I write a lot about religion, because it’s relevant, because of my interests, and for defense in a world of religious abuse and manipulation. I am in no way against religion – in fact I am actually for it. There’s a human instinct to mix art, ritual, socialization, and connection with the world that I think is actually a good thing – or at least unavoidable so we best put it to use.
It’s just we humans kind of screw it up. I wish we didn’t, so I make my own small contribution to the world analyzing things. OK, sometimes just complaining then analyzing.
In light of not complaining as much, I want to share an interesting view of what makes religion useful, especially among people with different practices. There’s what religion says, and then what you learn.
I’m not exactly interested in what your religion says all the time, except when my theological interests arise. Anyone can say anything, write anything, have a vision (due to real things or a series of plant-based ingestions). People are saying things all the time and it can be bullshit. I know I bullshit enough – just look at the way I go on.
Besides, as we all know what a religion say and what people do can be pretty disconnected. For examples, just turn on the news and pour yourself a stiff drink – or get some plant-based ingestibles ready.
What interests me is what did you learn in your practice. Give me something that you learned, how you applied it, and how it worked for you.
It’s sort of science and engineering. You try something, you learn something, you use it, and then when it works you have a valuable lesson. Show me an applicable lesson and you have my attention because you got something out of it. You’re also being vulnerable by pointing to actual results you got from your religious practice, and giving me an opportunity to question them!
In fact, a person who has a religiously-derived lesson that really works is sort of having a secular experience. If the lesson has actual cause-and effect then it’s something they can share outside of their religion. It also makes me take their religion – or at least them – a little more seriously.
I might even take the “say” part of your religion more seriously.
It’s a practical view, of course, and one I think is quite helpful. I’m not going to write off religious and mystical experiences, I’m going to look at results. I might not agree with the metaphysics, but I am curious as to what happens. We can backtrack later on the structure of things.
This all comes from an odd series of youthful experiences where I careened from fundamentalism to mysticism to atheism and back to experimental mysticism. There were probably plenty of other detours as well, but it eventually went around a simple thing – did I get some useful results.
It’s a pretty good measure. I look forward to hearing your learnings.