Saturday, May 4, 2013

Religion in the Modern Age

If I were teaching a bar/bat mitzvah age class with freedom to do my own thing, I would have them write down all the things they have been TOLD by other people or books or whatever about god/divinity. And then perhaps at the same time, perhaps after going through those, have them write down things THEY think about divinity, no matter what it is, even "there can't possibly be such a thing" or if there were, what qualities would it necessarily have (imaginary? subjective? good? neutral? etc.).

It is especially important to me to emphasize that the world is filled with people who will tell you What God Is And What God Isn't, and it's all bs. No one knows. It's about figuring that stuff out for oneself, figuring out if the word "god" is even RELEVANT anymore to the individual. What Matters To You? What Is Meaningful To You? Religion is supposed to be about giving meaning to what we know, and maybe pushing the boundaries of what we don't know with curiosity, but I don't believe it should be about defining and pretending we know what we don't know. That's why the religion vs. science debate is so ridiculous. If someone's religion/belief directly contradicts something empirically provable then the religion/belief is simply not tenable. If a religion/belief is framed in such a way that it CAN conflict with empirical data, then there's a problem already. The exception could be psychology since it deals directly with emotions and perceptions, and of course there is no One Right Way of pursuing psychology. From what I know at least, there's a LOT of different stuff out there from different people, that works well for some and not at all for others. And it all intersects with our current culture and norms, of course.

This idea that our very beliefs shift as our culture and norms shift is probably terrifying to someone who subscribes to an absolutist point of view of religion/belief. But of course that isn't even the biggest problem I have with absolutism in religion, since every religion I have ever studied (and I have a degree in it for what it's worth) only becomes absolutist in the hands and mouths of absolutist people. On paper (if there are writings) they never really are because religions are created by people, and they shift with people or they fail. Religions are concepts, institutions, traditions, communities which people create to fill a specific need, and when the need disappears or the expression changes, the religion changes or people find a new way to fill the transformed need. 

The discussion of what those needs can be, and how all this manifests in the current time, is one to be had when I have more time to verbalize my thoughts (and don't have piles of homework due). Suffice it to say that these are my observations, and not perhaps the most well-spoken version of my observations, but I want to leave this here as a placeholder to come back to, as part of an ongoing babble into the internets.

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