Val is an out-of-the-box writer often questioning the validity of many popular tenets of cultural paradigm..
Universal Need for a Sense of Security
I am not a mental health provider, but even if I were one, I would not fuss over the ways that a somewhat insecure person finds their chosen medium for their much needed sense of inner security. Whatever may work, as long as it's not hurting anyone.
Having said that, I have no intention to either mock, or in any other way belittle religious folks' quest for their comfort zone through their faith.
Rather, for a few of those with a mind open ajar, I want to define that faith -- not as a real intellectual conviction, but as an emotional crutch helping them to face this world, which they may not find a really safe place to live.
So, religiousness is not about "knowing" something, but "believing" something, which brings us a sense of inner peace -- up to a point, of course. In a metaphor that I like using, people of all religions agree that 2+2=4, which they "know", but then they "believe" in things pertaining to their religion where they disagree.
Meaning that religious belief is a deliberate mind's construct. While we could leave the whole topic as an intellectual toy to those brainy scholars to play with, in a psyche of an ordinary person, the strength of their religious devotion is equal to the strength of their sense of existential insecurity.
And again, nothing to mock there -- a musical devotee gets buried in music, an artist's emotionalism is all in their creativity, an athlete's world is all in perfecting their performance, and a poet's mind and heart are all in their next literary creation.
We all find an emotional sanctuary in something, so it is as well the case with religiously minded folks. Intellectually, they might even question many of the tenets of their religious teachings, but they will allow their minds to be hijacked by that emotional need for security that religion creates in them.
Missing That Certain Feeling...
While thinking now about all those different ways of attaining inner peace as they are being practiced, a little example from everyday life comes to mind.
I am not a pet person, although I am a sucker for all cute animals -- as long as I don't have to take care of any on a daily basis. Like Tim said it in "Home Improvements" to his wife, who, in one episode expressed a wish to buy a dog:
"Come on, honey, that's why we had kids, they last longer".
But, all joking aside, I can still remember a friend of mine, the owner of an ugly-faced boxer, as he told me:
"If you never had a dog, you can't understand that feeling, when you come home from work, and there he is all excited to see you. Your wife will never match that level of excitement. At least, not some years after wedding has passed."
Now, while I agreed in principle, that still wasn't enough to make a dog-lover out of me. And something similar I have heard from many a religious individual, but with "dog" only told in reverse, a "god", that is.
"If you don't go to church and have a god, you can't know that feeling of peace, with all those folks around you who feel the same about your god."
Now, I am not exactly a godless person, I do believe in existence of a universal intelligence "behind all this", but that's not enough to make me a religious person, since I don't believe in a deity, along with the whole story attached. So, I believe in something that makes a logical sense to me, but I don't feel a need to also "worship" it.
I may have it all upside down in this mind of mine, but I don't "personify" that universal intelligence, so I fail to see it as an "egocentric" entity demanding to be glorified. We might expect that from some of our Presidents, but not from an intelligence that has created some universes.
To Believe, or Not to Believe -- That's the Question
As I have mentioned, so many times I 've heard: "You should believe in something" -- to which I regularly respond with a:"Why?"
Now, of course, I am not talking about that earthly belief system that we all have, one that helps us maneuver through the complexities of life -- but rather about one pertaining to that very big picture that's involving a deity.
In the course of my modest, but a life long juggling with all kinds of theories, doctrines, concepts, and other intellectual challenges, I remember replacing many of them with a nonchalant ease, never allowing any to gain weight of a "belief".
No matter how convincing a system of ideas might have sounded in my eager ears, or even how much enthusiasm I invested into an intellectual delicacy, I could drop it in a heartbeat -- as soon as something more convincing would show up on intellectual horizon.
If that would denote an "open mind", mine was wide open at all times, and someone who wanted to give it a fancy name, called it a "peripatetic" mind -- but I just see it as of a gypsy variety -- enjoying more in a process of drifting than in destination.
Not that I never heard from religious people saying something like: "I feel sorry for your ever drifting soul, never finding a restful place in a strong belief. It was easy for me to see where they were coming from -- they needed that anchor of certainty, of ultimate trust, something I had no affinity for.
So, was I missing anything in my head, I mean, a gear or two of sanity, for I just couldn't relate to that need for a celestial protection. I didn't need certainty, rather thriving on the mystery of the unknown. Always had that nostalgia for the future and its mysterious offers of new, and yet new patterns of experiencing, new challenges of outgrowing myself of the yesteryear, with as many of those "a-ha" moments as I could get.
Voluntarily Stuck In a Belief
To me, it was always about allowing the future-me to come up with something better, not being stuck with anything chiseled in my brain -- so that would certainly include a religious belief.
But then again, it makes no difference whatsoever what other folks choose for themselves to believe, and, not being of a normative mind, I am the last person on earth that would call them "wrong".
However, with the same right to express myself that everyone else is enjoying in this free part of the world, I am simply saying things with no intent to "convert" anyone -- even if I could.
So, while still maintaining that fairness in attitude, I just can't help seeing them as going in circles while gravitating around one system of ideas which are not even a product of their own deducing, but mostly picked up from others as an indoctrination.
