Growing up in the United States, I was exposed to quite a few different religions. Most of them were one flavor or another of Christianity; Catholicism, Baptist, Pentecostal, Mormonism, etc. Of course, I was also exposed to Buddhism, Judaism, Atheism, and if you want to count it, even Agnosticism.
The thing that I came to believe over time was that if God exists, man had undoubtedly gotten it wrong somewhere along the line. If the Christ people were right, Judaism was wrong. If the Pentecostals were right, the baptists were wrong. If the Buddhists were right, Catholics were wrong.
So, hating to be wrong, I adopted the belief that the only right answer was 'I don't know' - and I've considered myself agnostic ever since..at least until recently. I spent the better part of my youth and the early part of my adulthood in a little town in Oklahoma - Altus, Oklahoma. We didn't have too much religious diversity there, but we did have several different flavors of Christianity. So, having adopted agnosticism, it was worthwhile for me to have an answer when questioned by Christians with: What if you're wrong?
Fancying myself clever, and knowing enough about what the bible had to say to back it up, the answer I had for myself and them became: If I'm wrong, and there is definitely a God above who will judge me for the way I lived my life and the beliefs that I held on Judgment Day, I trust his judgment. After all, if the all-knowing creator who knew the number of hairs on my head while I was in the womb was doing the judging, he would very well know why I believed what I believed - he made me this way. He would also know what I would have had to experience for my beliefs to fall in line with whatever the correct faith was - and if he chose not to send those experiences my way...well, that was his call to make. While certain Christian's beliefs led them to believe that I would surely be sent straight to hell for not believing as they did, that was their judgment - and I had decided that if God exists, his judgment would be much more loving, fair, and wise. So I carried on like that for many a year, without fear of eternal damnation and just a tiny measure of faith.
Recently however, that view has changed in a very fundamental way....
So, without further ado - and in no small part because I like the sound of it, I present you with:
The Core Belief Structure of:
The Church of GrimNow, since I've decided to go ahead and make this a religion, I want it to provide for people the same major things that most other religions provide for people: A set of guidelines to live by to attain the happiest and most fulfilling life possible, and an explanation of the nature of the universe.
The guidelines to live by are as follows:
I. Interact with others as you would want them to act if your roles were reversed
II. Be intolerant of intolerance
III. Be VERY careful what you choose to believe
I. I don't think anyone has a problem with anyone else trying to live their life by this one. My basis for that is almost entirely the contents of what's in Wikipedia at present in The Golden Rule at present - but as it's Wikipedia I understand it's contents may be different when you click the link than they were when I wrote this. At present it essentially says pretty much everyone agrees it's the way to go:
The "Declaration Toward a Global Ethic" from the Parliament of the World’s Religions(1993) proclaimed the Golden Rule ("We must treat others as we wish others to treat us") as the common principle for many religions. The Initial Declaration was signed by 143 respected leaders from all of the world's major faiths, including Baha'i Faith, Brahmanism, Brahma Kumaris, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Indigenous, Interfaith, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Native American, Neo-Pagan, Sikhism, Taoism, Theosophist, Unitarian Universalist and Zoroastrian.II. This one I lovingly refer to as 'my favorite hypocrisy' - because technically if you're intolerant of intolerance you wouldn't tolerate your own intolerance of intolerance. That being said, I think rules to live by are really 'rules to try to live by', so we can forgive ourselves for the one hypocritical failing to adhere.
This one probably won't be as well loved as the Golden Rule, as being intolerant sometimes requires an active role and a measure of selflessness - and I suspect many trying to avoid that activity would justify doing so by citing the Golden Rule and saying "I wish others would mind their own business and not interfere with my behavior."
Adhering to My Favorite Hypocrisy, however, will sometimes require that you do interfere with the behavior of others. To illustrate My Favorite Hypocrisy, let's add a parable, I like parables from other religions, so the Church of Grim should have one too.
One day, a Grim Apostle and two Grim Acolytes were at high school when they come across a physically large boy bullying a physically small boy. Sensing a teaching opportunity, the Apostle spake unto the Acolytes, thus saying: "By the Tenets of the Church of Grim, we should intervene. Acolytes, tell me why."
The first Acolyte answered: "We should intervene because of the first tenet, the Golden Rule. If we were the small boy, we would want others to stop the larger boy's torment of us."
The second Acolyte answered: "We should intervene because of the second tenet, the Favorite Hypocrisy. The larger boy is clearly being intolerant of the smaller boy."
The Apostle then spake: "You are both correct, but even together your answers are incomplete. We must intervene because of the first tenet, both as if were the smaller boy and the larger boy. If you were the smaller boy, you would want someone to end your torment. If you were the larger boy, would you not want someone to stop you from being such a prick?"
III. This one I don't have a handy nickname for. I've also decided not to fully explain and justify it in the post, for third reasons:
First, my blog entries tend toward the long side anyway, and by the first tenet I'd be wanting me to wrap this up if I were you.
Second, the partial explanation I'm about to give ties in so very nicely with the start of this entry, it'll be an ideal place to stop.
Third, I've decided to look into making this an official church. There are great tax benefits for doing so, it opens up the door for me to feel justified in accepting donations, and I really think the world would be much better place if everyone converted to this belief system.
I will explain and justify the third tenet this far:
Science has shown us that the material world is dependent on the observer - that atomic particles are simultaneously in every possible location and tell you observe them, at which time they conveniently choose a location in which to be observed.
I choose to believe that science has or will show that the observer, on an non-conscious level, greatly influences the location the atomic particles choose to be observed. In essence, that the observer is creating the world around him/her on a non-conscious level, and further that the observers beliefs operate at least partially on that non-conscious level. What you believe, even if you aren't consciously aware you believe it, defines the universe we exist in.
The reasoning continues: If your beliefs create the universe that defines your mortal existence, there is a damn good chance your beliefs define what comes after your mortal existence.
When this became reasonable, it shattered the very foundation of the belief system that had taken me from my late teens to my early thirties. The assumption that 'if God exists, man had undoubtedly gotten it wrong somewhere along the line' no longer held up to scrutiny.
If our beliefs define our afterlife, then the Catholics can be right, the Buddhists can be right, the Atheists can be right, the Mormons can be right, and the Agnostics can be right. Though I personally recommend the Agnostics append "- but it's gonna be awesome" to their "I don't know" belief system.
If everyone defines their own afterlife, just as they define their own hairstyle, then everyone is right - at least if their conscious mind knows what they truly believe. The Catholics will go to heaven, hell, or purgatory, depending on where they believe deep down that they're going to go. The Atheists will fade into nothingness, just like they've always believed.
Though the notion might offend some of you, if suicide bombers truly believed they'd have seven virgins waiting for them afterward - they probably did.
This is why you should choose what you believe VERY carefully: You'll be right. The only people we really need to worry about are the ones that believe they're going to hell/going to have a crappy afterlife.