Weighty Issues and Heavy Concerns

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 Why on Earth is our weight so important to us? Why does it affect how we feel? How our days turn out? Whether we have a good day/month/ year? Why do we not see it as just a part of our life instead of thinking that it is as important as to define who we are on the inside?

 

From birth, I’ve been a tubby little thing. Actually, I was never little; I was always tall for my age. This fact is highlighted when at the shops at about two years of age; a man looked in the buggy and commented on how I was surely too old to be in one. My mother replied that I was only two, and I was a lazy arse wasn’t old enough to be walking round the shops for hours on end. His reply “Oh, bless her”, said in a way that even then, deemed that it wasn’t a great thing to be so tall for one’s age. As I grew through my childhood years, both in height and piling on the pounds, I was always conscious of my weight. I remember at six years old, being carried by my friend’s mum from gymnastics as I’d damaged my knee. I remember how awkward I’d felt as I knew she was thinking of what a fat lump I must be- being so heavy at such a young age. The bad feelings continued until, at ten, I decided to go on a diet. By now, I was old enough to realise that I could do it without my mum noticing; knowing that she’d say I was too young to be on a diet. Being ten though, I hadn’t had much practice at diets and subsequently – needless to say – it didn’t work. My ‘diets’ continued until I was thirteen and, at thirteen stone and a few jibes from my mum (which I resented at the time, but now see that I’d be even more cruel if I had a child like me) I started following Rosemary Conley’s diet and fitness regime. It worked and within a couple of months, I was down to a size ten to twelve (UK size). Seeing as I was five foot seven by this point; I was looking rather alright.

Fast forward a few years, and by the time I was eighteen, all the weight was back on and I was closing in on being a size eighteen (though I refused to buy clothes in that size, reluctantly buying baggy clothes in a sixteen that covered my ‘figure’). This yo-yo rise and fall of my weight continued for the next five years. Whilst I never managed to get back down to being a size ten, my weight fluctuated between eleven and thirteen stone. My greatest diet was the one I didn’t even have to try at. When I was in Sydney, Australia, I fell down with an illness I can only describe as tonsillitis on acid. I had literally never been so ill in my life; I cried when I swallowed, having forgotten how much it hurt (and, though I’ve never admitted this to anyone, partly from self-pity). This illness was two- fold though. The two weeks of pain were made up for by the time it was over – due to my not being able to swallow anything, I’d gone from a size sixteen, to a size ten. Borrowing a pair of my flatmate’s size ten jeans was one of the highlights in my time over there (I’m not joking). Of course, it didn’t last and although I didn’t pile all of the weight back on, after two years (and a new relationship) I was back up to a size fourteen.

 

The story continues in the form of gym-going, diets, tactical starvation, and eventually my conversion to veganism- the latter, helping me lose all of the weight for good. Although I’m vegan for ethical and not for health reasons, it’s been the best thing I’ve ever done in terms of keeping a check on my weight.

 

It leads me to wonder though – why is my self-worth based so much on what I look like? I know I should be saying that women can be happy at any size – indeed they can, if they’re ok with that – but I’m somewhat shallow being when it comes to how I look. The feeling of a dreaded ‘Fat Day’ can scupper my chances of doing anything good that day, and result in an extremely low mood. It’s not just that I feel miffed that I don’t look too nice; it’s a feeling of general worthlessness. I can feel people’s eyes on me thinking that, because I’m carrying extra pounds, I must be incompetent at everything else if I can’t even get a hold on my weight; I can feel them thinking that I have no self-control (which, actually, is an adequate preconception) and I must not be very intelligent; I feel them thinking that no one is going to want to be with me and I’ll probably be single for the rest of my life; I feel them thinking that my parents are more than likely disappointed that they’ve produced something as ugly and incompetent as me, wondering where they went wrong in my upbringing; thinking that I must be sorely dissatisfied with how I’ve turned out and my prospects for the future. I feel they’re thinking this about me, because it is exactly what I’m thinking about myself.

When I have a good day and I’m feeling rather slim and pretty, I feel like everyone must be thinking what a nice person I am; thinking how fortunate I am to be pretty, yet kind and intelligent too; how any man worth their salt, would be lucky to have me; how I must be living a good life and have the world at my feet. They’re surely thinking how much money I must have if I can afford good, healthy food to eat (this varies on how many shifts I’ve managed to fit in the previous week as to whether I can afford the best food available). Just as before, I think people are likely to be thinking this, as this is how I feel about myself on a good day.

Why is a matter of pounds the reason I’m either melodramatic neurotic who thinks life isn’t worth living or a narcissistic fool who thinks she’s the best thing since sliced bread? I could blame it on society, the magazines and the rest of the media that we’re confronted with daily, but the truth is: I don’t read magazines, I don’t want to be scarily thin, I don’t usually care what other people think of me and I certainly don’t feel that my weight is something that should define me… yet I still feel it does. Is it that because men are visual creatures, I feel that I should look a certain way in a hope of attracting a mate? I’m not sure that it is, as I enjoy being single and I don’t want a boyfriend. Why don’t I allow my accomplishments to override my worries about my weight? I could make a list as long as my arm about the things that I like about myself (as previously noted: I can be slightly narcissistic), yet they could be as long as my body and if my weight wasn’t what I wanted it to be- it would mean diddly squat! Does it stem from my childhood, where my weight weighed on my mind (see what I did there?) throughout my school years; years of comparing myself to the popular people in our class who were skinny and got all the boys? (Ok not all of the boys- they weren’t that slutty).

