If I wash my hands in your dirty water,
Will your religion make me clean,
And if I wet my feet in your dirty water,
Will I be blind to all I see,
Dirty Water by Rock and Hyde (The Payolas)
We all have a religion, like it or not.
Oh boy. Ed is talking religion. This cannot be good.
I found myself being sold someone's beliefs today. The price was too high for my liking so I took a pass.
Never, ever, ever try to hard sell and preach to me on a day when I'm ready, willing and amply able to verbalize an opinion with the fervor of an evangelical self-proclaimed prophet delivered directly from the bosom of the Almighty himself... err... herself... umm... its self... thingy... whatever.
I wrote a post several years ago (before this blog) about a run-in I had with a nun. I was clearing out a house for a son who's father had died. The father, like most people, had collected things over the years that may or may not have been of “value” but they were valuable to him. While I'm working away, a nun shows up in full battle gear. I overheard part of the conversation as she wandered through the house looking for things of value the church might sell. Son grieving... nun scoping... me thinking, “Really, lady?”
Yes, the sister and I had a discussion, decidedly one sided, when she turned her attention toward me and the imminent safety of my basket wielding, Hades bound soul came into question. I think I made her puke a little. Poor dear.
I didn't have much of a filter back then.
You see, I don't have a problem with what you believe. It's your shit. Go nuts. You can believe whatever you wish. Just... stop... trying... to... sell... me!
The problem I have with beliefs is they are not able to be proven. That's the nature of a belief... it has no hard evidence to back it up. If a car passes and you believe it is traveling 51 kilometers per hour, there is no way of proving it. If the car stops and the driver says they were traveling 54 kilometers per hour, there is still no way to prove it either way. The car is stopped and so is the speedometer. Only the driver knows and they would have had to; a) know exactly when you were guessing their speed and, b) happen to be looking at the speedometer at that exact moment. Given that speedometers are only accurate to plus or minus two kilometers per hour only exacerbates the issue.
And so it is with all beliefs. They are personal and not provable. Ever.
If it (whatever it may be) is a provable truth, there is no need for belief.
I once asked a group of people if there was life after death. I received an emphatic yes. I found this odd since, unless one has been dead, one cannot know and all evidence indicated this group were quite alive. Yes, I'm familiar with the people who were brought back to life and say they saw a light or their relatives or something otherwise ethereal. And, you and I have not personally had the experience therefore it is third party hearsay.
I'm not saying I don't believe in life after death. I'm simply reserving judgment until I get there. I'm not saying there is no God. I'm just saying I'm reserving judgment until I meet them face to face. I'm not saying there aren't any unicorns. I'm just saying I'll reserve judgment until I see one prancing around the woods.
Beliefs are fine. We all need something to believe; particularly those beliefs in ourselves and our abilities. I get a little wary when it becomes a group thing and membership means I have to believe the exact thing you do... which is also impossible. I've used religious examples because they are prevalent and, I'm sorry to say, easy pickings. Yet there are so many other beliefs many of us have that have no basis in fact. (Don't get me started on race, creed or sexual orientation beliefs because they are just as wildly incoherent.)
We can believe anything given the right impetus. Our personal beliefs in ourselves, who we are and what we are capable of, spiritual or otherwise, are indeed our personal religion.
Years ago, I went through a period in my life where I was breaking down. My personal belief then was I wasn't enough. I wasn't good looking enough. I wasn't smart enough. I wasn't social enough. I had become paralyzed. I had to force myself to leave the house. I felt awkward being with people and I couldn't stand to be alone. I had to force myself to complete any task, mundane or otherwise. I became anti-social. I reached out for help and found little, which led me to believe I wasn't worthy enough. I hid away and read books and numbed myself with whatever kept me from facing my not-good-enough-ness.
I believed all those things even though there was no empirical evidence to prove any of it one way or the other. That viewpoint had become my religion. And I sold it hard. Oh poor me. See what the world has done to me? It's all their fault. I'm not to blame for any of this. Someone please believe me. Wah, wah, fucking wah.
What a load of crap. All I really wanted was a group of followers so my beliefs would feel that much more like truth to me and I could hard sell it to more people as fact. (The more people I had backing me up the more factual it became... to me.)
And then I saw the truth... in the mirror... and it was ugly. More correctly, I had become ugly. The person I was trying to convince that my beliefs were truth was not the person I was whining to. The person I was trying to hard sell was me.
Life had dealt me several blows in short order and I believed the world had singled me out to be it's whipping boy. Ultimately, I had to look at my beliefs and determine if they were real or something created by an injured, overly-imaginative mind. I was fortunate to meet people who believed in me. It mattered not why they did... just that they did. What mattered was, whichever direction I chose to travel, they were supportive of it (as long as it wasn't harmful to myself or others).
It was a long slow process extricating myself from that religion. As unhealthy as it was, it was comfortable and familiar. It's not easy stopping selling yourself your own bullshit.
The trick was, I think, that people around me stopped buying my bullshit.
And it made me stop washing my hands in my own dirty water... and face the truth.