July 12, 2011


Questioning things isn't pretty


I recently came across that one from a FB friend, and aside from it being one of the better bumper sticker aphorisms I've seen, it is today's topic (seems that getting back into blogging isn't going to be all lighthearted fun after all. Who knew?).

The Internet has proved to be such a great tool for impromptu, casual forums, in particular for religion and politics. Formerly taboo subjects for polite conversation, these twins have latched on to the fact that the Innertubes are often less than polite if not just plain insufferable - the speed of technology makes it harder and harder to hold on to good ideas and remain intellectually honest with out going all troll. In the midst of trying to be a better person, which at times seems like a nowhere-to-go-but-up proposition, like a raven I still look for the shiny objects to plunder and horde. Thankfully the times for needing to deliver the smackdown, meet my match, or duel to a draw are waning, and I'm relieved to see calm, measured, respectful and knowledgeable discussion increasing.

So today, let's take religion. A recent Gallup poll posits that nearly one-third of the people in the U.S. believe the Bible is to be taken literally. I perceive that number to be big, and it's actually down 10 percent from a peak in the 1980s. The poll shows the unsurprising trend that belief in a literal interpretation of the Bible declines as educational attainment increases.

Speaking of which, it was also not surprising that a fellow writer, seminary student, and FB friend from whom I shared the link wryly questioned how many of the 30 percent have sold all they own and given it to the poor. A commenter replied with a question, "How do we interpret God's word without clouding the truth with our own biases and those of society?"

Indeed, "the truth" is always elusive and most of the time impossible to fully ascertain, but for me and many other seekers it's not about recognizing anything written down by men as canonical. Eschewing that has served me well since the time when my Christian faith began to diminish because of, as is written in Ecclesiastes, "making many books" and from trying to parse meanings as literal, figurative, or metaphorical. The seminary student commented that the only way to go deeper than interpreting an interpretation is by "knowing, experiencing, and opening ourselves to God."

I agree on two of three points -  opening ourselves to spiritual experiences is important, if difficult in the lives of the paycheck to paycheck lower middle class parents of a special needs child (I've done precious little of it in the past few years, and struggled with depression knowing that any justification, rationalization, or excuse is not insurmountable). But I have to draw the line between me and so many religious people in my belief that "knowing" is dangerous ground for anyone to stand on, whether a believer or an atheist.

The "Questioning" FB friend said in a separate discussion that they suffered PTSD from their past religious experiences. They said that it put them "at risk of being overly judgmental of the god that has been created by man, and of forgetting that there is a peaceful function for many people in religion." At the risk of sounding crass - Amen, brother. I also deal with PTSD of that type, and part of the continuing struggle with that is dealing with my occasional bigotry toward religion, particularly hyper-dogmatic, doctrinaire Christians. As I stated in my recent post on the Pledge, I strive to apply my faith in the human ability to love one another, including our "enemies." I can overcome the seeming harshness of the latter by considering - how often is someone truly that?

But I am going to need a LOT of tweaking, because I am a product of those who "know," and that tends to have me, perhaps like most people on this planet, wanting conclusions instantly and missing the usually wonderful, always unfinished process of discovery. As Questioning pointed out, "dogma is living with the results of other people's thinking," and while I'm getting better at calling out dogma, I hope I can eventually eliminate my usual kneejerk reactions of either pummeling dogmatists with all that I "know" or running away screaming in judgment. Better results should come from my often being mindful of Jung's famous quote, "Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves." And if questioning things isn't pretty, understanding them ain't the belle of the ball, either. Shall we dance?

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Ramen, brother Tim!
Nice piece Tim, I share your skepticisnm yet can't shake the trappings of my upbringing... or the Fundie relatives that altho I think their interpretation of teh "Good Book" is unconcionably literal I cannot disown what is one of the most accepting (of me, not my political allies) parts of my family. We are at opposite ends of the spectrum and their continually voting against their (and Our) best interest) based soley on abortion is frightening, I have given up trying to get them to see teh "light" that they should be voting for the people who actually feed, house and clothe the poor, the very core of the message of their messiah, It's a waste of time... yet they still love me and when i visit on cross country trips (they are in Indiana) it is always a great stay, no preaching , no politics , just good midwestern food a soft bed and good company. I only wish they could see my "light" Bob S
I'm just impressed that you posted something about religion and did not get 43 comments, as a result, that ended in jagged and bruised egos across the Internet. Liked the Jung quote. Is that like "I'm rubber and you're glue?"
I guess there's an advantage to growing up with loosey goosey anything goes religion. When you're old enough to sort things through you can then become dogmatic and judgemental and feel good about it. I do.
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