Ultimately, for me, like the saying goes ‘Money doesn’t make you happy’, then nor should being your ideal weight. Surely my happiness should be found in pursuits of a good career, academic achievements, volunteering for The Samaritans, being a nice person and having fun with my friends and family. The thing is though – while money doesn’t make you happy, and being your ideal weight shouldn’t – it bloody helps.

Are These Really ‘The Good Old Days’?

sign_these_are_the_good_old_daysFor those of us that are within a certain age bracket, we are supposedly currently living in ‘The Good Old Days’. These are the days that we’ll look back on and remember with fondness. I used to try to bear this in mind when I was nineteen and living in Australia, trying to make the most of the lot that I had, whilst failing, not so much miserably, but certainly disappointedly and still now, six years later I’m left wondering… is this it?

When I was a child I could not wait until I was a teenager- the thought of parties, ‘hanging out’ at friends’ houses, boyfriends and all the other crap teenagers do. When I got to my teens, I never felt like I was doing it right; this wasn’t what I’d imagined to be doing in my teen years, where were the house parties, where were the boyfriends?; I’d been a tubby child, and it still hadn’t passed by the time my teens rolled around, hence my lack of confidence and the absence of boyfriends. I think I’d been watching too many American programmes and as such, thought my life would somehow revolve around beach parties (I live in Hertfordshire: I don’t know why I thought this), house parties (I think there were two in total – including my own which was a disaster), good looking boyfriends (I went to school in Stevenage, if anyone knows Stevenage, they’ll know most people there have most likely appeared on Jeremy Kyle), great hair and clothes (my hair was frizzy and straighteners weren’t mainstream at that point) and other things that just left me feeling like everyone was better at being a teenager than I was; again, why I thought this I don’t know, as no one else lived by the beach, they too went to the two house parties that occurred and had the same selection of boys that I had, plus, some other girls’ hair were worse than mine. Despite this, they always seemed to be having much more fun as a teenager than I was.

I concluded that being a teenager just wasn’t for me – I would just have to wait until I became a legal adult at eighteen and the world would be my oyster. When I arrived at eighteen, the feelings of inadequacy were still there. I moved to France and thought that this would be a fun turning point in my life. I was living in a ski resort in the Alps and imagined skiing by day and partying in the après- ski bars by night. This is not what happened! I worked my arse off six days a week and by the time the season was over, I’d probably been skiing about five times. All the other girls that worked there seemed to be having a whale of a time. I was left with feeling again like I wasn’t doing it right. I couldn’t understand what was wrong with me. Why wasn’t I having the time of my life? When I got to nineteen, I moved to Australia and yet again, my ideals of what I thought my life would be like disappointed me. I went out with friends, had days on the beach, met many people that I wouldn’t have met had I stayed home, had all-nighters where I arrived home at 8am, had twenty minutes sleep and proceeded to go to work… but none of it felt right.

Towards the end of my stay in Australia, some two years later, having had years of always wanting to be older and thus being delivered into the good times that I’d so longed for, I realised what it had been all along. It wasn’t (all) me… it was Facebook that highlighted what the problem was. Facebook first came about when I was into my second year of Australia, as my friends and I gradually became more Facebook-savvy, the photos began to pop up in their hundreds. With comments saying what a fantastic night they’d had, how funny the night had been and how they should do it again; it dawned on me that all of it is Bull****. I wanted to comment: “I was there that night- it wasn’t as much fun as you’re making out”. That was the problem, all this time; people had either been a) Lying b) Exaggerating or c) Had been boring enough to actually believe that they’d been having the time of their lives. Alright, maybe I was being a bit grumpy, but how much fun can you have on a night out when you’re in a club, can’t hear other people talking and aren’t drunk enough to dance. It suddenly occurred to me that other people are always trying to convince others that their lives are great; always trying to passively out-do each other, whether it be with such ‘fun’ nights out, having 1,000 friends on Facebook (Seriously? You actually have 1,000 good friends? When was the last time you spoke to them all?) or out-doing each other in the holiday department, even though the reality is, they got horribly sunburnt, bitten by mosquitoes, spent their nights waddling like a duck as their thighs chafed and lived off SuperNoodles as they’d spent all of their money by the third night on cocktails made partly from gasoline (that last one isn’t true).

I decided at that point that I wouldn’t judge how my life was supposed to be, or how much fun I was having by comparing it to others because nine times out of ten, either their lives aren’t as fun and exciting as they’re purporting it to be, or their idea of fun is not mine. So here’s to The Good Old Days- however you wish to spend them.

Unexpected Inspiration from a Patient

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I currently work as an Auxiliary Nurse at the hospital. I started working there as I was en route to becoming a nurse and thought it would be a great insight into how hospitals work and valuable experience that would prepare me for my nursing career before I started university…. And I was right, from working there I’ve realised that no amount of money would encourage me to be a nurse. It is nothing how I imagined it would be. Grey’s Anatomy and Casualty have a lot to answer for!

            At twenty-five years old, with no career plans (again) to speak of, I’m back to the drawing board about what exactly I’m going to do with my life. I’ve always struggled with finding that one thing that I’m supposed to be doing. It feels as though everyone else managed to find their plan at a younger age and trod down the appropriate path into their prospective careers. I, on the other hand, have thought about nearly every career under the sun: a nurse (my most recent foray), a police officer, a lawyer, a journalist, a novelist, an air stewardess, a maternity nurse, a nursery nurse, a psychologist, a dermatologist, a psychiatrist, a counsellor, a teacher, a university lecturer on philosophy, a doctor, a vet, a surgeon; the list really does go on and on. In each case, I’ve been left feeling that whilst I like the idea of following the route into the profession, the reality of each would probably not be what I’d be expecting and ultimately, I’ve felt defeated each time.

