Sunday, September 2, 2018

Matters of Mind and Belief

Mature Content
The following material is not suitable for all audiences, especially if you're defensive about your religious beliefs.

...constitute a sermon undivorced from truth, uncon­taminated and unfettered by human hypotheses, and divinely authorized.
 - excerpt from "Explanatory Note," in the Christian Science Quarterly Bible Lessons [link]

Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not hear. The words of wise men are heard in quiet...
 - Ecclesiates 9:16-17, King James Version

But where shall wisdom be found?... Man knoweth not the price thereof;
 - Job 28:12-13, King James Version

He believes that Spirit is sifted through matter...
 - "Science and Health" by Mary B Eddy

I am what would appropriately would be called a skeptic, but which many organized religions of the world might label a heathen or a heretic.

I don't believe in divine intervention. I don't believe in a univeral Truth (yes, with a capital T) as it pertains to belief. You might think that sort of thing disqualifies me from a set of spiritual beliefs that are committed to to such a degree that they may as well be a religion.

But you'd be wrong.

If you want to be more accurate about accusations, you'd better say that I take statements out of context, and that I take pride in critical thought processes.

I was thinking about this as I sat in church today (as I write this) because I didn't attend my normal sanctuary. Instead, I returned to the church I grew up in, though it was more to see the people than to appreciate the sermon.

But I did listen to the sermon.

I listened much differently than I did when I was a child, not just because I am older and more matured, but also because I am something of an outsider. Yes, I was raised in that church and that religion, but neither do I believe in their teachings nor do I take things at face value. I underwent a crisis of faith many years ago, and while I came out of it worshiping the tangible Earth rather than some intangible deity, you might as well say that I worship critical thought.

I don't believe in what I don't believe in because I have poked and prodded it until it fell to pieces in my grasp. Meanwhile, the things I do believe in survived the process.

My skepticism survived the process.

I know there's a lot of dispute when it comes to religion, mostly due to claims of things being taken out of context. Words and phrases can be twisted and skewed to mean any old damn thing under the guidance of a skillfull artisan, and I think Christian Science is just as guilty.

I mean no offense to those believers, but y'all might want to stop reading now.

If you're unfamiliar with the sermons at a Christian Science church, they're a bit different that what you from virtually any other denomination might be used to. There's no pastor, no priest; the people leading the service have no special qualifications that deems them worthy to lead the service, shy of being elected by the church committees. And the first quote I chose for today is stated prior to every sermon.

The service leaders read, out of two books, "scriptural selections." That's the sermon. I mean, they alternate, and there's some corroborative message between the passages in opposing books.

But it feels a little hypocritical.

Who chooses who gets to read? Humans.
Who chooses what gets read? Humans.
Who chooses the inflection of the readers and the emotions they exhibit while performing the reading?

Uncontaminated and unfettered? I think not!

The very structure of the service shows that they can use two books (albeit long and rather comprehensive books) and wrestle at least 26 different messages out of them.

Oh, did I forget to mention? They only have twenty-six different subjects that they rotate though the year. In order. Twice a year. Every year.

Here's my favorite one: Who wrote the books? Humans. Sure, they may have felt "divine inspiration," but a human hand held the quill.

There's nothing but human intervention at every turn, and yet strive to divorce (and possibly delude) themselves from this fact.

I'm not saying it's not okay to do this, just don't lie about it, to yourself or anyone else. Sure, there are holes in my beliefs, just as I imagine there are holes in just about everyone else's.

I attack my holes with critical thinking,

Do you confront your own? Or do you put large piece of furniture in front of them and ignore the draft?

(This came from about ten minutes of the sermon. I have more notes. A lot more notes. I'll try to spread them out.)