Sunday, October 11, 2009

In The Arms Of Morpheus

Who can remember the first "Matrix" movie? For me it was the best of the whole trilogy, which I felt was rather disappointing as a whole. I am particularly fond of the part in the first movie where Neo is offered a choice between taking the red pill and the blue pill. Blue, you go to sleep, everything goes back to the way it was. Red, you go down the rabbit hole, see where it leads. Either way, regardless of your choice, there is no going back.

Quite a fascinating concept, actually. And quite a fascinating movie! There are many analogies and hidden meanings referring to deeper philosophical concepts in its convoluted plot, but for me one thing stands out - the polar opposites of knowledge and ignorance. Discovering the truth leads to knowledge. Knowing of course, being the harder path. Being ignorant is easy - all you need to do is go with the flow, toe the party line and be a "yes" man - an echo.

Start thinking for yourself, ask "why?" and even venture to say "why should I?" and pretty soon you will have half the world at your throat for being a "trouble maker".

When people face challenges to their fixed personal values - particularly those they have adopted through religion or other forms of indoctrination, they tend to get all twitchy and fundamentalist about it. They stop thinking and listening or "playing nice" - and start shouting to drown out opposition. Often the only reason they will engage you in dialog at all is to try to convince you to see things their way - and if they can't convince you with intelligent debate they will try to cajole you with the ultimate weapon in the arsenal of the religious fundamentalism - quotes of religious scripture, which bear the ultimate authority - because, as 'everybody knows', God wrote them.

Of course She did.

How can rational, intelligent, sane people who think for themselves ever hope to argue against the all-knowing sage wisdom and 100% proof fact and reality which resides inside the pages of that big ol' book? At least, that is what they think. They are going to "prove" you wrong and you don't stand a chance.

In the view some of them promote, one might as well kill a gay man for being a "sinner" and then go to court to answer for the crime of murder and offer "God told me to do it" as your defense. Oh, well that makes it all right then - thanks for helping to defend "the family"!

Comments and dialog on scratchy issues are always welcome - at least, they should be. It's when people stop talking to each other like rational, thinking, sentient beings - and stop listening to each other - that trouble starts brewing. It's great to have people interested, asking questions and wanting to try and understand the differences between people that make them unique.

It is often the case that nothing is ever as simple as biblical literalists choose to believe - and the things which they claim are simple, are invariably far more complex than they will care to accept. People who think of sexual orientation and gender identity as a simple concept are making a huge mistake, because it is far more complicated than that. Since it has already been scientifically shown that sexual orientation and gender identity are a direct influence of prenatal exposure to hormones, genetics (xx or xy or xxy) or a combination of both, this makes it as much a physical characteristic in terms of other inborn traits such as eye or skin color. In either case, in trying to change a person's sexual orientation, you might as well be trying to change a persons eye color.
As for analogies regarding gay or trans people coming out of the closet, it presents the obvious question - if a person comes out of the closet as gay, was that person only gay after coming out of the closet - or were they actually gay before that?

Do you think the person changed sexual orientation in coming out - or is it only your perception of that person which has changed?

Some put the point that the need to prove biological or medical factors is nothing more than a drive to justify something which to them seems like no more than a personal choice. They think of it as a way to remove the burden of responsibility for - in their view - choosing to be gay, bi or transgender.

This question can of course be best answered with another question: Does the need to prove that there are biological factors determining gender identity and sexual orientation take away credibility from the evidence which proves it?

Yes, there is a need to prove that being gay or transgender is natural - because it proves to those who attack us that they are mistaken in doing so, so that they may rethink their ignorance and the hatred which flows out of it.

Most often, the motivation for the attack on the humanity and dignity of gay and trans people flows out of religion. These days the religions most vocal - and divided - in their opposition to sexual orientations and gender identities which differ in any way to heterosexual and cis-gender, are Christianity and Islam.

Let me be clear on my feelings on the religious topic: I think religion is a personal thing that should be left up to individuals to practice - not groups. And what people believe should be a choice left up to them. Acting out of that belief though, is something we should consider the consequences of - and particularly when our actions affect the lives of people around us - and especially if our actions affect them negatively.

The simple truth about religion is that it is self-serving, particularly religions such as Christianity and Islam, and to a lesser degree, Judaism, where a central part of that faith is focused on separation from the rest of the world, which it perceives as "evil" or "sinful" - and evangelism and "spreading" to remake the world and its inhabitants exclusively according to its own values. Evangelical Christianity for example is focused on literally taking over the world and in declaring any opposition or dissent to be hostile and to make war on it. Firstly, it's central ethos is based on the premise that all other gods other than theirs are false gods. Co-incidentally, Islam has the very same belief.

