2005-06-23 03:56 am (UTC)
I think that's roughly my own position. I really don't understand the need to try and define 'God', I can't know what God is and I am content not to know.
Thouhg I think I take a broader view of religion than you do. As I see it religion is a worldview, your own understanding of how things are and how life is to be lived. Nothing to do with deities. I think the dichotomy between religion and the rest of life - one of the more unfortunate results of the enlightenment is unhelpful at my most charitable assesment.
I got into an interesting argument last year with a rampant athiest whenI said science was a religion!
I suppose I define religion as something one does.
I don't think a world view is the same thing as a religion- but I guess we're into semantics here.
I agree that Science can be a religion. And so can atheism.
2005-06-23 04:14 am (UTC)
I am very much on the same line with you here. I have spent my youth being a fervent jew (the religion I am born in) but always getting into conflict with the things I saw/felt in the nature around me (I have always seen people's auras but until much later didn't know what it was, and some other similar things). Then I progressed towards charismatic christianity, which didn't last very long though. There was a rather intense Tibetan period, followed by Wiccan enthousiasm and action.
Nowadays I still would define myself as a practising pagan, but very much a lonely one. I just can't fit into any group ritual or worship any more.. at the best, it leaves me slightly embarassed, at the worst, it makes me laugh. I do perceive the intouchable presence of Divinity, and I do worship It in the ways that have developed in years of search. From time to time I discover new elements which do not really add to the "worship" part, but very much to the evolutionary path. For the last few years this has been Gurdjieff (and Ouspensky) who have very much changed my life, without altering my perception of the Unknowable.
I had a brief period as a charismatic Christian- what cured me of that was discovering how narrow the culture was.
I find I keep falling back on Zen. Not that I've made any deep study of it, but I find their little stories and koans deeply refreshing.
If pushed, I would admit to being a Pagan- still. My kind of Paganism is void of all content except reverence for Life. It's an attitude rather than a religion.
I feel this way, too, except I am all about Catholicism right now. But it is like you describe, more an anthropological interest than anything else.
Considered anthropologically, or indeed aesthetically, catholicism is endlessly fascinating.
It's no accident that the great surrealists- Dali, Bunuel- were all of them catholic.
I'm not fond of definitions, too often limiting, and I'm certainly not going to go and sit with a bunch of people to take care of my inner self. I like reading the Sufi tales myself, as well as the koans, yes. I take care of me and let others find where they need to be.
It seems so obvious now.
So why did it take me 50 years to find out?
Yup- we're singing in the same key. After 20+ years of studying metaphysics, "HardGard" Wicca, and other esoteric things, I define myself as an AntagoGnostic Philosopher-Geek. No particular pantheon, no particular belief system. When I read about various faiths, I instantly see the leg traps contained within them. More properly many should be called soul or money/time traps, but they're not designed to enlighten, no matter how lovely the advertising copy might be.
I found something in Tikkun that has piqued my interest: the "Network of Spiritual Progressives"
. It's meant for subtle (and not so subtle) spiritual activists who are pushing back against the hard right religious takeover of the US Government. While this isn't a problem in the UK, I expect that some cross-contamination (bad pun, sorry!) might drift across the Pond and infect people there, so it might be something to examine.
I've gotten to the point where I realize that God is a ruse that the Holy Spirit uses to get its job done. "Hey, look! An angel!" it shouts, and everyone looks up and says, "Ooooh!", and the Holy Spirit sneaks in and hits people with a Holy Clue Stick... if they're lucky. I also refer to it as the Current to take that religious crust off it, but it's the same thing- the real motivating force in the universe. Tune in to it, learn to read and ride it, and you won't need a 'religion' any more. I think I understand why the Bible, in one of its very few lucid moments, lists denial of the Holy Spirit as the unforgiveable sin: To deny it also denies you a chance to learn and grow with its assistance.
The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit is wonderfully liberating- but of course churchy types have managed to turn it into something oppressive and exclusive- to wit, the charismatic movement.
Most religion is about keeping a priestly caste in beer and skittles.
"The Current"- that a good way of looking at it.
BTW I enjoyed your rant about the guy who was trying to get his fellow pagans all stirred up.
