For many people, religion is a kind of trance. We are taught to say the same words over and over, and, to further claim that those words are what we “believe”. Faith, then, is holding onto those beliefs without any other evidence but the approval of the people who taught us.
Most Americans have never read one page of scripture from any other world religion. If they hear a new idea, one not included in the words they have memorized, they consider it wrong by definition. So, an entire ocean of shared wisdom lies untapped.
There is also a religion that is based on breaking our trances. This religion calls us to honest awareness, and intimate relationship. This religion is extremely rare. It is the religion of Einstein and Schweitzer. It is the meeting place of mystic and skeptic alike. It is the one true religion: love.
Well, you KNOW I agree with this! But, it doesn’t end there, does it? Because the concept of “love” — especilly within our materialistic, patriarchal, racist, dualistic culture — also has to be broken down. What is it, really?
Many years ago, I read bell hooks’ All About Love. I really liked her definition of love because it wasn’t sappy or sentimental and it incorporated the importance of responsibility. Fundamentally, she said love isn’t something you FEEL, it’s something you DO.
I “feel” very strongly about this, because my whole life I’ve had absent or hateful people say the words “I love you,” and I always knew it wasn’t true. That wasn’t love.
So, hooks was really writing critically about love in terms of interpersonal relationships — not just romantic, but also what often passes for love between parents and children, etc. I guess where I’m going here is… what is this “love” as religion?
I have my thoughts on this… but I guess I want to hear more from you! 😉 Because ending at “love” is too easy unless people take responsibiity for what LOVE means.
I was raised going to church (Disciples of Christ). I don’t know what I really learned there … mostly songs, I think! But my mom always told me that God is love.
I think it took some living, and studying yoga philosophy (the Sutras and the Gita), for me to really intellectually grasp and *experience* divinity as love. And there, the love is not mushy… it’s love within the context of discernment. Again, it’s not feeling, it’s doing. is THAT religion?
you asked for a conversation! 😉
Yes I do want a conversation. I like your comments. I’ll do a thumbnail try and then wait for your version of an answer. I agree that “love” can be a more obscure word than “God.” I see love as a balance of the classic virtues of courage, temperance, justice and wisdom. Paul also listed virtues when he spoke of love, Cor. 13 being the best example. Love is obviously a relationship as well as an identity. It is a harmony within the person, and a desire and commitment for that same harmony in others. I’ve never heard a good definition of the word, but that’s my first attempt at a response. What is your definition.
I like that. Clearly, I need actually to learn more about the Bible and the religion in which I was raised. I think that’s partly driving my interest here… can I really find what I’ve found in yoga and nature and romantic love in Christianity?
In her book, hooks defined love as “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” And she spends 13 chapters explaining all the nuances of that definition. The book was truly a revelation for me when I first read it — or, at least 12 years ago.
Looking at it again, I am thinking of new things I need to work on, namely, *extending* myself for my ownr growth. Since my mom died, I think I’ve shrunk a little. She did SO much of this loving of me for 41 years. I never had to do it all for myself… She really embodied hooks’ concept of love.
In practice up to now, the main lesson I took from hooks was the idea of love as a verb, not a noun. But then, in love, I have experienced what felt like “the divine” — a noun. What is that divnie thing? Is that love, too?
But I think what sparked my initial comment was a little feeling of righteous indignation over the tossing around of this term — love. YOU aren’t misusing it. But so many people do… so I get mad that you might say religion is love or god is love and then people fill in their own lousy meaning of love.
I feel like I am a very spiritual person. But I have become so jaded by what passes as Christianity and what I feel like is a very one-dimensional ideas of “god” (and all the things that go with it — heaven, prayer) that when people talk about them, or say, “I’m praying for [fill in the blank],” I have to go through this whole mental exercise of convincing myself that what they mean is not “I’m praying to a guy who lives in the sky who actively intervenes to cure cancer or take away pain”… or whatever. It ends up separating me from the good intention of the person saying it… and that separation is the antithesis of love.
SO… I guess I’m just rambling on about my own problem with judging people, and judging my myself.
Not asking for an answer… but would “love” your thoughts.
