“We are building a religion.
We are building it bigger.
We are widening the corridors,
and adding more lanes”
— CAKE, “Comfort Eagle”
As this series unfolds, many threads/themes will undoubtedly become prominent. Some will sprout organically from previous song entries in unanticipated ways. Others, such as subjects, beliefs, ideas and themes that have molded or flat-out determined (not to be confused with fated) who I am and the life I lead, are, well… the word is “inevitable”. Of those, religion is the Grand Poobah of the Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes; or, the Cthulhu, if you will.
The subject of religion and faith could easily encompass a series all its own. Hell, for years I’ve toyed with various notions of writing a book titled The Gospel According to Matthew, the Agnostic. Opinion and feature pieces from the college newspaper, entries on the old LiveJournal page, thoughts of varying lengths composed and saved into Word documents, throwaway two-to-three sentence posts on Facebook… there is plenty of source material to draw from, with plenty more only thought but not properly put into words.
Yet, by no means do I fancy myself some kind of armchair theologian. I’ve probably read more than the average reader on this subject. However, the time, temperament, or interest to dive deeply into great thinkers’ works on this subject just isn’t there. It certainly didn’t help that Thomas Aquinas’s great defense of the existence of God seemed to rest too much on faith and not enough on actual logic or reason.
Despite a shallow grounding in such treatises, personal experience has provided plenty of opportunity to reflect on these matters. My dad provided an unusual childhood (by American standards) where most of my religious instruction flowed from the tenets of the somewhat obscure Japanese sect of Buddhism he practiced. The other side of the family nominally attempted to raise a Catholic (I can still recite The Lord’s Prayer from rote memory), but the ridiculously small number of church sermons attended didn’t even qualify for the “Chreaster” label.
Without getting into the details here — plenty of future opportunity certainly exists — a disillusionment with Buddhism set in during high school. Later, a college girlfriend inspired a two-year attempt to embrace a right-wing, evangelical form of born again Christianity. Despite best intentions and fervent efforts, a thorough lack of ecclesiastical Wite-Out (to borrow a phrase from Dennis Miller, back when he was funny) ultimately undermined and doomed every single attempt at a successful leap of faith.
All this resulted in my evolving into an “agnostic atheist who has made his peace with God.” Though agnostic, I have no problem with religion in the abstract. It provides many benefits. Unfortunately, lots of horrible behavior is often justified by religion. Gandhi’s apocryphal statement regarding Jesus and Christians can easily be applied to just about any other religious figure and the faithful who follow them. Believe whatever you want, but the second you try to codify your beliefs into law or use them as an excuse to treat others as second class citizens/human beings, then I have a serious problem with your religion/belief system.
Along those same lines, it’s unsettling to think that supposedly God-loving people need the threat of hell and the reward of heaven in an afterlife as motivations to do good in this one. Yeah, yeah, yeah… original sin. Not buying it. Without either of those concepts as motivation, I’ve somehow managed to avoid stealing, murdering, or treating LBGTQ individuals as detestable second-class citizens simply because they want buy flowers and cakes for their wedding ceremony.
All this is why the Flying Spaghetti Monster may possibly be the best religious idea ever. He’s a benevolent god who simply wants everyone to do the things that make them happy, while simultaneously being kind and civil to one another. Furthermore, His Noodliness doesn’t want to use threats and punishments to make humankind behave — we already know how to work this out for ourselves. Okay, that might be asking a lot for many, but it’s not rocket science.
In fact, it’s simply another variation of The Golden Rule, which is really the primary premise upon which most of the world’s great religions are built. For good reason — it’s a wonderful premise that should be the core of everyone’s lives. However, there is no threat of punishment or promise of reward from the FSM. We’re just supposed to do the right thing, and if someone appears weird by doing something different we’re not accustomed to, but it’s harming no one else, then we just need to be more accepting.
Just widen the corridors and add more lanes. It really is that easy.
Hall of Songs: 2013 Inductee, Inner Circle