What I look for from religion is a satisfying construct around which to build a life I can believe in. I look for a way of structuring reality which enables me to deal with the day and live toward a worthy future no matter what. I look for things to tell myself that will not only keep me going, but will also inspire me to give it my best when any sane person would say to hell with it and quit. I look for help formulating what it means to live well, and for the encouragement and motivation to do that in the face of hopelessness and despair fostered by the questions: So What? Who Cares? Why Try? What’s The Use? What’s The Point? What Difference Will It Make?
I look for life from religion, in religion. I look for that which enables us to be alive, fully, deeply, truly, joyfully alive. So, I look at the proponents of the respective religions and ask myself how alive they are. I don’t care what they say they believe. I believe in life, in living, in being alive, and I want to know how well their religion enables, allows, them to live, to come to life, to be alive. How alive are they? Do they have lives I would trade for? Do I wish I could live like that?
I don’t have to tell you that a quick walk through most Christian congregations, through most Christian denominations, through most of the world’s religions, results in a resounding, “NO!” Religion as it is being practiced around me is not bringing people to life. Where are those who understand what the man meant when he said, “Come to me you who are weak and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light”?
Take away the long lists of things you have to believe and things you have to do in order to be accounted worthy and receive the blessings of prosperity and happiness in this life, and get to heaven when you die, and what is left of religion as it is practiced anywhere in your experience? It’s nothing but an endless series of “can’s” and “can’t’s,” “do’s” and “don’t’s.” Easy yoke, and light burden, my eye! We have to make, and keep, God happy, or else!
Religion as we know it revolves around making, and keeping, God happy. And, what right does God have to be unhappy about anything? Didn’t God foresee all of this “in the beginning”? And, didn’t God go ahead anyway? So, what, exactly is God’s beef? What was God thinking? “I’m going to create Creation, and then be really sorry I did because it isn’t going to turn out like I want, and then I’m going to take it out on Creation for disappointing me so.” And, we want to be cooped up for eternity in heaven with a God like that? What are WE thinking? But, don’t get me started. And, don’t give me a religion that is focused on making, and keeping, God happy.
Give me a religion that helps me live the best life possible within the context and circumstances of my living. Give me a religion that enables me to dance and sing and be alive in the midst of any, of every, context and circumstance. Give me a religion that enables me to laugh, and love, and live, with all that is in me, toward the best that can be imagined in every moment of every day for as long as life is possible. Give me a religion that enables me to be fully alive for as long as life is possible. Give me a religion that enables me to live in the service of the good, anyway, nevertheless, even so. Give me a religion that helps me live a life I would be proud of, that helps me live well, that provides me with what I need “to get up and do what needs to be done,” and to do it the way it ought to be done, in season and out of season, in all weather conditions, around the clock, no matter what. My bet is that to give me a religion like that, we’ll have to cook it up ourselves, using whatever suitable ingredients we can find. My bet is that it doesn’t come pre-packaged, ready to heat and serve, right out of the can.
What helps you with your life? What do you tell yourself, what do you do, to deal with the things that are difficult to deal with? What are your strategies for “toughing it out,” for “holding your breath,” for making it through the tough times? What keeps you going?
Projects keep me going, things like crafting the book and taking photographs, and having something to look forward to in every day, things like morning coffee and evening wine and a long walk through the neighborhood and writing. What keeps me going are the things that enable me to distance myself from the things that make it difficult to keep going. I have to get away from the hard things, create some space, carve out some breathing room, some being room. I have to work something fun into my life. It doesn’t have to be much, just enough to allow a bit of an escape, something that brings me into this moment with this good thing.
We have to have our coping strategies. Life is too much for us without them. And, it helps to have strategies that don’t add to our burden, like cocaine does, or alcohol abuse. Watch an old movie, don’t get drunk. That’s my advice. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot trying to dodge bullets.