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My ideas are constantly changing as I learn. Sometimes they even change midway through writing a post.

Friday, September 16

Cultural Religious Traditions - Harmless?

While exploring the sources of some of my hits, a post title caught my eye.

Non-Benign Cultural Tradition

The source of this perspective surprised me. It seems to be an American religious person in India. My first thought had been from a completely different point of view - an American who finds herself sometimes struggling to explain the harm or problem with having a false belief in god. It's commonly put to me that if you believe in God, "If you're wrong, then no harm done." I disagree, but it's difficult to express why.

It is so much a part of the culture that I have difficulty separating out my own false assumptions related to my old beliefs in God. Mostly, it's a gut feeling that truth is primary no matter what. I've seen a commitment to truth as a first step that must be completed before the next step "What should I do?" can be answered. The problem is, truth it isn't so easy to find. Indeed, it is so difficult to find, that it seems like morality itself (for us mere mortals anyway) must reflect how to act in accordance with this difficulty.

Here's one way I think about it sometimes:

There's truth. There's your beliefs about it. You want them to coincide as much as possible. I imagine a graph with a curve where the truth is and another curve, less steady and sometimes a bit off, sometimes widely off which would represent my (or anyone's) knowledge of it.

You're a fallible human being who could be wrong about any aspect of your beliefs. Holding onto a particular belief too strongly (like God) can mean you're stuck in some coordinate that isn't quite the truth and may even be quite far from the truth. Being flexible in your beliefs can mean you are able to get closer (or farther) from the truth.

I've been wondering which was the better way to be. Should a person grab onto some belief and hang tight, "hang loose", or strive with every effort to get as close to the truth as possible. What if the path to truth isn't a straight line? What if a belief in religion somehow leads to a better understanding of truth? What if it keeps people from ever understanding it?

I'm getting off track here. Back to the post. The author, who happens to share my name, btw, mentions a book she has been thinking of. I enjoyed that part because it's much the way I think about things and, of course, I immediately had to find it on Amazon and mark it for future reference:

Breaking Strongholds in Your City edited by C. Peter Wagner

A fascinating thing I've found is that although people can have very different ways of thinking and saying things, they can have quite a lot in common too. She goes on to quote from the book. I wanted to quote it all at first, but I have finally narrowed it down to the bit that really caught my eye:

... “Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of children a day are born into these enchanted systems around the world. Nearly all of them grow up hearing about the lie... The power of the lie, fueled by demonic magic, is called tradition; and it is tradition, in turn, that sustains the territorial dynasties.”


... but month by month as “cultural traditions” continue to come. That original contract with the devil is being signed over and over and over again.
posted by Rebecca O


I almost dismissed the whole thing over that last little bit, but then I thought about it a bit more. I would agree except I'd change a few terms and interpret it a bit differently. "The lie" would be the idea that one can just adopt a belief like "God" and think one has found the truth. Tradition, I think, sustains both the good and the the bad - whether it be territorial dynasties or religious traditions. I think religion has both aided and hindered the pursuit of truth. Having a semi-stable set of beliefs can allow people to focus on other areas of knowledge. It can also leave them stuck thinking that the Earth is the center of the Universe.

1 comment:

gon4good said...

Religion and harmless, by all rights, don't belong in the same sentence, given the underlying "holy" motivations for September 11th, jihads, the IRA, Salem witches, Inquisitions, Crusades, ad nauseum. It occurred to me, while reading your post, that I'm not sure that many of us have actually questioned the word "holy", which I suspect is at the root of all of our religions and religious traditions. Where did the "holy" concept come from, and just who says so? Yes, we all want to conjure some aspect of sacredness around a universal being with such immense power (at least a power we bestow on this entity, real or simply a figment of our religious leanings). But, as limited mortals, we cannot truly know for sure that, if a God exists (and I hope one does), that he/she is the ONLY God. Or if among some hierarchy of multiple Gods, the one we aspire to please is even considered "holy". For all we know, OUR God may be the wino/street person within the God family, given that all families have a black sheep. Anyways, just my opinion, but I think entirely to much credence is given to the whole idea of what might be important to a being in charge of it all. If I ever started my own church, it would be called, "The Church of God Really Doesn't Give a Shit About All That Crap" and would focus simply on trying to do good for good's sake, with absolutely zero motivation for being comfortable in an afterlife.

Lee