|1 year ago :: May 15, 2012 - 6:36PM #61|
I would add it's also about asking the questions and knowing what to ask without expecting the answer to settle it . . . a continuous wonder
|1 year ago :: May 15, 2012 - 8:02PM #62|
--- Organized religion often is misused as a tool to control people, and playing on normal human fear of the unknown, and fear of punishment (since we all know that we all do a lot of things in life that don't give us bragging rights) is often part of it.
But, control isn't the real "purpose" of religion IMO. That is an abuse of religion. I think of religion as being a response to universal human questions. Ever since humans became self-aware back in the mists of pre-history their minds were engaged in trying to understand what they observed outside of them, in the physical world. and also in trying to understand what is in their minds. Understanding thoughts, emotions, relationships, other people, and all that cannot be explained. Science answered/answers many questions about the physical world but until science developed to a certain point, humans grasped at understandings that were often supernatural or superstitious explanations for what they observed.
Some of these attempts at explaining what they saw evolved into religious systems. And so the pagan religions worshipped the sun, or the wind, or the river gods, and created pantheons of deities representing different explanations for what they observed, especially in the physical world. But, beyond the physical world they were also aware of an internal world, in their minds. And this was just as mysterious as the external world and raises countless questions that cannot be answered easily, and especially not answered by scientific methods. Religion is an attempt to provide answers to the age old questions that human beings have asked for eons (literally) - where did the universe come from? Where did I come from? Why am I here? Who am "I'? Is "I" only the physical body, or does "I" include "soul" or "spirit"? Where will "I" go after death? Or is physical death the end?
Hat's off to you Wavering CC for a brilliant synopsis of this situation. I don't believe in a life after death. I don't look at this as a negative approach to reality. I think the rewards of life are most definitely obtained in the proper living of it. I think that the belief in an afterlife is a direct result of our fear of death and of the unknown. But if we react correctly to the fear of the unknown, it will motivate us to increase our knowledge. It is that component of reality that forces me to reject the religious beliefs put forward approx. 2000 years ago.
At the same time, I believe that the Christian story is appropriate to that time in history when the level of barbarity and almost universal illiteracy was the norm. Something had to be done to try to tame the savage nature of the human race and Christianity came to the rescue at that time. But to cling to those ideas, in this the twenty first century, is to disregard the evolutionary processes that bring about change for the better.
However, for those who wish to worship or simply acknowledge a Creator, where should they go if they give up Christianity? As of today, no other religion, in my not so humble opinion, offers a better place to acknowledge such a Creator. Perhaps the future will find a more realistic path towards the worship or acknowledgement of a Creator, but for now, Christianity is as good as or better than any other religion that is being offered up as an alternative.
From Wavering CC
These are the "what is the meaning of life" questions that college students discuss endlessly, but will discover cannot be answered. They haven't yet learned yet "to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves ,"as Rilke wrote, and that they may not ever "live into the answers", despite what Rilke wrote.
Religion provides some answers - maybe not answers that can be scientifically validated, but religious people know that what is outside and can be validated is only a small part of what we "know" and experience in life. The specific answers may differ from religion to religion, but there are many common themes. Those common themes often revolve around questions about how to live, how to treat other human beings. The Golden Rule is found in all major religions. Religion can provide some useful tools to those who try to honestly follow what they teach - at least about the big stuff. It's when they get down to the detailed nitty-gritty that most religion goes way off course. Because then instead of trying to be guides in helping people deal with the unknowable and provide some guidelines for living, they try to be God.
So, the main purpose of religion may be to try to provide answers to that which can't really be answered. But the questions just don't go away, and a secondary purpose seems to be to provide a code, a structure of moral guidelines. Often this is very practical - it allows people whose interests are competing to somehow develop enough control to not always act in their own short-term, immediate self- interest. Thus exercising restraint in not stealing the neighbor's goat is a bit easier if its part of a code that all - or most- are following. Besides, it prevents all kinds of murder and mayhem.
As thinking and reflective beings, we humans are frustrated when we don't understand something. We want to KNOW! Just like we can often (but not always) KNOW scientific principles. Sometimes we think we KNOW scientific facts and then some bright scientist comes along and develops a new telescope or tries something new in a lab, and smashes a whole body of accepted science to smithereens. It happens.
By definition, God is not knowable, nor understand-able. But human beings aren't comfortable with that and so develop systems that are a way to try to answer the questions that can't be answered, and we call those systematic approaches to trying to understand the not-understandable religion. The best that can be done is probably to catch glimpses of understanding. The human mind and soul (I am among those who do believe in the soul/spirit) can often make great leaps of insight - but they are still mere glimpses.
So, religion is referred to in terms of "faith" - one may believe in God or not believe in God, but either way it cannot be proven through through scientific methods. Even when there is agreement that there is a God, the details of various understandings of Who or What is God, what is God's nature, etc will keep human beings divided for probably whatever time is left in human history. So, one accepts the tenets of Christianity or Islam or Hinduism or Judaism the detailed answers provided by the great religions - on "faith" also. Most of us "believe" the religion of the family and culture we are born into. The "true" Christians who "believe" that christianity is the "true" religion, would most likely be just as fervently convinced in the truth of Islam had they been born to a Muslim family in Morocco, and just as fervent in their devotions to the pantheon of Hindu deities, just as faithful in completing pilgrimages to Hindu shrines and undertaking Hindu spiritual practices (or Buddhist or.....) if they had born to a Hindu family in Delhi or a Buddhist family in Viet Nam.
Once again, brilliant analysis of a perplexing question. Congratulations.
We have nothing to fear except our lack of understanding of fear itself.