12:30 PM, restate my assumptions

  • There is a mode of human existance – variously called Religion, Faith, or Spirituality – for which most people have a deep-seated, primal need.  I am no exception to this rule.
  • The full dimensions of this mode remain murky and uncertain to me.  Nonetheless, I can say this much with some confidence: Religion is a distinct and identifiable group of experiences vitally different from other human emotions.  It is both unique and universal: in every culture, in geographic location, something has evolved which is readily recognizable as Religion.
  • It is not habit or tradition; nor is it an emotion.  It is also more than just a philosophy of life.  It is not an eternal life-insurance scheme.
  • It is a state of being, characterized by a sense of transcendance.  The religious woman feels herself to be in communication with something larger and higher.  Religion imbues the world with meaning and portent.  By lending importance to otherwise meaningless objects and events, religion puts the believer in touch with a seemingly more concrete reality-behind-the-reality.  It organizes and makes sense of the cosmos.  The religious man feels himself situated and oriented with respect to the universe.  In this manner religion is occupied with continously re-creating reality for the religious person.
  • Lacking religion, as defined above, I find myself adrift.  Life feels meaningless and without purpose.  Moreover, without faith to valorize everyday actions, daily life lacks any sense of satisfaction. 
  • Therefore, I am more and more convinced that like my primitive ancestors before me, I require some form of religion  in order to live a fully-realized and satisfying life.
  • Furthermore, I believe that I am naturally drawn to religion, even as I am naturally skeptical of it as well.  My life has been marked by a sense of “calling” and a deep need to be in touch with the undergirdings of the universe.  I long to walk through life treading two planes at once – both the sacred and the profane.  I have in rare moments experienced this feeling of seeing through to what is behind, to a reality where the tendrils binding people together are apparent, where the emotional has more gravity than the physical.  I long to live more of my life in that state.
  • I also have a strong desire to live my life heroically and, as much as posible, as a dynamic act of beauty.  Religion has the potential to act as inspiration, justification, and guide to such a lifestyle, as well as a framework within which to judge my success in the attempt.
  • I am convinced that great power resides in belief.  Even when the belief is in something patently absurd, belief can still be worthwhile for it’s own sake.  Because every person’s reality is in large part composed of their perceptions, belief has the power to remake the world.  Belief, too, is contagious; when one person believes, it is easier for those around her to believe.  Sometimes belief itself can cause tangible change to occur – for example, when simply insisting that a person has certain positive traits causes them to adopt those traits.  Sometimes belief can cause the “impossible” to become a reality – if all present believe they witnessed a miracle, how does that differ from a “genuine” miracle in it’s effect?  Belief holds the key to living in a better, brighter, more loving world.
  • I find that I have an innate propensity for belief.  Despite my acquaintance with harsh reality, I  have a seemingly limitless capacity for idealism, for hoping in lost causes, for utopian dreams.
  • Nonetheless, I am not able to believe in just any old thing.  The object of my belief, unlikely as it may be, must strike some chord in my heart.
  • Therefore, in my pursuit of a personal religion, it behooves me to cultivate beliefs for which I have an innate affinity.  Ultimately there must be a heart-test to determine if a given belief harmonizes with my inborn sense of what is true and worthwhile and noble.  I have to go with the grain of my heart, otherwise I would quickly become exhausted.
  • So the task at hand is to identify what beliefs strike a chord in me, and to begin the long process of integrating them into a cohesive whole.
  • In addition, I must remember, learn, or create the customs, traditions, sacraments and rituals which will reinforce and encourage my fledgling system of beliefs into personal religion.
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  1. heeee, you (quasi-)quoted pi in yer subject block. that rules. πŸ™‚

    1. Yay, someone noticed!

      1. how could i not? πŸ˜‰

        i’d like to write further upon your obviously very thoughtful post, but i am sort of brainless at the moment.

        1. I’d welcome your thoughts.

  2. That’s beautiful, babe! I’m moved.

    I wonder, though, in what direction will this take you?

    No, I’m not worried this will take you away from me. Nothing of the sort.

    Will you (re)investigate the faith of your youth (Christianity)? Will you investigate the other faith of your youth (Judaism) with which you were not brought up full time? Will you investigate other major religions? Will you try to incorporate a little of all, or most, in your personal belief system? Will this take you to church attendance? Not just a formality, that, but a way of fellowship, more of the social than the spiritual when the spiritual is had in a more personal independent setting.

    Ultimately, I think the question I’m asking is, where will you go from here?

    1. I can’t really say for sure. My heart’s leading me in purely personal directions at the moment though. I don’t think I’ll feel the need to participate in public observation until I come upon some form of it that actually excites something in me without prompting, rather than requiring me to try to force myself to get “into the spirit”. I’m trying to take this organically, if you know what I mean. Gonna’ pray when the spirit says pray.

      1. you and i are so different about this. where i need community, you need solitude. which is not to suggest you never need community.

        i will, i hope, write up on my LJ what i’ve been hearing whirring in my head shortly.

