Saturday, March 17, 2018

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, March 17, 2018 - Check Your Religion

Let’s assume for a moment, as many theologians have, that everyone puts their faith in something. It isn’t necessarily a traditional religious doctrine or creed. It can be a faith in money or prestige. Or video gaming. It can be in humanity. It can be in a traditional or non-traditional version of God. Or in science. Everyone maintains their own personal faith system; an organized thought around which we orient our lives. Or perhaps not so organized.
The struggles we each personally face are due, in part, to how well we organize our thinking about that in which we place our faith. In other words, we often don’t spend enough, or any time thinking about what we think. That ship is often rudderless.
For this conversation let’s define “faith” as a thing or idea to which we turn when we don’t understand our world. “Religion” is the accumulating set of understood truths resulting from those questions over time. We develop a personal dogma and doctrine as we mature. What are yours? For better or worse, these are your religion.
You may find that an inherent distrust of humanity is your rulebook. Your dogma is that all people betray. Your doctrine is: Never trust. This is the religion of life from which you operate on a day to day basis. Your creed is to believe that we are islands.
Or perhaps your faith is that all people are inherently good, but damaged. Your dogma is that we are each of us special and valuable, yet prone to failure. Your doctrine is trust but verify. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Your creed is that we are light beings clothed in a dark humanity.
Maybe we all become dust again without a spark of consciousness remaining. How does this affect your worldview? Some believe that free will does not exist. I would argue that the fact we can argue about it at all proves it does. But when a lack of free will is a tenet of your personal faith system, what is your relationship to the choices you make? That is your religion.
Decide what you think. Be radically curious about yourself. We are like an ocean to ourselves. Deep and largely unknowable. A literal Disney World of facts and truths impossible to visit all in one trip. Enjoy being curious about how your mind works. It will be a lifelong task.
Questions that help us to understand our faith are varied. I often ask someone what they think happens when we die. Oddly, where our lives end is often the starting point for the discussion on how we begin to live. Another is: What or whom to do you trust completely and without reservation? This is your higher power. Is the answer different than you imagined?
For those with a comfortable relationship with organized religion and enjoy traditional religious beliefs and rituals, dig deep. Look to your rule books. Every sacred book finds ways to contradict itself. Why would this be so if not on purpose? If these books are authored, or at least edited by God, as the traditions suggest, every contradiction, every unfollowable rule, every theological disagreement and misinterpreted bit of history is there on purpose. Look to the texts. Be curious about your interpretations. Ask yourself: Is this loving?
Look at the rules you successfully follow and wonder why. Look at the rules you wish you could follow but can’t, or won’t. And most importantly look to the rules you know in your heart are wrong. Rules about slavery or women and children we would never in modern civilized society authorize. Every Christian disagrees with some part of the Bible. Wonder why. Wonder what the line in the sand we draw implies about how we pick and choose from among them. Wonder why for some it is important for man not to lie as with woman, yet unimportant to treat the foreign born as if natural? Both are rules from Leviticus. What line in the sand exists between them making one rule important and the other not?
This is why the contradictions exist. So that you must think and grow for yourselves. Muscle test the rules as you go. See which ones feel right and wonder why they do. Is the rule a good idea because you fear the alternative, or love the idea?
The one seemingly unalterable concept which all traditional religions profess is: Love exists at the center of all things. That’s the best lens through which to check those. Likewise, other faiths, money and prestige included, seek a version of the same. A sense of belonging and control over a world which perplexes us.
GnĊthi seauton is an ancient Greek aphorism which means know thyself. The advice becomes: Let yourself be not Greek to you.

No comments:

Post a Comment