Our Lady of Guadalupe

12 December 2011. Filed under category Travel.
Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe

In 1532, the virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego, a converted Aztec peasant. “Build me a church right here!” she commanded. The farmer turned to the bishop and conveyed the message, but he wanted proof. The virgin returned to Juan Diego and said, “Bring the roses at the top of the mountain to the bishop.” He scooped them up in his apron, but when he went to the bishop, the roses had transformed into an image of the virgin imprinted on the apron. This was proof enough and they built the basilica of Guadalupe.

The myth of Guadalupe became the bridge on which the native Indians crossed over to Christianity. The basilica of Guadalupe is today one of the world’s largest pilgrimage sites. Every year on 11 and 12 December, millions of believers (2009 had an estimated 6.1 million visitors) walk for days or weeks to the church. The last part leading up to the church is walked on their knees, for extra dramatic effect.

Mary said, “Build me a church,” but she should have been more specific. She should have said, “Build me a really really big church, so that it can hold the millions that will come in the future.” But she didn’t, so the church is much too small. So they built another one, and I can safely say that it is the ugliest concrete monstrosity I’ve ever seen.

The grey basilica stand in stark contrast to the hundreds of dancers gathered in the square outside, all dressed in splendid Aztec costumes complete with colourful feathers, death-mask face paint and skulls. These people dance to the rhythmic beating of drums, chanting and generally behaving in every way contrary to silent contemplation of Christ.

I can’t help but wonder over the timing of the Guadalupe vision. It coincided with the arrivals of the Spanish. Why did Mary wait until then to visit the Aztecs? She took 1500 years to deliver the message of Christ to these people. During these years, presumably, roughly fifty generations of Indians went to hell for not knowing, and thus not accepting, Christ as their saviour. Surely, the spirit of Mary didn’t need to hitch a ride with the Spaniards to get to Mexico from Jerusalem. So why the delay? It can’t have been a plot cooked up by the Spanish in order to subjugate the natives through religion, can it?

One last note on Guadalupe. Guess what kind of shop is located at the corner closest to the church? A shoe shop. This must be the most strategically placed shoe shop in the world! What do millions of people need after walking for weeks? New shoes of course!

The Worship of Judas

Correction: The information below is incorrect. Either skip this box, or once you’ve read it, please see this comment to understand my mistake.

The Mexicans are a very forgiving people. They even pray for Judas, wishing him God’s speed in hell and a swift release. They recognize that we all have personal weaknesses. Noble. Except that this cult of Judas has grown so large that I saw as many idols of Judas as I did Jesus.

You should see the clubbing crowds go wild when Lady Gaga’s ‘Judas’ song comes on.

Here is an image of me hanging out with Judas.


How is the most late you've ever been?

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  1. Hogarth says:

    Hahahaha! Yes new shoes would come in handy after such a trek! Does it sell knee pads too? 😉

    1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

      I didn’t check the other corner, but perhaps it is a skater-shop. If not, then there lies a niche waiting to be filled!

  2. Craig Brown says:

    Having told Gustav about the strange phenomenon of the American Megachurch, I just searched the internet for some pictures of our particular concrete monstrosities. I was only partially successful…I really wanted one with a football field full of SUVs in the parking lot. Because that’s what WE have on the corner instead of shoe shops. Alas, though unsuccessful, here are some interesting links (if Gustav can allow this):

    for humor: http://uberhumor.com/megachurch/

    for basic info: http://www.forbes.com/2009/06/26/americas-biggest-megachurches-business-megachurches.html

    for those worried about the fate of Christopher Hitchens (encountered site enroute): http://www.christianpost.com/news/christopher-hitchens-might-be-in-heaven-65042/

    As far as the question goes..hmm..late..I guess I will be late to convert to Christianity once I find myself already in Hell. I don’t believe in Hell, but I guess I would if I were there. Not likely though…cause I’m NEVER late. If I am, something is very wrong…start making phone calls.
    Nice Christmas post!!! I see Mexicans like to mix their pilgrimages with a bit of Carnival.

    1. Jon says:

      I liked the Hitchins post, but it does not say much for the strength of religion. If I can live a life of ultimate sin and repent at the last second there is not much point wasting your time at church.

      A saw a funny video clip of a lady saying that Anton LaBel, founder of the church of Satan, repented on his deathbed. No evidence was given, just an assertion. At least the guy writing about Hitchins didn’t try to lie that he repented.

      I am with you that I will praise Jesus in a second if I have any shred of compelling evidence in this life. But otherwise my God is not petty like the Christian God. Mine is a God of unconditional love…like any good parent.

      1. Jono says:

        Predictive text on my phone screwed up, it is Anton LaVey who wrote the Satanic Bible and is founder of the Church of Satan in the US. Ave Sathanas! Also, it is HitchEns. That was my fault. Derp.

      2. Craig Brown says:

        Jon, I heard on NPR (National Public Radio here) that Hitchins left explicit instructions to his friends that should he repent on his deathbed that they should tell the world it was the drugs or that something was wrong with his brain and that he had lost control of his faculties. Interesting question. God, do you accept Alzheimer/drug induced conversions? One thing is clear..if there is a God that would send ANYone to a “Hell” after creating them, as opposed to just “putting the lights out,” as Hitchins expected anyway, then that God is evil. Why would one worship Him? (Him? “My” God does have sex organs for reproduction)

  3. Magnus says:

    Ahh! I will never forget when we had a visiting group from.. was it Jehovas?.. joining us in religion class at sunnerboskolan and you and me challenged them to debate that question (..so everyone not heard of God will burn in hell) and they after about 15 min just confirmed with “well, everyone who have ever heard about god but not converted will burn in hell I.e 70% of earth population, for those who have never ever heard of God we can’t be sure but most likely yes, if it’s not an infant” .. Those were the days 🙂

    1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

      Ha ha! Wow! I had forgotten that we were already bastards back then.