When I was younger (around eighteen years of age), I wasn’t concerned by money and thought I’d just float my way through life without being concerned about ambition, financial gain or anything that incurred too much responsibility. Running with this theme, I embarked on a journey that has lead me to where I am today. I secured a job in France and lived there for a while, before I moved on at nineteen to Australia for a few years; next came New Zealand and after I’d tired of there, I eventually returned home, having decided that at twenty- three, it was time to grow up and settle down somewhat. Endless jobs at minimum wage had grown old and no amount of sunshine made up for that fact- the fact is that life is not that much fun when you’re struggling financially. Having had years of experience working as a Nanny (one of the few jobs abroad that didn’t pay too badly), I started caring for two- week-old premature twins on my return home. It turned out to be the best job I’ve ever had and despite not looking after them anymore (they are two and a half now), I love them dearly and still manage to see them regularly.  The thing is, the parents were extremely wealthy and I realised that I wanted to have a ‘proper’ career too. I felt slightly wasted being a nanny (even though I loved my job), which led to my search for an alternate career. I enjoyed working with children but to be honest, there’s only so far you can climb up the proverbial ladder with that one. Eventually, having researched what jobs were available, I came across paediatric nursing, I couldn’t believe I’d never considered it before, it now seemed so obvious. Anyway, fast forward a year and a half, having gone through the trouble of gaining my Access to Nursing Diploma and securing work at the hospital, as you know, I’ve decided it’s not for me and I’m back to square one.

            This leads me to the patient I was caring for today. Without breaking confidentiality, she shall remain nameless and ageless. The lady in question would appear to the outside world, to put it simply (and not very professionally): mad. She doesn’t suffer from dementia, but you’d be forgiven for thinking that she does. She can be physically and verbally abusive, claiming that not only have you stolen all her clothes (obviously we haven’t) and her money (she didn’t bring any in with her), but that we are also keeping her prisoner and are trying to kill her. Despite trying to talk to her and reassure her that we’re trying to help her and that the reason she can’t go home yet is not that we’re keeping her prisoner, but that she isn’t well enough yet, does little to pacify her. She swings from her accusations to then whimpering and asking if she’s losing her mind and that she’s scared; she’s aware that her mind seems to be deteriorating and asked me how I’d feel if I was her (by this point she’s moving back to being verbally aggressive), if I’d worked all my life like she has, only to end up in hospital with nothing. No house (she lives in a nursing home), no money (and no, not because we stole it) and little in the way of family and friends.

            I wouldn’t have thought too much of the ramblings of this lady who clearly is losing her grip on reality, but unfortunately, she isn’t an isolated case. There have been many patients who end up in hospital, some with absolutely no family or next of kin, trapped in their bodies that no longer work properly, if in fact at all. Their lives have become reduced to being washed in bed by staff that they’re unfamiliar with, an inability to go to the toilet by themselves and the monotony of sitting in a hospital bed all day with nothing to do except talk to other patients and wait for their next meal (which may have to be a puree fed to them by a staff member). I look at these patients, some as young as sixty, and think about what they would have done when they were in their prime, who they would have been and what they had seen. I’m sure they were no different to me when they were my age; going out for drinks with their friends; feeling the highs and lows of romantic endeavours; having holidays and meeting new people etc. And where are they now? What was the point of any of it?

 

So now, from these people whose lives I’ve learned from. I’ve decided to stop worrying about a career too much and return to my eighteen-year-old viewpoint to focus on things in life that bring true joy; because I’m certain that if I ever end up like the patients that I see on a daily basis, I would rather be sitting there with happy memories of excitement, laughter and joy that I experienced with my friends and family to pass my time than counting the pennies that I earned that are now worthless.

Should Euthanasia be Legalised in the UK?

euthanasia picThe word ‘euthanasia’ comes from the Greek ‘eu’ meaning well and ‘thanatos’ meaning death, in essence, easy death. Euthanasia is defined as the painless and intentional killing of a patient suffering from an incurable and/ or painful disease or an irreversible coma. In cases such as refusal of feeding tubes or turning off life support machines, it is classed as ‘passive’ euthanasia and is not illegal. In the United Kingdom ‘active’ euthanasia has always been – and still remains – illegal. Opinions of the general public have shifted in recent years and there appears to be a move towards tolerance of the practice. This article will attempt to question the laws surrounding active euthanasia; whether it should be legalised in the UK or if it ought to remain illegal.
There are a myriad of reasons why a patient may wish to take the route of euthanasia. Some past instances include ‘Locked-in syndrome,’ as in the case of Tony Nicklinson. After a stroke rendered him unable to do anything freely for himself – Nicklinson recently attempted to challenge the laws concerning euthanasia (Smith, 2012). Other cases may involve – but not exclusively – terminal cancer, victims of a severe stroke or advanced muscular dystrophy.
When challenging the law in the UK, there are current laws that should theoretically support active euthanasia. The European Convention of Human Rights mentions in Article 2: Right to Life, “Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which the penalty is provided by law”. With the wording of this article in mind, is it possible to ‘deprive’ a person of something that they do not want? Even a cursory glance at both sides of the euthanasia argument shows that the phrase ‘right to life’ continually appears. Just because we have a ‘right’ to something – free religious views for example – does not mean that we are compelled to exercise that right; so in respect of the taking of one’s own life, with or without aid, and seeing as though we are not being forced to utilise all rights bestowed upon us, exception should not be made in this instance. Article 3 of the Convention states: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”, the definition of inhuman being ‘lacking human qualities of compassion and mercy; cruel and barbaric’. It could easily be argued that it is cruel and barbaric to intentionally keep a patient alive, knowing that they are suffering immeasurable pain. It seems more likely that making a patient endure the harsh realities of their daily lives lacks compassion more so than euthanasia does. By definition, not having the right to choose euthanasia is to subject the patient to feelings of degradation, thus completely disregarding the laws set out in Article 3.
When looking further at logical explanations as to why a patient may wish to choose euthanasia, an argument that is persistently raised is that of euthanasia for animals. Animals are ‘put down’ as it is a more humane action to take when considering the alternative of life in pain. If humane treatment for animals is of utmost importance, surely it should be even more so in the case of ill and diseased humans. Likewise: considering compassion, it is legal to have an abortion up until birth if the foetus has a disability. (Abortion Act, 1967) This ‘compassion’ should be extended to those suffering in life, should the disabled individual unequivocally express their desire to die; the foetus has no such choice in this instance – their protection from ‘rights’, potentially stolen by a matter of days, despite the fact that they may have wanted it; the two sides of the law controlling who can have life, and who cannot, irrespective of who wants it and who does not. With view to empathy for those suffering, doctors have spoken out in support of euthanasia, stating that they would prefer to die than endure the pain of treatment for diseases like cancer. (Scurr, 2012)

