"Do you want me to pray for you to die as well?" (Camino)
At age 17, I stopped believing in God. There wasn't any specific reason that I could identify. I just starting thinking about how one could prove the existence of God, eventually concluding that it was an invented concept. God is taken by many as an absolute truth, even though there isn't any test of proof. We can't see or touch God with our material senses, so God can only exist to us as an idea. I remember my philosophy teacher in school telling us students that religion exists because humans have a need to believe in something, especially when they can't understand or justify facts with a rational mind. Maybe that's true.
...forgetting to use your intelligence or reason in practical question of life that require it... only can generate a backwards society.
Take death for example. Is there life after death (i.e., an after-life)? Albert Einstein's famous equation E = mc2, as part of the first law of thermodynamics - the Law of the Conservation of Energy - suggests that energy cannot be created or destroyed - it is simply transformed from one form to another. As I thought about this, it occurred to me that death is just an example of human matter transforming itself to another form; not a life after death, but from life to death.
In Spain, it is uncommon to be an atheist. This is one of the reasons why Camino, a film directed by Javier Fesser, was very controversial. In my opinion, it is a very good film, not only for the audiovisual techniques used and the great relation between parallel planes, but also for the interesting treatment of a very controversial subject: religion.
Camino is a story of an 11-year old girl facing opposite and conflicting events in her life: loving and dying. It is based on the life of Alexia González Barros, who was beatified by the religious institution "Opus Dei" after her death. Camino presents an interesting contrast between two points of view: externally from a perspective of hard religious influence as her family deals with Camino's illness and internally from a reflection of a child's desire for freedom and spontaneity.
Thanking God for Making Your Child Sick
It is interesting and difficult to see how powerful an influence religion can be on how we interpret reality. For example, showing her gratitude toward God, Camino's mother says "I thank Him every day for our daughter's illness." Perhaps to deal with her own pain, Camino's mother looks at the heartbreaking situation as "His wish," attempting to justify her sick, dying child as a gift from God... something for which she should be proud.
Although religion can help some people live through difficult situations, the essence of religion is to oppress through control over people's minds. Javier Fesser has represented in this film how religion, which is based on fear and oppression, can destroy the moments of freedom and happiness in a child's mind. Camino's death is presented as sacred and positive that is deserving of people's envy - the despicable result of oppressed thinking.
Independent of religion, death is typically considered negative and, in most cases, with death comes fear and pain. It is this fear and pain that is harnessed to control people. I have tried to think of death objectively as something natural like birth, and even considered it might be necessary for life because, without it, existence might not be possible. But even if this is true, it does not justify the religious doctrines practiced that transform a reality into an opportunity for control of others. It is an irrational effort that takes something completely natural in humanity and turns it "sinful." They use death as a "reward," promising a better world or a better abstract life. Yet, if we really want a better world and better lives, our focus should be on improving the things that surround our own lives, our tolerance of the ideas of others, and increasing justice. The solution is not to sit and wait for a divine miracle or an after-life.
Accepting the will of God without question is more than accepting nature - it is sold as an obligation and duty for being honorable. And, should you remove your religious "costume" (e.g., miss going to church, have libertine thoughts, masturbate), you are considered dishonorable and irresponsible. Religious fundamentalism requires you to reject all that you are, to become someone new, and to believe blindly in unshakable ideals without any use of reason. Some Ecclesiastic authorities and conservative government officials are so concerned about Camino's negative depiction of fundamentalism that they censored the initial release of the film.
Masturbation as Self-Abuse
"Self-abuse (masturbation) is to abuse the body by exciting the genitals for pleasure voluntarily sought to orgasm. Sometimes, you start out of curiosity, but if not corrected this bias becomes an obsessive habit which enslaves a person so that they are uninterested in everything else, as happens to the drug addict... This vice enslaves a person, it is increasingly difficult to break away from him, and when a person is enslaved, the debased, the brutish, nullifies the will, destroys its character, disturbs the development of his personality, weakens the faith, produces nervous imbalance and makes you selfish and incapable of loving another person... If you are in this misfortune, don't be ashamed to confess it. Go to a priest, and tell him for you will be forgiven, and he will help you to leave this sad situation that you have."
Masturbation is done without intent to hurt anybody. Yet religion considers this harmless act as being synonymous with the "destruction of character" and a "nervous imbalance," comparing it with a drug addiction. In my opinion, this is an aberrant interpretation, exaggerating what is a subjective perspective to an extreme absolute. Masturbation is a basic, biological need - not prejudicial conduct. Drug addiction can hurt us mentally and physically. I simply do not see the connection.
I respect that others think differently from me. If they choose to punish themselves with these kinds of prohibitions and strict rules, I will not object. But maybe they should also respect that others disagree and not trample on another's morality simply because they disagree with their chosen personal preferences.
I don't think that believing in God is a problem at all. In fact, it can be useful for making your life easier. But forgetting to use your intelligence or reason in practical question of life that require it (and that haven't any direct relationship to religion) only can generate a backwards society.
I suggest you go see this film.