      Some people respond to the “Do people who never heard of Jesus (e.g. the pre-1498 Aztecs) go to hell for not accepting him as their saviour?” question by saying, “No, that would be unfair, so they go to heaven.”

      But if that is true, then the kindest thing you can ever do is eradicate Christianity from the face of the earth. Burn every bible and never say a word about the religion to any child, so that we don’t give them the information that might send them to hell.

      1. Jono says:

        You weren’t bastards; you were thinkers.

        …And you are onto something with the eradicate Christianity angle. Print up some flyers.

        The bizarre part is that I reckon liberal Christians like my parents do not believe you will go to Hell for not accepting Jesus as the son of God, otherwise how could they live with themselves knowing that their own son utterly rejects their beliefs and is destined for Hell? That just doesn’t make sense for a loving parent.

        If I knew my daughter were going to spend eternity in torment then I would do anything I could to “save” her from her own ignorance. ANYTHING. Lie, cheat, lock up. Whatever it takes. Because I know best.

        Yet modern Christians don’t seem to do that (only in rare, extreme cases) so it suggests that they do not truly believe the traditional teaching of their religion. That is not to say they do not really believe in God, they are just more likely to believe in my God. The one that acts like a loving father, instead of a jealous asshole.

  4. Magnus says:

    Jono, you took a spin on that which I never really thought of! Christians are really executioners, silently observing their victims tumberling further and further down the path to hell since they are fully aware of, but not devoting all their time to stop (in the way Gustav or you suggests) the consequences of not confessing to Jesus.. Hmm think I need to place a call to our teacher mr Edström fight away!

  5. Magnus says:

    Hmm, your God “the loving parent”., much could be discussed in the basis of that but the one question most relevant here: Regardless if your God is an sadistic bastard or a loving parent-do you believe in heaven and hell? What’s the take on afterlife?

    1. Jon says:

      The Jews do not believe in Hell and it was their God that the Christians stole to create a more successful religion. Hell is a myth told to force children to eat their vegetables.

      One of my theories on the afterlife is that the human mind is somehow connected to an eleventh dimensional reservoir where we continue to live in dreams of our own making. That is a form of Heaven.

      Very few would choose to be tormented in dreams of their own design and so Hell does not exist, except perhaps for some religious fanatics who revel in their own suffering. But maybe even they would change their mind. Dreams aren’t set in stone.

  6. Magnus says:

    On both my comments: damn you autocorrect!

  7. BrotherMichael says:

    In my experience, HELL does does exist.
    Right here on hearth.
    HELL is when we go against the instincts of our own heart.
    When we see ourselves as separate from everything else and place ourselves above or under the rest of humanity.
    Hell is believing love is not here because we have not met the right person.
    Hell is throwing away the experience of unification with the universe because someone gave you a definition of GOD that you didn’t agree with, so you abandoned the entire concept of GOD at your own expense.
    Hell is believing in an afterlife… and then using this lifetime as a stepping stone to the next one… and not giving 100 percent of yourself while you are here, now.

    1. Craig Brown says:

      Love this response Bro Mike! But I guess you are saying Man creates his own Hell. True. He can create his own Heaven on Earth too. To Jon, nice how you’ve helped us get from Guadalope to String Theory (or M Theory) in a few short steps. Good one! I’m also beginning to see how a successful blog discussion results when straying into the provacative and universal.

  8. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

    It would be interesting to get a Christian’s view on if pre-1498 Aztecs were damned or not for never having heard of Jesus, and why Mary didn’t bring the message until after the Spanish arrived.

    I have plenty of Christian ex-boyfriends, but perhaps none of them are hanging out on my blog.

  9. hahahahaha walking on ur knees for extra drama effect? Well .. kinda but actually is payment/contribution when ur deity respond to your prayers. It is very common to know of someone asking for a relative to recover soon from illness or whatever risk-related issue a relative or friend is facing and then you make the commitment of walking on ur knees if your request gets an answer.

    This will take me to another related topic => The worship of Judas. The Judas you talk about (Iscariot) – ya know the betrayer and stuff – is not the same you saw in ur trip to the Basílica Church. That one is called Jude Thaddaeus, an apostle and he is the saint people pray to when difficult causes or requests. He is known as the patron saint of desperate cases and lost causes. It is believed he is the ultimate supermiracle maker, that’s why people are big fans! He also has his very own church! Oh yeah also down the famous Reforma Avenue and every month, on the 28th (ironic right?) Jude followers celebrate big time! The street has to be closed coz of the kinda roadblock created. So no, the betrayer is not prayed to, the miracle maker is! I dunno how effective his superpower is, never asked him for anything, but man! for those millions of believers he must be doing something right! LOL Maybe I should give it a try and ask for love-money-health ?! Or maybe is considered personal gain? Don’t really know the rules, crap!

    In Latin America the church and Matriarchy play superstrong roles on the society game. You can gather more people coz of religion than politics, the city is ten times crazier and crowded on Mother’s Day than in Father’s. Wanna book dinner for your mom, sorry IMPOSSIBLE.

    I don’t know if there is a hell or not, but as Brother Michael says, we live and create our own in here. There is a saying: “all good and bad deeds are rewarded and paid (punished) here on Earth…” call it Karma, spiritual balance or whatever you want buuuuuut that makes me think, do we all reach the final line with some sort of fresh start then?

