Okrzyki, przyjaciel! (chaircrusher) wrote,
Okrzyki, przyjaciel!

The Drive To Religion

I think it occurs to everyone on my side of the aisle sooner or later: what are all those committed Christians and Moslems and Jews on about? What is the thing that drives them into the arms of a world view was formed 1000 years ago, who see Angels and Devils stalking us in the shadows?

Even I have my own impulse towards the mystic; I go to Quaker Meeting. The reason I go there is that Quaker meeting (at least the one I attend) is pretty heterodox. They don't really put you on the spot about belief, there's an emphasis on service over declarations of faith, and their on the right team politically. No one, in ten years of attending, has ever asked me what I believe, really.

But I find something there in the silent worship that makes me want to go back. This has something to do with feeling a part of the lives of the other people there, but on a good first day as I'm sitting there listening to people breath, I get a feeling rising up my back of immanent divinity, that I've "come down where I ought to be", and that the world and the people in it are holy and deserving of love, my love, and love in general.

I don't believe in a supernatural Guy In Charge God. I don't think eternal life is a decideable proposition. I don't think Angels and Devils stalk the shadows. But I think that feeling I get, and the desire for that feeling must be universal. I suspect that there are certain patterns of thought, and more than that, shared patterns of thought in a group, that actually changes brain chemistry. It's a sort of call to your spirit to rise out of your monkey nature, into serving something higher.

But, unfortunately, that all gets mixed up in Beliefs. The first lesson one should derive from any study of science or philosophy is that any system of Axioms or Beliefs is provisional and should be continually tested against the real world. Philip K. Dick famously said that "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." What all the fundamentalists share in common is that they want you to accept THEIR model as the reality. They not only mistake the map for the territory, they believe the map is the territory, and that all other maps are lies.

Now, in isolation, it's easy for people to see the fallacy there. But the fundamentalists have a powerful inducement to offer people: they can hold out that 'god feeling' I describe above as a reward. That feeling is addictive, and exists independent of the truth or fallacy of the associated beliefs. The 'god feeling' doesn't pass any judgement on the beliefs with which it winds up coincident; so any saucepan-wearing nutjob with a dram of charisma can gather up a congregation of true believers.

But here's the thing: that feeling -- of belonging where you are, of compassion and empathy with those around you -- can also help you be better than you are, and do great things that advance all of us. If there was a way for all of us everywhere to share that, without it being tied to a religion or ideology, what could we do together? Or rather, what couldn't we do?
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