Monday, January 9, 2017

Sabbatical musings on religion with help from Bart Simpson?

Religion is such a fascinating phenomenon, really.

There's a quote by Bart Simpson that has stayed with me since I heard it. The way I remember it, there's a dispute about what is Christianity (Catholicism? Protestantism? etc.). And Bart says, "Easy on the zeal, Churchos… I've got something to say. Don't you get it? It's all Christianity, people! The little stupid differences are nothing next to the big stupid similarities!"

There are endless fights about religion. There are the fights within religious traditions (among denominations or sects) about what is orthodox and what is the essence and what are the rules, etc. And then there are fights between religions. And some days I want to paraphrase Bart Simpson with "Easy on the zeal, religious fanatics… I've got something to say. Don't you get it? It's all religion, people! The little stupid differences are nothing next to the big stupid similarities!"

Osho wrote and talked a lot about religion -- about every religion as being inherently limited. He wanted to replace religion with something like religiosity. There's a part of me that is sympathetic with this. But then again, specific religions bring us specific gifts. Maybe a better paraphrasing of Bart Simpson would be, "Lighten up, seekers… I've got something to say. Don't you get it? It's all religion, people! The little beautiful and idiosyncratic differences are nothing next to the big beautiful similarities!"

Another thing I've been pondering on sabbatical is, what is a "cult"? It's one of those words that people love to throw around. And you can find checklists about the characteristics of a cult, of course. But most of it is relative. Yesterday's cult (for instance, early Christianity) is today's huge, respectable world religion. And many of the cult checklists would turn any "Utopian community" into cult status. But is that always fair? If a group is asking for total control over your life -- including your unquestioning obedience -- that's obviously a problem. But it's possible -- I believe -- that a beautiful Utopian community might asking for you to share money and possessions. Wasn't Jesus asking for that, really? To leave it all behind and come along on a quest to bring the realm of God/heaven here on earth?

Just pondering, here on day nine of sabbatical.

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