    1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

      Once again I’ve been misinformed! Someone told me he was Judas, and I read the little prayer thing around his wrist, and it was full of ‘I’m so weak, desperate, lost etc’, that I took the info on face value. I also thought that the massive medallion around his neck was meant to symbolise one of his 30 coins for betraying Jesus. Oh well. I’ll put in a correction.

      Thanks a whole lot for correcting me! I can trust in my friends to make up for the fact that I can’t trust myself. 🙂

  10. Hogarth says:

    Well, well, well! This is quite some debate with very good contributions by all.

    I just had to wade in and give my 6 pence worth seeing my inbox brimming with updates. Gusty’s blogs can be controversial, so I was worried that the police had been called? 😉 hahahah

    I especially like the string theory synopsis (I have a similar one myself) and what brother person said too. In regards to unconditional love, that is a Godlike act in my opinion, and if you can manifest that, one never need enter a church or a barn yard, because as long as you have that feeling you are there. Unconditional love trumps all! Ahmen

    Must dash, just seen a passing cloud…

  11. Xavier says:

    When I first started reading the various posts of this thread, I thought “Ouch! Faith! Religion!”

    What I like to call the “core issues” – or the foundations of one’s existence – are a difficult topic to approach. Emotions end beliefs get in the way and related to that, lenses that each of us wears. These lenses have a name: prejudice. Without sounding too goody-goody or politically correct (I could state that I’m a proud goody-goody-type of person) and even if the audience of this blog tends to be quite open-minded, we easily reach our personal boundaries when we have to talk about these core issues. Faith as self-fulfilling as it can be for the world inside us can erect itself as a fence to others. We unfortunately live the demonstration of this barrier daily in the news… So whoever reads this post, I hope that you can wear off these judgmental lenses as I tried during the reading of your posts, even if you feel a sting in your heart or if you suddenly feel like jumping off your chair because I left you in total disagreement.

    Now time for my coming out: I am a Christian by choice. I received what I believe to be “a call” – through persistent dreams – when I was 27 and converted. I was born and raised agnostic in a family where religion wasn’t much of a topic. Since my conversion, I’ve practiced my faith in an intimate manner; rarely exposed it publicly (paradox alert!) and never tried to convert anyone as I tend to greatly dislike any form of proselytism. I don’t attend mass because it makes me feel uncomfortable. So my relationship with God is for my secret garden alone. For people living in the Western world, I do believe though that reading the Bible – or at least part of it – is important to decipher historical events and artworks throughout centuries: part of one’s general culture I’d say. But Wikipedia also does wonders these days! 🙂

    The beauty of faith as I see it is that 1) it should be given freely and out of your free will 2) doesn’t take anything from you but tends to open you up 3) is not necessarily linked to dogma and to any form of superstition and practice. In the discovery of faith, I felt numerous times like the nomad Gustav, wandering off, finding unexpected places along this spiritual path and left puzzled when confronted with questioning. It has been overall a positive experience nonetheless. The only image that comes to my mind when I want to share my experience is one of a blossom.

    Now I’d like to reply to some of the previous assertions of this thread:
    – To Gustav: the issue that you mention about Native Americans going to hell because they couldn’t know about Christianity is addressed in the New Testament by the apostle Paul/Saul. You may even consider it as spiritual “pirouette” for proselytes looking for an easy way out when challenged… Basically it says – without recalling the exact passage – that people who don’t know God’s commandments but act according to his commandments also deserves a place in Heaven and will be saved.

    – To Craig: a final act of redemption is of course welcome but it should be a stepping stone in a journey and not the end. Consider it as if weights were put in a balance: it would slightly lift the balance tray up but not overcome all your past deeds. The sentence in the Bible that sums it all up is something like “Go and sin no more.” Jesus keeps repeating this sentence to people who came to him freely, seeking redemption and whom he had forgiven, showing the beginning of a process, not the end.

    • As Jon rightfully mentions, Christian faith is often associated with a constant whipping. Like him, I am sorry not to feel masochist enough to adhere to this view. The figure of Jesus, an outcast among outcasts is the opposite of an all-dominant terrifying God. We’ve raised generations over generations of kids in fear of a holy guillotine cutting off their heads. Jesus would sincerely cry out loud over this. No coercion, no obligation about faith but only a free and open path that one can take.

    What did faith bring me apart from the obvious? First, the assurance that the “soul” can’t be reduced to synaptic connections and chemical reactions inside the brain. That was a relief for someone with a scientific background… Second, the promise of afterlife has become very real: it is comforting every single day. Present suddenly takes on a different color when one believes in Heaven. Do I believe in Hell? Hmm… Maybe there are places cozier than others in Heaven. Maybe there is no heaven at all for evil souls and only death a.k.a. the void.

    To conclude, if one day you see my face in the news because I’ve been identified as a serial killer, you’ll be able to say that Xavier was the biggest bullshitter that you have ever met online. Trust people’s deeds and actions, not what they claim to be. Until then, keep the promise of faith as a liberating act in one’s life. It worked for me. It could work for you. It’s a process. It’s never over. It makes you go up and down. But it’s your very own personal choice, nothing that anyone – absolutely no one – should force onto you. Once this choice is made, it doesn’t claim you any right to believe that you hold the truth nor to judge people who went a different way: if that would be the case, you would then be utterly wrong.

    Pff! Now is the time to prepare for New Year’s Eve, leave the heavy stuff and enjoy being shallow! Yippee!

    /hug / peace to everyone!


