We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Seek? Yes. Claim to have found? No.

Winter                                                                  Moon of the Long Nights

It is not the seeking after God that divides but the claim to have found God and to have discovered the only proper way of obeying God and communing with God. M.M.K., Reconstructionist Prayer Book, page 125

each birth, always

each birth, always

Been thinking about religion. Again. Still. Always. Considering it from a different perspective this last week. I’ve said other times that I believe religion is the philosophy and poetry of the common person, a way to understand deep questions like: Why are we here? What is our purpose? What’s good behavior? Bad? Who am I? Who are we?

Religions are a language a group of people can use to have conversations about these questions, a set of ideas and concepts, history and tradition which give weight to possible answers. We are here to repair the world, to bear the burden of the other. A Jewish response to some of the questions. We are here to love one another as we love ourselves. One Christian answer. We are here to detach ourselves from the world, to float free of attachment and eventually find nirvana. One Buddhist answer. We are here to submit to the will of Allah. We are here as part of the natural world and best served when we align ourselves with it. We will head toward heaven or bardo or the endless wheel of reincarnation or the return of our elements from whence they came.

winter solstice4Inside the particular Jewish or Presbyterian or Unitarian or New Thought or Tibetan Buddhist or Hindu or Muslim community to which we belong we use this language and create a sense of belonging. As we use the language, part of which is ritual and dress, part of which is expected behaviors, we create a semi-permeable membrane, often not very permeable at all, for outsiders. To cross into our community they have to penetrate the language, learn the customs, adjust themselves to the patterns. The membrane works both ways, obscuring our vision as we look out from within our particular tradition. We see a world shaped by and often determined by the assumptions of ours.

This membrane tends to make dialogue across it difficult, sometimes impossible. My point here is that in the world there are many, many of these membrane covered communities. The very thing which makes them rich and wonderful to their participants makes them difficult to understand for outsiders. And, they can’t all have all the answers. Common sense says so.

Birth of Lord Krishna

Birth of Lord Krishna

Many of the new atheists (Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens) have taken these sort of observations and come out with ideological guns blazing, considering themselves in a High Noon battle with the forces of ignorance. I disagree.

Last night at Beth Evergreen, during the Shabbat service, I read through various pieces of commentary in the Reconstructionist Prayer Book. Mordecai Kaplan, the founder of the Reconstructionist Movement and a religious humanist, appears as M.M.K. In a derash, or homiletical interpretation of the Aleynu, the closing prayers for a service, Kaplan’s initials appear below this quote:

It is not the seeking after God that divides but the claim to have found God and to have discovered the only proper way of obeying God and communing with God. M.M.K., Reconstructionist Prayer Book, page 125

I think MMK and I could have been buddies.

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