OK OK...I know...it is supposed to be "Let them eat CAKE"...but I couldn't help think of this title when reading about the effects of "Lent" on the Panamanian fish market. Demand is driving seafood prices up...primarily because of "religion".
I'm sure by now those of you who follow this blog realize I am a bit "irreverent" with religion. I believe in God...but am a bit "out of sorts" with organized religions. This time of year somewhat crystallizes for me some of the reasons why...
Throughout the world and especially here in Latin America, millions of people celebrate "carnival". Just the word itself tends to suggest the celebration leans towards "carnal" activities...celebrating "fleshly" pursuits if you will (carne=meat, meat=flesh...you get the picture). According to this interesting site about the history of carnival,
"Hundred and hundreds of years ago, the followers of the Catholic religion in Italy started the tradition of holding a wild costume festival right before the first day of Lent. Because Catholics are not supposed to eat meat during Lent, they called their festival, carnevale — which means “to put away the meat.” As time passed, carnivals in Italy became quite famous; and in fact the practice spread to France, Spain, and all the Catholic countries in Europe. Then as the French, Spanish, and Portuguese began to take control of the Americas and other parts of the world, they brought with them their tradition of celebrating carnival."
Of course, this period historically leads to religious traditions of "Lent" and "Holy Week". Without going into detail of the meaning of those religious titles, let's just summarize that it is now time to "repent" from our evil, "flesh" driven ways and turn suddenly to the spiritual and holy. Most religions do this by denying themselves of their human cravings and "lower nature" and demonstrate humility and sacrifice for their faith driven beliefs. For me it is simply a man-made format and tradition to demonstrate faith and bring everyone into towing the line of acceptable behavior...and not one necessarily built on sound theology or apologetics of faith. For me it is one of those "sheeple" things where large portions of humanity blindly follow the traditions before them and subconsciously do these things to make THEMSELVES feel better in reaction to the "guilt trip" that organized religion has place on them.
I know I know...I am probably way over-generalizing the "high holy days" and stomping on some feelings of people who are dear and close to me. That is not my intent. I am simply trying to share/explain my own views from my own observations in life. I have no agenda, nor hold out any false hopes of changing or convincing anyone to MY way of thinking. I truly respect those believers who truly hold their beliefs in high esteem and live by the words they profess. My problem with religion generally lies in the hypocrisies and false foundations far too many "believers" exhibit in their real lives. Does this crazy cycle of living large and then repudiating our natural instincts as humans really make logical sense? Not to me...anymore.
Yes, my theology can probably be associated with "Humanist Theology". I am not interested in being labeled or boxing myself or my thoughts into any particular philosophy or religion. I think there are good and bad features in most of the world's major religions. In fact, I think the world's three biggest religions are 80-90% the same in essence. I have and continue to develop a personal faith that has developed from my own contemplation of "holy writs", human observation and the sciences that together...at least for me...lead to an awe and respect for the order of the universe and the daily miracles we see just in our human existence. I don't see "Humanism" as necessarily replacing God with Man...I just basically see it as a study of God through the eyes and other senses of Man.
I am quite convinced that "God" is much bigger and different than any of us can ever understand or "get our arms or minds around". Most religions are about bringing God down to OUR size...or our side as it were. We try to personalize him, tuck him into written words, express him in our arts and traditions...but I have never been quite satisfied that the various traditions and boxes I have seen for him in my life are real. Like people of old testament history...we continue to put God into images and traditions we can understand...but I think we fail miserably. Few humans have any imagination...or independent perspective enough...to grasp the intelligence behind our universe. I am not saying I HAVE...but I am saying I doubt that ANYONE has.
Does this make life less meaningful? Does it cause me to think that everything is hopeless or useless when trying to find ideals and meaning to live by? Absolutely not! To me, this way of thinking actually opens more doors and sheds more light on the possibilities for myself and the world we live in. It allows me to think bigger and more creatively when it comes to solutions for the human race and global challenges we face. It is actually a bigger leap of faith than just adopting one religion or another as my "identity". In my way of viewing the world and religion, I can identify with EVERY person on earth. I can be "thankful" that I was born in a rich nation of a "privileged" race...but I can take no credit or pride personally in that. Nor can I not ask the disturbing questions around "why" and "who" made certain nations and races to be "preferred"? Who decreed one religion to be more right than another?
Of course, a lot of people claim a religion based on family and cultural tradition...without questioning much of anything. It can be like choosing a certain style of clothing or image. We like it, we feel comfortable in it, it covers us up adequately...so why change or question? It is much easier to be part of such traditions than to stand alone or independent...to dress differently. It is much easier to lay claim to an answer than to admit we do not know for sure.
And isn't it better to raise children in a religious tradition than a secular one? I was raised in a very strict, fundamentalist Christian tradition. That tradition gave me a lot of comfort, a sense of belonging and strong family ties for most of my childhood. Primarily it established a lot of behavioral boundaries during my childhood development. I continue to respect my parent's and grandparent's faiths as they displayed and understood them. But for some reason my life path and mind took me to many other places where I could not blindly accept or live by their traditions. I took my own journey and explored many people and places these past 50+ years...and I have discovered the more I am willing to open up my mind to new discoveries, the more I find out I really don't know.
Somehow I got over the initial sadness and delusion with my religious roots...and have discovered a way to live that to me is much more rewarding and meaningful than taking on the yoke of religion. I'm sure some people reading this might be concerned for my "soul", but my soul could never be happier or freer. I have few fears in life. I don't even fear death. Sure, I don't desire to rush it since I have so much yet to discover and accomplish in this short life. But my point is...and selfishly so...I have more time and focus for MYSELF since I no longer concern myself with fitting into traditions and religions that make little sense to me. Does anyone out there experience this in any similar way? Its not that I need someone else to validate what I am experiencing or feeling...but I am simply curious as to how our minds work and how they affect our emotions and actions. This is the true science of living as far as I'm concerned.
So...the benefit of where I am in life is...I think I will steer away from fish the next month or so...and eat more MEAT. It will be cheaper. I'm sorry if you will be offended that I don't order fish with you...but I love STEAK. And I will live in the spirit of "Carnivale" the rest of my life, yet...my actions will be tempered by the best of the human traditions I grew up in. I will always endeavor to treat others as I would be treated and not make any demands on the sovereignty of another soul. I will continue to pursue understanding and loving myself first...because I can only truly love others if I love myself. And finally...I will continue to pursue unlocking the mysteries of the universe with the finite mind God gave me. To me that is what I was put on this planet to do...
Let them eat fish...and bring me a STEAK!