Very interesting. I've spent my life as an outsider to religion with an interest in it. I rather wish that God is, but what I believe is still pretty undefined. Still, for me it's been a long process of deciding what God definitely isn't. Perhaps eventually, what's left might be God.
I think the universe is too huge and stange for us to entertain anything other than the most tentative beliefs about it. The human intellect just isn't up to the business of defining God.
Hopefully without sounding too trite, isn't this the difference between religion and spirituality?
I wonder if this doesn't explain my own exodus from organized religion. God is out there, but believing in a Deity that is codified, athropomorphized, and personalized will only take you so far. No wonder people give up on believing in the Infinite - as limited, finite beings we can't hope to fully understand or rationalize God. If faith isn't there to fill in the gaps of a religion, if all we hold onto is what the religious rites and teachers provide, then it becomes stale all too quickly.
The difference between religion and spirituality isn't really very well defined. Spirituality is part of religion and religion can be a part of spirituality. It depends on the precise definition of terms. For example, one could define spirituality as an interconnected network of symbols of faith and meaning, but that's also a good definition for religion.
It may be useful to note that Galen is the first major writer to call Christians something other than a cult and when he does briefly mention Christians, he calls them a "philosophical school" rather than a religious practice. Galen is observing the difference between the religions of the ancient world and Christianity. Ancient religions are essentially networks of beliefs built up over time and have the authority of antiquity as the founding point of cultural identity. Christianity, however, is derived from a short tradition of teachings analogous to the Platonic, Pythagorean, Aristotlean, or Stoic philosophies. In fact, the religious experiences discussed by Christians in that time and to the present are the same sorts of life transformations associated with, to use a slight corruption of the phrasing in the Imperial period, "finding philosophy."
So I don't think that it's necessarily problematic to reject religious notions outright, since their power is generally predicated on the same life-changing power associated with philosophies or Alcoholics Anonymous. As for Gods you can verbalize, this is the problem Descartes never solves. See, it's entirely possible that our thinking on "infinity" is "this thing plus this other thing and so on" and our thinking of "unkowability" being "whatever that method for infinity equals" or "the stuff I can't think of." Neither of these is a fully formed and independent concept, and hence neither really works to accurately express one.
It's my "belief" that Christianity started life as a mystery religion in the Greek style, adapted to Jewish taste. I'm not terribly literate when it comes to philosophy, but I understand that the classic Christian worldview owes as much to Plato and Aristotle as it does to "Moses" and "Jesus".
This morning Billy Graham was interviewed on the news as he was beginning his "final" evangelising tour.
He admitted to being a Democrat, and he adroitly avoided the Gay issue. He said, "I don't want people to focus there. I want to talk about Christ."
The interviewer somewhat tackily asked him how it felt to be in the "Twillight of life" (he is 86 and unwell). He smiled and said he was in the "final period of life."
"Are you afraid to die?" she asked him.
"No," he said. "I'm looking forward to it."
Looking forward to dying.
We had a local priest who found out he had cancer. He told a reporter that he "couldn't wait to die!" He said he found it very "exciting."
I don't know anything anymore. I know that anything we think up is shorthand--irritatingly so.
I feel Something that cares, and then I wonder if that is a trick of my mind, but I want to believe it so much, and I do--I can't help myself. And I find myself loving that Something, although it's hidden from me.
Just ten years ago, I thought of God as: Male, in the air, looking down, frowning.
Now I have let go of all those concepts. I think I am a pantheist, but I'm not sure. And then I think: so what? It's all conjecture. No one knows. We guess.
We write poetry, and perhaps that is as close as we come to knowing.
"Looking forward to dying"
I've never understood the undue fear some confessed Christians have towards dying. If your faith is truly there, you might not be rushing out to suicide but death should NOT be something you avoid discussing or contemplating. For Graham and that priest to say what they did is testament to the power of their conviction, IMO.
Conceptions of God
For myself, I tend to like the idea of panentheism, although I couldn't really explain the nuts and bolts of it. The Orthodox Christians have the notion of "essence" and "energy" of God. They feel God is transcendent in his "essence" but his "energy" infuses all creation. I like that notion. The material world separate from God, and yet somehow still completely permeated and supported by him.