Friday, September 19, 2008

Zealous, Jealous

A blog reader told me about the song, Healer, by Hillsong, an Australian Christian rock band. I've heard this song once before, when I went to see the Nigerian preacher who claimed to cure me of cancer.

The song has an uplifting beat and melody. When I heard it at church, there were live drums and keyboards and several vocalists on stage, eyes closed in passionate singing, holding up their open-palm hands into the air. I looked around at the congregation and most of the people were also in trance-like mode, arms outstretched over their heads, singing along with the band on stage.

I started to think it was a bit creepy, almost cult-like. But then it occurred to me how biased I was. I've been to rock concerts where people were throwing themselves at the stage and gyrating their bodies and acting like crazies and nobody accused them of being creepy cultists.

So why do I and other non-religious people begrudge those who are passionate about their religion and their God the right to connect emotionally with their faith in a similar setting? If you're going to be crazy emotional about something, it makes more sense to feel that way about your God than about some pretty boy band.

I used to take Josie and Toby to a church down the street because they liked going to the Sunday School there. A very anti-religion friend of mine told me if I became a regular church-goer, she'd have to stop talking to me. Of course, she was kidding, but it occurred to me that there are some people who are just as irrational and closed-minded against religion as any fundamentalists or zealots for religion.

I wonder if some people are just jealous that they don't have something to be that passionate and zealous about.


Alistair said...

Of course, in the 60s 'Clapton is God' was common parlance. One might have more sympathy with the happy clappy set if the music was good enough to inspire a little ecstasy. Voodoo drums do it much better but sadly don't get into churches very frequently.
My littlest, going to a church-based school for reasons to do with proximity and quality of education rather than faith, insisted after on being taken to church. Luckily half-way through the service she shied away from joining unknown kids at sunday school and insisted we left. I was able to make a high-profile walk of shame down the aisle watched by parents and teachers from the school, so polished my credentials while never needing to return. Perfect double whammy.

Shin said...


I agree the music's not as great as say... Eric Clapton's... but you wouldn't believe what DOES get into churches these days: full-on rocker band stuff - loud drums, electric guitars + amplifiers, digital keyboards, even vocalists in tight fake-leather vinyl pants! I guess they're reaching out to the younger crowd. When I was a kid, drums and vinyl-pants clad singers would have been considered an insult to Jesus!

Doubting Thomas Tang said...


I have also been pondering on this question for a long time. Does everyone have a void in their heart that only God can fill? This seems to be the view of CS Lewis. However Sigmund Freud thinks otherwise. On the question of god, this is what both of them differs. Sigmund believes a part of man constantly wants to rebel against God, against belief, against faith.

Why do some people have faith and believe in God, why some people don't? Christianity says sin crowds out human's desire for God. Can we explain this any other way? Why do some people not believe in God at all? What is the truth out there, I am desperate to do a survey to find out is there really a void in everyone that only God can fill? Even for unbelievers?



Shin said...

Doubting Thomas Tang,

I can't speak for others, but here are my answers to your questions:

I do not have a void in my heart that needs to be filled by God. Maybe I had a void some time ago, but it was filled after I met my husband and gave birth to my two children. They have more than filled any void I may have ever had in my heart.

I have no desire to rebel against God because I don't believe he exists. I have no desire to rebel against belief or faith. It's just that my belief and faith lie in myself, my loved ones, and in humanity.

I think people believe in God because they need to. I don't believe in God because I don't need to.

You say "Christianity says sin crowds out human's desire for God." This is exactly the kind of circular logic that makes me lose respect for Christianity.

Anonymous said...

My 8 year old believes in Father Christmas, but not in God.

Interesting ?

I have faith in myself and others and, like Shin, I think, I don't need to find any religion outside of myself. I'm already living it. It's not quite Buddhism, it's just a way of life, and it doesn't need to be defined by any religion. It's just the way it is.

My son believing in Santa, to me, is like someone believing in "God"- at least, in a child's mind, if Santa doesn't exist, he knows that it is his parents who are putting presents at the end of his bed. That's like parents and children to me. Some parents and children don't have the luxury of Santa visiting them. They might have no money. Maybe they think that God is like Santa and God will provide rewards....

Hate to say this, but just like Santa doesn't exist, the same goes for God. But all the moral teaching we know about from religion is a good thing.

Religion is fine, tagging a god is not, because it differentiates us from one another.

Anonymous said...

Our helper is really addicted to "God" and "Jesus" in a big way. I can't talk to her any more about it because it gets me so cross.

Her "Church" demands that she spends 10% of her salary on "giving to God" - the more you give, the better chance you have to go to heaven.

