The Watering Hole - Conversations on 21st. Century religion.
What is religion actually about?
Copyright © 2010 Dorian S. Cole
One view of religion is that it is for mamby-pamby, touchy feely type people. Actually religious people develop great strength. Another view is that religion means other people telling you what to do and criticizing. Actually most religious people are less critical, more helpful, more patient, and more tolerant than other people. Religion brings peace through developing the courage to change.
Is it so complicated only the leaders can understand?
We like to make things very complicated. It's sometimes almost as if we only want the very elite to understand, and them to have the privileged position of passing their interpretation down to us. I studied religion in church and university, have at least a 3 foot bookcase full of books on religion, and have thoroughly explored it, practiced it, and written extensively about it for years. What did I discover? It's like the Apostle John said: Love.
That makes it easy, doesn't it? Yet as I have written here before, it will take us at least all of our lives to understand the depth and breadth of love.
So what is religion about? It's simple really. Everything religion is about can be boiled down to learning how to treat each other. The more you talk about and study God and the hints He left for us, the more you realize it isn't so much about God, but about how we treat each other. We'll get back to the God thing later.
It's very easy to say "Love each other." It's very difficult to do. Our own agendas and justifications get in the way. Our own perspective places limits on how we are willing to see others.
For example, scientists typically hold the view that "carbon based" life forms are the only viable kind of life. Science fiction writers speculate that there can be life forms based on other molecules, such as nitrogen, phosphorous, and even silicone. Silicon is the stuff that many popular solid state devices are made from, such as the microchip (Silicon Valley), which can "think" in a rudimentary way. Scientists are usually very quick to poo-poo any findings of any evidence of any other types of life. It's inconceivable to many.
In an excellent science fiction story, Terry Bisson has characters who are robots who are made out of silicon. They pay a visit to Earth and pick up a few samples of people. They report back their astonished findings, "They're made out of meat." They make machines to communicate. The response: "That's ridiculous. How can meat make a machine? You're asking me to believe in sentient meat." Which leads to: "You're not understanding, are you? You're refusing to deal with what I'm telling you. The brain does the thinking. The meat." The reply: "Thinking meat! You're asking me to believe in thinking meat!"
If you look at the things that the major religious figures have said, we have that same sense of skepticism. Be kind to one another? Love others as ourselves? Love our neighbors? Turn the other cheek. Love our enemies? Huh? Meat can think? Doing these things is nuts! You've got to be kidding!
In fact, even many religious organizations tend to withdraw from these statements, placing limitations on them. "Oh, those people aren't our neighbors. Turning the other cheek and loving our neighbors - let the police and military and the government handle those people - anybody but us. It's someone else's problem. They will only take advantage of you if you try to help them. Well, you know, those people are our enemies - get real."
In some ways, we do have to be guarded. It takes years of growth to understand how to help others without destroying us both. Yet others, like Mother Teresa, help others all of their lives without ever worrying about being taken advantage of. Love one another? What? Meat can think? Impossible! Unheard of! Too radical!
Next: Opening our minds. Click Page 2 above.