      2. I often simplify religion to this point…when I feel someone is in need of a simplicity and not ready for specifics.

        I believe without a doubt that this universe is to ordered (from the macro scale of outspace to the micro scale of DNA) to be a random meaningless event.

        Therefore, I see evidence of a design or intention. I believe there was a Creator. And I will oft use the term Creator in handling the issue in a gender-less non-distinct way but that I believe coincides with the core of my faith. I do not believe a rational, logical man can truly deny the order found in the universe. Just as I believe it is obvious that there is pain and suffering and death in this world.

        Now the first question you must ask is whether the Creator is existant in our world any longer and if so to what extent. In my own personal case I’ve had dealings and interactions and too many coincidences. And there is a saying that koincidence is not a kosher word. So I’ve made the decision to believe that said Creator is still very much alive and active in the world but perhaps from a reserved standpoint of minimal interferance against mankind’s own will.

        Now onto the next step. If you choose to continue farther. And some would argue that one might choose to just stop there with the simple understanding that there is a Creator, there is harm in this world, and to trust said Creator to protect them from harm. And in many ways I believe God might respect such….but i also believe one would miss out on much blessing and understanding.

        If you choose that next step, it is to endeavor to determine, recognize and get to know that substance that created you.

        This is where there is much much much debate in the world. I myself, believe in the fundemental faith that is often referred to as Christianity. But I am very Jewish in my understanding. Nor do I see a great distinction between the Jewish believer and the Christian believer. I believe there are some understandings which are different. Sadly, I believe few christians realize that they are in fact proselytes to a Jewish faith.

        In talking with an older Jewish woman who has never really practiced her faith and was interested in the Gospels and Christianity and God in general. I instructed her in this fashion. Seek to know your God. You are a child of Abraham. I told her I do not believe a Jew can be converted to christianity. I believe christians convert to serving the God of the Jews…and ALL of creation.

        In reference to Jesus, I simply told her that if she were going to read the Gospels as she stated. Just read them as if you were reading about God himself coming down as a Jewish rabbi. And see if they make sense in that way. That is how they make the most sense to me.

        I could not embrace christianity outside of Judaism. In fact, I draw upon most of my understandings from the Tanach. When the disciples of the New Testament are spoken about teaching from the Scriptures; I point out to christians that these were the Tanach, the Old Testament Scriptures.

        Anyways, I am always here if you need to chat/talk/have rabbinical debates…

        – The Saj

  3. Man, you think a lot and stuff.

    1. I’m not sure if it’s that I think a lot, or that unlike others I choose to inflict the details (OK, the summaries) of my thoughts on my LJ audience.

      1. I wish I had enough time to think thoughts like that, much less actually type them. I’m sure if I tried I’d end up sticking words like “ELMO!” and “Sippy cup milk!” in where they didn’t belong.

        1. /me mulls writing an LJ matrixxizer which inserts “ELMO!” and “Sippy cup milk!” in place of random words.

          1. Hehehe, I can just hear Freud rolling in his grave.

  4. thank you for posting this. it sounds remarkably close to the realizations i’ve come to over the past few months (i’m sure you’ve noticed hints of it along the way…) you clarified everything very nicely, better than i’ve been able to do, and i’m adding it to my memories so i can refer back to it. i’m hoping over break, actually, to do some reading and some thinking on this subject. we’ll have to keep in touch about our findings. πŸ™‚

    1. I can recommend a book or two, if you like. Although I’ve barely begun to work through my list of books on religion, already the few I’ve read have helped to clarify and frame my thoughts immensely. All pretty dry stuff, I’m afraid.

    2. I’m also very open to book recommendations.

  5. That’s interesting…

    especially for me because the intense longing that you feel–the need for transcendence is almost entirely absent in me.

    I do not long to transcend anything.. perhaps, because I feel almost entirely rooted in the here and now–in the whole of reality. I do not wish to go beyond it.. in fact, I do not actually think–or perhaps more crucially for this discussion–believe/feel that there is anything beyond this reality.

    There is no platonic duality–the perfect world of forms behind and superior to the inferior realm of the senses.

    In this, I’m quite the Aristotelian–1 world, 1 reality, and we make our way through it as best we can…

    This is not to say that I have no regard for belief–I do.. I understand on a theoretical and practical level how important “belief” is to most humans… it supersedes (sp?) rational thought in most people most of the time.. Not that this is necessarily true.. we are a spectrum and it varies.. My personal belief is that a good balance of the two–perhaps with an ever so slight tilt towards rational thought–is the most productive state of affairs.. but maybe this only needs to be done on a societal level… (that’s a debate all on its own..)