A popular motive of the petitioners against euthanasia is utilising religious viewpoints and texts to give weight to their argument. In the Bible, as well as other religious texts, it is against God’s will for a human to take away His gift of life. Whilst this may be reason enough for those who are religious, the majority of the population do not affiliate themselves with any religion at all (YouGov survey, 2011) and so would not amount to enough to sway public opinion. Laws are generally not in favour of religion and by forcing religious views on the members of society that do not believe, they would be conflicting with Article 9 of the ECHR (Freedom of thought, conscience and religion). It is also safe to say that if laws were influenced by religion then homosexuality, abortion and suicide would all be illegal.
Even individuals who are most devoted to the legality of euthanasia, fear the possible abuse of the law, were it to be legalised. Cases may include heirs wishing to terminate the life of their relatives so as to obtain the inheritance by coaxing or persuading their old and/or ill relations to elect the course of euthanasia. Turning again to the legalisation of abortion – in today’s society, this law is being abused by those who in fact would just prefer not to have the child at this stage of their lives or by those who see getting pregnant as an inconvenience. If this is what the future looks like with the legalisation of euthanasia then perhaps it is sensible for it to remain illegal.
Euthanasia can be carried out without the patient’s knowledge or consent in the case of non-voluntary and involuntary euthanasia – this could prove extremely dangerous for a number of reasons; first and foremost that having a patient who is not actually consenting to the euthanasia is so close to being murder that there would be a very fine line; for example after having committed murder, they could insist that it was a merciful killing akin to involuntary euthanasia.

The finality of euthanasia casts some obvious doubts upon whether it should become lawful. In certain cases, patients with terminal illnesses have recovered. There are many known cases of victims of cancer who, nearing the end of life have succeeded in making a full recovery; were they to have chosen the route of euthanasia, they could have deprived themselves of the opportunity to live a fulfilled and able life.

Having looked at both sides of the euthanasia debate, it could be said that with stringent laws in place to protect citizens – abuse of it could be sidestepped. Regulations could be put in place comparable to doctors setting up devices in which the patients sets in motion the process of their own euthanasia. The UK could also pay heed to the corresponding safeguards in countries where it has been made lawful. On reflection of the religious viewpoints, verses in the Bible (as an example) are rather ambiguous; they can be taken literally or – in most cases- interpreted. Nowhere in the Bible is euthanasia specifically mentioned, therefore it is not guaranteed that God would be opposed to the end of a human’s life owing to suffering. The most important point to put forward is why this debate is even being discussed: because there are people suffering so much pain and unhappiness in life through various illnesses and disease that the typically unnatural act of choosing death, for them, at this point, is preferable to life. With the specifics put forward, patients who have been forced into such a life outside of their control should at least have the option of ending their misery.

Questions about God, the Bible, Religion Part II

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Belief-dependent realism

As Michael Shermer, a scholar who has made it his mission in life to look into belief, points out in ‘The Believing Brain’, belief- dependent realism is, essentially, when we form beliefs and then find information and references in our lives that confirm our belief (confirmation bias). Let’s take the cases of God and religion. In almost all cases, people first believe in their respective gods or religion and then go on to read more about the subject (in the form of the Bible, Quran etc.) to confirm their already held beliefs. We are either taught at a young age by the adults who have influence in our lives about God, or hear about it later on in life by those who are able to capture our interest, for whatever reasons, that there is an almighty being out there who cares about us; subsequently, we then learn the teachings on the God that we believe in. It is rarely the other way round, in that we would decide to read the Bible and then decide from that, that we believe in God.

 

Comfort

As a person who formerly did believe in God, a part of my believing brought comfort that there was someone looking out for me, watching over me and loving me unconditionally, despite my human errors. It is a comforting feeling that in this world in which we live, with its evils, temptations to do “wrong”, stress, responsibility and uncertainty (amongst many other things), there was someone who – like the role our parents played when we were young – was looking out for me and making sure everything came good in the end. I wonder if this has something to do with the fact that despite ageing and becoming a ‘grown up’, a part of us remains child-like. We may now have houses, cars, careers and children of our own, but sometimes the feelings we crave as a child of safety, stability and of being loved, remain; albeit in different ways and for different reasons. Our parents, for the most part, no longer take care of us, we are more or less on our own in this life and God is an unrestricted way of recreating the feeling of being looked after and creating a sense of safety when we feel that we cannot cope with life’s set-backs and knock-downs.

