Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Why religion? A self-indulgent post.

Oh wow - my first comment.

Shtreimel asked what made me do the Contemporary Islam subject and I thought it deserved a post of its own. I realised that I have been extremely lax about explaining my motivations. In my defence, I didn't want this blog to turn into a pathetic self-indulgent rant - like so many other blogs that force me to admit that I'd rather eat broken glass than read. But, as you need to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince - you need to read a lot of crap to find the jewels (I know, no-one can mix a metaphor like me!). Which, in a roundabout fashion, is my way of complimenting Shreimel on his blog.

Anyway - so why am I studying religion? I first enrolled in a Intro to World Religion subject because it was offered at a suitable time. At that stage I was working on campus, so a subject in the middle of the day was no problem providing it didn't clash with meetings etc. I think I got a 5 for this even though I did very little work. The next semester I enrolled in was Cults, Sects and Alternative Spiritualities. This subject completely hooked me and I got a 6. I hadn't ever done a subject that interested me as much (I have a notoriously short attention span). There were so many levels to it all, and I must admit, it made me feel incredibly ignorant. I realise that I'm not a total moron, but, intellectually, I am incredibly lazy. Somehow, Religous Studies just made me feel interested and connected. Also, I'm good at it and I don't have to do too much work.

I decided on doing my major in Comparative Studies because it satisfied my big picture desires. I've done subjects on Religion and Sexuality, Women in Religion, Drugs and Religion, Gods and Goddesses, Psychology of Religion, The Jesus Cult and Intro to Islam. This semester I'm doing Contemporary Islam and Magic and Astrology in Ancient Jewish and Christian Literature.

I don't come from a religious or anti-religious background. Technically I'm Anglican - but I've only been to Church for the usual christenings, weddings and funerals. Handsomest Husband is
a kind-of lapsed Roman Catholic. My parents and my sister aren't interested in religion but my mother-in-law goes to Church every week.

I like that religion is something that matters to people but I'm not a big fan of organised religion per se. Interestingly, I have no idea about my own belief. Much to Handsomest's consternation, I don't think it matters whether or not I believe, or what I believe in.

As far as I can tell, most religions seem to be about being a good person and doing the "right" thing. As we know the "right" thing can vary drastically depending on your interpretation. Obviously David Koresh thought he was doing the right thing. Your suicide bombers think that they are doing the right thing. So did good old Jim Jones. Religion and belief has incredible strength in governing and controlling people's behaviour and thoughts.

I've just realised that I haven't answered the question. I chose the Islam subject last semester because it was scheduled immediately after my other subject. Otherwise I have to go to Uni for two nights during the week and I can't be bothered. This semester was pretty much the same, but I must admit that Islam does intrigue me. To some degree, this kind of links in with Shtreimel's latest post - Exotic Culture - about the attractiveness of the other.

Ok. Fingers tired now.


Blogger Shtreimel said...

Thanks for clarifying on why you chose to study Islam.

Now if you would allow me to elaborate, you’re studying it without getting into it, you’re studying their rules, customs and culture, yet you would still consume alcohol, because you’re only studying them, not joining them, when you’re finished with Islam you might go study ancient Judaism or something else, maybe even a cult like religion.
My point is that it’s a different thing to study something then to actually live it, I will agree though, that it’s easier for an outsider to study a religion then an insider, but the outsider can never fully understand it.
I would love if you can send me the essay (if it’s not too long I might even read it till the end - just kidding-)
One more question, “Your suicide bombers think that they are doing the right thing“ what does it mean, whose bombers are you referring to, I’m not Islamic, I’m an orthodox Jew (or Hassidic)

Keep on writing I think you’ve got a very interesting subject here :)

7:19 am  
Blogger Laziest Girl said...

Please don't think that I think I know everything - nor do I presume to speak on behalf of a particular faith. As an outsider with no religious leanings of my own - I have no choice but to study religion as an outsider. I fully admit to this bias, but it isn't something I can change. If you are studying the Hare Krishnas, no one would suggest that you need to join them and believe the same things to understand them.

And you are right, to a certain degree, it is easier to critique something if you aren't emotionally involved it. But living a religion doesn't necessarily mean that you are able to understand it any better. Sometimes this makes it impossible to see the forest for the trees, so to speak. For me, the matter of belief doesn't get in the way.

I wasn't specifically referring to Islamic terrorist bombers, but I guess I was by inference. I was thinking more that it was interesting that the same source material can have such vastly different interpretations of what is right. An Islamic terrorist bomber is essentially reading the same book as my lecturer, Mohammad, an enthusiastic but quietly spoken man (in his modest dress) with bright, intelligent eyes. He is the very soul of religious tolerance and a careful scholar to boot. A very model of a pious muslim.

The unfortunate thing is that, with Islam, fanatics are not separated out as being different to your average Muslim on the street. I mean, when David Koresh went nuts, we (the western world) didn't assume that all Christians were gun hoarding lunatics. But give one Muslim a bomb, and all of a sudden, they are all fanatics.

8:41 am  

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