Mr. Cloudy's Shelter
A Place to Listen and be Heard
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2008-09-06 7:02 AM
religion and all that messy stuff
I'm contemplating a new blog/site/myspace/whatever to talk about religion and the place it has played in my life for good or ill. Religion was so important to me I worked on a PhD in it for many years. And to quote Maxwell Smart, I "missed it by that much" - for a variety of reasons.
Unfortunately when I look at the religious landscape of our times I'm afraid it has done more harm than good. And yet I'm still religious. Personally I don't find the distinction between spirituality and religion all that useful, tho' I know many others do. I figure one way or the other our religion is part of our public life, whether we practice it in a church, on the street or in our closet. If it really is the way in which we relate to whatever is most ultimate in our lives, whatever is core to our very existence, then everything in our lives is touched by it. And while I recognize that my set of beliefs and/or practices may not be the same ones you need, or that you may not experience a need for any of them. By the fact that I do believe certain things, disbelieve others, practice some things and do not practice others, I say something with my life.
And if I am saying something about what I take to be most important, then there's a good chance I'm also implicitly saying that as far as I can see, others are wrong about what is most important. That is a hard thing. And it seems just like what is bad about religion - always telling everyone else what "God's truth" is and how they ought to conform to it. This is a conflict I've sought to avoid. However, if I am to deny that it is "God's truth" then I must have some point of reference by which I say so.
Hence it seems to me I am stuck. I feel compelled to talk about all of the pain I experienced in religion - but it will be either an implicit or explicit attack on many forms of religion for me to talk about it because I will ultimately be rejecting it. And so, I want to try to talk regularly and at length about how we might be religious in the 21st Century without denying the very character of religiosity as what is most important and yet with the humility that doesn't lock itself into a fortress from which to protect one's self from "the world" or to launch assaults on the world.
In short, I want to practice finding a way to talk about what is truly most important in a way that is hospitable to others even while it takes a clear position for and against what others may say through thought, word and action.
And now I'm back to the fear of conflict thing, fear of harm thing. Perhaps what I say in such a forum will be experienced by another as just as harmful as was my experience of certain revivalist preachers. And this has kept me at bay. But it probably won't much longer becuase it just seems so important. How can we disagree about what is most important and still keep talking, keep being hospitable, etc.?
And I think this one question is the question of our time - whether it's religion, politics, or anything else that touches our common public life.
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