Mar 16, 2011

Religion and Modern Times

Through the podcasts of iPod Witch I came to discover Drake Atlas, a quite smart, thorough modern witch, who recently came back online with a brand new, exciting blog. Still in this researching of religions - since no research could be considered complete or well managed if only one source is analized - I checked his brand new site (so happy he decided to go on the cyber-space again!) and readied mind and notepad to distill the laces of the human self living with the religion - you know me, I've such a fascination with the human soul and spirit! - from his words. The exercise is quite exciting and it gave me a really good lot of ideas, concepts and angles to eventually develop in the religion series.

One of the entries he posted that snapped my eyes open was about what a modern witch was about. The glimpse into this fascinating religion left me in awe. It's so live and so vibrantly human! (Well, when you cast away prejudices and openly approach a religion, with a heart filled only with the desire to learn and understand, you realize that all religions are so deeply, sweetly human and moving. They deal with the "Higher Power", but still, being religion the human connection with the divine, it has such a strong, moving human feel, almost as if it would strip humanity to it's essence and in honest openness would invite the guidance and touch of the divine. It really summons tears to anyone's eyes ^_^.)

In this post Drake Atlas made mention about what could be considered a philosophy of some Wiccans, according to which their religion can't be practiced, or shouldn't be practiced, surrounded by modern artifacts.  It kinda made me frown a little, feeling a bit confused and lost, because as a Christian, I never stop to thing whether the mobile phone radio signals are interfering or not in my talks to God. Nor would I start moving around the church to see where do I have "the best reception" when praying. So, as a Christian it suddenly sounded strange. I imagine Muslims' wouldn't either give it a thought, for instance saying that wireless internet get in the way of the qiblah (qiblah: direction in which the Muslim pray. It's the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca) or something of the sort.

As I understood Drake Atlas, well, honestly neither does for Wicca, but some practitioners  - and I can see actually where they come from - consider modern artifacts like an unwelcomed element that can interfere with their circle. From my understanding so far, Wicca - at least some of its branches - concentrates strong on   Nature and its power, so the waves and power of man-made elements - many of which are intrinsecally a symbol of the destroying human hand upon Nature itself - could pose a negative influence on the circle casting, maybe not in the light of the religion itself, but the person practicing it. Now, before non-Wiccan people go around giggling about witches worrying an SMS can get in the way of their spell - that's not pretty, people, this is not the point - I'd like to remember you that this sort of thing happen in (almost) every religion. I can't talk of other religions, but I can tell you about the looney things Christians come up with. So, before you giggle about this particular segment of witches and their position regarding electronics, remember that Catholics have issues with condoms - Hyne, kids! Freaking condoms! -, that certain branches of Christianism consider certain types of clothing "evil" (dude, really, that's soooooo stupid! Are you really trying to sell us that not only "The Devil Wears Prada", but that "the Devil IS Prada"?), that the Smurfs are evil, Dragon Ball is a work of the Devil (Mr. Akira Toriyama, I think you better check that over with the patent office and sue the devil), Metal music is the way the devil talks to the youth and on and on and on. Or what about the Christians that reject the "existence of Global Warming" and say that those things are lies, and it's all signs of the end of the world. (Can I donate a thermostate to them?) So, paraphrasing Jesus you don't go pointing at the straw in the eye of your brother when you've a whole submarine cable mesh in yours.

However, as you look at the matter, there's a thread that stands out in the topic, which is basically how modern age advances - shall we say the scientific advances - seem to clash time and again with religion, being this religion any of the many we can find. It's almost as if religion would feel reticent before all these changes, these "improvements" to life. Certainly all these modern advances are about change, about ripping the human from where it stands and place them somewhere else, while - in my personal conception - religion seeks to give the same human a sort of feel of comfort and security, a place where the spirit and soul of the person can catch them breath, calm down, cool down, charge up before stepping into the whirlpool again. In this sense, there's a certain "logic" from religion to seek keeping the whirlpool out of it.

At the same time, with the speed of changes, there's the sense that all these new advances and all this artifacts, conveniences, appliances, apps and shortcuts are nothing but layer upon layer of crust that do nothing but rip people from one another and choke off their humanity, their sensitivity. So, if we go back to the idea of religion being the place where the human strips to its skin and stands honest and uncovered in the presence of the guiding divine, the layers and wraps these modern things pull on it could be clouding this human-divine contact.

Drake Atlas' point, on the other hand, states that appliances have grown to be part of the human, which, well, it's true. We are not born with a SIM card attached - how much easier would that be - but just as the language (basically a man-made evolutionary feature) was incorporated into us after birth, and we use it as tool to stand before our deities (all our prayers, including our signature ones, are composed of words), so why would be cut out pieces of us and stand in a mangled shape before them? Sure, one thing is to go to church and spend the whole mass tweeting, sms-ing and talking your head of, or playing Solitary on your iPad, but another is to claim cellphones are the instruments of the devil and their presence on you cast you from your religion and your deity(ies).

As humans, as people, I believer we are not only the meat and bone lump that was born from our mothers, but also what we do, what we think, what we believe and what we incorporate in our lives. We are the language(s) we speak, the words we say, the music we like, the life we live, the pen we use, the paper on which we scribble, the blog we read, the podcast we make. So am I a modern Christian, as Drake Atlas is a modern witch, or are we just a Christian and just a witch, and "modern" is just a flimsy label  to merely represent a feature about the things that make us?

Someone, when I commented this matter, giggled. This person said something in the lines of "A modern witch? What's that? She ( this person thinks witches are all women) replaced the broom for a sweeper swift?" Yeah. Well, I asked them "I dunno, are modern Christians replacing the sign of the cross for waterboarding?" (This person is a tecno-junk, who's always on top of what are the latest gadgets and takes pride of having always the latest and most modern, so that you understand the sting of the remark.) The point is, what is "modern" anyways, and does religion really have to be always in war terms with anything scientists come up with? If the root of both of them is the human - one reaches for the solace of the divine, the other runs on the wings of curiosity and self-achievement - why both of them have to rant against each other?

I believe the trick is in the person, and how much do they know themselves. It's not a matter of what others say, but what you feel, what's right for you, what feels honest for you and what makes you honest and comfortable. Do you rather download weekly podcasts of the local church or you rather attend mass in real life? Does the iPod bother you in prayer, or you are totally cool attending jumaa (Friday, but also Friday prayer in the Islamic religion) placing your laptop in the place of qiblah and have your imam online. Do you harness the technological advances into the service of your religion, just as we have done with language, or you rather keep the whirlpool out of your safe place?

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