Thursday, July 31, 2008

I want to thank all those who were so kind to share their thoughts so extensively in my previous post, AgnosticWriter, Michael Fridman, e-kvetcher, B. Spinoza, The.Signifier, and Da Candy Man. I look forward to hearing more from you. Anyone else, don't be shy. You probably know far more than I do ;o)

I'd like to summarize what we've discussed and I've discovered through this conversation. Any comments on this too would be appreciated.

1) There can be passion and fervor outside of religion, (thank goodness!) inspired through art, poetry, oratory, music, athletics and dance, contemplation and study of the universe and human nature, culture, human interaction and social activism, mysticism and meditation, ideologies, and mass movements.

2) There can be religious experience and passion, even in a religious setting (i.e. UU ) without the dogmatism. Though I do find UU to be a HUGE step in the right direction, it's not for me as superstitious and primitive beliefs are not criticized. Though I am open and tolerant toward everyone no matter what their personal beliefs may be, I reserve the right to remain critical of the dogmatic, irrational, superstitious beliefs themselves.

3) Religion is multifaceted and very difficult to define. Different personalities will be drawn to different aspects. The facets of religion are in short: worldview, ideology, philosophy, ethics, aesthetics, mysticism, community, social and political structure.

4) There may be dangers to a religious type of fervor. It seems that a healthy skepticism could keep this horse in reins. Perhaps these dangers should be fleshed out a bit more.

5) I am still a little fuzzy on the quantity and quality of this type of fervor that is available to the skeptic in particular. Will someone who once was motivated by religious belief be able to capture the same fervor once it is rejected? AW, mentioned this and I'd like some more clarity and suggestions.

6) Art, mysticism, and community seem to have reoccurred throughout. I am especially interested in mysticism. I'm wary of community because of the influence of group-think and social constraints. I like art but it's not "my thing," as they say. However, I do NOT mean to shut down these other parts of the conversation as I feel that discussing these ideas will keep me open and help me to understand and relate to others. (Always selfish, aren't I? ;-)

7) It has been suggested that mysticism transcends beyond culture, time and place in a particular way, perhaps better then or in ways unavailable to secularism, and to complete what may be an incomplete scientific, materialist worldview. Though I want this to be true, I am still very skeptical. It seems too vague and frankly, too good to be true. What is its relationship with science and what is it's function for the individual and humanity? I hope to get more clarity on this as well.

Finally somewhat summed up in AW's three questions,

1. (How) Can we reap the benefits of religion, without planting its lying seeds?

2. (How) Can we find deep engagement outside of religion?

3. (How) Can we find deep meaning/mission outside of religion?

Religion, the thing that anthropologists study, is a human universal and seemingly fills critical human needs and functions. I have no desire to fall back into it's superstition and false ideologies or in being a part of a particular religious community in the traditional sense. I wish to move beyond strict cultural\religious boundaries. Yet I do not wish to deny myself of any benefit or fulfillment that may be rescued from religion.

Just a triple bypass heart surgery is all. Join in the fun!