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Author Topic: What role should religion play in a modern life?  (Read 9617 times)
Owl
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« Reply #15: November 13, 2009, 02:04:28 pm »

A friend and I were recently talking about a related subject in e-mail.  My thought, from that conversation, is that it's not so much that we need ritual to help us deal with the "why did X have to die??" questions, but that ritual can make the transition from life-with-the-deceased to life-without-the-deceased easier for those who were close to him/her.  I feel like today we're expected to just kind of deal with whatever happens and move on as quickly as possible, but that doesn't always leave any room for processing or acknowledging what's happened.  Ritual can help with that by acknowledging that something is changing, something is different, and giving us a framework to help move through that transition.  If that makes any kind of sense at all.

But then I've found myself growing more and more ritual-oriented (religiously and otherwise) these days anyway, so take that for what it's worth.

See, for me, picking up and moving on is one of my greatest strengths.  I always say as long as you can put one foot in front of the other you are ok.  

Using the funeral example, I don't draw a line in the sand that is the funeral and say 'this is the change point'.  I deal a little every day until I am done.  Or, for the relationship I'm in.  We eill get married after June 2011, when he is through paying child support (community property state - my income would raise his child support).  But the line in the sand was years ago - what we feel will not change just because we have a big party with all our friends and family.  And that line is wider than 1 day.
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« Reply #16: November 13, 2009, 02:05:48 pm »

I think the use of ritual you're describing generally falls more into the "tool" category, although sometimes people do use it as a crutch.

I think you're right - in both ways.  For many people having the tool helps them handle extreme emotion.  Even if I don't seem to work that way.
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« Reply #17: November 13, 2009, 02:12:14 pm »

We often have threads here that centre around how people experience their religion. In particular, it is not uncommon to discuss what role religion actually plays in each of our lives. I am interested in seeing if anyone else is up for a discussion on what role it should play and why? I realise it's a bit rigorous, but there has been some comment of late on the lack of more 'advanced' material that's getting airplay. So...

I shy away from the definitions of religion that include community and such, because I know so many people (most of them here at TC, and self included) who are essentially solitary practitioners and yet seem to have a pretty good grasp on their religion.  Some religion serves the purpose of community building and mutual support; not all does.  You could probably plug in a lot of other purposes in place of "community building and mutual support" there.

To me, religion is at its heart about interacting with the Gods (or, in other people's cases, the Divine, or the Universe, or whatever else they happen to believe is out there).  It's about expressing and maintaining my relationship with them.  That manifests most obviously in the form of religious ritual, but can also extend to how I conduct my life--in much the same way that maintaining a relationship with my friends and family encompasses both communicating with them and not doing things that would alienate them unnecessarily.  Religion, to me, is a word that refers to all of that, the relationship and the actions and the ways that said relationship affects my behaviour and all.

I know that's probably a little vague and still missing some stuff, but it's what I've got to start with...
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« Reply #18: November 13, 2009, 02:25:18 pm »

Using the funeral example, I don't draw a line in the sand that is the funeral and say 'this is the change point'.

Well, no.  That isn't the point of the funeral.  The point isn't "OK, this situation is over now, you need to get on with life"; that would run counter to the rest of what I was saying (or intended to say).  The funeral does, though, kind of say, "Things are different now.  It's OK to feel different," even if society is pressuring you to just go on like nothing's happened.  It's not marking the change point and confining it to that day; it's just a framework to formally acknowledge and represent a change that will of course happen more gradually and has already been happening by the time the funeral even occurs.

(The friend I mentioned from the e-mail conversation was, actually, telling me about Jewish mourning customs, which I gather extend well beyond the funeral and which I thought would be really helpful in the sense of stretching out the acknowledgement of change.  But even the abbreviated version of just having the funeral can help, in its own way.)

We're using a funeral as an example here, but really, it could be lots of things.  A marriage is more than the wedding; parenthood is more than childbirth (or, er, a ceremony acknowledging same, since childbirth is not really a ritual itself); life is more than a naming ceremony; priesthood is more than ordination; if we want to get away from potentially religious ceremonies here, a career is more than signing a contract, adulthood is more than graduation (or getting a driver's license, or whatever your chosen rite of passage is), and so on and so forth.  The ritual is never the entirety of the change; it only serves as a marker that says the change has begun sometime around this point and will presumably continue for a long time yet.
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« Reply #19: November 13, 2009, 02:28:53 pm »

We often have threads here that centre around how people experience their religion. In particular, it is not uncommon to discuss what role religion actually plays in each of our lives. I am interested in seeing if anyone else is up for a discussion on what role it should play and why? I realise it's a bit rigorous, but there has been some comment of late on the lack of more 'advanced' material that's getting airplay. So...

