Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Soul Mates

I have to question why it is such a widely held belief that we all have a soul mate, or one specific person who we are destined to be with or, as some believe, made for. Even some of my other non-religious friends think soul mates exist. Why is this not seen as a happily ever after fairytale when so many marriages end in divorce? What if your spouse dies, are you allowed to marry again, or does that violate the single soul mate theory? I have known good faithful people who have gone through divorces and end up assuming their ex just wasn't the one for them, yet instead of realizing that the whole idea of exclusive true love is crap, they insist on trying again. Why get to know anyone else at all if you're holding out for that one special person?

No one is perfect. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out, and yet I've known women and men (though I can hardly consider them to be more than girls and boys) who seem to think their ideal mate is waiting out there, flawless, and eager to pamper and please them at their every whim. Soul mate probably means something different to different people, but the main idea is that somewhere out there is a person right for you... and only one person. You don't hear many people talk about their second or third soul mate. That kind of defeats the concept of a soul mate. I agree that there is a person out there who is right for you, but why just one who you are destined to be tied to for eternity and live happily ever after with? Wouldn't it be more exciting to think that there is more than just one individual who may be right for you - that you have a deeper connection with humanity than someone who can only find one person that's right for them, out of countless billions?

Without getting on my soapbox about religion and spirituality, I will note that the first problem created by the idea of soul mates is in the first word of it. Define the soul and prove it exists before trying to claim one other soul is the only soul for you. What if the soul is not such a metaphysical entity; what if it's more like our entire personality produced by our brains and hearts working together? It may make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside to think you have someone special set aside for you who will complete you and never leave you... but get over yourself. Shit happens. Expect it to. Nelson Mandela said, "the greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall". Life goes on. The joy of it is getting to know and love so many diverse personalities.

Before you start to think I'm making a case for whorishness (isn't that a fun word), let me say this: what is wrong with loving many other people? We have this idea of monogamy pounded into our heads, and is it really a good or superior societal standard than polygamy... but that's for another blog. I'm not advocating free sex like during the Sixties, I'm simply arguing against the notion that we are all bound to one single person for our entire life. Some people use the word "soul mate" just as a fun, affectionate term without serious connotations, which I feel is not the best word, but that use really strips it of it's meaning anyway.

So what is love worth without soul mates? A lot, if not even more. I'm not going to give the cold-hearted lecture about how we are all just like apes trying to spread our genes, driven by natural selection. Life and love are more than that, but we are the ones who make it more. The ability to learn to love different types of people in different ways, to find comfort in intimacy, to relieve whatever hurt may be in our lives... why is it bad to tend to such things outside wedlock or with more than one partner? Religion can't explain why it's bad, they can just tell you God says it's bad. I also know it's not sexy to tell someone, "if I wouldn't have met you, I would've just found someone else", but maybe it doesn't need to be said. We all know it's true, whether we admit it or not.

Love is not some profound spiritual wonder, but it's not so great when dissected by science and rigid logic either. It's as natural as breathing, and if you suppress it too much or breathe too hard and too fast (yes, I'm clever, aren't I), you'll tire yourself pretty quickly. The soul mates idea is unrealistic and not as good as it sounds. It was probably conceived by people who were desperate, like us, to feel some kind of eternal and unconditional love, and while it would be nice, we are better off without it sometimes, so that we are motivated to give the love we desire to feel in return. All I'm saying now, and all I've ever really been saying, is enjoy your life while you can. Don't live for today or for tomorrow, just live period. Real love won't mind sharing, I think, and it will recognize the vanity of putting artificial restraints on who we allow ourselves, or each other, to get close to.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Unholy Survival of the Catholic Church

There's really no disputing that the Roman Catholic Church has a very bloody and corrupt legacy. From indulgences to the inquisition, hardly a century has gone by in which the RCC has not committed some unpardonable sin. In the 20th century there was both the church's involvement with Nazism and the child abuse scandal. Now in the 21st century there is upheaval within the RCC's own congregation, as Catholics have expressed disdain for the church's anti-gay stance, as well as it's ridiculous policy on contraception.

What amazes me is how the Catholic Church stays afloat. Sure, they have quite a fortune and quite an empire constructed at Vatican City, but the church will not stay in business for long if its central customers desert it. There are statistics that point to a decline in the number of priests, nuns, confessions, and parishioners, but I'm still surprised that the church exists today. The child abuse scandal broke in 2002 and was no trivial matter confined to a few fringe individuals. Eight years later and there are still many people who are proud to be Catholic and eager to defend the faith.

The pedophilia scandal has been driven into the ground for years now, and yet it hasn't produced the effect I expected from such a widespread announcement. There is overwhelming evidence that thousands of Catholic priests, throughout the globe, molested young children, and there is equally significant evidence that the RCC relocated these priests and participated in a general cover-up of the problem. Instead of taking responsibility for all of this and doing what is necessary to correct the issue, the Vatican has largely blamed the scandal on homosexuality. When Pope Benedict was charged with helping to cover up a case of abuse among three boys in Texas, he requested and received diplomatic immunity from George W. Bush.

Christians have sometimes remarked about the "miracle" that must have occurred for the early church to have survived the persecutions of Nero and other adversaries. If the persistent survival of the RCC tells us anything, it is that beliefs die hard - even those that are associated with some extremely reprehensible scandals. Why would you want to belong to a church that has such a longstanding tradition of secrecy, corruption, and bloodshed, as the Catholic Church does? Some might have thought all that was left in the past when Vatican II arrived, but the RCC has proven that it can still be a force for great harm that has the ability to pull the wool over peoples' eyes.

What will the future hold for the RCC? Will it fade out slowly? There may be a decline going on, but not many people seem that disturbed by the child abuse scandal. If a multinational corporation, with a long history of trust earned with its consumers, had a similar scandal to the RCC, I think the company would have gone bankrupt quite some time ago. I don't think people are disgusted enough at the behavior of the Vatican. It's not just the child abuse cases, it's the homophobic hatred that has led the RCC to stop funding charities in Washington, for fear of money going toward homosexual couples that want to be foster parents. It's the irrational opposition to condoms that tells Africans that unprotected sex is better than protected sex, contributing to more growth of the AIDS epidemic.

I have to say, I wouldn't be sorry to see the RCC go. Some Catholics have defended the church by mentioning its numerous charities around the world, but as just shown, they are willing to suspend charity (I didn't know one could do such a thing with a truly charitable cause) when their ideological demands are not met. Additionally, it could be argued that the stain left by the RCC in human history is too deep and too dark even for all of their good-will efforts to wash out. They may not have paid much attention to Jesus' denouncements of wealth in the bible, but perhaps they can at least follow his example in one way: they can sacrifice themselves for the sake of all the lives they have scarred in the past, and in order to save all the lives they might scar in the future. Close down the church, sell off all its property, and give the money to the needy. After all, that's what the RCC claims to be about, isn't it?