Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Sudden Prayers Make God Jump

I always find it strange at this time of year when people suddenly become religious. Although (if pushed) I would mostly claim my status as an ‘atheist’ when confronted by People of The Book (Jews, Christians and Muslims – yes they all belong to the same tradition, hard to believe I know!) but if I forget about THEIR idea of religion then I would probably call myself something like a ‘pantheist’.

A friend who has read The God Delusion quoted the idea that some people think Jesus walking on water counts as a miracle, whereas to Dawkins the water itself seems more miraculous. I can only agree. In the first Yoga book I ever owned Sir Paul Dukes pointed out that many Indians (and Romanies) don’t swim, when he described a yoga position that would let you float on your back. He suggested that if Jesus could swim then people who had never seen that before might well have felt very impressed and called it ‘walking on the water’ for lack of the word ‘swim’. That makes everything pretty clear to me.

But anyway. Walking in to work today I started to think that perhaps the local environment really does affect how you feel religious. If you live in the desert then some days you feel very small and insignificant (“God is not nice. He is not an uncle. He is an earthquake!”) Hence all that ‘god-fearing’ language. Another consequence? You might over-value humans in such a relatively empty space.

If you live in a dense jungle - immersed in vivid, teeming life - you probably wouldn’t kid yourself about human superiority and significance. You might feel far more aware of how much we all depend on each other, and interact with each other. This could lead to quite a bit of ‘placating’ the ‘spirits’ or ‘gods’ and other creatures, so multiplicity and complexity (animist/pantheist beliefs) might feature in your world picture.

I don't know how a city boy like me ended up empathising with all creatures. Perhaps my dad and his vegetarianism and 'mystical pantheism' started me off. My mother belonged to a more rational humanist agnostic stream. God never came into it.

Happy Holidays! (safe but bland)

NB: The joke quote for the title of this post? Comes from a bizarre book from the 60s, called Musrum. I never read the book, but had that slogan on a badge (do you remember lapel badges?)

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