“What’s meant for you won’t pass you by”

Last week, I talked about the reality of the first six months in the real world. That post was a humour piece, nothing more than a joke, a quick jab at the 9 to 5 lifestyle I’ve become used to. This is slightly more serious, a whole foot further down the rabbit hole. I can’t decide which of the two posts matters more. I know the first was easier. It was a much simpler story to tell. But it makes me wonder.

Which is the story worth listening to?

Anyway, if you read between the lines the last time, you’d have seen it wasn’t all smiles and sarcasm. There’s no doubt about it: life’s tough out here in the borderlands.

We all have our own ways of coping-tea, exercise, music, maybe even a drink or two. When flustered, a lot of people also turn to words, quick little one-liners (like philosophical Xanax) that ground them in something palpable again. Perhaps one of the most well-known (at least in Ireland) goes a little something like this:

What’s meant for you won’t pass you by

It mightn’t seem like much, a bare seven or eight words thrown together, but small sentiments like this have a way of resonating with people, of lasting. A phrase like that simply endures. And yet, of all the soft hopes held dear, this is the one belief I’ve yet to subscribe to.

A part of me thinks the reason reflects the bigger picture, the questions like “Why are we here?” or “What happens to us at the end?”. Spirituality, whether in the form of organised religion or not, requires a great deal of faith. Personally, it’s something I’ve always struggled with. The saddest change of heart I ever knew was realising that one day I didn’t truly believe anymore. I just wanted to. And in my eyes, the above phrase is filled with the same sort of uncertainty. I definitely want it to be real, but that’s an empty argument for someone who founds themselves on logic and gears. It’s as if the sentiment isn’t physical enough, like I’d agree in a heartbeat if I could just reach out and touch it.

Maybe the biggest issue I have with this phrase is that the evidence just isn’t there for it. From where I’ve been standing the last twenty-three years, it sure seems like a lot of things passed me by. Whether they were meant for me or not I don’t know, but I’d like to think that they weren’t. How do I know that? Like I said, I don’t, but I’ve lived by the attitude that if you want something bad enough, you’d better just go out and take it. Life isn’t equal, and it’s certainly not fair. Your aspirations aren’t just gonna pull over, roll down the window and tell you to hop in. Nope. If you’re going to be passive, holding your thumb out and expecting a ride, those dreams are gonna put the foot down and leave you behind, choking on a cloud of dust as they roar down the highway. Of course, if you take the active role in this situation, those dreams won’t get far. Yes, you’re going to have to chase them, running like your life depended on it. You’re probably going to trip a half dozen times and bloody something, maybe even consider giving up and laying down in the shade. But there’ll be a moment when you climb over the last hill, see lights in the city below. There’s every chance that moment will be worth it.

And of course, the above probably sounds awfully negative, but I’d wager the opposite is true. I can’t imagine anything worse than sitting in the back seat of the car, watching fields ghost by, waiting for the journey to be over so you can claim a prize already yours. That’s what happens when life is in charge, when things are meant for you, when years simply pass you by.

But perhaps you’re like me. You’d much rather take the hard road and risk never reaching the end of it. You’d suffer years of stumbling and falling, rising quickly to dust yourself off again, all in a world where we’ll only know a single breath, where we run the road of a mortal life. With time against us, it’s no wonder people want there to be some sort of guarantee. But destiny is a beautiful lie, a cushion for the wary and the unenthused. On the contrary, what was it Robin Williams said: “Carpe Diem. Seize the day. Make your lives extraordinary.” Somehow having the responsibility in your hands feels a lot more reassuring.

And yet phrases like “What’s meant for you won’t pass you by” aren’t said as a statement of fact, more like a mantra or prayer. They’re spoken as if to quell the great unknown, put order to the chaos of life and reinforce the fact that in some ways it’s all been already decided. And I don’t blame them. It’s tough accepting the reality that every day you might pass your dream job on your way to work, maybe close the door of a coffee shop five seconds before your true love opens it. But all those maybe-moments are down to chance, and the mathematics are rarely if ever with you. There are just too many variables for you to ever ride off into the sunset with the wind in your hair. Odds-wise, it’s more likely you’ll just fall into a job you don’t hate, pay your bills and some taxes, find someone you love and work hard enough to make it stick. Every day won’t be perfect. In fact, more than most won’t be memorable at all. But somewhere years from now, you’ll realise you needed all that background noise-all that adversity and that grey. After all, the lights over the hill wouldn’t shine half so bright had you not hit a few bumps in the road.

So yes, what’s meant for you may pass you by; I’m almost sure that it will do.

But so what?

