Day 23,717: Exploring A Personal Belief System
It’s hard to know what to believe in anymore. I am most comfortable with the religion I grew up with, but I have issues there as well. I don’t like the orthodoxy of my religion any more than the fundamentalism of others. I fundamentally don’t like extremists of any sort.
One time I started to attend a weekly atheism meeting, more in search of intelligent conversation than any sort of dogma discussions. It wasn’t successful. After incessant questioning at one meeting, I had to admit I owned my religious label and it fit better than the non-labels they were proposing. I wasn’t a good fit with the atheist team so I dropped out. It wasn’t my first religious failure.
Finding Truth in Fiction
I’m really a cultural believer – loving the ritual and basics of my religion, if not all the organized hoopla. I frequently found more affiliation with religion in fiction than in real life. One of my favorite books in my teens was Exodus by Leon Uris. I was haunted in college when introduced to the Last of the Just by Andre Schwarz-Bart . At some point, I took a course in the Bible as literature, and it has stuck with me every since. Great stories get retold and stay with us forever. Hence, the great story of Moses on the Mount.
I considered trying Buddhism at various points, but even struggled through the Tao of Pooh. This year, I considered Zen again when I heard a podcast with Oprah interviewing a devout Christian. They both admitted they became better Christians for studying the practice of Zen. I don’t necessarily want to be better at my religion, just more comfortable.
Related Post: The Labels I Wear.
This week, I caught up with a different podcast from August 4, 2016 in which Urban Monk Pedram Shojai interviewed Katherine Ozment, author of Grace Without God. Ozment introduced me to the concept of Sheilaism, so called after a woman named Sheila who set out to find her own personal religion by melding any traditions or rituals that were of meaning to her.
I love the idea of Sheilaism, except that almost every ritual I care about is associated with one religion, the one I learned as a child. That’s because the rituals I love are associated more with family childhood traditions than religion. It’s because in those years my family was my community, and community, Ozment argues, or lack thereof is the only drawback to Sheilaism. If it’s your personal religion, there is only one devotee — you.
Working My Way Back
It’s worth noting that I got expelled from religious school at least once as a child. I don’t remember why. I wasn’t the class clown. However, I must have made some snide remark that got me sent home. I never learned my lessons well at religious school, so my uncle would come over once a week for many reasons, but one reason was always to tutor me on religious texts and homework. I loved sitting with him, and it inspired me to keep sitting through religoius school. The math was simple. Tolerating one while not paying attention was worth my time to allow me to sit one on one with my beloved relative while I had his undivided attention.
Ironically, now in my Crone years I could easily be convinced to go back to religious school. Based on increased acceptance of women in higher ranks, I would be allowed to delve into texts and concepts that would have been considered “male only” territory so many years ago. That includes Kabbalah and Numerology among other things.
I like studying the ancient arts and that includes religion. I like rituals that modernize and accept new concepts such as Passover Seders that now honoring Miriam, the sister of Moses, as well as Moses and his brother Aaron.
I’m interested in anything that keeps people together to form a more civilized society. I don’t understand people who claim to be religious, but are unethical. That just seems like hypocrisy. What I do believe is that we’re all still on the path to find civility and more perfect societal norms. As we improve, we move from beheading, stoning and dehumanizing fellow humans to accepting all humans for being exactly who they are.
Daily Focus on Gun Sanity: The header photo is Moses Shown the Promised Land by late American Artist Benjamin West. Take a close look. Most of those showing Moses his glimpse of Nirvana are women and children. The story of Passover is the Children of Israel being led of out of the desert. Today, it is the children of Parkland leading us out to the land of sanity and peace. Let us all follow their lead.
Picture Credit: Moses Shown The Promised Land is available as a free download courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s public access program.