 

Fear

Here, I feel that fear being a factor in belief is two-fold; the first being fear of the unknown. No one can say for certain that God does not exist. We can no more prove that He does not exist, than He does. What if we’re wrong? What if, all this time, He does exist? For not believing, we’d go to Hell. It’s safer to believe that He does exist, as if He doesn’t, we won’t have lost anything. On the other hand, if He does exist and we haven’t believed in Him, the stakes are higher and we would have far more to lose (like a stint in Hell). Again, Shermer likens this analogy of belief back to evolutionary psychology. He noted that back when we humans were starting out and we heard a rustle in the bushes, it could have been two things: either the wind, or a potentially dangerous predator. Suppose they thought it was a dangerous predator and fled the scene asap – if they had been wrong, and it had turned out to be just the wind blowing through the leaves of the bush, no harm done, they’d survived regardless and their false belief in it being a predator had done them no harm. Now suppose that they had passed it off as being the wind, when in fact it was a predator that waiting to pounce on them… Game over! From this, we can see why it is safer for us to believe in false assumptions that lead to us having less to lose.

            On the other side of the proverbial fear coin, we have fear of the unknown. The truth is, aside from the Big Bang Theory, scientists have no more answers as to where everything came from than your average Joe. Religion and belief in God answers this mystifying question for us. As humans, from a young age, we are always asking ‘why?’ From the small queries of a child (“Why do we have to pay the lady at the checkout?”) to more complex questions as we get older: “Why are we here?”, “How did we get here?”, “Where did all the particles come from that precluded the Big Bang?”.

Religion served as an answer to many of these questions, but as science developed into what it is today, many claims from the Bible have been refuted. For instance, we now know about evolution, which lead many people to reject the idea that God made the world in six days, six-thousand years ago. As science has not given us the answers to the remaining questions that we have, we look to another source that can provide answers, i.e. God. As we have no other explanations yet as to how we got here, we can look to ‘The Argument from Ignorance’. When people are unsure of something, or hold no other logical answers, they are more likely to accept strange explanations.

 I believe that as science progresses, however long it may take, these questions will be answered and ‘God the creator’ will no longer be a valid source of evidence as to how we all got here.

 

Something missing

Many times, I hear from friends who are religious that ‘God’ can fill the missing gap in my life. I’ll admit that I regularly feel that there is something ‘missing’ from my life, but more so that there must be more to life than this. No one likes to believe that they are normal, average or one who in all reality fades into the background, yet ultimately, we all do (admittedly some more than others). I suppose I can see how God would fill this gap as He is supposed to love each and every one of us individually. He is paying attention to all of us at the same time, what with Him being omnipresent, and He truly understands our individuality from the rest of the seven billion others that we share this planet with. When I ‘found’ God a few years back, it was comforting to think that He was always with me and was overseeing what I did in my day-to-day life. I believed that He could see how different I was from the rest and that my times of altruistic actions, patience, intelligence, humour and insight into the complexing questions of life never went unnoticed and that He would hold me in higher regard than the rest, who, in my head, were probably more mundane, not as kind or tolerant, and possibly not as knowledgeable as I had myself believe. When I began to question my faith in God, and read differing factual information concerning the psychology of belief, the nonsense that is written in the Bible, in addition to actually reading the Bible itself (which despite having a Catholic childhood I hadn’t really done), it has satiated my quest enough to conclude that the likelihood of there being a God is slim to none, and as stated in Part I, if there is a God, it’s doubtful that He is the one that is depicted in the Bible. I felt relieved in a way that there was no God. My ever-present guilt about the immoral actions that I had perpetrated in the past actually had no consequence in my life (aside from the guilt). I admit that I’m a little disappointed that there isn’t anyone – bar my parents – that appreciate my uniqueness, who looks out for me and revels in my achievements, and that, for all intents and purposes, I am normal, boring and most likely not unique enough to stand out from the seven billion others, but actually, I’m okay with that as, let’s be honest, who really cares apart from me?  

In life, psychologically, we look for meaning where there actually is none. Patternicity is the term Shermer uses to explain why we see things that aren’t really there. For instance: why we see a face in the surface of the moon, familiar shapes in the clouds or that rustling in the bushes that was a predator, even though it was the wind. Similarly in regards to God, we see ‘miracles’, ‘signs’ and ‘hear’ God talking to us (though that could also be a paracusia, also known as auditory hallucinations); as Shermer points out: Unfortunately, we did not evolve a Baloney Detection Network in the brain to distinguish between true and false patterns.

 

 

