Wednesday, March 03, 2010

News Flash: There are literally thousands of religions

I received what I believe was a very well intentioned blog comment the other day. I have had many of these kinds of comments and the blog below is one that has been a work in progress, which I come back to every time someone expresses concern for my immortal soul. I’ve never had the guts to actually post it lest someone take it the wrong way, but here goes:

The lady who wrote me this time hoped that when my suffering ends, I would be able to rejoice for eternity in a new and perfect body if I simply confessed my sins, believed on (sic) the name of Jesus as the son of God, and asked Him to save me.

First of all, my caregiver Alexa wanted to know if my new perfect body would have red hair and great tits because otherwise it would be a downgrade. Second of all, some of my best friends love Jesus and third I want to say to anyone who follows any faith that I’m happy you have a source of comfort in your spiritual beliefs. I can only surmise that these beliefs are very deep and profound for you and have helped you tackle the challenges in your life. You found something valuable and I understand the desire to share it but give me a little credit, will you?

That being said, I am not a Christian. I am a very spiritual person and it is for that reason that I have difficulty aligning myself with any given faith. When my brother and I were young, he believed that God invented all major religions so that people with different ways of worshipping could all feel a part of something. It was a charming and hopeful theory, one that put the brightest face on the way in which humanity has used God, faith and religious beliefs to commit unthinkable crimes. Sadly, I must say that ever since the Middle Ages the Christians have been the top contender for the gold medal of the Atrocity Olympics.

But what does that have to do with Jesus, you might ask? Very good question. After all, should he be held accountable for all of the cruelty and evil that have been done in his name? If we look at Bible II – The Return of the Son, do we not find in all of his teachings the keys to compassion, to equality, to social and economic justice?

Hell yeah.

Muslims believe Jesus was a prophet. Some Jews call him Rabbi. Historians versed in Aramaic would use literal translations of the text recounting Jesus’ last days to prove he was a revolutionary—a Che in sandals. Did you know that the Aramaic word that we have translated as garden (as in Garden of Gethsemane) is more literally translated as fortress? Many scholars believe Jesus and the Apostles did not surrender peacefully to the Romans after a kiss on the cheek but rather, fought to hold off their foes behind the formidable walls of Gesthemane.

Did you know that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and John are wildly different in their accounts of Jesus’ last days? It’s my guess that Jesus was probably a composite character of a number of amazing men: rabbis, prophets and revolutionaries. All of these men, no doubt touched the lives of the people with whom they came in contact. None of them, I would imagine, turned loaves into fishes, walked on water or rose from the dead; but when we encounter someone so much larger than ourselves, someone who is capable of expressing so much more than we can, why not say, “He came back to life.” Or “He turned water into wine. Because the miracle of encountering such a person is so over-whelming that only metaphor can do the experience justice.

That’s why for me, God is in the first movement of Beethoven’s Third Symphony. God is the soft touch of lips on skin. And God is in people, like someone (let’s just call him… Jesus) who leave the world better than it was when they arrived.

I don’t want to convince anybody that their religious faith is not real or valid. I’m just letting you know that sometimes you need to find out to whom you’re talking to before you tell her that Jesus is the only answer. You may be talking to someone with deep roots in another religion. You may be talking to someone who is dying and who resents being told how to do something that you yourself will not (I hope) be experiencing for sometime. You may be talking to someone who has studied biblical history or who has read so much of the Sufi poets’ devotional works to God that she can recite dozens off by heart. You may be talking to someone who spends a considerable chunk of every day thinking about theological/spiritual issues and doesn’t need or want your guidance in such an intimate choice. Make up your mind: are you a devout follower of an ancient religion or are you a glorified Amway salesman? If you are the former, you will accept me for who I am. If not, I don’t want any.

I love my notion of Jesus. I love to imagine a modern-day Jesus preaching gay marriage, universal health care, love, sex, beauty, art, passion, socialism and whatever else came to his head. But the thing I love most about this guy, the one in my imagination, is that he’s not going to die if I don’t believe in him because HE’S JESUS NOT FRICKING TINKERBELL. Plus he’s already dead.

Maybe twice.

Maybe not, who knows.

Jesus believes in me just as much as I believe in him because to do otherwise would rob his followers of personal responsibility and independent thought. Finally, this modern-day Jesus would not attract some of the people that worship the old Jesus (like Pat Robertson, lots o’ Republicans and any other douche bags who go around hate-mongering in his name) but he would attract generous, talented, hard-working people…like you Christian people I love and respect.

I close with a friend of mine who expresses these ideas better than I can. Plus the blog post directly below this one is from another friend, Roy Zimmerman, who has his own interpretation of this argument.

