I have been spending a lot of time focusing on the effects that various religious thought has had on my life. Originally, I had given into the belief systems of those around me. This had lasted for so long that I nearly lost myself. Eventually, I resurfaced and realized that I needed the skills to keep me from drowning. This was the effect of those early years which turned into a cause. Yet, as I picked my way through the matters of the doctrines and dogma, I soon felt the stones being tied to my legs. This was beginning to pull me down into the depths.
I soon discovered that it was my choice to continue on this path or alter my direction. It was my choice based on free will, so I took that step. This became a turning point. I took some time to reflect on that moment. I came to remember it as the epiphany of my religious understanding. The moment did not stop my search for the answers or fulfill my need to know more. I did not want to sink further into the mire. Instead, I was given freedom from the oppression and continued on my own path.
As I did this, I grew interested in finding others who could understand what it was that I had discovered. I knew that my spouse was with me after having a similar experience in relation to religious beliefs. Yet, I wanted to know if anyone else had come to some of the same conclusions. The search for this person or group of people was for the purpose to discuss and refine the thoughts and theories. I found something that surprised me.
The first moment that I found a group was one day when I was revising some points on my Facebook page. The religious views drop-down menu had many options, but I never expected to find Free-thinker or Hard core non-theist, but non-atheist. I never did care for such labels because no one should be put in a box unless they choose it. As I reviewed the options, I discovered what I thought was a typo. I had read much about Rastafarians, but I had no clue to what a Pastafarian was. I was soon to learn more about it because of that little drop-down menu.
In 2005, I found the answers to this new question. Pastafarians are the followers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster who is the creator of the universe and pirates. The movement essentially was created in a simple response from an Oregon undergrad in 2003 to an incident in Kansas. His letter was to the State’s Board of Education. It was their intention to teach Creationism as part of the science classes. Creationism would be taught as a theory along with Evolution. This letter was a request for them to also teach his theory on the creation of the universe by a pile of noodles with a pair of meatballs. It was a voice that expressed satire for this decision while designing a curious point for people to gather and discuss their ideas about the world and the universe.
Around this point, the ideas grew until the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was founded and formal religious texts were set down. The ceremonies and holidays were established including September 19. This day came from a curious legend in modern society. It was International Talk Like a Pirate Day. The tone for this group of Pastafarians was set and the battle was on. Satire was soon questioned by those of other faiths and the words started to fly.
Of course, I was not interested in the battles as much as I was eager to find others who had seen some of the ridiculous contradictions of the religions. This was not a desire to gang up and make fun of them, but it became a deeper exploration of others’ experiences. I was completely fascinated and quickly identified with them. Perhaps I was more excited to have other minds to bounce ideas off. Either way, I had found something to share and acknowledged this following in my religious views.
So, I would like to invite anyone interested in a different point of view that is not out to strike aggressively at other beliefs to check out the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. This discovery is not the end of the search for answers, but a way station for general fellowship. I belief that we all should take a moment to question what is told to us. We should all strive to experience and to understand our own beliefs.
Let’s begin with a simple fact. We are creatures that develop by experiences. It is not the only way, but without some interaction with the world around us, we are unable learn enough to become a productive member of society. As an individual, you will be stunted in personal growth or stalled in reaching goals that will direct you toward a possible fulfillment of your potential. As a group of people, we will become isolated from the outside world, which leads to an intolerance of others and an ignorance of their ways. This makes the interaction an important key to our development as individuals and communities.
As a child, we are given rules that are meant to protect us and keep us in an orderly fashion. These rules can isolate us from different experiences which are likely not to be very good and are generally agreed upon. Allowing toddlers playing in the street after sunset is a fairly understandable rule that common sense supports. Warning signs on the outside of an abandoned house are meant to keep people safe from the dangers of physical harms. It goes beyond our parents’ rules. Our society has created laws that will help to benefit the learning process without physical harm being inflicted. A person must go through the proper training and reach a proper age before they can drive. This is to keep the driver and the rest of society safe. It makes sense.
Yet, how does it help if the experiences of life are regulated to the point that we are insulated from how to deal with matters of life? Imagine what would happen if we became a society that only allowed our children to learn one language. English is taught in the schools and universities. No other languages including dead ones are allowed to be learned. How quickly would we become so isolated that we could not even export or import goods such as oil or electronics? It would strangle the progressive nature of our society and the markets that we depend on as a country. We need to learn other languages so we are able to communicate.
Ok, take another example. What would happen if we did not educate ourselves and our children about simple hygiene habits? It is generally accepted that hygiene helps to prevent illness, makes one socially acceptable, and improves self-image. These points make sense. The prevention of health issues are the talking points behind a great many laws and rules of our society. Sanitation in restaurants is regulated by laws. Hospitals have rules and laws to protect the patients and doctors. Common sense shows that we need to be informed to prevent and protect.
Inevitably, someone will break the rules, ignore the regulations, or subvert the laws that prevent harm and protect our society. Yet, we explain and inform all as to the reasons and consequences of these protections. We do not just ignore or seal everyone away from the natural experiences of life. The rights of free will should be given guidelines and the explanation of the consequences.
