The General Tenets of My Religion

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I don't have a name for my religion. This is a first pass at expressing the broad theological tenets of what I believe:

God

There exists an ultimate reality that is greater than the objective, tangible world that we experience. This reality encompasses the world that we sense; the world is contained within it. But this reality also transcends the world. This reality, which is the foundation of existence, and which underlies all of reality, is God.

What is God's nature? God is infinite, and both all-loving and all-knowing. God's actions with respect to our world do not consist of interventions by dint of external force, but rather of continual inspiration for every creature and every component of the world to fulfill their greatest potentials. For us, that includes fulfilling our potentials as fully loving human beings. God's role in creation has always been one of inspiring its unfolding evolution, from the time the universe began up to and including the evolution of life on this planet. God and the universe are thus co-creators of the present world.

Humanity

There is a measure of the divine in every human being, which some might call a divine spark or an Inner Light. The purpose of religion is to nurture the religious life; the religious life consists of living in accordance with the divine presence that exists within us. This divine presence that we all share manifests itself to varying degrees among different people. Some individuals throughout history have lived so closely attuned to the divine presence that they provided an illustration to others of how to live the religious life, which is to say how to live in the constant presence of God. Jesus was one such individual, but there were many others in the course of history. Many of those who manifested their relationship with the divine acted prophetically in word or deed.

Revelation

God's infinite nature is difficult for humans to grasp. Our understanding of God is often flawed, and inevitably limited by the culture and the historical era in which we live. Different religions have emerged over history as human, and therefore limited, attempts at understanding God.

Revelation is a continuous process. All individuals are capable of communicating with God and thus receiving divine inspiration. However, because of the inherent limitations of human understanding, revelation is also a flawed process, filtered by the noise of culture, history, and personal biases. Religious communities can both act to nurture continuing revelation and can serve as a check on the unbridled excesses that mask as divine revelation. There is therefore a give and take between individuals and their religious communities as they seek to develop their understandings of God.

Unfortunately, as many religious communities develop canonical scriptures, rituals, and theologies, the limited truths that their foundational revelatory experiences and prophetic leaders expressed about God often became codified into dogma, thus choking the very process of revelation that led to the founding of those religions in the first place. All the mistakes and the human flaws that undergirded earlier revelation before thus left intact, preventing their continuing evolution by religious communities. Despite this ossification of religious revelation, the underlying value of these religions lies not in their dogmas but in their abilities to serve as means for their adherents to discover the religious life and therefore develop their relationships with the divine. Thus, despite the dogmatism of many religions, among their adherents can be found many who have, through their religions, become deeply connected with the Divine in the course of their lives.

Scriptures

Scriptures represent not the words of God, but the words of human beings. They are the expression of the attempts by people and their religious communities at understanding God. They should always be understood in their historical contexts, and are valuable as a historical record of the normative foundations of religious paradigms. Scriptures help religious communities because, by passing on earlier attempts at understanding God, new generations have something to build on, and don't need to rebuild their religions from scratch. In this way, continuing revelation can lead to newer, more fully developed insights about the nature of God and our relationship with the Divine.

Religious Practices

God does not impose rituals upon human beings. Rites and practices, such as baptism, kosher diets, or a pilgrimage to Mecca, are human institutions, not instituted by God. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that they are useless. Such practices often have great significance for those who carry them out, as they are often useful for individuals as a means of mediating their relationship to God.

We pray to God to be in his/her presence. Intercessionary prayer is not effective.

The Religious Life

To live the religious life, one must live according to our divinely inspired potential. That means, first and foremost, living a life of universal love.

The religious life also includes the pursuit of social justice, which implies a belief in making the world a more just, more loving place. That means living one's life on behalf of poor, the oppressed, the suffering, and the downtrodden.

The religious life is not generally dependent on following specific rules about one's personal lifestyle. It doesn't necessarily mean following absolute strictures about sexual morality or other supposed vices. God expects us to live our lives in the most loving way possible, which also means tolerance for other people's personal lifestyle choices, as long as those choices do no harm to others. God wants us to fulfill our own potentials and to encourage others to fulfill their own potentials as well.

Knowledge

Religious is completely consistent with scientific knowledge, and it accepts the findings of science, including evolutionary biological science.

The Purpose of Religion

Religion isn't about being "saved" or having a desirable afterlife. The purpose of religion is to live the religious life, to be in communion with God during the course of our lives. If there is an afterlife, its nature is probably unknowable to us; it is better to focus on how we can best fulfill the potentials that God asks of us in the here and now, and let the afterlife take care of itself.

1 comments:

CT said...

Hi MS,

You say "There exists an ultimate reality that is greater than the objective, tangible world that we experience."

Why ? What points you to that ultimate reality ? I'm thinking we need to establish justification for a non-material reality before we try and categorise or explain what it is.

I suppose one indicator is our common search for meaning and 'yearning' for something beyond the world. But isnt that just wishful thinking ?

Maybe you've addressed this in another post but I havent read them all yet !

PS. Just started reading Marcus Borg - similar to Spong but not quite so aggressive.