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Posts Tagged ‘Baha’i’

If the only thing I feel even remotely sure of is that the Sacred exists, should I be limiting myself to Christianity?  What about other major (and minor) world religions?

My first instinct is to be basically opposed to that kind of “looking outside the box.”  One big problem I have  with religion in general is how bound up t is with culture.  The result is that when someone converts to an exotic religion, they are put into a position of cultural dissonance.  However, when someone embraces the religion of their own nation, their connection to their own culture is enhanced and made deeper.  This is a sticky wicket for me, especially for religions that claim to be universal (like Christianity and Islam).  Christianity is bound up with European culture (well, most Christianity is).  Regardless of the religion’s Middle Eastern origins, we receive modern Christianity through the hands of the Roman Empire, Medieval Europe, the Reformation, and on down through the saga of Western Civilization down to the present.  For 2,000 years, Europeans have been affecting Christianity at the same time as they have been affected by it, until Christainity is now part and parcel of being European (and I use the term European in a broadly ancestral sense to include people of European descenn, so the Americas and Australia/New Zealand).  So becoming Christian really also means becoming at least a little bit European.

For a European, that means enhancing one’s own culture.  For a non-European, it means becoming a kind of a crazy two-headed cultural aberration who really belongs nowhere, victim to cultural dissonance of the worst kind.  That doesn’t seem universal to me.  Does God prefer Europe and Europeans?   According to Christianity’s teachings, the answer should be no.  But the reality is that it seems like He does.

And the same goes for Islam.  Becoming a Muslim means partly becoming Arabic.  If you’re already an Arab, great.  If not, then you’re going to be culturally adrift.  Why?  Goes Allah prefer Arabs?  That doesn’t sound right if we’re talking about a religion and a god that are supposedly universal.

And if we’re talking about a religion that isn’t supposed to be universal (Judaism, for example, which pertains primarily to one nation; or Hinduism,  which adopts a sort of many-paths approach), an outsider has absolutely no reason to adopt it, other than a passing infatuation with the exotic.  Or maybe as a purely practical matter (you marry a Jew, for instance).  But barring that, there’s really no reason to change teams.

Conversion to a culturaly exotic religion has little to commend itself anyway, but if the religion in question holds that you don’t need to convert to it, there’s even less.  Unless it offers something unique and absolutely fantastic (I don’t know what would qualify; super-powers, maybe?), there’s simply no motivation to pursue it.

What about new religions, faiths that are equally foreign to all cultures, like Scientology or Baha’i?  Or even Mormonism?

First, new religions aren’t equally foreign to all cultures.  All of them have  a time and place and cultural ethos out of which they were born, and thus they all carry cultural biases that make them less foreign to some people than to others.  On top of that, I think that many of these new religions depend on claims that are fairly dubious.  Major world religions generally have the advantage of origins obscured by history.  You don;t want to see how sausages are made, and you probably don’t want to see how religions are made, either.

Are there other options?  Philosophical systems that replace religion, like Deism and Pantheism?  The problem with those is that usually they depend jsut as heavily on their time and place of inception, and the way people thought then and there.  If they somehow rose to prominence and stoof the test of time it’d be one thing, but most of them are manifestations of a constantly evolving field of philosophy, and thus have a level of obsolescence built in.

What about atheism?  I believe enough in the divine to not be comfortable with dogmatic atheism (and i also think that dogmatic atheists can be big arrogant jerks, though in all fairness so can religious people of every stripe), and I’m not content to remain an agnostic in the long-term.

The occult?  Too creepy.  Also, I’d need to see some evidence that Magick actually accomplished something.  If I can’t actually summon Things from Beyond or cast fireballs, it doesn’t seem to be worth the time, effort, and possible risk to my immortal soul.

Reconstructed religions?  I don’t believe that Wicca is actually reconstructed at all, and so it has both the problems of New Religions and the problems of the Occult, so that’sdouble trouble.  Various forms of Neo-paganism?  Dubious reliability is one proble.  Also, centuries of nobody believing in them seems to take away from their validity.  Plus, most of them carry the same cultural problems as exotic world religions do.  Asfar as Neo-paganism that draws on my own ancestry, well, I already taked about Asatru a couple weeks ago.

Do I just construct my own belief system?  That seems unreliable, and possibly fraught with peril.  So what do I do?

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