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Image of Camino

"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

Those who reject the religious dogma and associated "rules" are degraded. As just one example, catholic.net, a popular meeting place for Catholics, has an article about Addiction to Masturbation:

"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.

Conclusion

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.


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I didn't believe in God growing up. My childhood made me believe that, had there been a God, he would have turned my situation around. Because nothing changed, God did not exist to me. I had not been born into a religious household anyway; we had a bible, and went to church every great once in awhile. Prayed before Thanksgiving dinner.... But there was not really a "religion" in my home. When I was a teen I visited family in South Dakota and was taken to a Baptist church that I remember being horrified at. I left feeling like shit to be honest. Had I believed in God, I would have left thinking I was going to hell for sure. It reinforced my decision that God was not for me.

Then at 18 I started working with a lady who became my best friend. We worked 13 hour days in a very successful mortgage firm and it was an intense business. I started to admire her calm and grace, her ability to weather any storm, her way of being kind to everyone no matter how difficult they were (some of the sales people were into drugs, some dishonest with paperwork, some were just pushy to the max). I started to watch her and try to figure out how she was always so... peaceful. I asked her one day after two years of knowing her what her secret was and she told me God. I was flabbergasted to say the least. We worked in an industry based on greed and lies, we worked along side people who did really bad things (who she treated just like she treated everyone), and she was fun to be around. She had never tried to push her religion on me (which I thought all religious people did lol), and I was totally stunned. She asked if I'd like to go to church sometime and I said absolutely not. She just laughed. The longer I knew her the more curious I got and decided to make an appearance one Sunday. Her church was different then anything I'd ever experienced. I walked in, tattoos, piercings... and was greeted like I was one of them. The preacher came out in board shorts and had a tattoo of his own. People were casually dressed, some even looking like they spent the morning surfing and ran in at the last minute. The sermon was uplifting and motivating, there was nothing said about sins or damnation. There were no scary threats, no rules. I left with a bigger smile on my face than I had had in years.

At 20 yrs old I decided that God did exist. I don't know in what way He exists. I don't know about Jesus, I don't know about Heaven, I don't know anything really..... other than the fact that I felt a presence in that room (and many times since) that cannot be explained. I went back many times to that church, just to have the happiness invade me so I could last through another week. Some people call religion, church, or God a crutch. I can't quite disagree. Whatever helps someone get through the day right? But I've seen people do things and help each other in the name of God that I don't see in non-believers. I've seen families give up money monthly not so they don't go to hell, but so that the church could provide computers to an orphanage in Mexico, so that members could go on a mission and repair homes that were falling apart for people who truly needed help, so that teens could have somewhere to converse, watch a movie and eat popcorn on a Friday night without being out partying.

Like everything there are two sides to the story. I haven't been to church in 6 years now, and don't know that I will ever go again. But the lessons I learned in THAT church will stick with me for life. The goal of progressive churches seems to have changed from damnation and hellfire to a families well being. How to improve your marriage, how to raise a productive child who wants to look further than themselves, how to help people in need.

After reading your article I surely won't be going to a Catholic church any time soon though, LOL.

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That was a great story. Of course, there are plenty of people and organizations who are charitable without religion. And religion has a terrible history of evil done in the name of God.

I don't remember how old I was when I stopped believing in God (probably 9 or 10), but I remember where I was. My younger sister was deathly sick at the time with cancer, and my parents forced me to go to holiday services (which I hated). The doctors said she didn't have much chance to live and my parents were grasping at straws. While they prayed next to me in desperation, I vividly remember thinking: "This doesn't make any sense. We're praying to God to save my sister's life. But if there really is a God, why would He have brought this pain and suffering on my sister and family in the first place? She didn't do anything to deserve this. Neither did my parents. And there are many other children in the hospital just like my sister. I'll bet they didn't do anything to deserve cancer either. Our lives are being destroyed - why would anyone, especially a God who could do anything - put us through this? No. No one could do such a horrible thing. Therefore, there can't be a God."

After that, although I respected the religion my parents chose to practice, I never doubted my logic and remain an atheist to this day. But I will admit something that I didn't know as a child - I now know there are plenty of evil people in the world who don't have any problem destroying a child's life (or an adult's for that matter). In other words, I now know there are people who could do (and do) such horrible things. Thus, even though I know my conclusion is correct, I understand my logic was unsound and I didn't have all the facts.

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I recently watched the movie Chocolat. I cannot recommend it highly enough, especially given what you wrote above. Amazing movie.

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i have read your article and couldn't but feel the irony in the line "Do you want me to pray for you to die as well?"....simple question.....how do you pray to something/ someone whom you do not believe his existence. My thoughts are.....if truly God doesn't exist why do people/atheist spend so much time attacking a non-existence being. I find this strange and no better than a hallucinating person who is renouncing belief in twenty footed ghosts....whoever would listen to such a claim would undoubtedly conclude that, that person is insane cause it makes no logical sense in renouncing belief in something non-existence. But the same cannot be said of God since his very existence is the real object upon which atheist can at least vent their hate upon. Atheism in itself proves the very existence of God.....we wont have prohibition laws unless there is something to prohibit....we wont have human rights unless there are instances of possible violation  of the same.....therefore we wont have atheism unless there was God. ....therefore God exists and He loves you unconditionally....lol

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