Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Faith Vs. Reason in the Garden

“Therefore in only one respect can I extol those eyes and ears as blissfully happy (for the difficulty is terrible)—in being free from all the drivel with which someone later, for example, 2,000 years later, would be plagued and hindered in autopsy, for all faith is autopsy.”
Søren Kierkegaard —Journals, 1844

All faith is autopsy? Well, yeah, sure. It’s like, you know, a forensic attempt to get through the encrustations laid down through the centuries by legions of madly inspired followers to discover what the founder of any given religious faith actually intended. Just war theories aside, it’s reasonable to return to the source and attempt to figure out what part of “Thou shalt not kill” religious leaders have consistently failed to understand.

Some two thousand years after the death of the Christian prophet, a lot of drivel has accumulated on Christianity. The decaying compost I spread on my garden each year serves to enrich the soil and replenish it with active biological life that helps my plants to thrive. Unfortunately, the drivel piled on the Prophet’s original teachings, by mostly power-hungry and sex-starved old men running the church, acts in the opposite way. We are plagued and hindered in our attempts to nourish faith by the drivel of organized religion ranging from goofy to sinister.

An autopsy is necessary to find why faith no longer thrives in some minds. And in such a process, we may discover that faith may not put down roots that will reach past the nonsense and drivel of many contemporary religions. In the end, I’m convinced that reason is indeed the greatest enemy of unquestioning faith encountered in the garden battlefield of a curious and questioning mind. Unlike the process whereby decaying kitchen scraps and grass clippings nourish my backyard vegetable garden, decaying rituals and nonsense rules tend to smother true belief and leave behind an expanse of barren disbelief.

Curiously, one concept that fruits in such faithless soil is reason. Just as evil exists without regard to religious faith, good acts are still good. Autopsy your once-vibrant faith and you may find that what caused it to die was, ironically, belief in drivel in nonsense. And you too may find that blissful happiness can flourish in a mind freed of the choking drivel of most organized religions.

The lotus, symbol of purity, will rise again from the mud amid the beautiful and spare stalks of last year's lotus. Just like a horticultural degree is not necessary to grow a garden, belief in god is not a prerequisite to living a moral life.

(The pictures were taken at the newly opened Chinese Garden at Huntington Library and Gardens near Pasadena, CA.)