More Questions Than Answers

December 25, 2011 § 3 Comments

“The first of the soul’s needs, the one which touches most nearly its external destiny, is order.” – Simone Weil

I am ending this week of looking at religion with more questions than answers. My belief is that in order to believe or reject something you must first know something about it. That will be my obligation for now. I’ve read about Islam, Christianity, Confucianism and Buddhism. I still have more to read up on the Yoruba Religion, Judaism and Daoism. I’m halfway through Christopher Hitchens’s treatise on how religion poisons everything (some light Christmas reading).

The one certainty I am leaving this week with is that religion is one of the great conversations, if not the greatest conversation of mankind. I may not have solidified my own beliefs, but it is fascinating to see how mankind has weighed in on the subject over time.

The more you learn, the more questions arise:

How can “scientific atheists” be atheists when no one has technically disproven the existence of God? Shouldn’t God still be a working hypothesis? What is their closest hypothesis to disproving God?

Can the fact that man has used religion for man-made evil be sufficient evidence God does not exist? or that religion should not exist?

What separated philosophy from religion given their “prophets” arose around the same time? How were Socrates and Aristotle that different from Siddharta and Confucius?

How does each religion account for “thisworldly” vs “otherworldly” concerns?

How does religion differ when you go from fundamentalism to mysticism?

Would we be better off without religion? Would I have been better off without religion?

Why are some aspects of religion about self-reliance while others are about reliance on God? How is it that these evolved within each religion?

I didn’t expect that I would come to any definitive conclusions at the end of this week, even with the tradition of Christmas tugging at me. What did happen is that I stopped looking at religion as something that can be lumped together and then either fully embraced or written off. Rather than believe in this or that, I am now more interested in learning as much as I can from what each has to offer, including what the atheists propose.

God has been identified in philosophy, psychology and religion as Logos, meaning Wisdom or Truth. If I have any means for making a decision for myself about God’s existence then it would make sense to make it my aim to gain as much knowledge as possible. I have some interesting reading to continue.

What Do Others Believe?

December 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

Religion is one of the great intellectual debates. Even the most hardcore atheist, Christopher Hitchens, who preferred “antitheist”, devoted much of his life to the study and debate of religion before he passed away last week. Even if you don’t believe in God or one particular religion, it is a fascinating subject you could spend your whole life learning about.

It’s easy to chalk all of the religions up to largely having the same end, and roughly the same means to that end. There’s the commonly cited analogy of there being different paths up the same mountain. This week I want to understand the differences more clearly. I came across a book called God is Not One by Stephen Prothero I’ve been reading.

He covers the 8 “greatest” (most impactful) religions of the world and discusses what drives each one , what they entail and why it’s important to understand they are different.

As with many other factors that make people different from one another, religion often leads to stereotypes. He begins the book talking a little bit of the stereotypes of the Western world of all Muslims being terrorists. I was catching up on the new Showtime series Homeland  last night with the my dad and that stereotype was what provided one of the important twists in the show. The writers knew people would be duped into believing the POW would be the terrorist because he had been converted to Islam.

It made me think of my own impressions of the various religions. When I look at the list of of the 8 Prothero covers in the book, my impressions range from some familiarity to stereotypes to absolute ignorance. If these are the main religions driving the behavior of others in the world right now, I could definitely use more education.

To give my initial impressions in one word:

Islam: strict
Christianity: sin
Confucianism: being
Hinduism: polytheistic
Buddhism: enlightenment
Yoruba Religion: no clue
Judaism: guilt
Daoism: harmony

As I continue along learning more about these this week, it will be interesting to compare notes to my initial impressions.

What Do I Believe?

December 20, 2011 § 2 Comments

Religion has been an intermittent part of my life. As a kid in Pennsylvania I went to Sunday school now and then. When I was 11 we moved to South Carolina, an epicenter where the effects of religion were harder to ignore. Jim and Tammy Baker lived in our neighborhood for a time. I attended a class in middle school devoted to Bible study (which has now since been moved off the premises).

In high school my parents started attending a local Presbyterian church and my sisters and I attended the youth group there. It was probably the closest I’ve come to indoctrination into a church. We were good friends with a lot of the kids that went there. I still felt different in my Faith and I’d say it was more of an education in Christianity than a true belief.

As much as I was never drawn in by religion, nor was I repelled. Religion has never kept me from living my life they way I’ve seen others experience. I’ve known couples who have parted ways because they couldn’t reconcile their Jewish and Catholic faiths. Another friend, now an Atheist, grew up going to Jesus camps in the Midwest that made him feel his homosexuality was a sin. I’ve never had my faith question who I was.

Despite my tepid experience with Christianity, I have experienced Faith. It has been through people I have known, especially my grandmother. She was someone who lived with faith as an integral part of her life. Yes, she quoted Bible versus now and then and opened dinner with a prayer, but it wasn’t the strictness of it she conveyed. She was someone who lived with a sense of peace that is what I associate with Faith. She was of the world rather than trying to control it.

If I had to I would classify myself as Agnostic in the sense of one who doesn’t believe we have the capacity to prove or disprove the existence of a God. It’s been awhile since I have given it all much thought, so this week I’d like to explore a few things:

1) Learn more about the debate on the existence of God (understand the Atheist point of view & what Science has to say about it these days)

2) Learn more about the key religions that rule the world (I really know nothing about Islam or Buddhism other than the general sense). Religion plays such a huge part in what happens in the world around us so I think it’s important I understand what those religions represent

3) Contemplate my own Faith. My answer when asked about my stance on religion is that I’m agnostic but I think I can clarify that further.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the 51 religion category at 52 To Do.