  12. Craig Brown says:

    Ay, I feel compelled to respond again. Thanks, Xavier, for a Christian voice here. Your “coming out” reminded me of the time that my friend Drew came out to me, nervously, as a Republican. Thank you God, if you exist, for making me gay so that I can respond compassionately to other people coming out in their own way. To treat them as I want to be treated when I come out.

    I see the science/religion conundrum this way.
    Both are ways of knowing something.
    In science, we use our five senses and the scientific method to gain new knowledge which, IMPORTANTLY, can be communicated directly to another person.
    In religion, you gain knowledge by epiphany. There is no way to communicate this to another person…that is, you cannot make another person have an “epiphany” like you. If someone “just believes” you then they are committing the worst sin in my book: substituting your experience/judgement for their own. They could be lying. I’m sure many have.

    When I was younger I was a fervent atheist. And as of 12/27/2011 there is still no scientific proof of a God. But through the deeper study of science I began to wonder…and by pure facts I bet I could make many doubters go “hmmm” too. But no proof.
    My spiritual path has been slow, crept up on me, certainly no epiphany. Answers to my defiant atheist questions that began to form in my mind. Today I believe in “Craigism”, my own personal ideas that I also, Xavier, feel no need to proselytize because tomorrow I myself might think something a bit different.

    I’m not a fan of the usual Christian Canon and the Churches which seem more about human power lust. Jesus seems like a decent chap. The Old Testament God looks evil to me. Capricious and childish. But if I should die tonight, I know one thing…if I see a light…I’m heading straight for it!

    Thanks for coming out Xavier!

  13. Jon says:

    Firstly, it would be surprising if anyone jumped out of their chair in total disagreement due to anything Xavier posted, because it was all logical and reasonable. Thanks very much for this point of view. It helps to delude myself into the belief that I have considered all the positions and developed a balanced view.

    I like the lens analogy and I tried to use something similar to explain my point of view to my dad once. He is a Christian and believes it strongly because he has had experiences that he cannot find any other way of explaining. I am pleased at least that this suggests someone with genuine beliefs and not just passed down as a tradition between generations.

    Xavier sounds like he is in a similar camp because his belief came from personal experience; in this case persistent dreams. However, even though he was from an agnostic household he was exposed, all the time, to a predominantly Christian culture. Religion is persavise that way, and intentionally so. Therefore, the Christian religious content of your dreams/experiences do not just spontaneously manifest, they are interpreted through the lens of the prevailing culture. I believe it was the same with my dad.

    If either one of you was born an arab or Indian then your profound experience would have a corresponding interpretation dependent on the religious ideas surrounding you.

    The best example I have come across is near death experience. These are relatively well documented (I remember seeing a ton of them on an 80s US TV show “That’s Incredible”, remember that?) and very commonly lead someone to a stronger religious belief. However, with no exceptions, a near death experience reinforces beliefs from your own culture. A Hindu never finds Jesus beckoning them toward the light and a Christian never meets Muhammed doling out gems of wisdom in an ethereal desert.

    Gustav spoke directly of this when cynically wondering why it took the Virgin Mary until after an Aztec peasant was converted to make an appearance. It would have been much more impressive to have done it a thousand years earlier and for there to be some record of it in Aztec history.

    I have no doubt chances are that if I have a religious experience of some kind then I will probably also interpret it in a Christian light, and I’ll run with Craig towards it.

    I don’t even think it would be that hard to have a religious experience if I wanted one. If you find the right set of practitioners in any given faith and spend enough time with them you could probably come round to their way of thinking. It’s called brainwashing and I am terrified of it. So terrified that I have now effectively deprogrammed (i.e. brainwashed) myself out of my, albeit relatively mild, religious upbringing. In effect I have just spent years telling myself “don’t worry it’s not real” until I believed it. But I will never be at zero-level ambient religion because once those ideas are planted they never completely disappear. That is why teaching religion to children is intellectual abuse. However, now I am content that the red pointy beard man was not communicating to me through my favourite music. That was just something my mother told me to try and stop me listening to it.

    I started reading a book recently called “The Great Disruption”. I am only a couple of chapters in but the message is pretty clear (its just repeating it from here on in and supporting the positions with *shock* facts); that message being humanity has written a massive cheque it can’t cash and global collapse is coming because resources are dwindling. Despite this it has a positive message, namely that mankind has been up against severe adversity in the past and it finds a solution; but don’t let that lull you into thinking there won’t be a huge upheaval coming.

    The book does not deal with religion (so far) but since we have been discussing it recently I am viewing it through that lens. It occurs to me one of the deepest dangers of religion is that it teaches people no to be too worried about the future (i.e. what will happen in the world) because an immortal afterlife of paradise awaits you.

    You can see the problem. It is difficult to overcome the challenges ahead if the consequences of taking no action don’t matter; because God or Jesus will save us all. I believe it highly probable that if America was not a Christian nation (and had no discernable supernatural faith) the path to recovery would already be underway because the general public would take the problem seriously. [Of course, I am forgetting the other main reason for burying your head in the sand – consumerism – but that is another story and I am pretty sure someone has found a way to link that link to Christianity too.]

    Crap. Think I got off topic….and its New Years’ Eve. Have a drink and forget about it all for a night.


    1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

      Interesting link to apathy. I recently spoke with a Christian who said that global warming had to be a hoax because God would never let us fuck up the planet. That kind of killed the discussion for me, for what can I retort to that?

      1. Hogarth says:

        Well that’s just typical isn’t it! What a load of drivel! Unfortunately this is one of the main reasons why the world is getting into the pickle that it is? It’s because people with mind sets like this think the situation is outside of themselves, and that their personal contribution does not make a difference?