If someone decides to rob a bank, they may succeed, but they will be facing the consequences for the rest of their lives. Yet, we teach everyone about these matters. However, it has become a method for some states to create laws that will not inform children to the consequences of their actions. They have decided that the lessons of abstinence are the only methods. In order to prevent sexual activities in our children, they have decided that it is better to keep them ignorant of the guidelines and the explanation of the consequences. Their belief is that it is better to tell them no and not truly protect them with the knowledge of what will happen if they pursue these activities. Like the idea behind personal hygiene, we should be teaching our children about the rules and consequences of these activities. Talking about them is not approving them. It is simply a form of protection for our children. Otherwise, they will likely find a way to explore without our wisdom and guidance to help them regulate their own minds and bodies for logical reasons. We must teach them so they can become trustworthy. We must treat them with the same respect that we expect from them. They are intelligent creatures, so treat them as such. One day, we will have to let go of their hands so they can find their own way.
Instilling in the hearts of our children those values that we hold dear is not the duty of society through rules and laws, but do not hamper the education of natural sciences such as our own biology. Laws are not meant to enforce one set of values on people. The free will of the people gives them the right to choose. They will pass to their children the values and that act will give them the opportunity to move our society in a better, more enlightened future rather than pull us back into the caves of complete ignorance and intolerance.
‘Better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven.’ This phrase comes from John Milton’s Paradise Lost: Book 1. It is in the voice of Satan as he finds a reason for the rest of his existence after his Fall from heaven. He speaks of his desire to create ‘a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.’ It is a curious yet an expected reaction of a character with so much pride to challenge his Creator for the power over creation and Heaven. If this was the true motivation behind the actions of Satan after his Fall, it makes one consider how strong his will was in those times.
Ok. Let me throw out a quick disclaimer that I am analyzing this thought to provoke a bit of discussion on the nature of man and the stories that we have written to explain the world around us. Take this same story and lay out its parallels with the myth of Prometheus and Zeus. It is tale of how the Titan Prometheus, whose name means ‘forethought,’ descended to the earth and gave the secret of fire to man. It was the knowledge that would give man free will and eventually lead man to consider the Gods obsolete. Zeus punished Prometheus by chaining him to a rock where he was visited by an eagle that consumed his liver daily. Prometheus would regain life the next day to suffer another visit.
The myth of Satan and his crimes do have a touch of similarity to Prometheus. Pride lifted him so high that he started to see that he was greater than God. In that moment, he challenged God and quickly led his supporters against the hosts of Heaven. Satan was cast down with the rest of his side into the depths of perdition. In Milton’s Paradise Lost, he speaks of the ‘adamantine chains.’ Chained on the lake of fire, Satan must suffer a horrific eternity of punishment. His story also speaks of his connection to the snake in the garden that caused the Fall of Man. It is the offering of the knowledge of Good and Evil.
It is curious that Satan, in the Old Testament, was originally seen as an adversary or advocate to an opposite opinion to God’s, not as a challenger to his power. In the book of Job, he speaks to God in this way. Of course that was before the idea of the world being divided into Good and Evil. That is another thought for another day.
Here we read of Satan, as did Prometheus, giving forbidden knowledge to man. It was this information that created a sense of free will and wedged a division between God and his creation. This was an expression of his will from the pits of his punishment as the chains hold him in the lake of fire. Each day that passes was a chance for him to make a ‘Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.’ The role of adversary became his true motivation.
The ability to identify with Satan in Milton on these levels is somewhat of a testament of that free will. Each of us has to come to terms with the idea that we are either the inheritors of such grand and glorious plans of the powers or we have the ability within to find our own way through this world. I say this as I point to the fact that these tales were written and created by men. These men delved into their own experiences and thoughts to give us a better understanding of the human condition and our free will.
As a youth, I was often lost in the world of Christianity without a true understand of what it was that I was following. For years, it was just part of growing up. Your parents took you to church and you followed as part of your training in obedience. I often say that I blindly followed because I was not brave enough to reject it. Of course, this was not true because I was brave enough at the right time to reject the narrow path of intolerance. I left that life with the idea that I had seen what the dark underbelly of the faithful looks like. I went to find the answers for myself.
Essentially, I pressed myself into the historical facts of the religions of the Western World. I started to learn the context of the world that these religions were born and raised in. It was nothing that simply came overnight. I have touched on the earliest texts of the Mesopotamian region. My education spread into the very world that Christianity appeared and why it did. These were answers that I would have never found as a Christian.
Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate those that have faith, but I cannot accept that faith for myself in a blind fashion. I need to know where it is coming from. My free will allows me to search and find the answers for myself. This is why I started reading Paradise Lost. I want to know where these tales come from. The Bible only has so much to share.
My point in this is that we have created these stories to explain the world in terms of Free Will or Obedience to the Authority. Satan is a vehicle for the world to view Free Will as an evil such as the Seven Sins. However, I dissent that it is a tale of how we can all find the will and strength to pick ourselves up from defeat. We can turn our will to an energy that will help us find our own purpose and success.
Let’s just try to have more success in our endeavors than Satan. I am not up on a lake of fire.