A sense of belonging

Humans are social beings. It served a purpose when we were on the savannah to stick together. We could look out for predators and watch each other’s backs. Fast forward to the modern era and we haven’t shaken the instinct to group together, undoubtedly in an altered way; we no longer need to watch out for predators (unless you live in Brixton of course). We enjoy socialising, we go out for drinks with others, we meet up with friends for coffee and we join classes or clubs where we’ll meet like-minded people. Being a part of a religious group is just another extension of the ways in which we find ways to group together. We are surrounded by those who share our beliefs and confirm that we are correct in holding the thoughts and beliefs that we have. We tend to steer clear of those who don’t share our beliefs and values, hence why I do not socialise with those who belong to cycling clubs, who follow the beliefs of Islam, who frequent comi-con. I do – however – enjoy being with my friends who share my sense of humour; those who share my beliefs and morals about life; attach myself to groups who enjoy discussing topics that extend our everyday lives and those I’ve studied with that can understand and share in my stress of juggling assignments, full-time work and attempting to attend to daily, monthly and weekly errands (tax- returns anyone?). It’s nice to belong to a group in which you are regarded as being accurate in your view and assumption of the world; we seek out others who are like us and then continue to stick to the views that enabled us to join in the first place, thus continuing our acceptance in the group. Taking it a step further, some people’s beliefs are so strong that they ex-communicate themselves from the rest of the civilisation that they live in as in the case of the Phelps family in America (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/6507971.stm); the result of not conforming in this case, is being expelled from their family and community, never to return. I’m not saying this is the case in all groups and religions, of course, but it goes some way in demonstrating how strong the attraction of being in a social group can be (and I suppose, in this case, brainwashing can be).

           

 

Overall, I think there are many reasons as to why people believe in God or religion; whether it is a reason mentioned above like comfort or fear remains specific to the individual. Ultimately I don’t think there is anything wrong in believing in God or religion as long as no one else is getting hurt in the process of certain individuals following the word of God. If it does bring comfort, a sense of belonging or the answers to seemingly unanswerable questions, then why not believe?

 

 

“…smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons”

Michael Shermer, The Believing brain

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-believing-brain

Questions about God, the Bible and Religion

Bible

Part I

 

For the purpose of this article, I will humour those who believe in God, and I hope those who do not believe will humour me, as – despite my scepticism about who or what God is –I’m still undecided as to whether I believe He exists. I would like to apologise to those who believe in advance – you’ll realise why when you read on – however I’d like to point out that God knew who I’d be before I was born and already knew what I’d think and what I would come to write, yet He still created me and so in one way or another, I’d assume that if He exists, He’d most likely condone my work.

            The problems I have stem from the fact that none of it, ultimately, makes any logical sense. I have accumulated questions in general about God and a copious amount more regarding the Bible; why people believe; the inconsistencies that arise from the both the Bible and the beliefs that people hold based on the teachings of this book. In addition to these queries, I wanted to look further into whether the teachings from the Bible and religions in general are still necessary in the contemporary era.

Omnipotent?

Let’s look to Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament. We are told that God created all of the stars and the moons and, in fact, the entire universe and all things in it; I do wonder why, after just six days of creating the Earth, He needed a rest. It seems that God is not as powerful as we are lead to believe, as He required something as basic and human-like as a ‘rest’.

            Similarly in Genesis, it states that God used a rib from Adam to create Eve. Now, it seems quite unlikely that a being as powerful as God, who created the whole universe from nothing, would need a pre-existing item in order to create something new.

            Finally, regarding the flood that saw Noah and his family driven to build an ark, if God is omnipotent, why did He not just kill off all those who were no longer fit to be on the Earth instead of making poor Noah go to the trouble of making an ark, having to endure possible seasickness (I’m speculating on that part), muck out the animal’s s**t, live off food that by the end, would most certainly have gone past its use-by date etc. etc., it just doesn’t make sense, especially as there weren’t that many people alive on the earth at that point who could easily have been destroyed by God.

Omniscient?

Let’s suppose we take the Bible literally and word for word – which we are told that we should. Whilst thinking of Noah and his plight to stay alive, it troubled me that it was all avoidable, after all, God is omniscient. Why did God not see this coming? And if He did, why did he bother in the first place to create those who would be so awful that He wouldn’t want them to be alive anymore? It seems as though He hadn’t thought his plan through.

Whilst we’re on the subject of ‘God not thinking his plans through’, the above, unfortunately, is not an isolated event. When creating all of the animals, God had the foresight to make two of (most) creatures, one male, one female, so that they may reproduce and fill the Earth with their offspring. However, when it came to making Man, God clearly either forgot or decided that He wanted Adam as the only human; he later changed his mind and thought that it would be nice for Adam to have a mate and that they too could replenish the Earth, thus, He created Eve. Seeing as though we’re now talking of Eve, God – being omniscient –knew beforehand that she would eat from the tree of knowledge, he then punished her for it. One way or another, there’s a part to this story that He hasn’t thought through. There are three ways that I would suggest to God as to how he could have gotten around this problematic ‘Eve debacle’: either do not create Eve in the first place (problem solved); don’t create the tree of knowledge (this one would certainly have solved more problems than just Eve’s mischievousness) or don’t create that sneaky snake who misinformed Eve about the consequences of her actions. 

            In Genesis, it is also written that after flooding the Earth and killing everyone bar Noah and his family, God promised that He would never do it again (much like a toddler after one hell of a tantrum). God appears to be a forgetful old soul as He felt the need to create a rainbow and insisted that whenever a rainbow appeared, it would be a reminder that He would never flood the Earth again.

            Promising not to commit mass murder ever, ever again was nice of God; however, without intending to dent His confidence too much by pointing out some of His faults and shortfalls by way of ‘plans He didn’t think through’, let’s again turn to Genesis: now He’s got it in for the birds, what they’ve done, I do not know, it doesn’t say. What it does say though is “Even fowls have sinned and He repented making them”…. Poor God, If only He’d thought through His plan of making birds He wouldn’t be in this predicament.

From just these few examples alone, I can only surmise that God – if He does exist – is not all that omniscient.

 

Omnipresent?

