Monday, February 1, 2010

On Religion: A Very Special Blog Post

Welcome to this, my 150th post. You'll find beer in the fridge, sodas in the cooler, and of course there's punch, peanuts, and chips. I also made Chex Mix.

Let's get down to brass tacks. I'm about ready to consider myself a member of the Sikh faith, though I do plan to cut my hair and periodically shave. This would make me a sahajdhari Sikh. The service we went to was a big deal for me: the message spoke to me, the music was beautiful, the people were friendly, and the food? Wonderful.

Having said all that, I want to issue a message to people my age, a generation older or a generation younger: don't let your upbringing in a religion that was forced onto you by your parents, your nation, or your culture turn you off of God. I know too many people who were raised Christian who, after 18 years of having crammed down their throat, declared themselves either atheist or hid under the umbrella of "I'm spiritual, not religious," or "I believe in God, but I don't like organized religion."

I'll get to atheism in a second. First, those latter two options are cheap and lazy. Get off your ass and investigate. Actually, thanks to the Internet, you don't even need to get off your ass. Hell, you can even do this in the nude.

To begin, think about what you feel is right. Do you think God is formless? Do you believe in multiple Gods? That sort of stuff, the basic questions to get you thinking.

This quiz, while not comprehensive (something with that sort of depth and breadth would be insane, but totally awesome), can point you in the right direction. In fact, taking it is what got me to snoop around New York and see what sort of options were out there. Now, I have the luxury of being in an incredibly multicultural city. For just $2.25, I can hop on a subway train and get to a Jain temple or a Sikh gurdwara.

This brings us back to the eternal reach of the Internet. No Buddhist temples in Cortland, Indiana? That's okay. First of all, you might not be as far from one as you might think (there's one in Bloomington and one in Indianapolis, for example). Even if the drive is too much for you to do even on a semi-regular basis, get in touch with them. Someone will be glad to share information with you.

As I said before, the quiz from isn't perfect. Japanese folk religions, newer faiths that might be a little more syncretic in nature like Cao Đài, Zoroastrianism, and Ayyavazhi are all absent from the results. In other words, you might have to go beyond the scope of that list. (In all fairness, it's a very Western-centric site, with even the Eastern traditions being compared to Western thoughts.)

Here is a list of the major world religions and spiritual traditions. Start reading. After all that, if you still find yourself thinking you're spiritual but not religious, fine. Go ahead. You've earned it.

Atheism? My problem with modern atheism is these dour English academics like Dawkins and Hitchens who are blaming all of society's ills on the big three Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) and, based on the actions of radicals from each camp, are putting down all of religion. Their rhetoric is as close-minded, angry, and contemptuous as that of their targets. Also, Dawkins' refusal to debate a Creationist is sheer arrogance. That's like the Orthodox rabbi, priest, or cleric who doesn't accept invites to interfaith discussions.

If you consider yourself atheist, give some thought to agnosticism. That at least leaves the possibility open that - GASP! - you might not be right.

Anyway, that about wraps it up for now. I just want people to actively search out the answers to their questions. Don't be lazy.

Word of the day: agnosticism. Note its difference from atheism.



Shelley said...

I agree. People should never just rule out god/religion without looking into it. It's too important in life.

ar said...

Religion is such a thorny issue. I've yet to decide myself if I'll feel like a hypocrite raising theoretical children to believe in the guidance of an institution that thinks I'm unrepentantly depraved, or if I can justify trying to make change from the inside. The core of why I would stay is so far removed from the politics that wouldn't allow me to get married in my own parish that it's almost (actually, no, it straight-up is) painful.

But that's really neither here nor there, since I decided I would work on some other Deeply Personal Questions before tackling the Catholic Church head-on. They've been around for a while--I figure they can wait a little while longer.

In any case, I'm very glad to hear that you've found a faith that speaks to you. From what I know of Sikhism, it sounds really lovely. --and hey, you can't beat good food.