        Accepting that it actually does, is too much responsibility for most persons, so they ‘unburden’ themselves with infantile notions like this… as far as I’m aware, any true Christian would know that one of the pillars of thought is that we are here to act as ‘guardians’ over the land, and to learn from God’s creatures… so suggesting that God will some how protect us from our own stupidity as a species is (in my opinion) an abandonment of responsibility.

        I refer to arguments made like this as ‘The Cloak of God’ which is thrown on most conveniently when the conscience struggles with maturity?

        People like this cannot be reasoned with, you would literally gain more insight into climate change by observing the life cycles of Jelly Fish! humph!

      2. Xavier says:

        Sorry to be blunt but he just sounds like a plain ignorant. I would have retorted “Whatever…”

      3. Craig Brown says:

        Admitting that it’s easy to think of retorts in retrospect,

        1. Ask them if they’ve heard of the Pacific trash vortex.

        or the Desertification of China

        or the death of coral reefs

        or the melting of the polar ice caps

        2. Ask them why God even created the Earth in the first place and we humans on it, instead of just creating some nice Angels to keep him company in Heaven? Why do we need an Earthly stopover? Weird how so many Christians never even consider such questions.

        3. God also lets us kill each other en masse! Over nearly 50 million in World War 2. Why that?

        They are correct about one thing, however. In a battle between Man and the Earth, the Earth will win hands down. It comes back after every thing thrown at it.

    2. Hogarth says:

      What a thoughtful response, and I agree fully with your post especially with your last section, as we are basically observing the same behaviour… albeit in my case from my more acerbic perspective.

      America as we know is a very religious place, and if the country were not so large and powerful, in my opinion would of been laughed off the international stage some time ago?

      Where the states loses credibility in my opinion, is in exactly the area of of collective false comfort of which you describe. The states needs to wake up in a very big way, because there is allot of movement going on in the world. China as we know has now overtaken the states in terms of CO2 emissions, and will continue to do so… but guess what China is doing something about it. Their President has just announced a massive policy to make China the worlds first ‘Green Super Power’. I saw a sample of the speech myself.
      It will not stop their emissions going up for now, but the important thing is that they have collectively realised that a fossil fuel economy is unsustainable, and that they can build jobs and economy without ruining the world.
      This is a massive quantum leap, they are taking responsibility for their actions and not hanging about either, and there is a whole bunch of big wig green entrepreneurs doing huge business with them!

      That is a big part of the planets collective future, I don’t want the states to become a part of the past?
      All the praying in the world will not save anyone when on the brink of economic collapse, better to take a leaf out of China’s book and just do something about it?

      A new year, a new start. 🙂

      1. Jon says:

        Actually, after my last post I had second thoughts about its tone. I stand by it but yet it does not do much good to start pointing fingers and laying blame. The problem is there and it has to be dealt with in a united manner. I am sure there are plenty of Christian environmentlists and they contribute alot more than I ever have.

        Likewise, demonising America does not do us any good. The US has lead the way on some positive social issues (I am thinking of gay rights) against the judgement of most of its population so there is no reason it cannot wake up on this issue too.

        Great how a blog on Our Lady of Guadalupe turned to a general rant on religion for me and moved on to global environmental collapse. Stay focussed Jon. Keep trucking Hogie.

        1. Hogarth says:

          Yes, fair point Jon… it is easy to dig the boot into the states, but I have met many, many Americans that are prepared to do it themselves, and often express open exasperation at how some events are unfolding in terms of domestic policy.

          There have been many positive contributions by the US, and few would deny that, but there have also been significant problems, and allot delay tactics in terms of climate change policy which has been very unhelpful.

          China have seized the initiative and are choosing to move boldly ahead. They are already a force to be reckoned with, but imagine a China with no need for oil or other fossil fuels, that is totally self sufficient in that regard, and getting all that power for free? The knock on effects will be huge… and will change the Eco/Political landscape. Any nation that still has a heavily carbon based economy will be at a huge disadvantage. In the west we really need to be doing something meaningful about this, not only to benefit the planet, but also to try and keep up. Britain is small enough to be able to make the change over, larger countries like the states will find it much, much harder, and the gap is only going to increase with each passing year?
          It’s an economic reality that cannot be ignored and will potentially have a huge impact for millions of people, and the US is losing allot of ground.
          Yes there are pockets of innovation and great stuff going on, but the influence of the car, oil, munitions lobby is well known and they wish to maintain the status quo which is in Americas long term disadvantage?

          There may well come a time in the not so distant future where China will occupy the economic high ground (pretty much there already) but also (ironically) the moral high ground on climate change. That puts the US in a very tough negotiating position, it’s behind the curve and every body knows it?

          Any way, very wide ranging responses, you have struck gold with this original post Gusty! lol

          1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

            I was aiming for a climate change debate all along!

            1. Hogarth says:

              Heheheheheh, of course you were. I think it’s one of those classic things, you can almost always get a debate going on the three big giants of Religion, Economy and Climate, and it seems that questions connected with these topics are set to dominate in the future, I would go as far to say totally unavoidable!

              It’s good that we are all making our contribution to the debate. 🙂

    3. Xavier says:

      Hi Jon,

      I was certainly influenced by my background and certainly given another I would have been drawn to a different way of expressing my spirituality. At the same time, I have to “believe” that it was no coincidence that I converted, a bit like falling in love with the person when you think “yes, he/she’s the one!”. In all honesty, I am not sure that I have an easy answer for this and should reflect on it more. Thanks!

