But since I know you all so well, and I don’t remember any of you accusing me of being polite… I present more random thoughts on religion.
(this article was written in my religion wiki, some formatting may not carry through – feel free to read the original, currently at the bottom of the “general” page if this turns out looking like some obscure variation of cuneiform.)
These ideas came to me today while having a discussion1 on religion in general with a devout, (recent?) convert to Christianity. I struggled to hold them in my head until I could get them into words – too often I have amazingly lucid thoughts that never make it into any sort of permanent form; I need to get better at this.
In trying to determine an analogy for “god/God”, I came upon the idea that “god” is a wave2, perhaps a harmonic, that we can feel. This wave pushes us through life on the path of “right”, and following that path, not fighting the wave, feels good/right. This idea was countered by the axiom that god gave us a conscience, which helps us to know right from wrong. This does not contradict my idea, just offers another demonstration of how humans have given a name to a concept.
My thought here is that the concept of god is another attempt to give a name to what we don’t understand; in this case, the wave.
I recognize the human need to quantify everything we encounter – thus, as I’ve stated before, the need for god to exist. Not God, in fact, but the concept of god as a name given to that tidal force of life that we all feel in various ways. Of course, this force can be misinterpreted just as easily as it can be accepted as a guiding force. The same human nature that drives some to seek comfort in staying on the path can drive others to fight it – thus not all visions of “god” are the same, and not all interpretations of the way to follow the path are the same.
The basic premise of the wave, that life must continue, thrive, and expand, is what brings people together to form communities, help each other, and ensure the continuance of their own. Unfortunately, these ideas, these driving forces, can also be used as justification to kill. When the driving force says “live, grow, expand”, the individual can come to believe that means them or their group alone. This is how religions grow to wage war on each other.
We fail as a species when we fail to understand we’re all hearing the same music; all feeling the same wave. The answer is not the abolition of religion, the answer is for all religions to understand they’re searching for the same thing.
To build on the ‘wave’ concept, and to offer religion a hand up, I could easily believe in the ability of some humans to be “sensitive” to the wave. These could be (some) modern day religious figures who do good work in the name of their faith, and they could be those who have gone before, framing the ideas that became modern day religions. Abraham, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, Joseph Smith, maybe even Lafayette Ronald Hubbard – all have vast followings who may feel the wave the same way (or at least, a similar way) as these men did. When you find someone who can describe that ever-present force of life the way you feel it, an explanation for the unexplainable that just seems to “makes sense”, perhaps that’s the driving force that creates what we know as religion. Maybe it’s enough to discover that others are hearing music, too; the actual notes don’t matter.
I think that may also be exactly the problem.
The catchy part about the concept of the wave is that, like faith itself, it cannot be quantified. Attempts to do so require compromise in order to put it into words. Parables are useful, as they show examples without trying to give a precise picture (which would well explain why the Bible is largely made up of parables). When individuals attempt to codify their vision of the wave, the meaning is compromised. When individuals determine that others should see/feel/experience the wave as they do, religion is created and sometimes, miscreated.
In the aforementioned conversation, I stated “you can’t put handles on the wave”; meaning that once you try to stop the wave to get a firm picture, you’re no longer riding the wave, and your perspective is skewed. Religion attempts to attach handles. The concepts may be right, but they’re always at least a little off, since you can’t fully describe a thing that never stops with words that have finite meaning.
1The conversation started well, and didn’t end badly, but as usual when I get on a thought-roll, I did tend to hold the floor more than my share (sorry, Scott). I always find it disappointing when one of these conversations rolls against the “faith” line of reasoning, though. If the only proof of your faith is the book that describes your faith, why not take a mental leap into the possibility that there is a larger picture? I’m not saying religion (in general) is wrong, just that it may be merely a human attempt at quantifying the unquantifiable. To say humankind has all the answers, and they’re right here in this here book… is pretty damned arrogant. ‘Nuff said.
2after saying it over and over in my head, “wave” may be the wrong word here – “tide” might be more appropriate. I first used “the force”, but of course that made the whole concept go awry in a Star Wars themed way. If I rewrite this article into something more permanent, I’ll have to decide on a term that better demonstrates the intent. Of course, the fact that I am having a hard time giving it a name helps to illustrate my point… so perhaps I won’t change it after all.