhere along the way, some people got the bright idea of putting an actual Buddhist temple in the back of a downtown store full of Buddhist stuff, and Urban Dharma was born.

I first heard of the place from a customer and decided to check it out on my lunch break one day. Somehow the woman convinced me to sign up for their mailing list, and not long ago I got an email about an upcoming event. My friend was supposed to be getting married today, but she called off the wedding, and since I already had the day off and now had no plans, I figured I’d go check it out.

The email described a program based around an American monk talking about what it’s like to be a Buddhist in the Southeastern US. It said that after his presentation there would be the first weekly prayer service and an introduction to Tibetan Buddhism for those unfamiliar with it. Well this isn’t exactly what I got, but it was still a pretty interesting service. They started with some prayers and a (very) long mantra chant, which lasted around half an hour. Then there was a short break, and the speaker began his presentation. He talked at length about his monastery and what it was like being an American convert living in Kathmandu. He showed a bunch of photos of his monastery and the monks there and beautiful views of the Kathmandu valley. As he was still talking, they started to pass out the prayer books again. By this time we had been there almost three hours and I could feel my blood sugar starting to drop rapidly from not eating anything all day, so I decided to skip the next prayer and what I assume was to be the second portion of his presentation, wherein he actually talked about being a Buddhist in the American South. Even though I didn’t stay the whole time, and even though it wasn’t exactly what was described in the email, it was still a pretty fascinating experience.

I was continuously struck by the beauty of Tibetan Buddhism. There is so much symbolism, so much poetry about it. The iconography is gorgeous and even though the repeated chanting of the mantra was a little out of the ordinary for me, it was very calming. In the prayer books I saw a lot of similarities with the eastern branches of Christianity, and a lot of parallels with the teachings of Christ. In the prayers and prostrations I was reminded very much of Sufi mysticism and the simple repetitions of my Muslim brothers back in Morocco. In his slide show I couldn’t help but think of my experiences in a poor developing country very much dominated by religious faith. But perhaps the biggest impact was that all of this made me turn my focus inward. I kept thinking about my own journey, and my newfound determination to change a lot of things in my life. The prayers taught compassion for all, and especially for those who hate you, for they only treat you that way because they are suffering. That’s a truth deeper than anything I’ve ever heard in a Sunday sermon, and it fits in so well with the teachings of Jesus that I can’t help but wonder if that theory of his “missing” years having been spent in India and Tibet studying Buddhism has some merit after all.

The service wasn’t without its drawbacks, and I noticed that almost all of the people there were white. A good number of them appeared to be hipsters and well-off middle-aged couples. Not an Asian in the place except for one of the founders of the temple. I can’t help but wonder if, in a religion that is so steeped in tradition, the people who are raised Buddhist see a makeshift temple in the back of a store downtown as somehow cheapening their faith. I also have some problems with the speaker’s description of Buddhist thought. He focused so much on the memorization and repetition of it, and then spoke as though it was obvious from that that Buddhist thought was deeper and more meaningful than Western thought. He said in the West we are taught to think critically and question things, and learning is all about opening new doors and experiencing new things, which we think will lead us to enlightenment. Western teaching is “a mile wide but an inch deep.” Buddhist thought on the other hand is not about critical thinking or learning, but about listening to those who have achieved enlightenment and repeating their truths until those truths become our own. Buddhist teaching is “an inch wide but a mile deep.” I scratch my head as to how this is so. I’m a big fan of critical thinking, and I don’t think our elders have all the answers. I don’t think simply listening to them and repeating what they have said will make us realize those truths for ourselves. We have to experience and learn on our own, and there is always something new to be discovered. There might truly be “nothing new under the sun,” but until we learn it for ourselves, everything is new.

All in all it was a great experience. I have a lot of new things to think about, and a new desire to live in the peace that comes with thinking but not worrying. I have the utmost respect for Buddhism and its teachings. But if the way he presented Buddhist thought is accurate, it is simply just another religion as far as I’m concerned. There are many new things out there to be learned and discovered, and many answers we have yet to find. But as long as we are taught to not think for ourselves and that others have the answers already, we can never truly reach enlightenment.

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