Manipulation, brainwashing, amen.

My room-mate goes to Korean church at least once a week. Sometimes two, sometimes even three times. She dresses up nicely, wears bright colors, puts make-up on like she's got a date to impress. She loves it so much that she refuses to go on vacation during break so that she doesn't have to miss the Sunday service. We've had numerous conversations about religion, me taking the Agnostic stance while she defends her own views, both of us at times doubtful and others, fully convinced of our own views. I try to bring some sense into her, not by trying to weaken her beliefs but by challenging what she takes as fact, by repeating, again and again and again, that there is a difference between belief and knowledge, and that although she may very strongly believe in God and whatever else she believes in, she does not know anything.  None of us do.

So anyway, I've been interested in peeking into her world for the sake of "stepping into her shoes" and joined her for an evening at a Korean church an hour's drive away. The pastor went on in Korean for over an hour, and while I was given a translating device to understand what he said, I decided to turn it off ten minutes through the sermon. He had started the address with "Some people think I'm a comedian, but really I'm a pastor." The crowd was entertained. I wasn't.  I am not a cynical person- if anything, I'm an idealist. But I saw an actor so convinced by his own act that he has let go of his own limbs to inhabit those of a stranger's.  He told the story of David and Goliath, of the battle between good and evil, and though the story works on a metaphorical level, ending violently with David's slashing off of Goliath's head, I wondered how all these people could be so fooled by these stories,  and who was the genius that was able to convince over two billion people that the right way to end a dual is by cutting the enemy's head off? Religion establishes so clearly what is right and what is wrong, but if there's anything human history has shown us, it's that there is no clear separation. And since that is clearly the closest to truth we will ever get, why don't we each try to draw our own lines, rather than let others (who's imagination might be fantastic, I have to say) to define our realities for us?

My room-mate once said, "It's not my life. Whatever God wants me to do, I'll do."  During the sermon, tears floated down pallid cheeks. Before it and after,  people sang with all their hearts to a man named Jesus.  Manipulation, brainwashing, amen.  People need something to hold them together, and I understand that, it's a pretty universal need. But I just think if people let themselves believe in something other than religion, other than false hope, things would be very different, in a good way.  If every person simply lived to love and just enjoy each other with no boundaries, with no limitations, no duties to country to government to whatever else we "owe" ourselves to, if we just followed our impulses like an electric shock,  there wouldn't be the need to be so disillusioned with reality, no need to build castles in the air, since we'd have our own right here on planet earth.

* Photos taken at the Renaissance Fair

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