Sunday, July 09, 2006

Belivers and Non-believers on the Left Must Unite For the Common Good
Part One: in which I come clean

It would suit me if this blog didn't have to deal with the divisive, complex and extremely personal topic of religion but the fact is most Americans believe in a God and belief has a profound impact on our politics. Religion can't be ignored or dismissed. The participation of both non-believers and believers is essential for the left to succeed politically in the United States.

I don't think that the left would come out the loser in an honest religious fight. Make that an HONEST fight, not one assuming that the imperial religion the Republican right promotes is the alpha and omega of "faith". It's not even the alpha, they, themselves, don't believe most of it but that's for later. Before going on I'm going to let you know where I'm coming from on the issue.

About religion, nothing can be objectively known. Science deals with the physical world as observable and meaureable phenomena. No measurements, no science. Science is plainly the most successful way of knowing about the universe. Religion doesn't deal with what is knowable in an objective way. Religion is belief of something beside what can be physically known. Real religious belief can't be objectively passed on by reason or repeatable observations, it has to be experienced personally. Remember, I'm talking about authentic religious beliefs, not about fundamentalism or organized, dogmatic religion. This isn't an encyclopedic survey of asserted beliefs.

I believe in God. I can't tell you what that means. Again, religious belief is an experience not a logical argument that can be transferred. The experience didn't really happen to me until I'd studied non-theistic Buddhism and saw that not surviving death held no terrors. If you are gone after death then there will be no suffering and all you need to worry about is what happened while you were alive. A single life contains as much of the universe and eternity that you can experience. What is outside that life effectively doesn't exist for you. I felt very comfortable with that idea, it gave me a profound sense of peace. The Buddhist doctrine of the end of pain put me at peace with the fate of all those I knew and loved and I expected that to be the end of the search.

But something unexpected happened on the way to where this would lead. I suddenly believed in God, not the God of my youth but an indefinable though deeply felt experience. I also believed in universal salvation, of continued conscious existence, eventually beyond pain, for every sentient being.

If you want to challenge me to account for this belief I fully admit that I can't prove any of it. Anyone who pretends that they can prove it is lying. You are entirely within your rights to reject it. You are within your rights to suspect that it's a psychological aberration, an odd ball quirk of personality or some weakness. Though I hope that you couldn't find anything in my actions to support those accusations.

I don't think the worse of you if you don't believe and don't think that disbelief is a sign of moral failing. Several of the people I have respected and loved most were complete and aggressive atheists who I refuse to believe are suffering in any way due to their honest disbelief. I don't believe that honest atheists enjoy less divine favor than I do, in fact, I seriously suspect that my belief might indicate that the deity doesn't trust me to be a decent person without it. I fully accept on the basis of observable actions that complete non-believers are sometimes fully as moral or even more moral than some religious believers.

I will, however, object if you are rude or rudely dismissive while you are being skeptical of someone's belief on the bases of discourteousness and impracticality.

The practical implications of religion and the left are the subjects of this uncharted and irregular series. The belief is personal and so prone to being entirely wrong, the actions resulting from the political agenda of the left are real. As the Zen scholar D.T. Suzuki might say, they are real in every sense of the word. Their reality makes them morally imperative in a way that personal belief cannot be. Religion like political philosophy and economic theory should be judged on the actions and results that arise from it, not from the idealized descriptions and assertions of it.

There, that's about all of that and you shouldn't have to put up with much more first person in this series.

Post Script: See Harvey Cox in the Ideas section of today's Boston Globe. While I think he's being a bit optimistic he is fair.

If I may blogwhore rather than commentwhore, I actually talk about Sen. Obama's speech in my blog today (well actually I wrote the post last night, but uploaded it this mid-day) because it's time to beat some dead red heifers.

Promote your posts any time you want. I don't know why it got called blog whoring, the commercial media doesn't mind promoting itself why should the non-commercial media not point it out.

Great post, alberich, long and rich. I'll have to read it a couple of times.
Thank you for the invite and you're welcome for the compliment.
I can't say I followed the same route but I arrived at the same destination.
Since I am not in a competition to convince others about what I don't find explicable or rational - but comforting/illuminating - I find it odd that many find it necessary to define this down to philosophy or mysticism.
I'd find it simpler to say I find prayer is good. And theology ? I'm not in charge, never was or will be, and don't have much of a responsibility except enjoy my life experience. Not acting like a jerk is preferred social etiquette.
So as to the answers to life's questions ? Hope for the future and faith things will work out : though not in a way I would or could choose for myself. Not my job.
Thanks for laying it on the line.
Proponents for mass produced enlightenment are wearing : I think some call this a personal relationship with God. It works just fine.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?