I’m moving quite a few of these from Facebook for my own protection, and to get a little more viewing. I was quite proud of my work on this, and I think it’s worth a read. Enjoy!
My Philosophy of Religion v.1 by Michelle Lunicke
Originally posted: November 16, 2008 (just after Proposition 8 passed, writing discrimination into the California State Constitution) Adapted March 3, 2014.
I’m tired. Tired of the fighting. Tired of the bashing. Tired of misunderstanding and attempting to develop arguments in reaction to fundamentalist movements while they develop louder versions of the same argument in reaction to me.
I posted a Keith Olberman video today that has been popular all week. I hope you have all watched it. The quoted text at the end really hit me. It is by the Persian poet Omar-Khayyams and goes…
“Write me in the book of love. I do not care for that book above. Erase my name, or write what you will, so long as I am in the book of love.”
I’m sure this statement seems meaningless to a lot of people, especially those who still believe that their religion is perfect truth, unblemished, and all-pervading as a testament to universal love. But this declaration is particularly meaningful to me. It reminds me of the turning point I had when I began indulging in the idea that the religion I was raised in, might not be completely and truly loving in all of its values and consensus perspectives.
I took an apologetics class. I had learned how to explain things. contradictions. problems. I learned an answer to every question a doubter might have before I ever had a chance to doubt myself. I had inoculated myself, or so my community had hoped. A religious community in fear of extermination, or loss of standards, or even change, does that…. gives a booster shot to its young so they never contract a single symptom of “the disease”: secularism. Who was I to know that this “disease” was simply humanity and the power of reason?
I believe in human capacity for reason. I believe it is one of our finest qualities by which we can determine reality. Our capacity for reason informs our ethics through a process of natural consequence. I believe at some point in our evolution we will understand our ethical responsibility to all life by evaluating the connectedness of all consequences to all actions. In other words, we will learn that the poor action that does not appear to hurt us, hurts us; and the good action that does not seem to benefit us, benefits us. This works not only on a micro level we commonly think of, but also a macro level we rarely think of. (The second of which may become more common later in human history.) Those open to reality see the obviousness of this through their common reasoning abilities. A is A. A is not– Not A.
At the point at which I allowed myself the possibility that perhaps contradictions in my belief system didn’t need explaining, that I did not have to warp my sense of reality to fit my values, but rather transform my values to fit my sense of reality…was the moment I simultaneously allowed myself the first possibility of actual growth. Good or bad, my beliefs became subject to my senses with objective reality as the final arbiter of truth. If I had a correct moral belief it continued to produce positive consequences, but if I had a wrong moral belief, the negative consequences that followed now put the belief itself under scrutiny.
The religious system I belonged to claimed to have a monopoly on the best type of connection with a deity of infinite love. Love was clearly and plainly preached as the highest amongst its moral principles. And since this was regarded as the premise (assumptive starting point) of all other doctrine, the latter adopted the former by default.
It wasn’t long before my skepticism was engaged in evaluating what “infinite love” means, when there were many concepts under this religious umbrella that didn’t seem to be particularly loving. Why were all principles accepted as loving merely because they were attached to a principle that cites love? In other words, why did I believe the religiously acceptable attitudes were expressions of love…just because they said so?
The argument was as follows. Christians have an understanding of the bible, which is the authority of a perfectly loving entity: God. The Bible has stories of horrific events and large amounts of disapproval, condemnation, and judgment as appropriated by this deity. Therefore, disapproval, condemnation, and judgment must be a part of perfect love.
We whittle at it until we can say “we aren’t judging, God is” or “it doesn’t bother me, but its not part of God’s plan” or most famous “love the sinner, hate the sin.” Let’s be honest. We made up stories. We shut off our personal judgment and sense of reality and offered it up as sacrifice to a “divine judgment” that we inescapably filter through our own perspectives.
And this has a secondary effect too. While we’re feeling a sense of valiant martyrdom about turning our lives over to a higher authority that conveniently validates our personal beliefs, we refuse to take any credit for those personal beliefs, especially when those beliefs are viewed negatively (and with good reason.) This allows a complete escape of any kind of objective accountability by “God” or otherwise. It is impossible to learn from our ill-gotten morals if we refuse to take ownership of them.
I do NOT think this kind of dehumanization is part of any “divine plan” for our lives. No God I believe in created people to suspend their intelligence in order to conveniently ignore inequality when it suits them and consider it part of their moral duty to fight it when a leader says so. Nor would any true “divine plan” include a dismissal of God-given reasoning ability when loving couples prove their commitment has earned recognition, and then a miraculous embrace of reasoning powers when intervening on behalf of starving children or abused women.
I believe some universal force of love does exist: in deity form or otherwise.
After I took the opportunity to look critically at the trappings of my religious upbringing that claimed love, and weighed them against the reality of loving behavior, I found myself inextricably drawn to the root many religions proclaim to have in one expression or another. I slowly became aware that within all of the structure, organization, and community of my religious upbringing that works hard to propagate explanations of its contradictions through its adherents, it is only their highest doctrine that is an innate value, a square root no longer divisible by parts – irreducible and entirely self-standing.
It is the values that do not require explaining, because they are a clear part of daily reality, that are worthy of adhering to.
By rejecting my religion, I found its intention. I found it without apologetics, and without stories, and without structure or affirmation or really a need for any of those things. The religion of love’s church is nature. The religion of love’s organization is communities. The religion of love’s followers are humanity and all life.
This isn’t true because I say so. It’s self-evident. Life and love are innate values.
I hope that this world can see that for a religion, as a human institution, to deny the best qualities of humanity is nothing less than insanity. I hope that religious people come to find themselves questioning the premises of their values, and trusting in their unmediated capacity to reach reasonable conclusions. I hope that one day it is understood that the best qualities of religion lie not in complex doctrine or creeds, but in the innate values in its followers. Life, Love, Reason. It is when we strip away the labels of a religion and all its attachments and accessories that we have possibility to exist as the manifestation of their purpose.