Omnipresent – the ability to be everywhere simultaneously. “Great” you think, “then He’ll be with me at all times, for all time” – Apparently not. This ‘omnipresent’ part of God gets me a-wondering: If God is with us, why does He not protect us, He is after all omnipotent and it would be well within his capability to protect us from harm. Why is it then that bad things happen to us? Where exactly was God when the twin towers were falling, because I have a feeling that He wasn’t with those people that day, nor was He at the Pentagon; in fact, nor is he when there are children starving to death and/or simultaneously dying of disease, diarrhoea and dysentery. Where is He when children call out for help when they are victims of abuse? Where is He when people are in terrible pain, both physically and emotionally, crying out for it all to just stop? All of these lead me to believe that God is either unable to help (but this can’t be true as he is omnipotent) or unwilling to help (also not true, as God is omnibenevolent). I can only conclude from this that, unlike those who insist that it is because God does not interfere, it is more logical to determine that God, in fact, does not exist. I truly believe that if God did exist, and it was the loving God that we read about in the New Testament (after He stopped throwing the tantrums that He did in the Old Testament), He would be omnipresent and the Pope wouldn’t have to have the windows of his vehicle fitted with bullet-proof glass.

 

Omnibenevolent?

As recorded above, God changed His mind about His behaviour and outlook on how He dealt with us mere mortals. In the New Testament, He changed His tune and became omnibenevolent. We know He changed His mind because He was certainly nowhere near being omnibenevolent in the Old Testament, what with the genocides, threats, support of slavery and incest etc. An example of His un-benevolence in the Old Testament is taken from Deuteronomy 7: “Make no treaty with the nations of the land. You are a holy people, the LORD has chosen you. He will drive out the nations before you”. This clearly doesn’t sound like a very loving God, who created these nations and insisted that He would ‘drive them out’ because He then chose some others as the holy people; I might add that this is seemingly another case of when God hasn’t thought through His plans, as this could have been avoided if only He’d not bothered to create anyone who wasn’t a part of the ‘holy people’.

            Again, relating back to the omnipresent-ness of God, if He were truly omnibenevolent He would certainly try to protect all of the humans that he is said to love so much.

 

Confusion

There are parts of the Bible and things about God that just do not make sense; whether they literally do not make sense as in Deuteronomy 8: “The LORD led you in the wilderness and tested you. He is bringing you into a good land. Do not forget the LORD or you shall perish”. In response, a) there are people who have forgotten the Lord and have not perished, b) everyone will perish anyway… doesn’t make sense, I will also point out, that God does not interfere, so why is He going around ‘testing’ people? Or those that we now know through science, not to be true as in the pain God made all women suffer during childbirth doesn’t fit with the fact that as we evolved, and our craniums grew, that is the actual reason that childbirth hurts (subsequently, why human infants are born prematurely to their animal/ ape counterparts). Other parts are just nonsensical and there are questions about the practicalities of the stories etc. Instead of writing a few pages more for this part, the list has been bulleted for speed and, thus, does not delve deeply into the details of each, nor the numerous questions which would arise from every one.

  • Leviticus 18: “Don’t have sex with a relative, a woman on her period, your neighbour’s wife, another man or an animal. These things defile the land.” What? I mean, yes, by all means it’s not good manners to go sleeping with your neighbours wife; potentially messy with the woman during her menstruation and certainly not a good idea to sleep with an animal, but I think it’s untrue to say that the land will suffer.
  • The Bible sounds more like the writings of men at that time who knew no better. Surely God would have given them some information about life outside of their generation so that we may understand it nowadays.
  • According to the Bible; preadamic, (and so pre-man) there were no dinosaurs etc. We know through scientific evidence that there were many creatures that came before man.
  • Regarding Cain: “And the Lord said to him: No it shall not be so: but whoever shall kill Cain, shall be punished sevenfold”…. According to the Bible so far- the only people that exist are Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel (who’s now dead) – who else was going to come across Cain and try to kill him?
  • “And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived, and brought forth Henoch”… where did this wife come from… like it says in the Bible, the only people alive are Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel (deceased).
  • Henoch begot Irad, and Irad begot Maviael etc. etc.  Again, who are they having sex with to have these children- Eve? It’s all a bit incestual, is it not?! What happened to not sleeping with your relatives?
  • Adam lived 130 years? Really? Then after Seth was born he lived another 800 years…. I think not.
  • Everyone was supposedly a giant in those days….
  • The length of the ark was 300 cubits (approx. 137 metres) – how on earth did two of every animal fit. Aside from all of the mammals, there would be all the different types of species of rodents, amphibians, birds, insects, arachnids etc. Did the sea life get to just live then…? I’m guessing if so, they had not sinned?
  • Also, in this relatively small ark, not only two of every creature must fit, but also a food store for all of them for a hundred and fifty days.
  • Did they not get scurvy on the arc?
  • The dove came back with a bough of an olive tree- wouldn’t the plants be dead after spending 6 months under water?
  • If man was made to the image of God- why did they do bad things that God didn’t want them to do.
  • The blessing of Sem and the curse on Chanaan… bit of a pointless story.
  • Sara was 90 when she gave birth?
  • Maybe I shouldn’t have worried so much about that pesky Eve having relations with her sons, incest’s back again, this time Lot’s been ‘avin’ it off with his daughters after they got him pissed.
  • Exodus 3: Moses saw a burning bush. God told him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses asked God his name and God said, “I am who I am.”- God sounds a bit like a Yorkshire man.

Again, the majority of these points look more like the writings of a Bedouin of the time, and not messages from an omniscient being.

