Playing Hookey from the Religious Classroom

Posted: October 9, 2012 in Life, living, religion
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“Spirituality has always confused me.  I see it as people making up whatever they want to believe and then believing that.  Can anyone who considers themselves spiritual shed some light on this?  Is it that you dream something is happening and therefore it is?”

So wrote a curious woman in the comment section of today’s “The Daily” newspaper app.

Of course the question presumes that spiritual people start off as blank slates, and then decide to build their belief system from the ground up.   I don’t think it’s an accurate premise, as none of our beliefs, or behaviour for that matter ever starts from a void.  We are all of us products of our environment, our upbringing.  Our worldview is further enhanced through education, observation and experience.

To suggest that one person who considers himself spiritual can adequately speak for all such “spiritual but not religious” people is equally inaccurate, as each spiritual man has a different set of experiences and observations.  However, this spiritual man can certainly speak for himself.

I think it’s fair to say that, absent an adequate explanation (solar eclipse, aurora borealis, earthquakes, rainbows and the horizon of an ocean), mankind has always allowed his mind space to invent “facts” which have then morphed into religion and beliefs.  I also think that the idea of religion provides for safe boundaries for those who would otherwise become overwhelmed with the seeming arbitrary randomness of life.  Religion provides structure, rules, authority, community….it even provides artificial enemies which in turn serves to strengthen the bonds of community.

In many cases, religion becomes the arbiter and judge for behaviour, thought, processes and direction – both personal and organizationally.

As time goes on, and mankind discovers more actual facts, the basis for religion begins to fail, and so we see the results today, where more and more people are leaving the religious community.    But why is their faith – why is MY faith – intact?  Why do we still believe in God?

One answer would be that we still haven’t arrived at an explanation for what’s behind the curtain.  We certainly have some educated guesses:  our discovery of theoretical physics, which include quantum physics, string theory and the like speaks to some likely probabilities.  Yet, that’s all they do.  Even the Higgs boson (or God particle) experiments, astounding as they are, do not yet account for the supreme engine.  The “why?” of existence.  The notion that everything is random doesn’t adequately explain the bizarre probability factors.  We still see some semblance of design.

Specifically though – in my own life – there is all kinds of evidence of a loving overseer who for some curious reason seems to prefer that I figure out a lot of this stuff on my own.   I can only see in retrospect some patterns which defy randomness.  Paths which only become clear when looked at historically, never future.

While religion and the Bible formed the basis for much of my younger self’s beliefs, I’ve found reason to put them away.   Religion was there when I needed it – particularly when growing up in a violent household – but now I find it limiting.  Religion, you understand, prefers that I don’t think for myself, or that I reach conclusions only in keeping with its constant drone of acceptable dogma.  It wants me to remain within the beehive of religious consciousness, where everything “not bee” is considered an enemy of the hive.  My belief in deity breaks out of that myopic thinking, preferring instead to encompass a world-wide acceptance and appreciation of humanity.

I still believe in God, therefore, because of personal ad hoc observations – something which can’t be qualified by others, as it is entirely subjective.  My belief however does not suffer from the ridicule of others:  it merely sits, content, with no need to defend.  It has no need to proselytize either.

In fact, my belief appreciates those who don’t think as I do.  More than appreciation, there is an active value of them.

Christopher Hitchens was, in my opinion, one of the greatest logical minds ever.  I felt sorrow at his passing, and I found resentment at not being able to attend a debate between himself and Tony Blair in Toronto during the last year of his life.   Christopher didn’t believe anything like I do – but now I find that it wasn’t necessary that he and I agree.  I approached a love of him mostly because of his honest querying and objections.   That’s the thing:  his honest intellectualism.  How can you fault a man for that?   And his intellect was absolutely amazing.

The God I believe in has liberally distributed His DNA to mankind at large.  The result is that He has created thinkers, architects, singers, scientists, Hindus, religious people, atheists, construction workers, mechanics and doctors, each with unique abilities and outlooks.  They are all, in my opinion, different facets of His mosaic.  Different sides to the diamond.   The studious mathematician, who is socially awkward and insistent upon boring details, performs a function that I could never in a million years emulate (or want to emulate).  His value is beyond measure.  As is the concert violinist with his Stradivarius, playing Mozart with enough passion to bring tears to the eyes.

