Friday, July 22, 2011

Tangle of thought-threads

Gila yah, ternyata susah nulis yang emo-emoan kalau situasinya adalah: a. besok mulai weekend. b. perut kenyang. c. udaranya mendung enak, ga terlalu panas.

But in truth I have been brooding this past week. The reasons are nothing new, I was just mulling it over and over and again, compounded with anxiety of first time attending special lecture in astronomy to obtain credits, final exam for japanese reading class--intermediate level, the looming conference, plus the fact that I had no clue whether I am supposed to write a report for other classes I attend this semester.

But now a cool Friday evening descended upon Astro Plaza, and save for the cicadas' constant cacophony, it's really quiet so I shall now try to disentangle the threads of thoughts that had been keeping my mind between a hard place and a horrible place.

We shall start with the first thread (out of three, but I'm not sure I'm ready to write about the third): of falling out of religion and parental hopes and expectations.

(If you have a delicate mind, or especially conservative, my following rants may offend you. Save us both the hassle and do not continue. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.)

This might be a good time to step back and refer to this old post of mine: what Pandu said at the eve of my farewell dinner. The other thing that he said at that time was that, "I know I'm not the one to talk about religion, but Syhur, [you being accepted in Japan] meant that [reference to omnipotent being who overlords mankind] does not forget you, and so you shouldn’t forget of Him.*”

*[similar disclaimer applies as before]

As is evident in the quote, I had been falling out of religion even then.

But of course this is old news. I have been writing about this since a couple of years ago.

These days, I identify myself more as an agnostic than someone with religion. I sometimes wonder, how good of a liar am I? Does it show when I lied to my mom that sholat is something that I still do regularly? Does she know? And if she does, does it break her heart? Or if as they say, moms always know, would mine prefer wilful ignorance?

Beneath all those unanswered questions, lies a longing to resolve it. To actually take a stance.

The easier way would be to abandon awareness and blisfully immerse myself in ignorance that is religion. The my father's religion, the one with so many nutjobs in there that would left me with nothing else to do but "shaking my head in shame, silently when [those very same nutjobs] did terrible crimes in the name of Allah."

No, I do not want to go that road.

Which left me only one option if I want to re-embrace religion: get my questions answered. But there are two problems with this: 1. whom can I ask the questions to? 2. What questions exactly do I need to answer in order to resolve itself?

Problem 1 is hard enough in itself that it already left me in limbo. Fear of stigmatization (because everybody do silently rebel, no one brand them as mavericks. But when you start asking questions, it's a different matter altogether). And I don't actually know anyone with whom I will be comfortable enough discussing religion and at the same time have sufficient depth of knowledge in Islam.

I can picture it in my head, contacting the imam at the local mosque/professor of Islamic theology at local university here asking if they have time for coffee and discussion, and on the D-day, getting tongue tied.

So much for planning a resolution.

Maybe I should address the second problem first.

But what exactly made me fall out of the religious wagon?

I am by any standard fortunate enough. I wasn't born in a family subjected to abject poverty. I lost my father in quite a young age but I was not abandoned, for Mom care for us greatly. I do not live my life in fear of prosecution, in fear of mortal peril, I am not actively being discriminated, I am well-fed and am not ridden with incurable disease. I have a complete set of limbs, sensory organs, and am mentally sound. What more can I decently ask?

Or maybe it was exactly that. The fact that I am fortunate enough made me question this: if my fortune is something the Almighty bestow to me in His good grace, what did I do to deserve my fortune? There are others who toil as hard if not harder, and they are not graced with half the good fortune that I have.

There are others who pray and worship more devoutly, more selflessly, why does He in His infinite wisdom do not make life more bearable for them? On the other hand, there are those who upon seizing power, wilfully shafts other less fortunate, and then get away with that. Corrupt politicians, malicious bearer of power, they live their lives with undeserved good fortune.

The pious will say, they will reap what they sow in the afterlife. But if He is really omnipotent, why wait in the afterlife? If all the biblical and koranic stories were true, in the past His justice were swift, had He grown lazy today? If He does, how does a lazy god who turns a blind eye become worthy of my worship?

It doesn't make any sense.

It doesn't, really.

I suspect the religious will say that if I want divine justice uphold on Earth, it will strike both the innocent and the guilty. "It rains on the just and unjust alike."

And then my question would be, if He is all-mighty, if He is omnipotent, why couldn't he do things more subtly?

After all, most everyone who were dealt incurable and/or taxing diseases say that the disease was a trial of strength from Him. What is stopping Him from discreetly dealing those very same malicious politicians those deadly diseases?

If He, in His infinite wisdom, is waiting to see if those politicians will repent in the future, how does He see it fit to sacrifice thousands, nay, millions other innocent people just to see if one person will repent in the future? Where does He draw the line?

Somehow, somewhere along the line, I can't stomach the thought of worshipping a lazy omnipotent deity.

And in the end, does it matter if I worship him or not?

The God I was always taught is an omnipotent God. A God that needs nothing from His creations. Yet this is the very same God who requires rigid unrelenting discipline in ways to worship Him. Thou shalt not do this. Thou shalt not do that. Thou shalt not eat this. Thou shalt do this other thing regularly to stay in My good book. Thou shalt not question me. And countless other shalts and shan'ts.

But who am I but a single speck of unnoticeable dust among billions of other dusts in the desert? How does my worship make any difference for Him?

Oh no, those shalts and shan'ts and musts and must-nots ain't for His sake, He claims. Those are for my sake.

But if they really are solely and wholly for my sake alone, why does He feel the need to threaten his creations with unflattering promises of eternal agony in hell for those who fails to obey Him? Is He not all-loving?

"Those are for your own good, I say! And parents sometime threaten their children to behave, too!" said the hypothetical Islamic apologist part of my head.

But no parents--I mean no sane, rational parents--would roast their children for failure to eat healthy greens. Nor would they feed their children with foul pus or bitter thorn for displease them. You familiar with Qur'an would know that it actually promises thorns and pus as food in hell.

To me, this threats of hell do nothing but signal a really petty god. Don't get me wrong, they strike fear into my heart, but fear of a petty god.

And if there's anything worse than a lazy omnipotent god, it's a petty yet lazy omnipotent god. No wonder we live in such a fucked up world.

Do I have enough questions now? I think I do.

There's only one last thing to consider: free will.

Though often invoked as the solution to how an omnipotent, omniscient deity can coexist with evil in this world, I personally don't see how Him bestowing mankind free will absolves Him of any responsibility to his creation in this world. One can argue that His heaven/hell afterlife shows that He does not shirk responsibility but then we're back to 19 paragraphs before this one.

And so we can add irresponsible to lazy and petty.

So with all that rants, how could I identify myself as an agnostic than an atheist? Well, they are questions, for starter. I'm still keeping an open mind that somebody more knowledgeable than I am will be able to answer my questions in a satisfying manner.

And where that leaves you, in relation of my belief--or my lack of one? I say if you believe in a/some God(s) and it makes you a better person, by all means believe. I wouldn't dream of proselytizing to other with my own belief is made up mostly with disbelief and doubts.

Just try not to be evil and heartless.

Second thought thread is here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The very same questions I've been asking myself over the past years.
Tried to talked it out with some long-hijab-ustadzah-wannabe, but the answers got me nowhere out of my labyrinth. Little did I know that there is no room for questioning the creator in their religious mind. It is discussion what we have in mind, but it turns out to be "straighten the evil mind" what they believe they do.

Well, at least rest assured, you're not alone in this ship :)