The seven sins; minus four, plus one

All though I have a certain fascination for religion and spirituality, in truth I am a devout atheist. My interest stems from an anthropological curiosity for mankind, its history and psychological necessities.

A thing that I have spent many hours philosophizing about is the role of religion in defining the boundary between good and evil. As I am most familiar with Christianity and I run into its symbolism almost on a daily basis, I have often pondered about the value and appeal of the seven sins.

Dismantling the seven sins

I have come to the conclusion that of the seven, there are four that I don’t consider to be all that bad;

  • c812d7bc02a55367723694dbc3232d118b976ac02cbda8f8f302c12d332a347aLust – Why would you demonize sex?
  • Gluttony – what’s wrong with enjoying good food?
  • Pride – I suppose they mean arrogance, which is an annoying trait for sure. But a cardinal sin? Mwoah….
  • Sloth – Aaaugh, don’t judge my laziness; I need it! Even neuro-scientists agree.

The one in the list I haven’t made up my mind about yet, is wrath.

  • Wrath – Merriam-Webster dictionary say wrath is “strong vengeful anger or indignation”. I think everyone has the right to feel anger and definitely indignation. However, I know people that douse their words with the poison of bitterness and hate and that is really sucky, to say the least. At the same time, I am convinced such words always come from people that are hurting themselves and in a very distorted way are actually crying for help. 

And then there’s the two that would also qualify as evil, dark and nasty in my book;

  • Envy – No doubt about it; envy is ugly and anyone that feels this needs to work on eradicating it from their system. No good comes from it.
  • Greed – The core of almost all of mankind’s suffering, if you ask me. 

The eighth sin.

Envy and greed are both dark paths, that every person has walked down, albeit briefly.

A state of mind that may come across as innocent to some but deserves strong condemnation is the passive aggressive feeling of:

Indifference

All though I know many people that let matters of the world get to them in a degree that I feel is unhealthy, indifference is probably the feeling I fear most in the world.

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Bear with me here

It’s Saturday morning, after a crazy week that felt twice as long as usual. I cancelled my appointments and vowed to lie in bed as long as possible. After a quick breakfast and a short attempt at answering my emails, I decided I wasn’t done yet and went back to bed for a second round.

When I woke up from this second visit to neverland I decided to take it slow and stay in bed a while longer and start up with a Facebook check-up. I looked around, saw who’s birthday it was and who had gotten drunk last night. I checked out some awesome pictures of naturally built homes and saw the dates for one of my favorite artists’ new musical tour. I saw thanksgiving recipes and inspirational quotes from my yogi friends. I saw this sleeping bag, which – for a split second- felt like something I really needed to have:sleeping-bear-sleeping-bag-2.jpgsleeping-bear-sleeping-bag-1.jpg

And then I saw the newest opinion piece from one of my favorite comedians, followed by a video of a puppy being confused by his own hiccups. I saw my finger hover over the opinion piece, -I could see it started with the words “We are at war”,- and then finally clicking on the puppy. I smiled at what I saw and then immediately realized what I was doing. It made me feel icky.

It bothered me enough to immediately shut FB down and open my news app. It wasn’t particularly optimistic stuff I was seeing, but in a way I did feel better about myself. I had had my break from reality but was strong and ready once again to face the world head-on.

I am struggling though and am finding it hard to see where I stand exactly.

I already expressed my feelings about prayer in my previous blog. It’s uselessness bugs me, despite the claims of every religion’s followers that they are peaceful at heart and the conviction that their passive prayers and good intentions will fix this mess. I hear myself say I should be tolerant and accepting of everyone’s life choices but then again, how often are religious people really faithful to their God by choice? I have been indoctrinated too, though, I know that, I just don’t call it religion…

I find myself thinking about the irony of how muslims and jews both use their word for “peace” as a greeting. They must say the word dozens of times a day but at the same time they fail so incredibly hard at achieving precisely this in Gaza.