      1. Jono says:

        I wouldn’t want to cause a full-blown crisis of faith*, but I think it is very healthy for people to question their religion and its principles, especially how it fits in with modern ethics.

        Notice that at almost no point do I mention God in any of these posts. Your relationship with God is personal but is something that people tend to interpret through the lens of their culture/religion.

        I do not choose to interpret the wonder of the universe with a “divine maker” kind of conclusion, but that could change. Either way I just have to seek happiness without causing negative consequences to anyone else.

        Jesus said “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, and that is all you need as a commandment. As it happens he was not the first to preach that message which is one reason why I do not believe in his divinity. Another reason is that such a thing is not possible according to all observed laws of nature before or since. But the words are wise nonetheless.

        *By Crisis of Faith I mean someone fundamentally abandoning their belief in God as opposed to distancing themselves from their religion. Many years ago I had a girlfriend that said “Jono I don’t think I believe in God anymore”, after having been raised Catholic – Catholic boarding school – the lot. My internal reaction was “shit, was it something I said?”

        I always had some guilt about it because it didn’t seem at that moment like she was going to be happier having concluded she was alone in the Universe and only the void awaited to consume her non-existent soul.

        It took me a long time to formulate the proper response whould I ever be faced with that situation again. But she was long gone by then.

        —note to Gustav— I see that the next comment from Hogie begins “what a load of drivel” which was made in connection to your post on 1 Jan 22:08, but it makes it sound like he is slamming all our comments, which I know is not the case. An interesting formatting point for the blog.

        We have a choice to “reply” to a specific post or go to the bottom of the page and be the last post. But perhaps every post should be chronological and it is up to the writer to refer back to who they want to respond to.

        1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

          I’m hoping that the nested replies makes it a bit easier to read the conversation and see which comments belong together. Sometimes people forget to click the ‘reply’ link, and if I catch it, then I move it to where to should be. I missed Hogie’s comment though. It is moved now to where it ought to be.

        2. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

          I’ve had the same problem many times of wondering whether it is cruel to talk someone out of their faith or not. I normally resolve it by thinking about the children. This stuff is spread word-of-mouth and if I don’t fight my agnostic point-of-view then I leave walk-over to the opposition, and I should not be surprised when faith still rules the world in a hundred years.

          Also, if I am wrong and there really is a God, then I’m sure he can deal with my blasphemy and save the world from succumbing to global secularism.

          1. Jono says:

            It’s true. I believe children are the future.

          2. Hogarth says:

            Thanks for the very interesting comments guys, really good nutrition for the brain, and it has been excellent to view the landscapes of the minds that have contributed.
            Thanks Jono for noticing that my ‘what a load of drivel’ comment was in response to something else… of course it was not referencing the responses left by bright minds here at all, that would be so rude! lol, although I did chuckle to myself at the thought if I had intended to respond that way, would of been very silly.
            As you have guessed it’s in reference to what Gustav was told about climate change being a myth because God would not let us hurt ourselves.

            In terms of the new topic of talking another out of their faith that has never occurred to me?
            No matter how vapid, misguided or just plain wrong a person can be in whatever their faith is, I still fundamentally believe that their faith is sacred to them, and forms the crux of how they comprehend the world and it’s layers of reality, which is vital to the psyche of that individual. I think its extremely important not to tamper with this… trying to convince another of an Agnostic view etc, is the same as someone insisting upon yourself that there has to be a God?

            We all know what it feels like to have another persons view forced upon us and it does not feel good, no one wants their personal perspective attacked, examined and pulled to pieces, it can leave a person desolate and abandoned.

            I was touched Jono by what you mentioned about an ex girlfriend of yours giving up her faith, and the guilt it has caused you. It’s perfectly possible that she may of had her own doubts and your different perspective only confirmed that for her? If you did some how ‘talk her out of it’ then that is a potent power which must be handled carefully.

            I do personally believe in ‘God’ but not in the big bearded floating on cloud sort (although I do love the imagery) I do believe in a divine order to things that is seen constantly expressed in nature and the universe, and the transits of Venus are a particular favourite of mine, as well as other planetary movements and the patterns that are caused.

            I believe that a mind can align itself with divine thought and really live quite happily whether that person believes in God or not? A good deed is a good deed, and we all know the difference in most cases… if you know you have done wrong, then you know you have done wrong, then you have done wrong, and can only appologise and ask for forgiveness from that person? If a person is committed to doing good, and executing on that, then I believe that person is acting in a ‘Godly’ way even if they do not believe in the term.

            Do unto others as you would have done is a classic, and Jono is right that that alone is really all any person really needs to act on, and oh how so little it happens! lol

        3. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

          Oh, and one more thing. Six months ago, an ex of mine told me that he had lost his faith. He was excstatic about it, and he was feeling a bit silly about his previous religious beliefs.

          A couple of days ago, a friend of mine reminded me of how I used to be a staunch Christian. It’s true. I used to be. I am no more. The sky did not fall down and my inner psyche did not crumble. I like my current beliefs better than my old. I enjoy life more now than I did before.

          Loosing faith is not automatically a bad thing. For many it is liberating.

          1. Hogarth says:

            I agree, it can be liberating, and I always suspected that you may of been a hard core Christian at one point, lol, so good for you for standing up and saying so! I’m very proud of you for saying it… the point I want to make is that it was your choice to change?

            Faith, like life is fluid. There is a difference between arriving at a new conclusion and being coerced there by someone else, and I’m sure we could all agree that arriving at that new place in your own natural way, through natural progression is best.

