When I was a kid, I was told about the fish sign. You know what the fish sign is right? It’s two curved lines that when placed together just right, they look like a fish. Maybe later I’ll find a pic on the web and post it here so you can see what I mean. This is also referred to as an “Ichthys” which is greek for fish but i’m not greek so i call it the fish symbol.
The story goes something like this. Let’s say you’re standing around just under two thousand years ago somewhere just off the coast of the Mediterranean sea and you’ve recently converted to Christianity. You’re new in town and you don’t know anybody, but you do know if you tell the wrong people you believe a guy named Jesus was crucified about fifty or so years ago and you think this knowledge is somehow gonna save your soul after you’re dead, there are people who will make fun of you and might kill you for sport. So you need some kind of code. You need some kind of way to be able to tell the people who think and feel the way you do, without tipping off the people who don’t.
So you take a stick and you draw a curved line in the dirt near where some people who you think might believe as you do are standing around and talking. If one of those people takes a stick of their own and draws a curved line next to your curved line which looks kinda like a fish, then you can be relatively sure that this person is on the same wavelength with you, even though this is happening centuries before anyone knew anything about wavelengths.
This is a story that was taught to me when I was a kid in Baptist Sunday School. Sounds legit, right? Only, looking back at it now, how did the first guy know if he drew a curved line in the dirt that the other possible Christians would know what he meant fish and therefore Jesus just by a curved line in the dirt? Okay. So. The Jesus story involves fishermen, cuz allegedly some of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen and Jesus turned them away from their vocation and made them “fishers of men” where they were supposed to go get other people to also follow Jesus. Why this doesn’t sound like a con game to everyone this is explained to is beyond me. I don’t understand why I didn’t see it that way when I was five, but there ya go.
Still, the “fishers of men” thing is SO not enough of a central key point in the Jesus storyline to insist that everyone would be on the same page when it came to drawing curved lines in the dirt. There’s other stuff too. Jesus once turned loaves into fishes as he turned water into wine. He once walked over water and presumably he also walked over fishes. Okay that one’s a stretch. Jonah once spent a couple nights in a whale, but that was the Old Testament. Okay I don’t know. I don’t see how this curved line thing turned into a way for Christians to find each other in a crowd without rabid Roman Guards and Jewish Pharisees stringing you up as the next martyr for the Christian rebellion.
I’m not saying I believe this story anymore. I’m not saying I don’t. There is some historical legitimacy but I personally kinda find it sorta dicey. Not as dicey as the actual authorship of The Book of Mark, but dicey nonetheless. There’s plenty of debate both ways as to how authentic this is. Did people really do this in ancient Palestine or was this story made up around the time of Woodstock and Vietnam War by peace-loving hippies who weren’t really all that into accuracy in their history if it felt right?
In previous blog posts I’ve talked about why I can no longer believe in Abrahamics, and how while modern science can’t totally dismiss the vague concept of The God Myth, it CAN prove many of the claims of Abrahamics to be false, like Eve being made from Adam’s rib for example, or the world being made in six days, or a human being surviving inside a whale, or how human blood sacrifice can’t absolve you of responsibility for your own actions. We are talking about stuff that science can’t prove to be valid, and those who believe say that doesn’t matter. The supernatural is not natural, and so science has no power over any person’s god. Of course science can’t prove faith because proof denies faith and without faith, a god is nothing.
So faith is not about truth.
It’s about feeling you’re right even, and especially, when you’re wrong. So if faith isn’t about truth, and religion is about being righteous over being right, then why do people do this to themselves? Why do they do this to each other? I think this goes back to the fish symbol. Cuz each and every one of us are alone in the world. Surrounded by crowds maybe, we’re still alone.
We are alone inside our own thoughts, and we want to be with like-minded individuals who share at least somewhat the journey we have been on. It’s nice sometimes to share one’s life with people who don’t agree with you completely, but if you want to feel comfy and at home and safe, you want to surround yourself with like-minded individuals. Also, if you have plans to make a better world for yourself and others like you, you’re gonna wanna build and plan with those other people. You don’t want to have to convince them you are right, if you want to focus more on getting things done. So, you need to find some way to cut to the chase and find in that crowd of people which ones are already at least somewhat on the same wavelength as you. You need a fish symbol.
And sometimes it’s not a fish. Maybe it’s a political affiliation or an ideology. Maybe it’s whether or not you’ve heard of Albert Camus or agree with Nietsche. Maybe it’s a sport or an art or an old adage you’ve taken to heart. Sometimes it’s an appreciation for L. Ron Hubbard or Ayn Rand. For some people it’s whether or not you agree that the Earth is flat, or that it’s only six thousand years old. Maybe it’s a kind of music you like, or an opinionated celebrity whose ideas you like, like Rush Limbaugh or Howard Stern. Maybe it’s just how serious you take a movie like Fight Club or Star Wars. Maybe it’s whether or not you like to dress up like Doctor Who and go to conventions. Maybe its how many guns you own and how often you clean them. Maybe it’s whether or not you love Yoko Ono and/or want to see peace in our time. In one way or another, I think all of us have Ichthys. They bring us together. Sometimes maybe that’s a good thing. They set us apart. Sometimes they pull us apart and cause dissension, segregation, even prejudice and war. Maybe you prefer to think like shirts versus skins. You want to be able to just look at a person and know if you like them immediately. If they have a different color skin than you do, that’d be just as good a reason as any to dismiss them, right? They’re not like you, right? Maybe if they keep their hair longer or shorter than you do, you can dismiss them. They’re obviously not like you. Maybe they don’t wear a shirt and tie but you do.
Maybe they do wear a shirt and tie and you don’t. Even I’m guilty of that one.
I don’t see mankind’s future broken up into a bunch of tribes. We are one species, and with modern technologies it’s getting easier to communicate with one another all the time. The world is culturally getting smaller. It is in our differences that we have historically found our strengths. Befriending only like-minded people and shunning those unlike us is like circling the wagons in response to oncoming threats. You may be protecting yourself in the short term, but you’re giving yourself no way out before you’re surrounded by the very things you fear most.