I recently discovered a notebook in her room and in big black letters, it was written DISCO = Dancing in Satan's Company.

She obviously believes all this stuff. I understand why she believes it and where it comes from but how many others are giving to "Churches" beliveing that Satan resides in discos?


It makes me so angry.

Anonymous said...

I always knew that I didn't belive in god, from very early on, it's nothing to do with family, friends, it's just what you believe. I always struggled at University not to upset people with my views, because, obviously people do believe in god (hello)

But the thing that the peoople who believe in god can't understand is that there are some people who DON'T believe, and that is fine too.

It doesn't make us bad people, or people who are amoral, actually, it makes us thinkers and people who really want to know about systems and judgements.

I've had enough of people telling me "you should have faith- " or " pray, prayers will always be answered" -

I have my own internal systems of belief and knowledge, I don't need any god or prayers. I am with you Shin.

We are, who we are. Make the most of it.

And Shin, you are doing a good job, love you lots

Shin said...

Anonymous re: God and Santa,

Some people might not appreciate that comparison. All I can say is... Santa never incited people to kill others who didn't believe in him. Think Crusades, the Inquisition. At least believing in Santa is harmless.

Shin said...

Anonymous re: buying your way into heaven.

This is the sort of thing I mean when I say that I can't see how any rational person could believe in God. What kind of God would allow people to buy their way into heaven? Or commit a sin, go sit in a little cubicle and tell some priest about it and then be absolved by saying a few Hail Marys? How does any of this make sense to anybody with a rational mind?

IF there IS a God, this is definitely not God.

Shin said...

Anonymous re: non-believers and amorality,

I've mentioned this before in my blog, but some of the most mean-spirited, hypocritical, selfish, self-righteous, closed-minded people I've known in my life were Christians. And some of the kindest, most forgiving, open-hearted, open-minded people I've known in my life did not subscribe to any religion. I really have to wonder why that is.

Elsie KN said...

Shin, I've been reading your blog on and off for a few months now since a friend pointed me to it. What you've written has inspired me, made me pause and think, and generally benefited me. Thank you :)

I'm a Christian and quite a devout one from what other people would say about me, but I also think differently too. Actually I don't recall the Bible saying that sin crowds out the void in one's heart for God. And I do agree that that statement is circular logic.

It's a need for me to believe in Jesus, I believe I've experienced Him, and so it's a personal thing, not a "this religion is better than others" thing.

Christians are far from perfect and even our teachings across the various groups are far from perfect. That's the sad but true part, but it does not detract from my experience with Him... and so it boils down to that for me.

I'm with you Shin. No one should be forced to believe in anything, and respect, like you say, works both ways.

Walk on! (I'm a Liverpool fan too)

Alistair said...

I recall that the smooth songster Pat Boone, beloved of good church-going folk across the mid-west for decades, had a hilarious lapse into attempted heavy metal and was excoriated and effectively excommunicated by all those who preach forgiveness and understanding.

lisacc said...

What is the truth out there, I am desperate to do a survey to find out is there really a void in everyone that only God can fill? Even for unbelievers?

No - there isn't. Flip it round: is every single believer completely happy and fulfilled? Do none of them have "voids"? Do believing, practising Christians never get depressed or even commit suicide?

Another way to think about it: does someone with only three children have a "void" because their friend has four children? I think voids are irrelevant to our capacity to feel and to love. There doesn't have to be a specific number of quantity of [stuff] to fill the void.

One more thing: I think there are voids that can never be filled. When someone dies, there is nothing that can fill that void. There are other things that can maybe help mask or distract from the pain of that void (such as finding a new spouse, or having another child).

But does the original void go away? Never ever ever. Not all the gods in the universe could fill it.

Shin said...

Elsie Kn,

Thank you for your comment. I'm glad you feel free to acknowledge that you're a devout Christian on my blog, even though I have made it clear I do not believe in God or any religion. It's very important to me that people who do not agree with my views share those differing views with me.

You sound like an open-minded, intelligent person with a generous heart. You'd be the kind of person who'd turn non-believers like me toward, not against Christianity.

Thanks for reading my blog. I'm honored that you think it's worth reading.

Shin said...

Lisacc re: void,

I'd like to respond to your comment in a post sometime this week because it touches on a topic I've been wanting to write about for a while now.


Shin said...

Alistair re: Pat Boone and Christian forgiveness,

How in the world did you know about Pat Boone's metal phase and find this You Tube clip? Your knowledge knows no bounds!

Anonymous said...

Shing, both of us shared the same feeling of going to the church... I was pretty freak out when I saw those ppl sing to the songs praising to God and rocking their body like they look like been possessed....