            Of course you will be happier today, as now you’re living according to your personal beliefs, another person my grow into faith and that makes them happier. Shakespeare that great poet said somewhere…’to thine self be true’ that has become one of my personal motto’s which I have lived by since I learned of it. Elegant, simple and very powerful.

            There is so much pressure in the world to be other than one’s self, which is one of the biggest causes of unhappiness, be the person a believer or not believer or all the permutations in between. For me it must be a natural process of self discovery and no one can tell another what their revelation could or should be… when we can encourage others to accept and be themselves they will almost always be happier? And that can only be a positive thing. 🙂

  14. There is no concrete proof of God’s existence or non-existence, so it seems to me that our view either way is always going to be faith-based. We either believe there is no God until he is proved or believe there is one (or more) until he/they is disproved – and then live with the consequences of our decision.

    I am a Christian and am well aware that the church has its shortcomings, but that’s because the church is made up of people and people have shortcomings. Many Christian churches are too wrapped up in rituals and ceremonies instead of living out Christ’s love. People feel more comfortable thinking their salvation is secured in taking communion and repeating liturgy week by week than in accepting the forgiveness and unconditional love of the living God; the rigid structure of many church services is such a barrier to allowing God to move freely. The fact from a Christian viewpoint is that God longs for a relationship with every person that ever lived, but He does not force that relationship on anyone. If we could prove his existence then our relationship would no longer be a choice and we’d be little more than puppets. So God doesn’t send anyone to hell; it’s OUR decision not to enter a relationship with him that results in that and God grieves for every soul that is lost.

    Even as a Christian I’ve pondered the question about whether it’s best not to evangelise, knowing that God is righteous and that as Xavier says, we know that he will only judge us according to our knowledge. So why “spread the word” if that means people will be lost as a result? Well, ultimately this isn’t about us and our ticket to heaven, it’s about God. He created us because he wants a relationship with us throughout our lives. Of course, it would work out if we never knew about him or if we repent on our deathbeds; we’d still get to heaven, but would miss out on that relationship with a loving Father and all the things he has planned for us. I haven’t always been a Christian, but I can tell you I’d much sooner go through life with God than without him.

    I do talk about my faith, but I don’t (or try not to) ram it down anyone’s throat because I don’t believe that achieves anything. Look at the guys who preach through megaphones in town centres while passers-by give them a wide birth and consider them nutters. I imagine that all Christians have loved ones who don’t know God, and yes, that’s difficult. You can’t make someone believe; you can only tell them your story and let them make up their own mind. God reaches people in the most surprising ways (and it’s he who uses us rather than the other way round) and we don’t know who he’ll use to reach that loved one – or when, but that loved one has to be open to the possibility that God is there. I know it’s incredibly difficult to believe in “something” that can’t be proved and you can’t detect with any of your senses, but we all believe in love don’t we? However, belief in God and Jesus has a cost which for many is too high.

    I have a couple of questions:
    Jono. Having no belief in God yourself, what do you make of your parents being Christians? Is it a frustration that they have been deceived and do you want to “convert” them?
    Gustav. You say you used to be a staunch Christian but you are not now. How does that make you agnostic rather than atheist? Does that mean you have decided that God might exist, but Jesus is not who Christians say he is?

    1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

      When I was a Christian, I was young and imitated the Christians around me. They believed, and I was young and did what the older people around me did.

      When I grew up, I became an independent thinker, and I re-evaluated Christianity and came to the conclusion that I have not observed anything that would imply the existence of a God. Neither have I observed anything that would actively disprove one either. Thus I became an agnostic.

      1. Your experiences from your youth sound a little like mine: I grew up in a “Christian” family and was baptised as in infant. My parents carted my brother and me off to the local Anglican church when we were 12 or 13 to be confirmed and some years we even went to church at Christmas! I had a wishy-washy notion of a Father Christmas style God and thought of myself as a Christian without really considering whether I really was or what the alternatives were. It was only when I actually did become a Christian in my 20s that I realised how wrong I’d been. True, I had always instinctively believed that God existed, but my experience to date had been meaningless and just didn’t add up, so I started to go to the Methodist church in town and heard the Bible preached. The Minister there urged me to go to their Membership classes, which pretty much go through the basic facts of Christianity in discussion groups in a similar way to the popular Alpha courses run all over the UK these days. It was during that course that the truth hit me between the eyes and since then my life hasn’t been the same. OK, mine wasn’t one of those dramatic conversions, and since then my Christian growth has certainly gone through dry patches, but God has always been there. The hardest part was surrendering to him, but unless you surrender and allow him to influence your life, you will never know him.

        If the wonder of life in all its abundance doesn’t suggest the possibility of a designer then I don’t think you will ever observe something that will imply God to you. But if you think there’s a chance that God might exist, then why not ask him to show you a sign?

    2. Jon says:

      Hi Martin,

      Thanks for reviving this. And it is good to have your point of view.

      I am not a staunch atheist. I agree with you that God cannot be disproven and would even be happy to say that I have the same feelings of “something bigger than myself” and the other natural thoughts of wonder an inquiring mind has.

      My beef is not with God; it is with religion and you have planted your flag in a particular camp even though you can see and have listed all the terrible traits it has.

      Your interpretation of how God works (and please chime in if I have it wrong because this is fundamental to my objection) is that he created, or allows to exist, a Hell for me to go to if I do not accept Jesus as the Christ. You don’t explicitly say this above because it is very confrontational but I assume it is what you literally believe. It’s fine to sidestep and say that God doesn’t actively send us to Hell, we choose it for ourselves, but if Hell exists it is a very probable destination for many people if left to their own devices.

