Saturday, February 19, 2011

religions? Religion?

When people found out my major as religion, they often asked me: Which religion are you studying? After I've told them that I study all kinds of religions, they would then follow up with this question: Do you believe in God? I don't think most of them were satisfied by my answer. Maybe this is what they were looking for.

Do you believe in God?

"Yes" - He's probably a religious lunatic who studies other religions to convince others that his belief is the way.

"No" - He's probably a douchebag atheist who studies different religions to prove how absurd they all are.

"Not sure" - He's probably lost and depressed; studying religions to fill the void.

Usually I would answer "Yes, but..." or "Not sure if I would call it God". Sometimes I wanted to say: "God doesn't need my faith to be real." but that just sounds rude. The point I'm trying make is, whether I believe in God or not is irrelevant; what's relevant is what I'm seeking and how I'm seeking.  And do they really thought that they could understand me within a few sentences?

It's interesting how many pass a quick judgment on others.  I have people calling me a Nietzschean when I said something similar to the concept of Perspectivism. Some related me with Baruch Spinoza's Panentheism. Or that I believed in Bahá'í Faith while others claimed it's Unitarian Universalism. I read into these concepts and found them to be astounding, at least on the parts that I concur. None of them describes me and yet they shove these labels down my throat like my life depends on them.

From the time I started seeking truth, I've never thought of which belief system or philosophical view that I'm associated with. Why? Because I'm constantly changing, evolving from moment to moment. It's impossible to pinpoint where something is at when it's moving constantly. 99% of the existing concepts of reality is like a rope that ties you down to the ground, slowing you down to a crawl.  Don't get me wrong, you can definitely learn a lot from them; just don't identify yourself exclusively to one of them.

You can attach a thousand labels on anything and still be wrong; you may get close, but still wrong. As Tao Te Ching said it perfectly, "The name that can be named is not the eternal name." Give yourself a minute or two to digest that. I've explained that line in depth here.

If names cannot describe us, what can? I'll talk about our eternal aspect as human beings within the next few posts. Now let's go back to the naive ones; before sticking that label on me, please take a step back and understand what does studying Religion means.  What is a religion?

Elements of religion 

A man goes to church every Sunday, listens to preachings and sing to praise God.  Religious?

Goat sacrificing.  Religious?

Abiding by the rules of the church.  Religious?

A religious man may do any of the things listed above.  However, unless he bases all of his religious practices on the essential dimension of religion, he's missing the whole point.

Doctrinal and Philosophical

Without this dimension,

the cross: a lucky charm
church: club for people to socialize
mythical story: another fairy tale
morals: just something you have to follow (like the 5 monkeys below)
a story about 5 monkeys
Those who solely focus on the institution of a religion are like those monkeys, who act in a certain way without knowing why.  Those who focus on the institution of a religion more than its philosophy are fetish, which is having an obsessive attachment to a secondary object instead of the primary.

The primary objective of a religion is seeking the truth by studying religious texts philosophically (NOT literally).  You question everyone including yourself and examine the origin.  You, with your own mind, think.

At this basic level of intellect (philosophical and rational), various religions can actually have a meaningful conversation between them.

This dimension is what connects religions to the truth that's both eternal and universal (applies to every single human being).  Let me show you with this chart below (made casually to illustrate some points).

Different religions have their own traditions and texts and etc.  However, as one studies their theology (the rational and systematic study of religion), the result is the realization of truths that can be transferred and applied to different religions.  At this level, religions no longer differentiate from one another.  They become one Religion with a capital R.

From there, you develop your own Religion, without the need of institution, social gatherings, or any religious traditions for that matter.  To clarify, I'm not saying you shouldn't do any of those things; it's just that you don't need them.  Instead of looking at other religions' flaws, you look at what they have in common with your religion.  Because that which is true can be transferred and applied to other religions, science, philosophies, life, EVERYTHING.

Studying Religion = thinking about reality via religious texts across different religions philosophically, rationally.  

I study Religion.

(But what am I?)

Credit to professor Adluri.

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