In my last post I talked a lot about anthropology and order vs. chaos. Perhaps you might wonder why the name of the blog is “The Thinking Saint” since I have not mentioned religion at all. That is a fair question, so let me offer a fair answer.
Religion has always been a major part of my life. When I was young, I did not understand why my parents went to church, just that I was going with them. As I grew, I began to experiment with religion myself–reading scriptures, praying to God, trying to live the 10 commandments, being kind to others, etc,. For the most part, my life was pretty easy and the trials I faced didn’t really seem to phase my belief in God or my efforts towards religion. As I have said before, I haven’t really been someone that seeks to defy authority and push boundaries, so I don’t really have a problem with having religion as part of my life. I don’t view religion as something that holds me back, just as something that helps me to navigate chaos.
But what happens when obeying the tenets of religion suddenly seem to not make any sense?
For the record, I believe very firmly that there is a God. I find that there is too much order in the universe to deny that He is. Let’s take the pile of laundry example for instance–how did it get there? Why isn’t it folding and organizing itself? When will it put itself away? It’s not going to happen if someone comes a long and does something with it. Someone that can envision something more for that manky pile of clothes than just sitting there with no meaning and greater purpose. That’s about the easiest way I can explain my faith in God.
I also believe that God has a son, and that his name is Jesus Christ. I believe that at one time in the far distant past, all mankind lived in the presence of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. In order for us to gain the experience of ordering chaos, I believe we were all given a chance to come to earth to obtain mortal bodies and seek out experience. I believe that Jesus Christ came to earth as a mortal too, made careful decisions about how he would lead his life, and in the end, I believe that he consciously chose to suffer and die for all of us so that we could return to the presence of God the Father and Jesus Christ.
I believe our mortal journey is messy and clouded by ignorance, but that mess and ignorance do not need to be the sum of our journey. That is why religion makes sense to me, because it offers a method for gaining knowledge and ordering one’s life around a set of rules. I think that some religions offer more than others, but value each religion for the truth that each one offers. I think that if someone lives up to their beliefs the best way they know how, they are closer to order than the original chaos we all came from.
Does that mean that I discriminate against those that don’t care for religion?
Not at all.
One of the great things that I enjoyed in my studies in Anthropology was the tendency to value all cultures, social groups, and peoples as unique individuals that share a desire to fulfill basic needs and wants in the most comfortable way possible. We all come to our conclusions from different starting points, and we don’t all end up at the same end point, but we all seek for happiness, health, and comfort. To each their own. That is one thing that is so interesting about culture–it is a social agreement that we make with one another to uphold the “group” effort towards prosperity.
Religion is just a small part of the overall picture.
Back to the original question:
So what happens when one’s religion suddenly doesn’t seem to make any sense?
The easiest answer would be to just walk away.
I get it, and I’ve seen it happen before. Giving up is the easy answer
But that’s not what I did. I dug deeper. I did what I always do, and I asked “Why?!”
What is the point of praying to a God,reading scriptures, obeying commandments, and serving others if, in the end, my prayers go unanswered?!
Well, that is the very question I hope to answer with this blog. Because, guess what? There is a point–all of those things I listed above:
- praying to God
- reading scriptures
- obeying commandments
- serving others
They all serve to change who we are on the outside and on the inside. Yes, we become kinder and achieve a beautiful soul, but it also changes the very biological makeup of our physical being. It enhances our brain and can even change our DNA.
Does that sound crazy?
I think that might sound a little bit crazy, but religion didn’t make much sense to me until I combined the study of it with the study of anthropology.
What exactly does the study of anthropology combine?
- art history
- food ways
Basically, it is a deep dive into how humans have ordered chaos throughout history. Chaos on all levels, from cellular all the way up to political and beyond.
I’ve basically stated that I am a Christian, so lets just get that out of the way–yes, I am a Christian. However, being a christian has not stifled my interest and excitement in studying all other religions, so let that not cloud judgement here.
One thing that I have noticed about people that have been part of a cultural group for long periods of time is that sometimes truth get’s mixed up with tradition. Traditions are a great way to pass information to the next generation and to cement belief in ritualized actions, but they also tend to turn important elements of a belief structure into a cliche. Essentially, the reason for doing something gets lost to the past instead of remaining in the forefront of our mind.
What if, just what if, there really is something about religion that is more profound than just the traditions and cliches that we have carried on over the years?
I think there is, and I want to share those things with you.
I hope you don’t get turned off by the mention of religion. I know, I know, it’s a rather decisive topic right now, but I don’t think it has to be. I wish it wouldn’t because there is so much to be learned. So much I have learned.
In the posts beyond, we are going to explore what religion can teach us about the brain, homeostasis, meta-cognition, shame, folklore, language, etc. And…what each of those things can teach us about religion.
A very dear friend once stood up in front of the entire congregation and said something so profound that it has stuck with me since–
“Sometimes you have to lose sight of God in order to find your way back.”
Like I said before, when tradition and cliche become trite, significance and meaning become lost. The only way to find our way back is to turn our back on what we think we know and venture out into the darkness on our own to find out what is really truth.
But that is all a topic for a different day.
I do hope you will join me.