      There is nothing the Christian God is not capable of, but yet he does not delete Hell from existence in order to save everybody. That’s what a friend would do. It is what a loving father would do. It is illogical to send someone to burn for all eternity to teach them a lesson, because there is no hope of redemption.

      For this core reason Christianity is deeply flawed and it is impossible to be at peace with it because there will always be someone you love who is destined for eternal punishment. Surely that can never be ok?

      As to my parents, when you are on my side of the fence, there is no great problem with other people believing something that’s crazy so long as they don’t hurt anyone. The mechanism of their church allows them to help people and realise some of the kindness which is sometimes lacking in society. They are good people.

      It is not especially frustrating talking with my parents about such things; it’s just a lively debate. Challenging ideas is essential for progress.

      The most important thing is not to get angry or offended by rational analysis. If someone feels threatened in that way they are probably on the wrong side of the argument.

      1. Hi Jono,

        It’s not so much that God has created hell, it’s more that he gave Lucifer (satan) the gift of free-will in the first place allowing him to fall. Lucifer was an angel, but wanted to be like God and became disobedient to him, so God cast him out of heaven – thus creating hell.

        God abides in heaven, so heaven is total communion with God. Hell is anywhere outside of God’s dominion and is under satan’s rule. We are influeneced by both – made in God’s image, but also influenced by tempation. Man’s sinful nature means we can’t go to heaven by our own merits however hard we try. God deperately wants us to choose to turn back to him and restore that broken relationship, accepting the sacrifice of Jesus dying to pay the price of our sin – past, present and future.

        For God to extinguish hell would mean he’d need to overcome satan and this is exactly what will happen eventually; God will overpower satan at the end of time and the second coming of Christ. The gift of free-will must have been so important for God, because that’s really what caused the problem. But without that gift, we’d just be puppets and I guess that wasn’t what he had in mind when he created mankind.

        1. Jono says:

          Thanks Martin, that explanation is clear and leaves little room for misinterpretation.

          On that basis I choose freedom. I choose Lucifer.

          Reality, like nature, is not black and white. At first glance, nature appears to be beautiful but when you scratch the surface it is brutal (e.g. the continual fight for survival and inevitable death this entails); when you scratch the surface to a deeper level (chemistry and genetics, the rules, that define life) it is beautiful again.

          Darwin recognised this. Things are not always what they seem.

    3. Xavier says:

      Dear Martin,

      In your words and in the way you describe your faith I’ve found an echo of mine. You seem to be more “by the book” than I am though but I’ve learnt to live with my own religious cook book and be OK with it. Just remember that love excludes noone.
      Gustav and I had a passionate conversation about faith, choice, control over life on Sunday and I have to say that he had a more sophisticated argumentation than mine. So I got a rhetorical beating… 🙂
      The truth of the matter is when one has faith, one feels certain things that I find extremely hard to explain. I tried ot use distinctive meatphors one after the other to try to translate what I was feeling but failed miserably because Gustav was able to rationalize them and highlight sometimes my own contradictions. In the end, that didn’t alter my faith or beliefs just that I feel powerless to engage in such conversations as I tend to avoid that topic altogether in general.
      Faith makes you feel the world & life differently. It’s like a journey, an experience, a path. It’s about getting inspired, being of service, putting God first and your ego last, being free to make a choice but chosing God’s choice first because you know it’s for the best : it gives you freedom. I’ve never had the sense to lose anything: to the contrary I’ve always felt more “complete”.
      Any rational mind can throw bullets at me and challenge the antagonisms of this last paragraph. But I am out of words to try to explain it better. This is just so hard.
      /peace to all,


      1. Xavier says:

        To add to my last comment, I’d like to say that faith also changes your intellectual frame of reference which could explain why Gustav and I have do not use the same sandbox when trying to talk to each other. There is a book about this phenomenon called “How God changes your brain” by Andrew Newberg that digs into this topic. It’s about brainwashing :-). Seriously it’s about interesting experiments and observations on the brain of people developping spirituality.
        Time to shut up!


        1. Hi Xavier,

          Faith is indeed a journey, and mine is getting more exciting all the time at the moment. Over the last 3 years or so I’ve made myself more vulnerable and God has used that to move me forward and grow. Like you say, a relationship with God is not something you can prove, but you yourself know it to be true. It will make no sense to someone else.

          Something that’s close to me at the moment is a course we’ve done at church called Living Free. It involved several sessions where we’d get into groups of 3 or 4 people we didn’t previously know and one person would be prayed for by the others. We’d pray and ask God some question relating to that person and wait to hear God’s answer. When you get different versions of the same answer time and again, and the same thing happens for the other groups around you, it’s pretty amazing. The amount of coincidence was far too much to be mere coincidence, but I just know that if I weren’t a Christian I’d still be scepital! I’ve also had a couple of appointments since that course where 3 people have prayed for me each time. The sessions began with them asking God about the character (spiritual DNA if you like) he has created in me and they wrote down what they heard. The first session was about 9 months ago and all 3 heard very similar things. The second session was last week and not only did the 3 concur with each other again, but also with the previous session. And no, it’s not the same answer for every person they pray for!

          1. Xavier says:

            Hi Martin,

            I’ve had similar experiences so I can relate quite well to what you describe. When I look back, in such groups, I realize that I’ve learned to be forgiven – not in a complacent way – but in a way that I could blossom thanks to God instead of constantly feeling guilty.

            In writing and when talking to strangers, I am having an easier time to describe such events because I am really struggling when they happen “live”. I guess that I should feel thankful to you to help me get these words out without feeling threatened.

            So thank you,


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