Religion, for me, is about choosing how to define meaning in one's life.  Everyone ultimately has to decide how to make meaning in their life, but religion provides an established framework for this. Some people need an established framework and some don't.  Some people find the mythology and wisdom literature of established religions helpful as a guide to find meaning.  Some people express the meaning they find through rituals.

Then there are people who don't need an established framework, and do not find pre-existing religion useful.

I find meaning in believing that I can uphold Ma'at.  This translates into the believe that my words and actions have an impact on the universe...that I can choose to uplift it or tear it down. 

If I didn't have that sense of meaning, I would be using my religion and the Gods as a crutch. I would have no reason to go on, and religion could be nothing for me but escapism.

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« Reply #20: November 13, 2009, 02:34:07 pm »

We often have threads here that centre around how people experience their religion. In particular, it is not uncommon to discuss what role religion actually plays in each of our lives. I am interested in seeing if anyone else is up for a discussion on what role it should play and why? I realise it's a bit rigorous, but there has been some comment of late on the lack of more 'advanced' material that's getting airplay. So...
 How does anyone feel about the thought that religion should guide us on a path of moral and ethical behavior?   As i am typing this, thoughts of Muslim terrorists keep popping up and that is the exact opposite of what I mean
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« Reply #21: November 13, 2009, 02:42:13 pm »

 How does anyone feel about the thought that religion should guide us on a path of moral and ethical behavior?   As i am typing this, thoughts of Muslim terrorists keep popping up and that is the exact opposite of what I mean

I'm divided about that.  On the one hand, religion can be an important source of good moral influence (recognizing, of course, that this what is "good" influence is subjective).  On the other hand, though, I kind of tend to think that people should be capable of moral and ethical behavior without their religion smacking them into it.  My personal approach to morals, ethics, and religion has been to look for a religion whose values are compatible with my pre-existing values rather than to look to my religion for guidance in that department.
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« Reply #22: November 13, 2009, 03:01:33 pm »

We often have threads here that centre around how people experience their religion. In particular, it is not uncommon to discuss what role religion actually plays in each of our lives. I am interested in seeing if anyone else is up for a discussion on what role it should play and why? I realise it's a bit rigorous, but there has been some comment of late on the lack of more 'advanced' material that's getting airplay. So...

For me it's probably easier to say what roles religion should not play rather than what roles it should play.

Religion should not take the place of critical thinking, it should not take the place of doing something because it's the right thing to do, it should not take the place of the scientific method, it should not grant anyone the ability to create laws dictating how people not belonging to that religion should live their lives, it should not influence law-making, it should not cause pain and suffering to other people....

Religion should be a matter of personal choice. It can provide a sense of community and a framework for experiences beyond the ken of science and logic and reason.   
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« Reply #23: November 13, 2009, 03:04:08 pm »

I'm divided about that.  On the one hand, religion can be an important source of good moral influence (recognizing, of course, that this what is "good" influence is subjective).  On the other hand, though, I kind of tend to think that people should be capable of moral and ethical behavior without their religion smacking them into it.  My personal approach to morals, ethics, and religion has been to look for a religion whose values are compatible with my pre-existing values rather than to look to my religion for guidance in that department.
 Thankyou,   My personal code of ethics and morals was developing long before I chose a particular path although it has been more clearly defined since becoming Pagan.   There is definately something scaey about using religion to control people's actions
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« Reply #24: November 13, 2009, 03:24:58 pm »

Well, no.  That isn't the point of the funeral.  The point isn't "OK, this situation is over now, you need to get on with life"; that would run counter to the rest of what I was saying (or intended to say).  The funeral does, though, kind of say, "Things are different now.  It's OK to feel different," even if society is pressuring you to just go on like nothing's happened.  It's not marking the change point and confining it to that day; it's just a framework to formally acknowledge and represent a change that will of course happen more gradually and has already been happening by the time the funeral even occurs.

(The friend I mentioned from the e-mail conversation was, actually, telling me about Jewish mourning customs, which I gather extend well beyond the funeral and which I thought would be really helpful in the sense of stretching out the acknowledgement of change.  But even the abbreviated version of just having the funeral can help, in its own way.)

