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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Touchiest of Subjects - Original 2/18/2010

I find it interesting that people often refer to themselves or others with the phrase " I have lost my religion" or " He wondered away from his good learning".

As I get older, almost 35 now, I have had a few flashes of religious enlightenment, and a few rather gray periods when I felt that the practitioners around me were clouding the words I was supposed to hear, to the point that what did make it through the din was simply a rote recital of meaningless words and a commitment of my time I could spend better elsewhere.

There seems to be no more galvanizing socially threatening subject than ones religion, and while I cannot and will not claim any great persecution, I can identify with a minority type mentality that if you do not follow the flock in the area, you are either on outsider, a person to be made uncomfortable through the guise of being witnessed to, or a freak.

It is hard to make someone who is totally devoted to their religion realize that while you do not share their view you respect it - for in their practice in some of them, in my experience at least, that if you do not share theirs they cannot respect your choice.

I will admit that I find the ceremony and practices of religions - all religions - to be fascinating. The pictures and stories of my friends and in the paper around Ash Wednesday are interesting to me, the feelings of cleaning and purity and righteousness they feel are inspiring to me though I do not share their conviction.

But I am equally intrigued by the reading of a Midwestern woman who falls from a terrible marriage and finds warmth and comfort within the Buddhist tradition and after traveling poverty stricken areas of the world devotes her life to being a nun and teacher.

I find the story of the Jewish widow in 2 Kings, who has no money to pay a debt, but a miracle of filling jars with oil to sell saves her family, to be almost mystical.

The practice of a holy pilgrimage and the sheer dedication of the Islamist shows me a commitment that I do not readily see in other religions.

The wailing wall, the waiting for the Messiah, the third Temple and it's promise, the adversity that Jews have fought forever, the persecution, the resilience - there has to be something there that is Holy, to continue against such odds.

The followers of Joseph Smith, who struck out, and perhaps in the most American of spirit declared themselves a separate Nation, and fought, were jailed, and flouted a law they did not recognize - is there not a lesson to be learned from that, for all people?

I find all of these things interesting - in all of them I see things that I think would enrich the life of any man, and see things that I think detract from and impede the growth of him a the same time.

I recently was at a religious service, and stood near the rear of the congregation, and simply absorbed the goings on around me. I did not sing the hymns or repeat the creeds and recitations - they were not for me. To do so would be offensive and blasphemous, as I do not share the philosophy and choose not to belittle or disrespect those who do by casting my doubter's voice in among those who believe.

But I watched, and I listened. I could see the look in the eyes of the believers, and I could hear the rapturous singing of those who hearts were full of love and adoration for their God, and that I did enjoy.

Perhaps I try to be too philosophical; perhaps I am but just a fool. But I think I am learning constantly, and that maybe religion's purpose for me may be that - to learn, to sift, to dig, to search, and to one day find just what it is that will make me sing with such love in my heart, and make my face beam with happiness.

I do not know where that road ends, or even where it is taking me, but I admit I am taking my time on the journey, and stopping to see all of the scenery on the way.

So back to my original sentiment - I do not feel I have lost any religion, or that I have lost my way. I knew as a child only what I was trained to learn, to attend only what I was carried to attended by my elders. I did not have a miraculous discovery of faith - rather I feel that I had a preordained infusion of religion, which was no more a choice than genetics such as eye color or male pattern baldness.

So now I am searching, and as I do, I am doing so with an open mind, and open set of arms, and an open heart.

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