Here is a letter I received from a friend living in England. She makes a very valuable point, and I thought you might appreciate my reply.
>>To: Moller de la Rouviere
Subject: Ruminations of an atheist in a very large place of worship
>>So I stood in Ely cathedral and looked at the multitude of angels and holy people painted most beautifully on the ceiling, and the soaring pillars and beautiful trellis work- the years of labour, sweat and expense. A choir practiced, and one was supposed to find it moving, but it just irritated me with its over-pious- la-la-la-oh- God -forgive-ussishness, and once more I said to myself, said I, in my cocoon of Im- so- glad- I'm- so- enlightened ness, "What a monument to fear and appeasement ! " Allthat effort put into a myth.And that crucified man hanging on the wall, such sado-masichisic indulgence. But then I also thought that maybe it doesn't matter whether a person believes in a ridiulous and contradictory embodiment of that which is hoped to be , its the effort that counts- the builder, the worshipper, the nice lady showing me around- they are all making their only known way, in sincerity , deluded or not……. Yep, I can just see that glint in your eye before you wipe the philosophical floor with me…>>
No. I have no glint of philosophical counter-attack (pre-emptive strike?) in my eyes. In fact I agree with you that there are many good-hearted believers. My point is that such goodness could perhaps be subscribed, not so much to their religious fantacies, but rather to their innate goodness. Their religion might well be the screen on which this human goodness is projected, or in their deluded state, the apparent reason for their goodness. But, this I doubt. Goodness is not learnt. And the kind of goodness which is learnt is full of potential for real nastiness. You know the good Afrikaner families who can become distinctly nasty when they discover that you are an outsider (outside their faith and precious NG Kerk). So what appears on the outside, and what motivates on the inside are very often two distinct human movements. The one is real and unconditioned. The other is limited, fragmented, open to abuse and inherently violent and distrustful.
Religion is a psychological hedge. Nothing more and nothing less. As such it serves a wonderful purpose for the deluded souls needing it, and mistaking their need for the true spiritual search. Religion is a need fulfilled. It works wonderfully while it works. But if it gets challenged, it shows its counter-side of fear, aggression, defence, and violence.
I too have a sense for the pious. I too am deeply religious. But my religion is life itself and my struggle with my religion is my struggle to see through the conditionality I bring to life, thereby restricting its flow and subtle movement. Religion is a here and now affair. Humanistic to the core. Religion became a trap the moment it became what is seen as Other-informed. It is the Other, the God that destroys religion. Bring it home, into the hearth of our human condition, and it becomes alive and pure in its quest for that aspect of human life which lies dormant behind the projections of our Gods, saviours and religious ideologies.
Warmth and happiness to you.
Her short reply:
Have you any idea what a pleasure it is to see your name come up in my inbox? And once again, the substance of your missive so calm and well-considered and confident in your awarenesses.>>
I guess it is interchanges such as this that would make this forum come alive.
Hnad in hand,
From: Anne Kemlo [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Friday, August 24, 2012 12:37 AM