 

 

 

 

Having read the Bible and being brought up in a Christian community of schools, friends and family etc. There are questions about God and the Bible that I have yet to find the answer to. Despite speaking with a Minister, these queries are still unanswered. If you do have an answer for any of these please do let me know.                                                                                                                                      N.B. Answers that involve “God works in mysterious ways”, “There are things as humans that we cannot understand and we must trust the Lord”, “Only God can know why that is…” etc. shan’t be considered as acceptable answers, purely because they are not serving the purpose of an answer to my particular questions.

1)    Why did God make us, knowing that we would be who we are and do the things we do, and then punish us for it? It seems a bit twisted that He would do such a thing.

2)    Eternity in Hell seems like a long time in relation to the amount of time that we’re on earth committing sins. (70 or so years)

3)    People seem to think that they can thank God for answering prayers/ certain things that happen to them in life – should they, considering that He doesn’t intervene, (and aid people when they need Him, as in the 9/11 scenario). If they can thank Him for answering prayers or for good things that happen in their lives, then it should be a two-way street in that they should also blame him for when atrocities occur or when terrible things happen in their lives.

4)    If He does intervene (of which there doesn’t seem to be a unanimous decision) it seems that He’s very selective of whose prayers he answers, and which ones.

5)    When believers pray because they/their children are starving to death from no crops- how hard would it be to send rain seeing as he is omnipotent? Seems as though God is a cruel God since he knew these people would face these events in their lives.

6)    Why is the Bible so sexist? Because of Eve, all women should be ‘under’ men –that doesn’t seem very fair to make all women become second class citizens to men for one woman’s misdemeanour (which we discussed could have all been avoided).

7)    Why did God advocate slavery?

8)    Why was God so present and talking to people, then just stopped?

9)    Why does God have to remain hidden? I’ve heard it to be because if He showed Himself, then we wouldn’t have free will to believe in Him. But this raises more questions- notably that He already has shown Himself, and why is there no proof? It can’t be because there would be no free will to believe as Jesus wouldn’t have shown himself in first place etc. etc.

 

 

If there is a God

  • Just because someone can’t prove that God doesn’t exist, it no more means that He is real over the fact that people can’t prove that my friend Rose is real because people cannot prove that she does not exist.
  • Why do the goalposts continue to move? E.g. Less than 200 years ago, Christians resolutely believed in creationism. Now, with evidence to suggest that, in fact evolution occurred, minds have changed and now it’s acceptable to think that God made evolution happen… Nowhere in the Bible is evolution mentioned.
  • Why do many Christians appear to interpret the Bible how they see fit? If ten different Christians were asked the same question regarding prayer (as an example), I’m 99.99% sure I would get at least five different responses.
  • Why did God create us at all?
  • If God knows everything, including the future, then we don’t really have free will do we?
  • Why did God change his mind about becoming an all-loving God? (Regarding his seeming personality transplant from the Old Testament to the New?)
  • If God is so great- why isn’t the Bible better and more awe-inspiring? If a book was written (or at least inspired from the messages of God) you would think it would astound us and there would be no doubt as to the wisdom within. Instead, we get a load of stories about a God with human emotions (jealousy, resentment, anger, love etc.), a God who was a mass murderer who turned over a new leaf and became a loving Father; stories of incest, war and others that aren’t really about anything in particular.
  • Because God made you for a reason, he also decided when you would be born and how long you would live. He planned the days of your life in advance, choosing the exact time of your birth and death. The Bible says, “You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your book!” [Psalm 139:16] – Ergo, God planned abortions and those who died in the holocaust?

 

 

 

 

 

New Testament:

Parallels between the story of Jesus and other Gods/ religions etc.:

http://listverse.com/2009/04/13/10-christ-like-figures-who-pre-date-jesus/

In regards to those who wrote it… it was written sometime after Jesus’ life, by people who had not witnessed the events first hand and therefore, it was probably much like Chinese whispers. Also I can’t imagine literacy rates were too high back then… it all seems a bit dodgy.

 

The vestiges of pagan religion in Christian symbology are undeniable. Egyptian sun disks became the halos of Catholic saints. Pictograms of Isis nursing her miraculously conceived son Horus became the blueprint for our modern images of the Virgin Mary nursing Baby Jesus. And virtually all the elements of the Catholic ritual – the miter, the altar, the doxology, and communion, the act of “God-eating” – were taken directly from earlier pagan mystery religions.

Nothing in Christianity is original. The pre-Christian God Mithras – called the Son of God and the Light of the World – was born on December 25, died, was buried in a rock tomb, and then resurrected in three days. By the way, December 25 is also the birthday or Osiris, Adonis, and Dionysus. The new-born Krishna was presented with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Even Christianity’s weekly holy day was stolen from the pagans

The dictionary defines delusion as, “A false belief strongly held in spite of invalidating evidence.”

Isn’t it a coincidence that most people in our society ‘find’ the Christian God/ way of life/ Bible etc.? You very rarely hear of people finding Zoroastrianism, despite it being one of the oldest monotheistic religions, Mormon, Hindu etc…. This leads me to believe that it is cultural interference that helps people ‘find’ God and is actually culturally determined.

As religions start to decrease in numbers, e.g. Zoroastrianism, Greek Gods, Norse mythology, will we not look back at Christianity and such like and render it, too, as a myth?

 

 

 

There may well be a God, however, if there is, I highly doubt that we should be using the Bible as a guide to who He is and what He wants us to do. I shan’t dispute the fact that there are many messages in the Bible that are good ways of living your life, such as treating others how you would like to be treated, not murdering others and generally how to be a good person. I do believe though, that this is biologically inbuilt into us as humans as a way of preserving the species. If they weren’t, then atheists would all be murdering, homosexual, racist thugs… which will be discussed more in Part II.

 

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