Jesus Incognito
By Alison Luterman
(from The Largest Possible Life)

Don’t tell anyone, but I love Jesus.
I love his big dark Jewish eyes, so full of suffering soul,
like an unemployed poet’s, and his thick sensuous Jewish lips,
and his kinky curly hair, just like mine, uncontrollable despite conditioners,
and the way he always argues with everyone
and will go to hell for love.
He’s just like that Buddhist god Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion,
except his name is easier to pronounce.
When you’re in trouble it’s hard to remember to yell for Avalokiteshvara,
but “Oh Jesus!” arises naturally
every time a crazy driver hot-dogs past me on the freeway.
I know I should say the Shema when I’m about to die,
but will I be able to remember Hebrew at a time like that?
I don’t want to die saying “Oh shit!”
I’d like to leave my body consciously, like a Tibetan lama, sitting in full lotus
with my head turned toward where I’ll reincarnate next.
But let’s be realistic: I probably couldn’t meditate enough to become enlightened
in the however-many years I have left.
Jesus seems easier. All you have to do is love everyone.
Well, seems is the key word here.
Sometimes the more you try
to love people, the more you hate them.
Maybe it would be better to try
not to love people, and then watch the love
force its way out of you like grass through cement.
Anything is better than organized religion.
I don’t like the singing in churches — all those hymns in major keys.
I don’t think religion should sound so triumphant.
It should be humble and aware of the basic incurable pathos of the human condition,
and in a minor key and sung in a mysterious ancient language, like Sanskrit or Hebrew.
Is it OK for me to love Jesus but not be Christian?
I could try to open my heart and give away all my possessions.
It’s not that different from being Buddhist, after all, except for a history
of witch burnings, the Inquisition, the subjugation,
rape, and pillage of indigenous peoples all over the world,
not to mention twenty centuries of vicious anti-Semitism. That’s a lot to overlook
to get back to a baby born among animals to a Jewish mother, Miryam.
And what about that other Mary, the sexy one? Jesus, I don’t believe you died a virgin.
I think you needed to taste everything human, to inhabit the whole mess:
blood, shit, flies, regret, envy, why-me.
I owe you and all the other bodhisattvas and sages
and newborn babies a debt of thanks
for agreeing to come back and marry yourselves
to our painful predicament again and again —
and I do thank you, bowing to the infinite directions.


Anonymous said...



ADK said...

Absolutely gorgeous post and righteous answer. Applause, applause.

Anonymous said...


Kim's Mom

Jaime said...

Thanks for writing this!

Anonymous said... were too kind.
God has fallen from the sky.
We are it! It's up to us to save ourselves.
Carla, have you rented "Whatever Works?"
Larry David has a good response to this topic..
xo Susan

Anonymous said...

Right on! Couldn't have said it better myself.

Anonymous said...

praise the lord, carla, alison and roy! yes!

Anonymous said...

Bless you!

Joanna Folino said...

How about the religion of laughter?

Want to honor Carla and the scholarship named after her on Friday May 14th? Want to laugh and celebrate community? Then please do so by coming to this great event...

Anonymous said...

Fabulously right on!!!! Love you Carla!


Anonymous said...


Happily in your flock,


gloriamundi said...

Thank you - there's a shimmer and powerful sheen to what you write that is exhilarating because of its truth and individual life.

The internet and other media too are so full of people who have The Answer You Need for What Is Wrong With You That You Can't See But I Can and so empty of people who have thought and argued and felt their way through things, and yet can treat the person they are addressing as equal.

"My way may not be your way and vice versa - why shouldn't both of them be good, let's play?"
"No, because I Am The Truth Bringer. You don't agree with my truth? That's because you are blocked/a Christian/not a Christian/a rationalist/not a..." etc.

An old friend of mine has fallen for that and it saddens me very much.

So - thanks again. Keep the power flowing.

Anonymous said...

W..o..w!! What a great way to start my day, thank you! His narrative was beyond clever, but more amazing is how he can play those chords and talk at the same time!!

Anonymous said...

I am very excited to announce that Leave them Laughing has been accepted to be screened during HOT DOCS, the largest documentary film festival in North America and perhaps the world. Mark your calendars: The World Premiere has tentatively been scheduled for May 6 and 8 in Toronto. Many more details will be available after Hot Docs' official press release on March 23.

At this years' Oscars, three of the five nominated films originally screened at HOT DOCS, including "THE COVE," which won the Oscar for Best Documentary. So, we are in excellent company.

As one viewer of a recent fundraising screening remarked: "Leave them Laughing" is a triumph of the spirit, a cold-turkey cure for self-pity and debilitating trivialities - and, with proper distribution and the enthusiastic reception it deserves, will increase awareness of ALS and those who so bravely live with it -- and hopefully hasten a cure."

We are very close to having the world see the incredibly funny, outrageous and brave Carla Zilbersmith and her struggle with ALS but we need your help! In order to complete the film for the festival, there is still a ton of work to be done - we need more editing and a whole list of music and image clearances, just to name a few examples of what we are working on. Editing and clearances all cost money. We would also like to hire a publicist for the festival itself in order to ensure wide media coverage . However, we don't have nearly enough funds available to cover all of the expenses coming our way. Any assistance you can give would be most appreciated!

How can you help?

It's easy! You can make a tax-deductible contribution via paypal or credit card to the film here:

To write a check, please go to our website for instructions:

Would you like to do even more? How about holding a fundraising screening of the entire film in your community. Please contact me directly at the email below for more information.

Appropriate film credits will certainly be given.

Thank you kindly for your consideration and continued support. Together, we can make a difference!

Please stay tuned for Hot Docs updates.
Warm regards,
Montana Berg, Producer
Point Grey Pictures & MagicalFlute Films

NC said...

Carla, all the best on your journey.