It’s hard to know where to begin with this post… but let’s just say I had a conversation with someone I respect, and her views of religion, although kindred to mine, are very different. So I thought, hey…this is yet another thing I could write about but probably won’t. Then I thought, no… unlike the other topics I’ve told myself I would share and then never did, I am going to write this one out.
So, what is my view of religion? I tell people I am spiritual but not religious. Don’t get me wrong, I think religion, when practiced properly, aims to improve our sense of faith and virtue. In general, religion can help us rationalize the world around us and be better to one another, as well as aspire to something greater. Unfortunately, differences and corruption exists in every human system… and religion, for all its divine origins, has been interpreted by humans. In the “differences” camp, we have folks who couldn’t agree on core interpretations of a text, folks who had their own visions and callings, and other earthly divisions that fragmented various faiths into smaller chunks. In the “corruption” camp, there are folks who have reduced religion to a business model, a power struggle, a system of domination, and other causes. This is part of the sad truth of being human. I am left watching the different religions wag their finger at each other and say THEIR flavor is the way, and all others will be damned.
I’ve never taken a theology course, so I tend to think and speak in terms of Christianity, because that is how I was raised. I am fairly certain, God didn’t write the bible. People did. And the different flavors that drive the divisions between the various types of just Christianity (not to mention all the other religions of the world) do not stem from God. They stem from people’s interpretations of religion. So which religion is the one true religion? When people make a selection of one kind or another, who am I to tell them their choice is wrong? It is not my place… it is not really ANYONE’s place. By process of elimination, I guess the goal is for all of us to get along regardless of which religion we choose, or even if we choose no religion at all.
Maybe folks will agree or disagree, and I am OK with that…but ultimately, it won’t be for us to judge, right? Someone else of a higher power has that covered.
Well, with an explanation like that for religion, it would seem no surprise I do not attend church, but church to me is different. Of course, there are many different types of churches, even in my little corner of Christianity. There’s cold, removed ceremonious churches, there’s churches where people close their eyes and raise their hands in a frenzy, there’s churches where people gather around a guitar and sing… it takes all kinds. Religion is the doctrine to which a church subscribes, but each church has its own expression of that doctrine. The church is where the doctrinal rubber meets the spiritual road. So, for me, the church, and more importantly, the community which it serves, is more human and more real than a religious doctrine. Churches are, of course, run by people…so they all have their conflicts and issues, just like any normal system…but as a whole they can become a powerful engine for their community – one that can help people through the toughest of times, help them make life decisions, provide a support structure when someone suffers a loss or setback… not saying ALL churches actually accomplish this goal, but they do, through the power of faith, virtues and their doctrine, all have the potential to be pillars for a community. I’ve seen several that have accomplished this goal, and finding a church group is not just a matter of doctrine, but one of personal preference.
I do not currently attend church, but I suspect someday I probably will…but for me it will be less about the “practice of religion” and more about giving back to all those nuns that kept me straight growing up 🙂 Maybe some day…
If the previous two topics weren’t edgy enough…get a load of this section… OK, really, I don’t think what I am typing is all that “edgy.” Let’s take a moment to think about God. Now, it is my belief that all religions have one thing in common – there is a force at work that is beyond what our species can comprehend. We can call it nature, we can call it God, we can call it the CAT-5 Ewa Forest (now you know what the “e” stands for in CAT-5e cable…yes, you really can plug into a horse and talk to it…awesome)…point is, there is a force or entity at work that is beyond our comprehension. “Beyond our comprehension” is the key phrase here. Faith is believing in something we cannot see or understand, and entrusting ourselves in whatever that is… faith is a form of acceptance (and in my other writings I use it as the opposite of fear). Through faith, people can endure and persevere over amazing challenges in their lives. Through faith, entire populations can rise above even the most devastating situations. Faith, and it’s kindred virtues, hope and charity, are pillars of strength within the human race. I am sure there are some pulleys, ramps, and cool wind-up monkey toys that bang cymbals together also, but we are talking pillars right now.
Religion is our species’ attempt to give a face to faith, to provide some structure that allows people to identify with that force or entity. That’s not a bad thing, but as you can already guess, I don’t care what we call it… for some He is He, for some a She, for some an It, for some a collective consciousness. I’m sure someone calls it Fred. Remember the key phrase “Beyond our comprehension.” So it isn’t for me to say who or what it is… I cannot tell, nobody can tell (and if they can, it is personal to them, and they likely can’t prove it for us!), Thus,I am not going to sweat it. Any religion that promotes unity, virtue and builds a healthy, accountable community is likely OK in my book! (read for intent here… I’m not saying,”Trollolol yeah, our virtues are ‘kill thy neighbor’ and so we do that and steal their stuff to be self sufficient…huhuhuhuh”… if that’s what you get out of this, then you need to try reading it again when you are out of rehab)
Now it is impossible for me to say, but in my world God is all knowing, and all seeing. God is past, present and future. Again, this delving into the “inconceivable!” but if I walk that road…I end up with a being that transcends so many of our limitations… He (that’s my upbringing, nothing personal) has to understand all aspects of our situation, He knows our charter and our destiny, He would be beyond self-gratitude and would not need us to celebrate Him, He would have a huge sense of humor… and so many other things that go beyond what I can describe or understand. When I get out there that far…that being doesn’t care what religion we are, His grace is connected to each of us individually – like the unseen force of magnetism, only more graceful, mkay? With that kind of connection, He wouldn’t care if we went to church. All He would care about (slight conjecture here) is that we accepted and emulated Him and His grace in so far as we are able…and He’d forgive us when we screw up as long as we tried our best.
THE END (OR THE BEGINNING)
So, when I say I am more spiritual than religious – above is all the context for what I am trying to say. Maybe someday there will be a church in my future, but this whole planet is a church – the ultimate church built by the creator. Whatever church I choose beyond that will not be for communion with God, because I’ve got that already. It will be for my ongoing education and my sense of community. There’s a great many other topics that spin off this whimsical blurb…maybe some ay I will write about those.