Even as I write the above I am reminded of Reza Aslan’s strong response to the bigotry that was revealed on CNN a couple of months ago and went viral in recent weeks. I catch myself using the term “muslim” in a similar way. I really truly don’t want to generalize and ignore all the distinctions there are between muslim countries and muslim individuals.

cartoon Steve Sack panic.jpg

Cartoon by Steve Sack

I see quotes from Ayaan Hirsi Ali encouraging us to hold islam accountable and I feel confused about my moral compass. I hate that there is a subconscious part of me that feels that muslims need to express their horror for terrorist attacks more openly and must repent for the suffering that their fellow-muslims have caused. I know deep in my heart this thought only alienates them from us and may actually chase them straight into the arms of the extremists we all collectively despise.

I feel lost in my wish to contribute to the world. I want to reach out and understand but I can’t seem to suppress these little bubbles of prejudice and judgment floating in all the time. How do I eliminate them? How can I ever do anything positive, if every attempt I make at having an open mind results in me disliking religion more? How can I have an open conversation with anyone if I feel so strongly deep down that the other person is wrong?

Shucks, all of this just makes me want to crawl away into my cuddly bear sleeping bag…

Bedtime stories and the mind of a child

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Bedtime Stories.”

Bedtime stories were a serious matter in our household, as I remember it. My parents are both lovers of books and good stories and hardly a birthday or Christmas went by without me getting a book. They were also very picky about the illustrations. I remember spending hours (or perhaps it only felt like hours) in bookstores with my mother and she was def having a lot more fun than I was.

It became a running gag, that whenever I received a present I would study the package and look at them mysteriously and say: “let me guess……. is it a book?” And we went on saying this even when the gift was oddly shaped and very obviously NOT a book.

When it comes to bedtime stories though, my memory is blurry. I didn’t even realize this until some years ago when I was telling friends how my father would always tell me stories before I went to sleep, to which my mother responded (with quite some disappointment in her voice): “That’s not true! I read to you every single night! Your dad was often not even home yet when I put you to bed. I think I can count the amount of times he read you stories on two hands!”

Now of course, that last part was obviously an exaggeration (I think), but her point was that she was the one putting me to bed and reading me stories every night and all I remembered was my dad’s stories. I guess the reason those times stuck with me is precisely because it happened only occasionally. The fact that they broke the daily pattern made them special events, in comparison to my mom’s stories, that were just part of the normal routine. (Sorry mom, I’m sure your stories were awesome too….)

I remember there being a couple of books that I enjoyed the most.

It’s actually interesting that the first two are christianity based readings, as I was not raised to be a Christian. I did have a fascination for these things though. Another thing that I find remarkable is that they were actually quite dramatic stories, not necessarily with a happy ending. What I remember of the children’s bible is that I enjoyed the first part, but not so much the second part, being the story of Jesus. No clue why, especially since a lot of the characters in the first part ended up dying or killing each other as well…

clown van godThe Clown of God is a story about a juggling clown named Giovanni, who used to be legendary for his skills. He would travel from village to village and juggle his colored balls to the amazement of the crowds. And the finale of his act involved adding the golden ball, which sent Ooh’s and Aah’s through the crowd. They would applaud him and pay him generously and some would even invite him to dinner. He was very much loved and lived a simple but happy life, until he grew older and people grew bored of him. He became clumsy and started dropping his balls and people drove him away from their homes….

And then one day he arrived in a village with a beautiful church. On a rainy evening, Giovanni entered the church to seek cover and was captivated by the statue of the virgin Mary holding baby Jesus. It struck him that the baby’s face looked so sad. So Giovanni painted his face, took out his colored balls and started to juggle… and he felt his old strength come back to him and he did his act so marvelously, like back in the days….

The next day when the villagers entered the church they found the clown on the floor… dead…. And when they looked at the baby in Mary’s arms they were astonished to see that he was smiling! And in his hands, he held the golden ball……

Isn’t that dramatically beautiful? I still have the book and never saw it anywhere else. This story made such an impact on me as a child that I actually had an imaginary friend called Giovanni. I guess he made me smile too!