God Bless America!

Last year, I went to visit my pal Steve, who lives over in the States. He only lived in the UK for a little while, but we were great friends, so I thought it’d be really fun to go and see him – and see America! However, it was a bit weird.

It might be one of the things that first made me think about religion, to be honest. I knew the stereotype of the angry Bible-bashing Americans, but from my experience with Steve over here I didn’t expect that to be a big thing, at least near him.

When I walked into his parents’ house I was in for a massive shock.

jesus christ
“A lot of Christians wear crosses around their necks. You think when Jesus comes back he ever wants to see a f**king cross?” – Bill Hicks

Crucifixes, everywhere. Some small, some huge, with a naked Christ in agony, blood streaming from his wounds. Now, I do have a sick fascination with religious stuff, but this was a bit much for me – especially in the bathroom!

Steve never acted religiously when he was in the UK, so it’s entirely possible he has to when he’s at home. It did freak me out a bit to see him praying so much, so eager to get to church on the Sunday – so much so that I felt like a real heathen for not joining in. I spotted some nasty looks from his parents when I started eating without praying first.

The church service he goes to is right by his college campus. Like most poor young people, Steve can’t afford to live away from home, so he goes to college nearby. Even though I only saw the campus going in and out of the church, it seemed like a Mecca compared with the dusty, solemn building we were stuck in for hours.

Family Saying Grace before Meal
“Rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub!”

That feeling was massively helped by the free shit I got. There was some college and campus marketing or something going on, so obviously I dived in pretending to be a student, and ended up walking away with *free* samples of some men’s deodorant.

Seriously, bargains are my religion.

I think I might go to hell for this entry.

So I get back to Steve’s, loaded down with this “men’s fragrance” and glad to be out of the church, when his dad walks in and asks what I’ve got. Apparently, men don’t need to smell good; it’s practically a sin. He took ALL of my free stuff, and said he’d give it to charity – I guess poor men do need to smell good, just not me.

I like a lot of Christians but really guys, this seemed to go a bit far. No offence Steve – you’re a cool guy and I’ll come visit you again, I just might get an AirBnB next time……

Cleanliness – Godliness

As you might expect, I’ve been thinking a lot about religion and what it means in an everyday life. When you’re dedicated to a religion you have to make all kinds of daily concessions – tithing, prayer, all that stuff you need to remember to do.

In that line I’ve been thinking about a certain phrase you’ve probably heard of…

4529053746_d4335ec280_z

I wanted to know who first said this, and what I can do in my life to be closer to “Godliness”.

Throughout Jewish history, this was given to be a truth, and the difference between clean and unclean things was very important – although it seems to be more symbolic and often refers to food. One of the earlier distinct between clean and unclean was referring to the animals which were taken onto the ark by Noah, and then later to which animals can be eaten:

“You are therefore to make a distinction between the clean animal and the unclean, and between the unclean bird and the clean; and you shall not make yourselves detestable by animal or by bird or by anything that creeps on the ground, which I have separated for you as unclean” – Leviticus 20:22-26

At other points in the Old Testament, God talks about cleanliness in a much less literal, more moral sense. In the New Testament Jesus declares all foods to be clean, and that cleanliness was a matter of the soul, not of ritual.

“You Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.” – Luke 11:39

Of course Jesus famously washed the feet of his disciples – but only their feet, for the rest of them were already “clean” – or holy.

As a term, it was first used in Babylonian and Hebrew religious texts, but it was first written in English in the Advancement of Learning (1605) by Sir Francis Bacon, who said “Cleanness of body was ever deemed to proceed from a due reverence to God”. In 1791, John Wesley wrote “Slovenliness is no part of religion. Cleanliness is indeed next to Godliness”.images

So it looks as though I shouldn’t worry too much about physical cleanliness, but as it’s hard to know when you’re morally “clean” I’m going to stick with it anyway. So, my mission for the next week:

  • Eat kosher food. That means it has to be killed in a certain way, I generally can’t eat gelatine, I shouldn’t have blood or sciatic nerves from an animal (probably not going to be a problem). I will avoid eating camel, hare, pigs and snails. Goodbye bacon.
  • Keep my home clean. I’m not usually that untidy, but there are a few parts of my house that could be a little more godly, shall we say. First step is to hire an oven cleaner; then do a good clear-out of my wardrobes and games.
  • Ask guests to take their shoes off when they come into the house – this is slightly stolen from the Asian custom, where it’s also to do with cleanliness, specifically germs.
  • Try to do one good act every day to clean my soul.

Let’s see how I get on with this. Considering that I’d usually rather nap than clean, I might be godly yet tired by the end of the week.…

Onward Christian Soldiers….

There's so many!
There’s so many!

Not really sure where to start on my quest for religion, I turned to that staple of decision-making – online quizzes.
I’ve taken five online quizzes claiming to find the right religion for me. Here’s what I got:

http://www.selectsmart.com/RELIGION/

This claims to tell me my spiritual path. First of all, it seems pretty Christianity-centric, but let’s see.
It claims that my top result is Unitarian Universalism – never heard of it.
Next is Quakers – they always seem like nice guys
Then Taoism, Neo-Paganism, Mahayan Buddhism and Jainism.

Next up we’ve got the Playbuzz quiz “Which Religion Best Suits You?”
It spat up Buddhism. Okay, we may be getting somewhere!

Jainism....the (kinda) good guys to use that symbol before the (really) bad guys used it.
Jainism….the (kinda) good guys to use that symbol before the (really) bad guys used it.

Now ProProfs. Can I join the religion of spell-check please? It’s existence, not existance.
Haha I think it must have heard me complaining about its spelling, cause I got LaVeyan Satanism. Gonna have to look some more into that one!

Hello, Quizrocket. Where do you think I belong?
Apparently behind a lot of adverts…
Oh dear, I got atheist. Does atheist really count as a religion? Isn’t it more like the absence of religion?

Alright, one last one, and it’s findmyreligion.com. This quiz claims not to guess what religion you are, but see how “your own thoughts fit into different beliefs”. That sounds like what I want!
This quiz is much more interesting – it’s asking me questions like, do you know there is or isn’t a god, or think there is or isn’t a god. Hmm.
Okay, answer time. 71.4% secular (which is atheist, right?), 50% Wiccan, 35.7% Pagan, 14.3% Buddhist and 14.3% Hindu.

As you can see, I’ve had lots of different answers. Is it because all religions are, at a base level, the same? Or does it entirely depend on what kind of questions are being asked?
Before next time I’ll look into these few religions, and see if any particularly “speak” to me.
Send good thoughts – I must just need them.

Save