Friday, September 17, 2010

After religion, what?

As for ceremony, already the leaves have swirled over, the wind has spoken - Andrew Brown, Caute
We have just been through a week in which we have seen yet further examples of the deeply problematic nature of religion - especially in its monotheistic varieties.
My question - developing in various ways since 9/11 - is how might we continue to access these sacramental energies without resorting to the language of the gods/God with which they were once so indissolubly linked? In short, what religion might look like after religion - after God?
This is a wonderful post and very gently articulates what I have been struggling to say in several different ways: that religion is not all about fundamentalist nutters threatening to blow things up and burn things because the world isn't how they think it should be.

Many of my Pagan friends seek to blame fundamentalism on monotheism, claiming that polytheism is inherently more tolerant. This is understandable, but it does the liberal monotheists a disservice.  I think polytheism can be intolerant too - look at what happened to Socrates.

I think the problem is twofold: assuming that metaphors for the ineffable mystery are literal, concrete and graspable; and assuming that religion is an external process, something you do, a set of laws you adhere to, rather than an internal process and an internal apprehension of harmony.


Kay said...

Thank you so much for this post. It caused a bit of an epiphany for me this morning. :)

Yewtree said...

I'm honoured to know that. Do read Andrew Brown's wonderful blogpost too!

almadsfeika said...

Yes! If I have to be me, I'll be doing it for my self. We need more options in the census!

[already talked so much about this - A, thanks!]

Stephen said...

Frankly, I think the Gods are still a useful and valid expression of religion (as is pantheism and all other "theisms") and can stand proudly beside all other Faiths and even those who choose to have no faith in a Spiritual World/Other World at all. They were thrown away as inconvenient ‘metaphors’ at the dawn of the Christian era in Ancient Rome, and we saw the results to civilization - it crumbled.

For me, the idea that we need to 'get beyond' the idea of the Gods and religion is itself a bit outdated itself. Tapping into the Spiritual World is what Pagans and Wiccans do all the time, but many do so for personal gain, for selfish "control" over others, and to center more energy onto themselves (and few of us need more self-centeredness, IMO!) This is counter to what the ancient pagans believed, and we should learn from their wisdom.

Yes, Ancients engaged in “wish-seeking” too, but their lives were centered entirely on seeking & serving the Gods, and pagan priests taught that vital first steps to “seeking” things was to honor the Gods through prayer and even sacrifice, including moral self-sacrifice and personal devotion to one or more patron Gods. For Modern Pagans, I suggest that these are sorely needed ancient lessons in humility.

I also suggest that what pagans are trying to get beyond is, as you suggest, the intolerance of other, minority expressions of faith, be that Deism, pantheism, polytheism or even A-theism. We can all get behind THAT effort.

Yewtree said...

Hi Stephen - yes, I'd say most Pagans believe that other religious traditions are just different perspectives on the Divine/deities (as do Baha'is, Buddhists, Hindus, Sufis, Unitarians, Sikhs....)

After religion.... more religion (just different).