Religion without Belief

I have been thinking about the real impact of doubt in the existence of God or the verity of the numerous historical claims of religion vs. the practice of discipleship. I wonder if there is a way out of worrying so much about truth claims regarding religious events while gaining the benefits of following a religion. Aside from religion, people are devoted to causes, companies, sports, projects, countries, nations, ethnicities, races, etc. Most of these devotions are based on intuitive judgments, traditions, and the ethos and mythos of the group, movement or endeavor. Americans generally believe in and attempt to put their actions as americans in the certain set of myths about how America is a country built on freedom and justice. Few people care about the real historical accuracy of the mythos that supports the “American Way”, the “American Dream”, the Constitution, etc. but they still have a degree of reverence for the ideas they represent.

The fact that America was built on slavery as much as on freedom, on genocide in nearly the same proportion as tolerance does not diminish the dream and the vision of America in the minds of many. Of course there is a hefty amount of delusion in the dream, but the dream and the ethos that springs from the mythology has had the power to bend and temper opposing forces in a way that makes some aspects of the vision reality. The huge, powerful, rich, multicultural country we live in that enjoys unprecedented freedom of speech, expression, and religion appears to be in a large part the product of the “religion” of Americanism. Of course, during recent years we see the destructive power of dark, reactionary, myopic forces that also dwell within nationalism, but those are also to be expected. We believe in the ideals, despite evidence that our behavior is contrary to the ideals, not because the historical myths regarding the justice of America are true, but rather because the ideals are living, they resonate with our own aspirations of justice and right.

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2 responses to “Religion without Belief

  1. This post resonates really strongly with me. I definitely think the living core of religion is community (and the ethics that strengthen communities by enabling individuals within them to learn and grow), not some naively historicized mythology. The fact that someone else did or did not perform some crime or some miracle in the past has no necessary bearing on our decision to love and serve one another. Unfortunately, many people have a really hard time coming to grips with this. My own family reacted a little skittishly to my crisis of faith, wondering whether I would become someone they could not “love” the way they did before. And it seems every General Conference features someone warning us that “either Joseph Smith is who we say he is, or this is the worst fraud every perpetrated on the human race…” –an assertion that is patently ridiculous to me. Anyway, I wish you the best of luck with your faith journey. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

  2. Thanks Joseph, I appreciate your comments. I tend to think the ideals, the myths, the ethos are all important parts of connecting religious practice and spirituality to a community, which can make it hard if you don’t buy into a particular community’s common dreams, myths and visions. Often the best we can hope for is to relate to the underlying ideals that are pointed to by the myths.

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