Look at all the things that weren’t meant for you, but that you learned from all the same. Things that were never wanted, just needed somewhere on the road. Things that made you curse, tear at your hair, cry in a dark room at 2 a.m. Things that made those few steps a journey. Things that made an imperfect life.

And when it’s all said and done, when you have nothing left but a small audience inside the warmth of a fire, isn’t that the story worth listening to?

Chewsday-September 2nd-Why religion could meet its Waterloo

So, normally it’s a day for facts, but given I put a spin on it last week, why not do it again today? Chewsday gets a spin opinion edition this week, and up for debate today is the future of religion. To those not familiar with the title reference, in 1815 Napoleon lost his effective grip on the military rule of Europe when he was defeated at the battle of Waterloo. Almost exactly two hundred years later, religion worldwide is facing a similar fate (ya know, like being wiped out, not failing as a French emperor). In the interest of eliminating bias on the part of the reader, I am not going to reveal any of my personal beliefs in the course of this piece.

—————DISCLAIMER: all of the below thoughts are my own. No offence is purposefully wrote into my blog and I ask you , the reader, to refrain from feeling insulted by what is essentially an opinion piece———–

Mainstream religion has existed now for a couple of thousand years. As a result of this, we now see figures like over two billion people worldwide have declared themselves as Christian. On the Islamic front, we have roughly 1.6 billion. Overall, about 90% of the world describe themselves as somewhat religious. We might not consider ourselves in Ireland to have such a large religious following, but figures show we do circle in on the 90% mark (although interestingly our 10% atheist population is one of the highest by country worldwide). So, running with these basic figures, we can see that even removing any influence religion has on state or everyday life, it is indeed deeply rooted in the people of most nations.

However, a casual glance at the morning papers or the evening news is enough to show us that religion as a whole is under fire. At the moment, conflicts worldwide that are fuelled by religious beliefs (such as the situation in Gaza) are the leading stories in the media. Similarly, we see that closer to home scandals on the part of the Catholic church have called the power of religion into question, and why is it exactly that in a “secular world” religion has such an effect on the lives of pretty much everybody. In Ireland we can look at the issues of legalized marriage for sexual minorities and abortion as examples that highlight how religion in part can control the way our society progresses. It is apparent that in an increasingly liberalized and free-thinking world, religion is too archaic to survive, and by the end of even the next century we may be looking at an entirely non-religious population in at least the western world.

What is now a modern approach to spirituality and belief is having people declare that they do not belong to an organised religion, but do hold the view of a God or deity. This has been due widely to parts of the dogma or theology of a religion not agreeing with personal beliefs. Our civilized world is moving forward at a staggering rate, and thus our perceptions of those around us and on society as a whole are starting to strain from what religion has served us as fact for millennia. We see of course that the fundamental values are unchanged, such as those highlighted in the ten commandments. This is indeed a crux of many non-religious outlooks, as we can pin point these values as inherent and not at all associated to which religion we do or do not conform to. We all know murder is wrong. We all know we shouldn’t steal or lie. If religion and atheism can agree on such key topics, then why is it there is unrest about religion at all?

The problem, as usual, doesn’t lie in what we all can agree on, but rather on what we can’t-especially if what we can’t is at all influenced by religious thinking. The cusp of any religion is that there is a God. Whether he/she/it had a son on earth, or takes multiple forms, or made us all in six days doesn’t matter at that basic level. A god exists, and all life and the universe is a direct result of his/her/its work. On the opposite end, is that there is no God, and life is a happenstance of probability in a dizzyingly giant universe, in which billions and billions and billions of planets circle countless stars. From about five hundred years ago onwards, the great debate has been science vs. religion.

Much of this has been due to phenomena in the universe being labelled as God or a result of God. Science has then challenged these views and over time proved there is method in the madness, and that we can account for these seemingly crazy features of our lives. What remains at this stage of the game are the big questions. Where did we come from? What happens when we die? Do we matter? These are the bigger ones that have been left fairly unscathed as the battle of science and religion rages on.

At the moment, no matter what viewpoint we hold, we strictly do not know. We all have theories, and many are quite plausible, but frankly, we’re still a small bit in the dark. It might frighten you, but we may never know. It’s been a long fourteen billion years since things went boom, and it may hurt you to learn humanity isn’t going to be around for another fourteen billion to work it all out. That’s right. It may be unnerving, but the earth is doomed. So are our ancestors. The sun will die eventually, and with it, so will our collective scrap of life.

