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11:20 am - Thurs 7.31.2008
Religious Inquiries

Religious Inquiries

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A number of things are on my mind lately, from the remaining weight I have to lose (both to work at Weight Watchers, and to reach my "target weight"), to when I'm going to get another theatrical audition/book a theatrical gig (And it would be a great time to book a national commercial too!), to this new blog
I've been going on about, to why there's so much anger on the Internet (Why does anonymity bring out the very worst in so many people?), to whether America is just in "a rough patch", thanks in part to the current administration, or if we're in permanent, "post-empire" decline.

And that's just "tip of the iceberg" stuff...

But one thing I've been thinking about for weeks now just won't let go...

It started when I received my regular email newsletter from Bishop John Shelby Spong (Author of Rescuing The Bible From Fundamentalism, amongst other books on Christianity).

A reader had asked his opinion of the Christopher Hitchens book God Is Not Great.

Spong's response was, basically, "Yeah, the God he's talking about..." - the "theistic" God Spong doesn't believe in - "...isn't great. I couldn't agree more. But that's not the only way to view 'God'".

I don't want to misrepresent Spong's ideas - even though I've read a couple of his books, I'm still slightly murky on what he means by "God" - but I know he doesn't think "God" is an old man with a beard, sitting on a cloud and answering our prayers.

Spong's beliefs about "God", as I understand them, seem much more "Eastern" than "Western", much more Taoist/Buddhist than Christian (Which used to bother me - "He's not a 'Christian'", I'd think to myself - but now I realize that, since I'm not a Christian myself, it doesn't really matter to me what he calls himself).

Anyway, that email got me thinking again about the Hitchens book - which I've read - and the Spong books I've read, and the other books on religion I've read (From Mark Twain and CS Lewis, to Anne Lamott and Lee Strobel, to Lao Tzu and Alan Watts), wondering if I'm come to any conclusions on the subject of religion/belief.

One conclusion I've come to is that, while I'm not prepared to say there's nothing beyond the physical world, or nothing after death - I think that's probably the case, but how do I know? - that whatever there may be, whatever "God", it has no relationship whatsoever to the "God", or the "Christianity", that was pushed on me as a child, much to my detriment.

In general, I wish people could "embrace the mystery" of existence, and just appreciate and enjoy being alive.

Because human existence is a "mystery", and the world would be better off if we all acknowledged that, and just went about our business.

Because the moment a person, or a group of people, start believing they know "The Truth", that "God" speaks specifically to them?

Well, that's when the trouble really begins (Or to paraphrase Sam Harris - Every day, all over the world, people are killing each other over their unproven, untestable beliefs).

But going from the global to the personal, I'm pondering belief in my own life.

And wondering, in a nutshell, "Do I need something to believe in?".

I don't think any religious belief system would give me a definitive answer on how I got here, or on what, if anything, will happen after I die. Cause as I've suggested before, I don't think it's possible for us to know those things. It's incredibly presumptuous to assume we can.

So what else would "belief" do for me?

Regulate my morality?

Well, I already know killing and stealing are wrong - I already have a "belief system" in that regard (And there are all kinds of societal rules and regs to keep me in line, in case I'm tempted to "slip" a bit, and go on a killing spree).

Give my life "purpose" and "direction"?

Well, that actually seems to be less of an issue for me right now than ever before. You could debate my methods and their efficacy, but it seems clear that I have a general direction and purpose in life - to be an actor, to avoid "work" as I've experienced it in the past, and to generally, and genuinely, enjoy myself as much as possible, with all that entails.

So, to me, the one question that remains is "Would having a particular religious belief system make me happy?".

The main "purpose" of my life so far has been to move away from being the (in general) unhappy person I've been, to being (in general), a happy person, or at least a happy-er person.

And I have thought, at various points, that people who have a solid belief in why they're here, where they're going, and what "God" has in mind for their lives, probably are happier than I am.

But that said, I just don't think I can embrace religion - any religion - in that way.

But I do think that really "embracing the mystery" of existence, as I've said before, would be a step in the right direction.

My own little "religion", as it were.


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