Love is carnal reproduction. Love is the scent of a woman, not her perfume. Love is not a high minded set of classic virtues that have nothing to do with sweat, babies, and the affection I still have for my father even after he scourges me with an extension cord. Love is the voice that asked me if I wanted the revolver to jam after five clicks with no bang. Clean revolvers don’t jam; this one was stainless and spotless. The one true religion isn’t Love; that’s ridiculous. If I asked for love, you’d point me to names like Einstein and Schweitzer, but not the titles of their works? Why? You didn’t know them. You might know their books, but that’s about it. Why names of popular men who don’t divide men? You’re a pastor, why not Christ?
You complained about Americans not knowing other world religions, but don’t defend them. I wanted to find God and religion in the sword verse. I wanted to find everything I was looking for in that volume. I didn’t. Some do find their lives in the sword verse. If I found my life there, I would not be wrong, just violent and a bit cold when it comes to people I can’t submit. If you want to defend that, go ahead. I won’t. Should filial piety extend to the knuckles of my older brother? I hope not. If it does, I will not worship. Suffering to me is not craving. My worst suffering came at the tips of knuckles and lashes, for sure, but also knowing I could never make their wielders understand by myself without the sword verse or something like it. It’s ghastly. They will never know. Love doesn’t end suffering, it extends the practice in our children. Name me someone who has not suffered his parents. Suffering is a lesson, and one we won’t learn without guidance. My best guidance didn’t come from Einstein or other rare, scientific men most Americans will never understand. Referring me to Einstein is pointless; I can’t do the math, but I am no dunce. I’m smart enough to know that no one who can’t do the math can ever call you on the particulars of general relativity. That’s clever. My best guidance on my suffering came from my grandmother who wrote “Proverbs” above the Sermon on the Plain in her own hand, but that’s holding on to beliefs with no other evidence but the person who taught me. That is no trance. I do not meditate any more.
Mystic? Skeptic? I am neither. People do not congregate around general relativity. It excludes idiots at math like me. I might as well go to Latin mass. Without knowing Latin, should we? Albert Schweitzer might be a better choice for a congregation of people familiar with his words. He preached the Gospel. People would wonder about Jesus. One more question: you invoke Einstein and Schweitzer’s names without a single word about their concepts. How is that different from following the approval of the people who taught you?
I’m not sure I am following you here. Are you saying I shouldn’t write a blog mentioning Einstein unless I understand the math behind his theory? Are you saying I shouldn’t bring up other religions unless I can defend them in every aspect? Are you saying a preacher should just talk about Jesus and nothing else? Help me understand better what you are saying here.
A knowledge of and understanding of differential equations is an absolute requirement for studying Einstein. If you don’t understand the math, and I don’t, Einstein shouldn’t be on the short list for what to study away from scripture. If you want to attack Americans at large, or anyone for that matter, for not knowing world belief systems apart from their own, you should at least address some of their value, and why. I touched on a few I know well: Islam, Buddhism, and Confucianism. I purposefully stayed away from Hinduism. It would take me fifteen to twenty years of study to approach the level of knowledge I’d feel comfortable for criticism. If I am damned because I don’t know that faith, so be it. I’d love to hear your thoughts on Buddha, Mohammed, and Confucius.
If you’re going to talk about Love being the one true religion, I think the dig on Americans who don’t study world religion is a little out of bounds. How is loving or not loving related to the relative knowledge of world religion? My grandmother taught me one of the best bible and learning lessons I’ve ever received without knowing anything about Islam, Confucius, Buddha or Einstein. She taught me not to hate Proverbs. I listened to her because she’s my grandmother. If my pastor had simply said “Proverbs” when talking about the Sermon on the Plain, I wouldn’t have listened. Why is Einstein a good name to toss around, especially if your audience doesn’t understand the math that is the entire basis for his work, while the relatively anonymous ones who teach their children as best as they know how using the best ideas they know are completely inadequate?
Thomas, thank you so much for writing back. I understand your concern better. Einstein wrote a lot more than mathmatical equations. He wrote a lot on the human situation trying to help people get beyond the limits of their nation and sect. That is what I am trying to do as well. If your fine thinking was influenced by studying world religions, wouldn’t that imply that it is good advice not bad?
It’s helpful to listen to other religions for the same reason it’s helpful to learn other languages. In some ways we only know what language is if we know more than one.
It sounds like my essay hit you the wrong way. If it’s worth your time you might read some of my other writings and see if I’m as simplistic as it seems to you now. In any case I appreciate your taking time to respond.