Thursday, July 21, 2005

Secular Religious (part 2)

As the pews fill up on any Sunday morning there is an air of anticipation as the minister begins his assent to the front of the congregation. Silence rips through the previous whispers of greeting as all eyes fix themselves upon the minister in Sunday dress and ministerial zeal. Then, as his mouth begins to open to pronounce utterances of faith filled lessons to live life according to the good the eyes of many gloss over as visions of shopping lists and sports team rankings fill the empty space between the auditory receptacles of the average space filler in any pew of any church in any land.

Why is this person here?

It never ceases to amaze me to see the many people who go to church and are not really there. The instance of out of body experiences should be a matter of study among some congregations. Between the kids eating cheetoes and playing with their toy firetrucks and the eyes of some closed in bliss-filled slumber it is fully distracting to those are attempting to immerse themselves in the act of worship. This is what I mean by the secular religious. This group of people seem to believe that if they are physically in a pew then they are some how fulfilling their duty, obligation etc to the Divine. However, what is missed by this lot is that worship is fundamentally a disposition it is a turning to with the whole mind, soul and heart to the Creator in adoration and worship and thanksgiving for the many gifts and blessings that each of us receive on a daily basis - including the opportunity to breath.

Frequently I meet true secularists that while they believe in God they do not believe in religion because of the what they call the "hypocrites." I believe that this is a fair criticism of churchgoers. However, I think that what is lost on most is that there is a distinction between those who are religious and those who are secular religious and among those who we are discussing I am confident that one can find that the majority of hypocracy resides in the secular religious. To some this may seem like a harsh criticism but it is truly a documentable phenomenon.

If one is to observe the way in which a secular religious lives their lives it is marked by a few specific items. The first item is that they know nothing but the 1,2,3 basics of their faith thus making any discussion they have about their religion trite and nonsensical. The second is that if pressed about their beliefs it can be found that they ascribe more to the beliefs of American Idol than that of their religion. As a person that I know says, "Really my religion is football." The third point is that they completely separate the rest of their lives from what they do on Sunday. This last point is the key to understanding their hypocrisy. It is like claiming one is a combat vet when they spent the war sipping cognac in New Haven.

When considering and interacting with this class of people I am filled with frustration at their lack of rationality. I have never understood why these people continue to attend their regularly scheduled services and still maintain that their faith has nothing to do with their lives when in fact that is the whole point of their faith - to form their lives. Some would claim that these are the only persons in the pews that can think for themselves (free thinkers if you will). However it seems that for these individuals their faith is an emotional response while the balance of their lives take up the rational functions of their soul. If this be the truth and their faith is stricktly united to their emotional instability then it is no wonder why they hold the position that has just been under discussion. Then, if this be so, the divorce of faith and reason in modernity and post modernity is essentially the central cause of these irreligious religious.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Secular Religious (part 1)

For the 96% of Americans that believe in the existence of a God there are a few questions that must be asked. For the 4% of Americans that do not believe in a God I would suggest a CAT scan. For the rational person to believe in the non-existance of God is in itself a contradiction as rationality implies order and order implies intelligence which implies God. In anycase it is not my desire to go about proving the existence of God. My purpose here is to prove the existance of the non-religious religious.

What do I mean by the use of the term "Secular Religious?" Before that question can be answered it is necessary to speak about who are the truly religious. The truly religious persons are those who not only envolve themselves in the worship of their faith but are formed by it. Religious persons are those who observe all things through the stained glass lens of their faith. In other words they are not Pharasies. They do not engage themselves in empty worship. They work and they struggle but always remaining faithful to their beliefs. Their faith is held in the highest place in their lives and all other idols must bow before it. They would answer in the affirmative when asked if they are at their core religious.

Not all those that practice a religion are religious, take John Kerry or Ted Kennedy for example. This group of persons are those that by habit or some other interior movement attend worship services and wear the nametag of their respective religion. However, these persons cannot be upheld as individuals who care much for the ideals of their faith in other than private matters (and rarely even that). Infrequently do they believe in the teachings of the their faith and when pressed as to why they are this or that religion they say any similar phrase for "I just am."

The person who is a practizer of religion must ask themselves a simple question: "Is my religion something that I do or something that I am?" The answer to this single question will slot an individual into either the religious or secular religious contingent. The importance of this distinction is paramount due to the modern political landscape and biases that emanate from "pundit-speak".

In reality we have a fight between the religious and the secular branches of the American civilization. The secular religious find themselves in the barrel with the general secular populace. Their claim is that religion is a private matter and has nothing to do with public policy and in some causes even believe in the taxation of religion and point a crooked finger in accusation toward the closest church or synogoge as the root of all that ails our society. For those who are religious it is not a matter of imposing their faith on others per se but rather it is that in their perspective it is their faith that forms all things that they do including decision making at the ballot box or in the writing or establishing of law. While at times there are individuals who take things to absurd extremes such as the Rev. Pat Roberts but the majority just believe in right living.

For my part I only ask a single question. Is not the motto of the US "In God we Trust?"

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Religion & Politics

In my life there no more important subjects in this world than the topics of religion and politics necessarily in that order. As a philosopher I know that these two topics are at the core of each human person. In the culture that we as Americans find ourselves in these days we are faced with a growing number of people that tout as the cause of humanity anything but those two basic principles of our human nature to help save what is left of our ailing society. To approach another and enter into the discussion of those things that really matter (religion and politics) as opposed to soccer, major league baseball, and the eating habits of Hollywood's toothpick posterchildren is considered conversation best left to internal dialogue. God forbid that you might not agree on a subject. And yet worse, someone may try to convert you to their point of view - what shameful behavior.

I would submit that the cause of this glut of political correct speak is at its core caused by the divorce of faith and reason. I would not claim that it is because we live in a hyper-sensative society or that most people are so uninformed on these two subjects that conversation rarely goes beyond the learning level of a third grade Sunday School student but rather it is because faith has become united to the passions (emotions) and to discuss religion is to pluck on the tender heart strings of an emotionally unbalanced bison.

As for politics - it is no surprise that this too brings out the worst reaction in individuals. Politics in America has taken on the role of religion. For some of the more notable characters it has replaced religion all together. Instead of hearing a sermon on the faith, devotees dedicate their lives to talk radio, 24 hour news channels, news blogs, and the New York Times. Instead of sacraments the deity is encountered by book signings and poll watching. And replacing the worship of God there is found the worship of whatever animal symbolizes the political affiliation that one currently finds the most expedient and its platform policies are espoused are as the Gospel - and bedamned with the rest.

If politics is the religion of today and religion and faith are based on emotional grounds of shifting sand then it is no wonder why the PC police are listening in to every spoken word waiting to testify in the next "unfriendly workspace" suit taken up in the courts. There was a time when people were rational and were able to discuss the matters of great import with fervor and respect, one to the other, to bring about a true and lasting synthesis to a noble cause. I fear that today we find a situation in place that if it were not for the oppression of law that the fate of Aaron Burr would be the fate of us all.