I think the God I believe in loves it all.  The music, the passion, the intense attention to details, the math.  I think all of that is likely an extension of Him, in some way or another.

Someone said “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”.   Just so.   For Christians (or any other religious folk) to try and qualify their beliefs through the application of perceived facts is an exercise in futility.   The moment verifiable facts come into play, faith takes an exit.  It must.  The two are as alike as apples and orgasms.

  1. Interesting.

    First, I don’t believe the universe or life is random or arbitrary. I don’t think scientist of any calibre would say that anything. They’d mention the opposite: that the universe is quite structured. As you mentioned later on, there are patterns. The seeming chaos, is not chaos at all, even if we cannot perceive it.

    So, religion doesn’t provide structure — not from my point of view. Religion provides answers to things that we do not yet really know the answers to. We are beings of control –and to live in the universe not knowing, not understanding how it functions scares us. Religion gives us answers. Albeit, mostly wrong answers most of the time, but answers nonetheless.

    This post of yours is so perfectly timing-wise for me because I just finished reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. I also am now reading his second book, A New Earth (so far, kinda just reinforcing the principles and ideas of The Power of Now, but interesting nonetheless). Anyways, not sure if you’ve read it, but if you get a chance, you may want to check it out. My view of spirituality has certainly changed over the years, but now, with some of his ideas, has put it in a new perspective.

    Thanks for this post — timely, interesting…



    • wolfshades says:

      Hi Carmen! So good to see you again. (We are *so* going to have to have have a coffee or Chardonnay at some point. I’m serious: maybe NYC or something.) : )

      I don’t believe – based upon my own experience – that life is random either. I may have to check out The Power of Now. Thanks for the recommendation.

      Strictly speaking, I think people have in general assigned too much authority to religion: the authority to decide and to provide absolutist explanations without allowing for variance or change. I suppose that’s my beef with it. My world is malleable, ever subject to change, depending upon the latest discoveries and knowledge. The religious world, mostly, is not. Further, I think the religious world is self-referencing. I’m a little aghast at the fact that at one point, I was complicit. If someone asked me why I thought the Bible was the ultimate and only tool for understanding God, I used it to reference itself: “the Bible is true because it says it’s true.”

      Nevertheless, religion has been a comfort at times, and it has served a valuable service.


      • Agreed! To meeting some day soon over coffee or.. Chardonnay? <– That was just so cute! I wasn't expecting it. I'm a champagne kinda girl… but you can certainly do a Chardonnay. I won't hold it against you. Ha!

        I also agree that religion has been a comfort at time… but, I fear that for all the good it could do, or has done, it is so rigid that I get no comfort from it at all. I believe in a higher being, space, God, a larger purpose, no doubt — but my patience for religion…well, it's spent.

        Again, great post.

        NYC? New York City? Or have I blanked out completely and just don't know what NYC is?

        I'd be happy to meet you in NYC, but unless your sending your private jet to pick me up, I'm not sure when that will be. You know I'm in LA, right?

        I feel so uncool right now.

        Good thing being "uncool" works for me. :)


        • wolfshades says:

          We’re having some fun discussions over on The Daily about all of this religion stuff. I’m sure a few noses might be out of joint (judging from the thumbs downs I’m getting) but that’s okay. The proof of folks’ disenchantment with religion is borne by the numbers who are leaving the established congregations – while retaining their beliefs in God.

          My normal poison is Chardonnay but I think I could toss tradition and go for a glass or two of champagne. Coffee’s for wimps. *grin*

          NYC = New York City. I thought everyone knew that. (Just kidding – I’ve even been to the big apple.) Cali actually sounds a lot more inviting. Heck, if I’m going to cross the border may as well commit, right?

          Cool is for the posers. God. *rolls eyes* I mean I thought *everyone* knew that one too.