Back to my point, why is it religion is dying? It’s quite simple, really, but we continue to ignore it. Religion is failing not only because people think otherwise, but also because it is fixed. Fixed. Immovable. Stubborn. Whatever you call it, it’s the one common link between all the world’s faiths that we fail to recognise. Looking at Christianity, for over two thousand years it has remained near static. Everything associated with it has descended in a steady line from the teaching of the bible, and only here and there have other roots shot off to unknown territory. Islam is fairly similar. Unfortunately, for these religions and others, we have not stayed static. We, the human race, are constantly moving. Not physically, no. Our nomadic days are now over. As a society, we are sprinting ahead. Especially in the last century, our views on race, gender, employment, crime, love-anything have basically done a flip on what has gone beforehand. So to sum up, on one side you have a society whose thinking is racing downhill, and on the other side you have religion-sitting pretty at the bottom of the hill and refusing to get out of the way.

You see where I’m going with this? Yep, eventually things will collide, and realistically they already have. It won’t be pretty. I hate to predict the future, but in this case, I can tell you religion won’t win. Might rack up a long list of casualties, but it won’t come out on top. It’s like having a really infected arm. A lot of your body might really like that arm, but if it’s your survival or some pretty limb, you’ll hack that limb off in a heartbeat my friend. So instead of that future, why don’t we all take some cool antibiotics right now and keep ourselves intact? I don’t apologize to the militants on both sides of the religion debate when I label them the proverbial “bad bacteria”. There is no reason anybody can offer why in a civilized world religious belief and non-religious belief couldn’t just chill next to each other and be buds.

The problem lies in religious authority refusing to recognise how far we’ve come. I can’t really list out all the things we have to change, but here’s a little quick start list

1. Sexual minorities are people

2. Women are people

3. Other religions are people

Ya, so basically, people are people. One of the greatest idiocies in the entire fucking world can be found in the religion vs. atheism debate. We tend to not acknowledge fundamentalists. Like, as I said, I’m all cool with everyone’s beliefs, but they’re wrong. They’re really wrong and there’s far too much evidence for them to deny. Their beliefs though, so if they’re not affecting anyone, leave ’em at it. The world constantly says if you’re religious you better not be a fundamentalist. Grand, so the only choice left to religious people is to analyse, use reason, and accept what they see fit. Therein lies the problem. Another large sect of the debate (on both sides) says “you cannot pick and choose. Religion isn’t up for interpretation.” And in that one sentence, you have the entire problem that nobody at all will recognise and do something about.

1. Nobody can be a fundamentalist, because evolution and fossils

2. You can’t say Adam and eve are metaphors because you said you’re religious

Literal logic fail.

This is what the entire blog was getting to. Either we move forward and say to religion “look, you’ve done ok. You’ve also killed a tonne of people. P.S. gays aren’t sinful” and get about proper social change, or we keep slamming the same table with our head saying “Oh dam you religious people, I hate how you won’t accept our beliefs. P.S if you do you’re a hypocrite.”

Here’s the bottom line. IT’S OK TO DISAGREE WITH WHAT YOUR RELIGION SAYS. You are an autonomous person. You are the pinnacle of evolution. Oops, ya evolution happened. If there is a God, then creation of the universe gave you free will. If you have free will, you can think. If you can think you are allowed to have your own version of the story.

“But that’s blasphemy to God. God’s word is final”

Mayhaps, it may be. Let’s get is straight though, religion is man made. Jesus may have existed (historians show he probably did) and he may have been the ideal person (or, I don’t know, the actual son of God). I don’t know. I wasn’t there. But, and that’s a big but, we made Christianity after his death. We wrote the gospels (granted based on his word), but it was wrote from the hand of a living, mortal man. In 33 AD, you think people wanted to read about how we couldn’t invade places and how homosexuality was indeed normal? No, they didn’t, so they didn’t write that. They wrote what they believed and were educated enough to know. We’ve moved on since then. We’re actually smarter than them. We know things they didn’t. Name one other area of thought where it is unacceptable to challenge what is already there?

*radio silence*

I thought so.

It is unnatural to be forbidden to question your faith. It’s not what spirituality or God would be about. If you’re made in the image of a God, then you’ve been given that rationality and logic on purpose. Humanity will continue to change. Religion can literally not afford to stay still. There are millions of people everyday who live as apologists for their religion. Nobody should have to question their beliefs because of what people outside of their person do everyday.

I’m in a family. Do I agree with everything they do? No

I’m Irish. Do I think the Irish government are right about everything? No

And I don’t have to. I’m allowed be a part of those things and still think for myself.

The same goes for any religion. If you’re at the stage where you get told it’s their way or the link road (ya we don’t have highways), then it’s time for the organisation (NOT you) to change. Some two thousand year old book doesn’t have to right to tell you you’re only allowed into the club if you dress accordingly. This is 2014. If religion doesn’t accept that social change happens, there’s an ABBA sized Waterloo heading its way.