We're using a funeral as an example here, but really, it could be lots of things.  A marriage is more than the wedding; parenthood is more than childbirth (or, er, a ceremony acknowledging same, since childbirth is not really a ritual itself); life is more than a naming ceremony; priesthood is more than ordination; if we want to get away from potentially religious ceremonies here, a career is more than signing a contract, adulthood is more than graduation (or getting a driver's license, or whatever your chosen rite of passage is), and so on and so forth.  The ritual is never the entirety of the change; it only serves as a marker that says the change has begun sometime around this point and will presumably continue for a long time yet.

I am going to have to admit, that a big part of my dislike of funerals (not that anyone LIKES them, but you know) is that there are too many strong emotions.  If I am already upset, I am not blocking them well.  NOT good!
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« Reply #25: November 13, 2009, 07:11:27 pm »

I'm divided about that.  On the one hand, religion can be an important source of good moral influence (recognizing, of course, that this what is "good" influence is subjective)....

Would a system that is not "an important source of good moral influence" be a religion? If yes, would it be a very good example of a religion, or would it be some sort of mutant offspring (i.e. recognisable to you as religion, but only just, or only on technical grounds)?
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« Reply #26: November 13, 2009, 07:23:06 pm »

"Should" seems like such a loaded word.

But, I'll bite. Religion should...

Good bite Smiley

"Should" is intended to be a loaded word in this instance, but I should probably have been clearer on how I am using it in this discussion. I was thinking in the context of sentences like "For a religion to be worth following it a 'sane' rational person would only choose it if it..." and "For a system of beliefs and their derived practices to be a religion, I would require/expect it to...". So I am using should to mean something close to logical necessity. I would actually prefer to be stricter on that, but I realise that people are strongly inclined to a principled inclusiveness of definition at TC and cramping people's style just kills the conversation (IMHO, as the slayer of too many Smiley).

What is your thinking behind each of the qualities that you identified as your 'shoulds' for religion?

PS: I'd ask kthat last bit of each of you that have put up your ideas so far. They've been interesting and thought provoking to read, but I'm interested to hear more about why you chose the things you did.
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« Reply #27: November 13, 2009, 08:57:30 pm »

Would a system that is not "an important source of good moral influence" be a religion? If yes, would it be a very good example of a religion, or would it be some sort of mutant offspring (i.e. recognisable to you as religion, but only just, or only on technical grounds)?

I think I would be confused by a system of interaction and relationship with deity/divine/universe/etc. that did not also include some sort of moral principles somewhere.  The core of religion to me, though, is that interaction and relationship, so I wouldn't call moral guidance a requirement, just something that seems to fit well with such a system.

I decline to comment on "good" moral influence, because that's subjective anyway.  I probably should not have used the word in the first place, sorry.
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« Reply #28: November 16, 2009, 10:44:51 am »



What is your thinking behind each of the qualities that you identified as your 'shoulds' for religion?

PS: I'd ask kthat last bit of each of you that have put up your ideas so far. They've been interesting and thought provoking to read, but I'm interested to hear more about why you chose the things you did.

Okay, I can expand on mine. they do seem a little vague now that I readdress them....

1) be a refuge in times of trouble: I think some religions I have observed do not, and some even add to burdens. I feel you should be able to lean on your gods in times of need. One of my favourite quotes, which I have printed and pinned up above my desk at work, is from the Dalai Lama. It reads as follow:

"If someone does not practice religioius virtues when times are good, they will be unable to do so when adversity arrives and faith is more urgently needed."


2) be a joy in times of plenty: In my personal practice, I am a practitioner of mindful gratefulness. When my cup runneth over, I like to share the joy with my gods. However, my faith is not about feeling guilty for what I have, or being required to pay to keep the joy coming.


3) challenge us to grow and learn and be part of the divine: there is danger in becoming stagnant in practice, or dogma. It leads us to closing our minds to other possibilities, and sometimes, to becoming unaccepting of those whose faith differes from our own. Idealy, I think religion should question us all the time, to remind us there is more than one trail to the top of the mountain.....and that some may not even aspire to climb at all.

Mostly, it should fit the individual, not demand the individual fit to it: I tend to think this is self explanatory. But, way too many people in the world bend or subvert their personal gnosis in order to conform to the dictates of their "choosen" religion. To me, that is the ultimate betrayal.

Of course, as always, YMMV
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