Saturday, April 7, 2012


Easter is the time of suffering and reflection, but fewer people know about the Christian meaning of Easter - even less know about Ascension Day and Pentecost. In the next days, everyone will have decorated eggs, Easter bread and fresh orange juice for breakfast, but none of us has consumed less food for the last fourty days to reach this reflexion. Carnaval nowadays only refers to partying and costumes, not to the beginning of Lent.

We live in a society that adheres to the Judeo-Christien tradition. Honour thy father and thy mother, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal. I personally believe that those basic principles already existed before the start of religions, only not in writing. Then, someone had the idea to establish those principles, and figured that it was easier to tell them in stories that people could remember. Those stories also contained other valuable information for the people of that time: it's easier to get sick from pork then from veal, so don't eat pork, seperate meat and other food for hygene and instead of forcing himself on to every woman he sees, a man should stick to three or four women and call them his wives.

I don't believe the writers realized that all these stories would dictate for centuries how billions of people should live. Nor that in name of their stories, wars would be conducted. I believe they wanted to entertain people, and probably wanted to teach them something at the same time, and perhaps they hoped their stories would survive them. But I do not believe that they wanted their stories cause billions of people to die of AIDS in 2012, because they were told it is sinful to use condoms, or that young boys would be abused because the so-called true believers apparently have no sex drive, and that whole populations would declare that their faith is the true one, and all wish hell and damnation to all others.

Let it be clear that I am an atheist. My great grandfather was offered less work in the mines because he didn't attend church on Sundays. My dad threatened the diocese to actively commit all sorts of immoral actions in order to be able to quit his church membership, which he was denied at the first try. Instead of having my first communion, my parents threw me a Gentile party.. I still curse when I walk into a church with my choir to sing the beautiful music of Mozart, Bach and Fauré. Childish, I know. But no less childish than people who hide behind all the good qualities of a true believer, yet despise anyone who doens't share his or her views. Love they neighbor, but only those who are like thou?

Some time ago, I read a wonderful book of Dutch writer Guus Kuijer, Hoe een klein rotgodje god vermoorde (How a little nasty god murdered God), in which he discusses in a clarifying way the real stories and how they deformed to the myths of today. I just saw a speech by Stephen Fry, about his idea of the Catholic Church, which, in my opinion, articulates very well what is wrong with religious institutes, like in this case the Catholic Church. Lastly, Alain de Botton preaches a new gospel: Atheism 2.0, which gives modern atheists that don't want to subject themselves to the institutes, on one hand get the oppertunity to enjoy the positive contributions of religion to our society (beautiful churches, rituals, the frescoes of Assisi) and on the other hand also adopt some religious aspects into secular society.

For anyone who is looking for reflexion in this time of the year...

Stephen Fry (2009) part 1:

Stephen Fry (2009) part 2:

Alain de Botton at TEDGlobal 2011:

Monday, April 2, 2012


Is my job my identity? Am I satisfied with the identity that I get from my work? These questions come up at the most inconvenient moments.

After working one temporary job after the other for several years, I decided almost six years ago that I had to look for a permanent job. The idea alone already freaked me out, the fear for eventually not daring to leave anymore had kept me from commiting all those years. In fact, the only activity on my resume that showed any form of commitment was (and still is) singing in my choir. But I also got tired of the anxiety of always having to look for the next job, while I was just starting at a new place.
Now, I'm working at one and the same place for almost five and a half years, and whenever I describe my job to others, they roll their eyes in envy. I have a job that other people are jealous of. Yet, for years already, I'm restless, and think that I need to look for something new, that I want to do something new. The current economic situation makes these kind of thoughts frightening, because who in his right mind gives notice to a nice job and the security that comes with it, without knowing what's coming next? On the other hand, the adventure calls and there is the - perhaps inappropriate - hope that in the end, everything will be fine.

Luckily, I'm not the only one with this dilemma. Among my friends,there are countless similar cases. And there are so many other Thirty-somethings who share our struggle. Fortunately, there are tv-shows like the Dutch show I am: I work therefor I am. Here, philosopher Stine Jenssen explains how in our current work obsessed economy, having a job and working hard for it, are seen as high values. You work to develop yourself and your job gives you your identity. But the freedom we think we pursue is an illusion, because even though employers tell us to be self-reliant, eventually we all depend on the system, and the prevailing norms and values are so strong that they leave little room for freedom.

All of this can lead to interesting discussions and lots of thoughts while cycling, taking a shower, or during boring meetings. For me, I am still contemplating my thoughts. I'm anxious to leave and to try new things, but I'm also afraid of leaving a great job that so many people would love to have, and never find anything like it anymore. In other words: to be continued...