    However.. getting back to the point… I have never in my life ever felt the need/compulsion/desire to achieve transcendence in any way… I do have my beliefs–Like I believe in myself–I believe in existence of the world (although I do get matrixy style doubts on this occasionally) and I believe in various individuals…

    This is not all of what I hold to be true, of course, because truth can be determined either by belief or by a combination of reflection upon accumulated experiences…

    When it applies to “natural laws” and such–I believe these to be true due to the latter epistemological approach–namely reflection upon my own experience and good sound logical analysis…

    But back to the point again..

    This is interesting.. What you feel.. and as you express it.. is something that most people seem to feel.. seem to need… and it is why religion (a word litteraly meaning “to bind again” ) is so prevalent…

    and it is why I am and have always been–such an outsider throughout most of my life..
    I do not feel this need… at all..

    I wonder why this is… What made me so… (I’m betting it was dad.. who is also inherently this way… )

    A question for you occurs to me..

    Could you ever really, truly, choose to avoid this path to transcendence and still lead a healthy life? not that you should… but is this something you have any power over.. or is it, as Kant would say, a priori to your wants and thoughts..

    I’m intriguied

    1. Re: That’s interesting…

      especially for me because the intense longing that you feel–the need for transcendence is almost entirely absent in me.

      What I’ve read suggests that while it’s common, it’s not universal. Exceptions are well-documented.

      I do not actually think–or perhaps more crucially for this discussion–believe/feel that there is anything beyond this reality.

      There is no platonic duality–the perfect world of forms behind and superior to the inferior realm of the senses.

      At this point in my life, I have no evidence to the contrary. Or even any real emotional need to assert otherwise, believe it or not. What I do know – and I hope to write more on this – is that on a pragmatic level, things are better for me when I feel transcendant. It doesn’t matter to me whether it is real in any objective sense; when I see the world as dual superimposed planes I am nicer, I am happier and I like myself better. When I feel expansiveness in my heart, myself opening to something higher – whether it comes from within or without – I am given hope for tomorrow, and I find I often have the power to lend that hope to others as well. At those times it is, as they say, well with my soul.

      Could you ever really, truly, choose to avoid this path to transcendence and still lead a healthy life? not that you should… but is this something you have any power over.. or is it, as Kant would say, a priori to your wants and thoughts..

      Healthy? Yes, probably, in some sense of the word. Happy and fulfilled? I’m beginning to think not.

    2. Re: That’s interesting…

      As an example of an experience of transcendence that requires no supernatural underpinnings:

      You’ve probably noticed that my worldview is characterized by a combination of idealism and cynicism. These could easily be homologated to the Sacred and the Profane, respectively. Transcendance, for me, can mean no more than simply looking at the people around me and being simultaneously aware of their faults and of the tremendous potentialities for good that resides within them. Those of a religious bent would call this experience “seeing the divine” in them, and it would be every bit a transcendent experience. “Seeing the divine” seems like as good a term as any to me, but the experience itself requires no hard and fast belief in a spiritual world. On the other hand, having a system of spiritual symbology to work from can facilitate the transcendent state of mind. When Jesus “whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me”, he gave a lot of people a nice, concrete handle on their innate capacity for humanism.

  6. That was facinating. I’ve gone through similar thought processes more than once and I’ve always come to the conclusion to follow the beliefs that make me happy(est). These aren’t always the logical ones, though some of my beliefs are based on my own form of logic. Unfortunately, beliefs of a spiritual nature don’t always function well with logic. *shrug*
    What it usually comes back to for me is, what beliefs do I live my life happiest and best with? Some belief patterns make me break down to a non-functioning rapidly degenerating being. For such reasons I cannot be athiest nor can I be Christian.
    I have unfortunately reached a stasis in my own spiritual development. I have had my arguments with myself and cannot go further on the journey on my own. My personal next step is to check out some of the Unitarian Universalist groups to see if they’ll strike a chord and further some of my development.

    1. A big part of this process is accepting that I have to set aside my rationality at certain times, if I want to be happy. But at the same time I can’t just leave my rationality behind. Which is part of the reason for all this writing; it’s a way of integrating my reason into an unreasonable process.

      Good luck in your journey. Hopefully you’ll fare better with the UUs than I did.

      If it’s not to personal, can I ask what arguments you are having with yourself?

      1. Most recently it has been on the relationship of morality to religion and how I want to live my life. Generally they tend to be on more detailed aspects of belief.
        At one point I’d worked out an explaination based on Christian beliefs in order to argue for the possibility that Faeries and “Fairyland” could exist. However that arguement was based on a set of beliefs I don’t follow…
        At one point, it was on my desire to join the Christian crew and sorting out what it was about it that appealed, when I very much don’t follow some of their integral beliefs (I don’t believe that Jesus was the son of God and our Savior…). That makes it really hard to follow that particular path.
        Every little aspect of my set of beliefs went through some set of internal discussion at some point in time. It’s been a while since I’ve gone over them. I should probably think about them and reweigh my strength in them again one of these days.

  7. Your last three points there sum up my entire past year… and I’m still not entirely done. It’s almost a full time job. o.o

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