Monday, March 15, 2010

Straight From The Heart

I think that I might be more tolerant towards and even respect theists who oppose atheism if I were convinced that the motivation for their beliefs was a sincere love for the supreme beings who are the center of their respective religions. However, most believers seem to connect with their deities out of fear, guilt, a sense of duty, habit, appearance, or a combination of these forces. Few believers who I meet really seem to be inspired soley out of a truly heartfelt reverence.

I know few fellow Jews, for example--even those who are Orthodox--who can truthfully say that they genuinely love God, the Torah, Talmud and / or their derivative teachings. I have attended Shabbat (Sabbath) services at an Orthodox synagogue and observed the behavior of the congregants. Many of them engage in idle chatter during the services, pray mechanistically, and remove their tallises (prayer shawls) as though they can't wait to get out of them even before recitation of the final blessing (which is led by the rabbi but which they don't even bother joining in. It's as though by that point the congregants are already just too bored to bother. Yet if they were really committed, wouldn't they sit through the entire shebang and giving their wholehearted attention to boot? So Perhaps the real reason that most of the members join the synagogue and attend services is mainly to socialize (which along with sumptuous luncheon buffet would be my own reason for being there). If so, there's nothing wrong with that if they just would just be straightforward about it and dispense with the rituals and pretense in the process.

Among Roman Catholics, the reasons for church attendance appear to be identical. I've met very few Catholics who really love going to mass and taking communion for its own sake, and when offering confession are truly contrite and repentant for their sins, real or imagined. More often than not confession is perfunctory and is mainly a" get out of hell free" card which creates an endless cycle of recidivism and confession. Prayer to the Trinity and the saints as intercessors is usually in the form of asking for personal favors rather seeking guidance to become a better person.

Ultimately,when it comes to religion, whether or not people can reconcile their practices with genuine love for their faith and for that matter their fellow man is of course their own business, as long as they stay out of mine and don't try to infringe on my rights and those of other non-believers. Such is not the case with Christian evangelists who proselytize not from love for their fellow man but from an attitude of moral superiority. Christianity, after all, is rooted in the belief that humankind is basically wicked because of original sin and that we can only be saved from God's eternal punishment (actually for doing nothing more evil than being born--how's THAT for a loving God?) by turning to Jesus. But those who refuse to yield to the these fundamentalists are not only considered unworthy of God's grace but inferior as well. Perhaps that's why these zealots try to undermine the U.S. Constitution and want to impose a "my way or the highway" theocracy on American society. Too bad that they can't walk in the storied humble ways of their savior.

Whether theists can square their shallow approach to religion with a true love of God and humankind is between them and their consciences. But if they can't act in good faith (pun intended) and walk the talk, then isn't it to time that they question their values and ask themselves what is really worth believing?


Alan said...

Why do they attend at all if they're just going to talk and not pay attention? To see and be seen.

But Jewish services, with all the private davening, does not involve them the way Christians and Muslims do. Maybe some more-liberal congregations have figured out how to involve them more.

But mostly, Jewish services tax your attention span to the breaking point. Can you be the ultimate well-behaved child? Many cannot. The group becomes like a bunch of unruly students at a boring, unintelligible lecture. Which it is.

Secular Guy said...

That's exactly my point Most of the congregants attend merely to socialize. But if they don't want ot admit this, then the very least they can do is behave themselves or stay home.

Whether it's a boring class lecture or a religous service, there's no excuse for bad manners.