I know I kind of just became an atheist but at the rate I’m thinking about religion, I’m bound to change my mind thrice as fast anyway. It’s just, religion is so fascinating it occupies my thoughts 3/4 of my waking hours. And it’s not all fickleness either; it’s all part of self-discovery…
And you can’t deny religion plays a very central role in our lives. Whether you are a believer or not, you’ve surely thought seriously about religion at some point or other, and some more than others.
Have you noticed that Hollywood actors/actresses in particular, are especially drawn to unusual religions? Just the other day, I became consciously aware of this trend. (I haven’t been paying attention.) It all happened when, being halfway through What happens in Vegas, I was suddenly and belatedly struck by the fact that Ashton Kutcher is rather cute, especially with his hair combed back in a slightly period fairytale kind of look (at the finale of her retreat, in his tux and all). I’ve never fancied him as an actor and much less as himself, what with him hooking up with a richer older woman and all. Though I don’t presume to judge, really. Anyway, I googled his name and found out that he’s Kabbalah.
Why is it that Hollywood actors and actresses are so particularly charmed by such unorthodox religions? I say this in a very open and earnest way because I have never, in all my years of fascination with religion, heard of Kabbalah or Scientology until Madonna and Tom Cruise. If this makes me ignorant, I concede.
But here are my thoughts. And uhh, I’m a pluralist. So, no offence.
I refer to, again, my previous opinion that religion as practised and invented by Man is the coward’s way out to circumvent a world that does not make room for excuses or second chances. Religion absolves us. Religion is our excuse for wasting our lives. Religion is the forgiveness we afford ourselves when life isn’t good. Religion, in my opinion, is truly the opiate of the masses. And who needs them so badly but people whose lives are a mess, even (or especially) to themselves? (I’m not saying religion is only for people with messed up lives because intelligent people with perfectly functional lives also have perfectly justifiable reasons to be theists and there is nothing wrong with that.)
Who am I to say they have dysfunctional lives right? Ah ok, I have this theory that thespians are especially messed up because that’s what it takes to be really good at their craft. How else to personify a character so honestly and movingly but to become that person you are playing? So in this vein, can you imagine what it does to someone – to repeatedly ‘become’ a different person periodically? You start losing yourself. I guess religion is like a lifeline to them, and mainstream religions just don’t cut it. It’s just not powerful enough, not exotic enough to engage their desperate, seeking, incomplete souls.
And the thing is, it doesn’t actually take being an actor to have a dysfunctional life. Adulthood can do that to you perfectly well too. It’s just a matter of higher occurrences.
So my point is, maybe I should walk before I fly and be agnostic first. I find that, in my months of masquerading as an atheist, I haven’t been able to give up the Buddhist way. And I still pray. Sometimes. Always furtively – because I am an atheist. I just can’t shake that habit of talking to God. (My definition of God isn’t very conventionally theistic, though.)
And actually, having turned it over a few times in my head, Buddhist notions of God are not exactly inconsistent with my newfound beliefs. In fact, of all, pantheism makes the most sense to me. AND Buddhism is a philosophy, when you strip it down. Gautama never claimed to be the supreme, omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent God. He only taught the middle way through an introspective process that is beneficial for finding oneself, in a world of distractions and sufferings. He offers neither easy absolution nor righteous judgment. In essence, his only counsel was to be true to yourself and cause no harm to others.
So, I’ve just turned a huge circle back to the Nirvana I long for.