  2. Aah, you thought I was from or in New York. Kills me. Everyone — and I mean people I talk to on the phone, people I meet — everyone thinks I’m from New York. I’m from Boston. We Bostonians tend to HATE New York (well, sports wise anyways). Anyways, it’s just funny — because even blogging people think I’m from New York. I must just have that kinda vibe. I’m cool with that.

    But yes, would LOVE to have a drink with you. Can’t wait. Cross the border and come to Los Angeles — the weather’s better here anyways!

    Now…at the risk of being completely laughed at: The Daily? What, are you and Jon Stewart buds now. What’s the daily and how to get there to read and play (and smack the folks doing some sort of thumbs down thing)? I agree with you on the Religion thing, but I’m so up for fight. Tell me where to go. I got you back.



    • wolfshades says:

      Actually no – I didn’t think you were from New York. I just thought that might be good place to meet up, since I’m north of the border and you’re south. That’s all. Just threw it out there. : )

      The Daily is a newspaper app for the iPad. It’s run by Rupert Murdoch (Fox News,etc.). The neat thing about it is the comment section which allows for nested comments much like our blogs. It’s what keeps me plugged into the political scene.

      Wait. Do you have an iPad?


      • OH, Sorry. Not an iPad girl But goodness, I remember when you got yours you couldn’t stop writing about it! So funny! Actually, I do know what The Daily is now that you’ve clarified it though. Awesome — that you’re keeping plugged into the political scene — I just “unplugged” this last week.

        Cheers Wolfie. Can’t wait to meet up at some point.



  3. ladydeedge says:

    Hey there! It’s been forever and a day since I’ve read a blog of yours, much less commented! Life has a way of drawing people together, leading them apart and then back again..such a lovely ebb and flow (but often frantic, in my life these days :)

    I would say that “religion” and following God or being an actual Christian are two very different things. The disillusionment actually comes from men and their rules–the Burger King “have it your way” sort of christianic farce, rather than anything that is actually of God. He was disgusted with it also. Remember the Pharisees and Saducees in their history; keepers of the law..their rules and rituals which made them better than the average sinner tax collector and adulteress woman. Yet it was the tax collectors and average joe’s that Jesus hung with. So when you run into “religions” of exclusivity, one color, demonination…what have you…they’ve missed the point.

    When actually its fullness..there is freedom. I mean think about those behaviours you have that you don’t like about yourself, but they keep cropping up. “I do the things I don’t want to do and don’t do the things I want to do”…and then the feeling cleanliness when those things no longer have you by the cohones anymore. That’s only one of the cool things.

    You’re right–it’s the rules that hinder, our humanity under the guise of godliness…that is a bother. But the reason that God stays with you in your heart, is because he is God. And that is real. What we men create falls sadly short. But the wonder, magesty and awe of our Creator and Father..totally a different thing, than religion. :)

    Great to read you again. I’ve MISSED it!


    • wolfshades says:

      Hi Deirdre! Great to see you again.

      I wonder if the last time we crossed paths was at MySpace? Can’t recall.

      I think Jesus exhibited an honest frustration at the whole idea of religion, even as he worked within his to make his points. Mankind has always wanted to define God and himself, within the confines of an accepted standard. For some it took the form of rituals, and for others it took the form of expressed words or a combination of the two. People lived or in some cases were killed by the confines of those dogmas and laws. Even when Jesus said “do as I do” people instead got their pens out and started writing. Maybe some of them didn’t realize that the words they wrote were to be later used as points of law by which others defined their lives and judgements.

      It wasn’t until I left the church entirely and started living outside of that community that it became clear to me that the universe is quite a bit more complicated than they’d let on to me. It’s not quite as easy to judge others anymore – and I think that’s a good thing. This becomes no more evident than when observing expressions of love. I used to look on gays as abominable. I also looked on divorced people as failures.

      It took my own divorce to help break me out of that type of thinking. And it wasn’t easy either: it was hard. The thing you want to do the most is be true to yourself. You can lie to others but you can never lie to yourself.

      So now when I see someone still living within the church community I can’t judge them or blame them or anything. We are each of us working out our lives the best way we know how. That’s enough, probably. : )

      Anyway – good to hear from you again! Have a great weekend.

      P.S. No I’m not gay: I just used that as an example.
      P.P.S. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.


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