Hmm. No wonder these two religions spent most of the Dark Ages fighting each other, trying to conquer Europe or the "Holy Land" - and spilling blood over a useless piece of land in the middle of a desert, occupied by an insignificant fly-speck on the map called Jerusalem. It is hardly surprising that there is this underlying tension today between adherents to these faiths. It seems to me that religion has a few huge flaws built right into it. Never mind the tiny detail that all three Abramic religions have at their core, none other than the very same deity. Yahweh, Allah, God - same dude, different names. Ahem.

And you thought having "one world religion" or "one God" would unite humanity??

Idiots, all of them, squabbling over who has it right - like a bunch of children. Did. Didn't. Did. Didn't. Did so. Did not. Did too. Etc. For goodness sake, get over yourselves, believe what you like and show others the same courtesy. Simple. No need to force your views on the rest of humanity all for the sake of your own vanity.

I certainly don't want somebody telling me how to think, what to think, what to believe and how to live my life in order to make them happy - never mind dismissing what makes me happy as "irrelevant", "wrong" or "sinful".

Modern evangelical Christianity focuses on the "the great commission" - the principle that living a righteous and faithful religious life - and "transforming" the Earth so that all people do the same (and believe the same as they do) - thereby fulfilling the "great commission" - will bring about the second coming of Christ. Fundamentalists today seem set on doing just that. Never mind the other tiny detail that achieving this is nothing short of impossible.

When you bring religion into a group, such as government, a school or other social forum, you institutionalize it and set it above the interests of the group - in other words, the interests of that religion - its self serving nature - then come first. Again, religion being a personal matter, when involvement in institutionalized religion is made compulsory, what about the people who disagree? What about the Muslims or Hindus or Jews or Atheists who don't want to listen to pious and partisan Christian prayer at every school assembly, company Board meeting or military parade? What if they don't want to be a part of it, or have a different faith than those who are in control? Is the solution to let those made uncomfortable by it, leave until it's over? Does this make people feel a part of society, or outsiders? This is exactly why there is a concept like secularism - because it favors no religion over another.

I would say individual views on this topic depend on whether you believe in God or not - and if so, which god?

Most religions today focus on how to live life in order to receive rewards after death - in my view, a rather unique and clever way for religious leaders to shirk responsibility for broken or unfulfilled promises. After all, when you die and find out there is nothing on the other side, or that your bible thumping pastor had it slightly - or all - wrong, who is going to know? Besides, you already did as you were told, made them happy and quite literally, dead men tell no tales. Has anyone come back from the dead to give these charlatans a smack to tell them they had it wrong - or to confirm their litany? I haven't heard of any such cases. But in the meantime, people will do what religious leaders tell them to, in order to qualify for that great big ethereal carrot dangling in the sky. I have said it before and I will say it again - organized religion is, was and always will be all about CONTROL.

Simple-minded people will tremble or fear the consequences of breaking the set rules, of not doing what is written in ancient scriptures - which coincidentally, were written by other people.

How am I to know what those people were thinking - or smoking - when they wrote, re-wrote, edited, mistranslated, misinterpreted and censored the same documents over and over again? How can anybody? I wonder at people who can act out of hatred against people over matters of sexual orientation and gender identity and other trivial matters and claim that "God says" this or that - justifying their actions - when the ultimate truth of it all is they don't know any more than I do what God really said - or if She said anything at all about it, much less whether there is a god.

Life in itself is as much a mystery as death and the concept of an afterlife. It is by its very nature uncertainty. Must some people make this life more unpleasant for others than it already is - or has to be? Is it really so satisfying to them to increase the unhappiness and misfortune of others? Are they so desperately in need for reassurance and affirmation? Will it serve my sense of self to make the lives of others more miserable than they already are? Is this not a sign of doubt and even fear?

I have no fear of death or what awaits me after that, perhaps because whatever is there is inevitable. Whether I fear death or not, I will still die. Whether I die now or in a thousand years, I will not escape death. Nor do I want to. And if there is to be some sort of judgment there, I cannot escape it. I am comfortable with being judged on how I have conducted my affairs here in this life. I have accepted my mortality and fallibility and have decided to be a force for good and light in opposition to darkness.

Call me a fatalist if you like, but regardless of all this, my life and existence and all my influence is here - in the world around me. This is where I can make a difference. I do not know what awaits me when I leave here, but I will deal with it when the time comes. I suppose you could call it a practical approach to life - and death. People tend to focus on things as a means to an end. Take the blue pill - red pill example and the rabbit hole. Take the red pill to see where the rabbit hole goes. Most people think of the journey in terms of its destination, being the logical conclusion and even the point of the journey itself. But every so often you might find somebody who quite likes the rabbit hole for what it is - a journey to be savored along the way.

My own soul (or spirit) has simple needs. I know I am on a journey of my own, just like every one of us - whether or not there is a God, or who or what this God is, or what awaits me in the afterlife (or if there is one). This is a mystery, one which I cannot change, affect or influence much or at all in this plane of existence. It is something we will all learn the truth of when our lives here end.

I am comfortable with that.

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