Definitely or probably?
by: Reverend Jasmine OM Taylor
The other day, in response to forcing myself to watch the six o’clock news for once, my boyfriend and I were having a discussion about the logic and purpose of religions. We do this very often, because I am an avid detester of religion, and he is an avid detester of stupid people - and the news brings these two together continually. The conversation boiled down to a point of agreement - that the most insane thing of all is the utmost importance of following the demands and rules inherent in all religious texts to fundamental believers (of Christianity, Islam, Judaism; the biggies).
I, having just spent a semester analysing and cataloguing ancient Greek and Near-Eastern mythology for CLAS105, and he, having heard many a joke in reference to Leviticus, were unable to come up with any reason whatever for making the religious text the foundation for any set of beliefs. I mean, it is widely known, and has been for many years, that the Bible is not only unoriginal and edited, but written by screeds of different people in a very long timeframe. The Bible, then, cannot really be written by God, unless He also composed the epic of Gilgamesh, the cosmogony of the Sumerians, or even the Odyssey why would God lay down stories like that and then tell all the people that their particular version is the correct version and all else is the work of the devil? Well, because He didn’t. Also, because He almost certainly doesn’t exist.
The conversation then moved on to the different types of clothes and hairstyles religions like to assume the yarmulke, the burka, the beards, the flowing robes, the habit, etc… For God so commanded it (in whichever religion you happen to be thinking of) that men shall cover their bodies in this way, women in that way, and their hair must be styled in this fashion for what? Why would the almighty care whether or not I covered my head when I entered a holy place, or whether or not I had exposed my arms, or whether or not my partner had trimmed his beard? I asked myself, and my interlocutor, what reasons any god would hold for sanctioning such strange commands upon its people. The answer is: it wouldn’t.
Men, human males, wrote all the world’s ‘sacred’ texts; that is undeniable. Even if they were writing down the will of god, the words of god, the telepathic dictation of god, that doesn’t mean that they disallowed themselves the privilege of putting their own ideas in there. People know this, don’t they? Do people who read the Koran / Bible / Talmud not stop and think every now and then I wonder what the name of the man who composed this paragraph was called? I wonder if there’s a different translation of this passage? I wonder who the first person to write down this whole text in one go was? It seems that they don’t, or at least, not very often, or else why would there be billions of religious followers out there wearing certain clothes, donning certain headdresses, and sporting different hairdos in the name of religion? And why, if I so chose, would I be breaking some steadfast social more if I were to wear a turban or a headscarf or a white robe? Sometimes the outfits of monks are very appealing to me, but I never wear such garb because not only are those clothes unavailable to me, but I would also have to justify myself constantly. Nobody asks me to justify my wearing black pants and a stripy t-shirt!
We asked ourselves, could any god possible care about the plant fibres in which I coat my skin? And here’s where our own beliefs came into conflict I said, “probably not”, and he said, “no, definitely not”. So, you see, I am an agnost where he is an atheist. The thing which struck me the most wasn’t that two people who love and understand each other could hold such deeply different opinions, but that such a small difference in wording belies an entirely different view of the universe. My boyfriend’s use of the word “definitely” is not something he will ever concede, and my use of the word “probably” is something that I will never concede. Personally, I do not think that any biblical or modern religion’s version of the creator god is accurate or even near to the truth of existence, but I am also adamant that I do not know for sure whether or not I’m right.
All evidence I have so far encountered tells me that God is not an entity, that He doesn’t have control over me, my pets, or the weather, and that all life on Earth can be explained just as well by science as by religion, if not better. BUT, I have still yet to be proved right or wrong with regard to my belief. I am of the opinion that it is impossible to know whether God made everything, or whether Chaos did; whether God made man, or biological accident did no matter what the truth is, it happened so long ago as to have left no evidence, and that’s it. When I am dead, that is the only time I will get the chance to know for sure, but of course by then if I am wrong, it’ll be too late. I’m willing to take that risk however, and continue to say that I just don’t know for certain.
My boyfriend, well he thinks similarly to me, in that all religions are misleading, originated in human thought, and are potentially harmful. BUT he doesn’t require any concrete proof in order to say that there is no God/god/deity/first cause. He can say, without even a second thought, that god definitely doesn’t care what I wear, because god definitely doesn’t exist. How can he be so sure? Well, he says, he just is. He has been convinced by science and personal observation to such an extent that he is unable to even leave room for the most miniscule possibility that a deity of any kind does or ever has existed. Leaving 0.0000000000000000000001% room for that particular possibility makes no sense to him. To me, leaving room for every possibility is necessary. That does, of course, mean that to me every scenario has a level of possibility extraterrestrial origins, god, evolution, the spaghetti monster, volcanic alien spirits, the big bang, whatever serious or comical theory one can produce they are all equally improvable / unproven / unimportant for me to warrant making an absolute decision. I prefer to fancy some theories over others.
And anyway, what is “probably not” when compared to “definitely not”? Is it not exactly the same, except that instead of being definitely sure, I’m definitely unconvinced?
So after all this scene-setting and diatribing we can agree that it was a human male as a result of accepted chauvinist thought between 13000-600BC (to make an arbitrary timeline) who decided that a woman shall have her head and arms covered at all times, or that a man shall never cut his hair, or that a girl is unclean for seven days after having menstruated. That is, I think it was “most probably” a human male, while others may believe that it was “very definitely” a human male. Whichever way you conceptualise it, it wasn’t the almighty creator who wrote any of the words which are contained within the religious texts of Earth; it was a collection of blokes with etching equipment and time on their hands.