Interpretation of ancient texts has always been difficult and ambigious, and proper transliteration of such a concise book as the Bible is a great challange even between the walls of the christian world. Why shouldn’t we take one more step in this mist by comparing the very essence of religions to common sense? I can deeply identify with the concept of unity, considering the core of all religions. We all are humans, with the basic desire to feel peace, happiness, and satisfaction, However, we choose different paths in order to reach them. Some of them are harder, some are more popular, but basically they intend to lead us to the same goal. If we subtract the religious side of Pope Francis’ announcment, a very valuable humanist statement remains:
Just do good, and we’ll find a meeting point.
Let’s try now to take off the bad marketing from christianity, and inspect its core without the layer of mud that ignorant people shoveled on it, just like they did with satanism. We should not doom it just because it has a couple of contradictions and vague chapters. I know a couple of enthusiastic christians who are actually happy and can live their life more fulfilled that way. Unless they start to evangelize by force, or harm other human beings in any level, all beliefs that helps to improve one’s quality of life, can be considered appropriate.
First of all, why should any freethinker bother with prayers? Well, as it was explained in older posts, religion intends to fill holes of our mind/soul, and improve our quality of life. So, we might have a reason to rethink this tool of our life, starting from its core. But what’s the core of christianity? If I had to tell the Bible in one sentence, I’d chosen The Lord’s prayer (Matt 6:9).
who art in heaven,
hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
I’ve always felt myself uncomfortable with that prayer, and since I couldn’t agree with the cornerstone of christianity, I decided to drop it. I never was sure about where my prayers go, too. However, I encountered a linguistic challenge in my recent work that made me think about improper transliterations. Even this prayer, considered pure and valid, directly from the mouth of Jesus, can be a victim of accidental or intentional misinterpretations. But instead of deeply getting involved in aramic and ancient greek languages that I’m not competent in, let’s use common sense to interpret it.
There are a couple of sites already on the internet that interpret the Bible adjusted to the needs of a community. The first nazarene site gives a brief history of this prayer, with some origins, aramic and greek transliterations involved. At first sight, the nazarene transliteration is not more than another piece of new-age garbage. There is even a site that claims the nazarene version as the original intention of Jesus for the prayer. It might be true or not, but either way, the nazarene version is one step closer to common sense. So does the gnostic version:
O Giver of All Life,
Who Is in Heaven and in Earth,
In Whom We Live, Move,
And Have Our Being,
Holy Is Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom Come.
Thy Will Be Done.
In Earth, as it Is in Heaven.
Give Us this Day Our Daily Bread,
And Forgive Us, Our Trespasses
As We Forgive Those
Who Trespass Against Us.
Keep Us from Temptation.
Keep Us Ever Mindful of Thee.
For Thine Is the Kingdom,
And the Power, and the Glory,
Forever and Ever.
To give a chance of understanding the prayer, let’s look it piece by piece.
Our Father. The term father makes the concept of existence of a supreme being a bit too antropomorph. The same problem like with the kids’ book of religion. God as a wise old man in the clouds. The nazarene version drops the term father and simply addresses the deity as giver of life, the creator, which is more acceptable while unifying God concepts of most religions. Its a huge step to be more rational, as it supposes existence of a supreme being that does not have to necessarily resemble to us. There is even a translation that like “Creator of the Universe who is (also) inside us”. If there’s a God, he/it does not have to be externalized. And that’s the point where this statement of many religions can be linked together. In pantheism, God is all around. God created everything, so we are part of it. In christianity, God (that old man) created Jesus as his son, so it seems logical that we are part of the family, created for his face, for his DNA if you like. Even such a teen-idol religion like wicca says God is in mother nature, but since we are also part of it, God is inside us too. Satanism says we don’t have to search for any gods, we can be our own.
Despite they say it slightly differently, all statements have the same core: we are here, we exist, and we are somehow related to creation. We got a life to live from someone or something, and all we need to do is to be aware of it. The different styles how religions introduce God is just an adjustment for all people to have their desired level of understanding. Satanists don’t need to rely on any external lifeforms for security, inspiration or making moral decisions. Some of us still consider our parents as the safe haven of our stormy life, and even if any of them passed away, we still need to fill that hole with a kind, caring old man, like the christian god. But why is God concept important at all? Because it gives us a basic awareness of existence. We have a chance to live, think, and feel. I don’t really understand quantum phisics, but I can feel satisfied by having beliefs about it, while I don’t claim competence and I let real scientists reserarch. Science looks for the answer for existence for a long time, but until it finds it, beliefs can be useful, even inspirational for the research, as long as we don’t get stuck in false statements claimed to be the ultimate answers. All in all, the deity concept is practical, be it outside or inside us, it fulfills its function, and we shouldn’t let it tear us apart just because of the colorfulness of religions. There is about 20% of our world that has “other” religion from the most popular ones. They are not atheists since they believe in the deity, but they don’t share the common definitions for it. Perharps they could be the perfect scientists, looking for the creation of life, extraterrestial civilization and such, since they are open-minded yet not bound to a specific, separate model that we all should avoid.