Monday, March 15, 2010

If Your Religion... Part 4

In my search for a belief system that settled comfortably in my psyche, giving me ideas that I liked about the unknown, and helping me to be a better person, I took an ethics class at the community college. We studied singularly a new translation of the ethics book by Aristotle, and I found myself changed by it.

One of the things I liked best about what Aristotle had to say was that religion had no place in the realm of ethics. You gave your due to the gods, but endeavored to live your life by the laws of your civilization, and by an internal understanding of what was right and wrong.

Certainly, religion contains wisdom on how to develop that internal understanding of right and wrong, but it seems to me that simply setting down rules of behavior that come with either promises of rewards, or fear of punishment, without having any sort of understanding of "why", just doesn't work.

So, if your religion makes you ethically're doing it wrong.

I know there are people out there of all faiths who work actively to be better people every day. To embody all that is good and beautiful in their religion to be as close to the ideal as possible. These are obviously not the people I'm talking about.

I'm sure most people have seen the bumper sticker, "I'm not perfect, I'm just forgiven," or some variation thereof. What exactly is it saying? I think that the spirit of it is saying something to the effect of, "I cannot be perfect, as even though I try to be so every day, I fail. But I am forgiven for my failing, and that gives me the comfort and strength to continue." I know that there are those who actually believe this.

Unfortunately I also think that the majority of the people who would put this sticker on their cars tend to act as if it saying, "I can be as big a jerk as I want, because all I have to do is ask forgiveness." When all bad deeds are forgiven, why take responsibility for them?

I'm sure everyone knows of at least one person who does whatever they want, without really caring about the consequences, but still claims to be a good Christian of some flavor or another. I never understood how this was possible and it is probably one of the reasons I'm not Christian anymore.

I think the world would be a different place if everyone considered, and cared, how their actions and words affect those around them.

The Wiccan Rede states, "An it harm none, do what thou wilt," or some variation thereof. At its core, I believe this means, "I have used all the tools and gifts at my disposal to see whether or not my actions will harm another. I am not omniscient, so if there are circumstances that I cannot foresee that would harm another, may my actions come to naught." And again, I believe there are those who hold to the rede in this manner.

However, I know there are those who use the rede as a disclaimer, tack it on the end of whatever spell they're doing to cover their bases. They do whatever they want, trusting that the rede will take care of them, still taking no responsibility for their actions. This isn't any better than believing that divinity will forgive their transgressions so it's ok to behave however they want.

I suppose the core of my argument here is responsibility. If your religion helps you to *not* take responsibility for your actions (The devil made me do it!), then it's just not working. Giving your will up to god, letting the universe interpret your wishes, figuring your life is wholly predetermined, so do whatever you want...these points of view are, in my opinion, entirely to passive, and are part of what is wrong with society today.

Everyone makes an impact on the world around them (rings in a pond anyone?), and if we were more aware of this, and endeavored to do as little harm as possible, how could the world not be a better place?

I give my due to the gods, but do not give up my will to them, or let them decide my behavior because I am hoping for a reward, or afraid of a punishment.

I choose a different way, and so should you, whatever it may be.

Till next time, be well,

1 comment:

  1. It is my firm belief that there are morons in every religion on the planet. That's just the way humanity is. Most religions are trying to help with this problem, but the fact is that little can be done to help someone who doesn't feel like being helped. Many people think they're part of a religion just because their parents told them so, and it's just a cultural thing, and they have a shallow understanding of their own supposed theology.

    Anyway, that's just my long-winded way of saying that I'm a little worn out on the cliche of rejecting a religion based on its followers. I don't think there's a single faith system out there that hasn't had someone leave because they were disappointed in the actions of that faith's adherents. Sometimes people are just morons, and you can't blame God or the Buddha or Athena or whoever for it.

    I'm not trying to be grumpy here - but who am I kidding, it's Monday ;) - and I fully acknowledge that you alluded to pagan morons as well. I'm just adding my two cents, hoping it contributes to the discussion. :)