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In which John finished up what turned out to be Religion Theme Week here in nerdfighteria by discussing the complexity of religious identity and why we must reconcile ourselves to living in a world riddled with ambiguity. (In short, to revisit the theme of Vlogbrothers 2011: The truth resists simplicity.)

Let's continue the conversation in your pants:

Thanks to nerdfighter and youtuber beastasaurusrexxx for the video of us dancing!


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A Bunny
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Good morning, Hank, it's Fri- Blue guys, what are you doing lyin' around on the job? Show some respect for my audience. That's better. So Hank, I've been sick lately - in fact, I have a note from my doctor saying I don't have to do my punishment - but I wanted to continue our conversation about religion. But I also know that some people find that kinda boring, so here's some dancing, dancing, dancing, dancing, dancing, dance, dance, dance, dance! Right, so Hank, in your video on Wednesday, you pointed out how difficult it can be to answer yes or no questions like "Do you believe in God?" because you have to define terms like "believe" and "God." Also, "in." And that made me think about how difficult it is to define any religious identity. Like, for instance, Muslims - Muslims believe in the Five Pillars of Islam, right? You have the shahada, the belief that there is no God but God; prayer, at least five times a day. Then you have alms giving or Zakat, the pilgrimage to Mecca, and there's a fifth one - Ramadan. Right, so those are the Five Pillars of Islam, the foundation of Islamic belief. Except the majority of Muslims don't follow the Five Pillars of Islam; for instance, the majority of Muslims don't pray five times a day. Similarly, many Jews don't practice kosher, many Buddhists disagree radically about the nature of Nirvana and the path to get there, and many Christians think other Christians are going to hell because they believe that Jesus visited America or because they believe in transubstantiation, or all kinds of things. In fact Hank, one time when I was in college, I visited a Pentecostal church in rural Florida, and it was really interesting. There was this one moment when a woman said to the pastor, "Could you pray for my sister? She's on this horrible path to damnation. She's completely lost." And the pastor was like, "Yeah, what's the problem?" And the woman was like, "She's going to the Pentecostal church across the street." And then the pastor was like, "Oh yeah, that is a problem." So even if you open up all the matryoshka dolls, even within a particular denomination of a particular sect of a particular religious tradition, there are still big disagreements. I mean, one of the fascinating things about identifying yourself within a religious tradition is that, no matter who you are, there will always be people within that very religious tradition who say that you are not Jewish or Muslim or Christian or whatever. Okay, this is getting a little serious. Let's dance. Dance, dance, dancin', dance, dance dance dance, dance, dance! This makes it incredibly challenging to define the word "Christian" or "Muslim" or "Jew," because ultimately, there are Muslims who I have more theologically in common with than many of my fellow Christians. And I think that's one of the reasons religious traditions often look back to some point in history where it seems like things weren't as fuzzy as they are now. Like in Islam there's the Age of the Golden Caliphate - the first four caliphs; in Christianity there's, you know, Paul and the initial apostles when Christianity was first starting to grow; in Judaism you have the rule of King David. But the truth is that there was never a golden age, and certainly there's no way to recapture the golden age by trying to go back to it. We know this, Hank, due to thousands of years of failure. So how do you know, for instance, if you're a nerdfighter? You as a nerdfighter are constantly inventing and evolving the definition of that word. So please don't forget to be awesome. Hank, I will see you on Monday.