Really, not a result of some celestial entity suddenly appearing in their living room to interrupt their football game watching with some prophetic words, which would make them instantly fall on their religious knees.
O.K. I see something like that happen a lot as they are watching their political guru give their manipulative sermon, but at least it's temporary -- say four or eight years -- until they find some other brainwasher -- but with religious faith they just stay at the same story, same messiah, same book.
I am not actually sure how religious folks are succeeding at finding some security and certainty in their religious teachings, because many of them get truly pissed at all "evil", all sinning going on.
Moreover, with all that religious perfectionism ingrained in them, the conscience of so many keeps haunting them with their own inconsistencies with The Word.
Trying to drill into that imperfection some teachings of perfection, they keep reading, and reading, and reading their Good Book. Now imagine, if they went to school, and it took them so many readings to learn the material, they might be pronounced "students with special needs".
That material is not of an intellectual character, as much as it keeps providing a new dose of its sedating effect. Even that aroma in churches does the same while coming from burnt frankincense oil which is known to be a mind tranquilizer.
That basic question remains: how much of the religious belief is something "believable", and how much it is merely an emotional crutch, or call it something like a "divine version of stress management".
In Hope That Daddy Cares
Indeed, my tolerance for religious establishment is endless. So I don't care if some of those religious folks don't allow their kids to get a blood transfusion; or some others are against using birth control; or they let their wives drag heavy bags with groceries, while they are proudly marching emptyhanded in front of them -- because they are a "man"; or some other god-loving folks use their kids as shelters while shooting at their enemies over their shoulders.
Hey, a pretty long sentence, isn't it, but it could have been longer, if I really wanted to make a better impression of how I don't give a rat's ass what people choose to believe.
So I let all those hard core atheists call believers any names they want, I am just too busy being a happy camper of my own design, not imitating anyone else's way of living -- or dying, as it appears to be a religious requirement of those suicide bombers.
In my humor-loving mind, I tend to see that religious counting on the mercy of their celestial fatherly figure to protect them -- in the same way as I see those voters count on their political fatherly figure to give them that protection.
No wonder that so many folks got enchanted with their idol Trump, after he invented a whole list of "enemies of America" and promised them to protect them from that hostile bunch.
In this same playful mind, not shying away from satire, I see religious followers and political followers, both placing a big trust in that image of a surrogate-father for protection, after their adulthood forced them out of protective wing of their biological father.
So that each is hoping for that fatherly intervention, while none seem to be getting it how those "daddies" don't really have their petty insecurities as a part of their agendas.
Imagine that unfathomable universal intelligence that created, and must still be crating, some innumerable macrocosms and microcosms -- as being bothered by something that we should be taking care on our own, like emotionally growing up and facing this world with some courage generated by our own hearts.
And then, imagine those political super-achievers who finally got the full taste of power, how they really care for anything else except for their career. In their own wishful scenario, either kind of believer is thinking: "Our Dad loves us, because we elected him out of other available gods/candidates."
Both are believing that their love automatically goes two-ways, and that makes them protected. Well, if it does, who am I to argue.
A Different Source of Peace
Now, thinking for a moment about my own, somewhat turbulent childhood and adolescence, I would be a perfect candidate to, metaphorically, apply for a janitor's job in a church, just to spend as much time as possible in that soul-soothing ambient.
But, why can I feel this love, this calm, harmony, and tolerance... and why do I feel so much "at home" in this world torn by animalistic antagonisms of all sorts? Could it have anything to do with my long ago resolve to row my own boat and not allow anyone to rock it?
As I look inside, I see this deep sense of responsibility for my emotional states, for my thoughts, attitudes, and actions. And nothing is missing there that could be found in a church, a synagogue, a mosque, or a temple.
Even if there is that personified deity up there judging us, he must be smiling at this one of his kids who is trying to stand on his own feet, not seeking his protective lap from which the world would appear less of a threat.
I don't experience myself as being at the end of a "receiving" line, knowing that what I will "give" into my life has a chance of bringing back something benefitting me. So I see myself constantly at the source, and I don't pray, I do what is humanly possible, not counting on what is celestially possible.
There is no holy book that I would need to tell me not to steal, not to mess with my friend's wife, (not even to mess with an enemy's wife as for a revenge), or to kill... all the way to the bottom of those Ten Commandments' holy tablets.
Indeed, no holy book can tell me to "love my neighbor as I love myself", if the s.o.b. lets his dog crap on my lawn. For that I quickly turn the page of the Book where it says "Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" -- and even though I don't have a dog to crap on his lawn, at least I don't have to invite the bastard for a beer.
So, all in all, here I have been trying to express my own views about the role of religion in our emotional states, particularly the one which denotes how secure we feel in this world of ours.
For my last note of the kind, I am not telling anyone how to feel about it. I actually admire those cathedrals, or other holy places, because a lot of architectural art was applied in them.
I also find believers cute in their make believe world. As a matter of fact, I have created my own, the only difference being that mine has been constantly changing, and if I am allowed to say -- upgrading, in comparison to others' which doesn't allow any deviations from its evergreen perennial sameness.
Well, our bliss is always where we look for it.
© 2021 Val Karas