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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Religiously Responsible

Religion is a strange thing. I can see the appeal to it, a person – while settled into society – is left wondering as to what exactly they are doing there, what is their purpose. They are asked to look at their world for what it is and accept it, yet they don’t understand why, or for what purpose. Spend some time around nothing but very religious people and it begins to make sense. Religion gives them a purpose and a reason. But more importantly it goes a long way towards taking the onus for their lives off of themselves and applying it to something else, a separate entity that they are not responsible for.

If I am me and I am sitting here in my own little world there is little I can do for myself that I am not responsible for. Yes, I know my other philosophical tenets discuss the socialization and constructivist aspects of life as foundational, but this is on a philosophical and informational level, but this is not in the sense of the decisions we make. We still own those decision more than anyone else. No matter where I learned something, if I do it, it becomes mine and me. If I treat people poorly because I was taught to treat people poorly ‘why’ still doesn’t change the outcome, the outcome is still there. That being said, our actions are founded upon the actions social origins, but at the same time they still happen, thus they are ours. However, with the existence of ‘God’, both of these actions cease to become ‘ours’. The world is still constructed – this time by god – but in our actions it is ‘God’ that dictates them and preordains them. Yes it is said that we control our own actions on a daily basis, but this is all done in relation to ‘God’s’ wishes, plans, etc. The onus for one’s actions rest externally from our own self. People do things, because God either makes them do it, or they do it for ‘him’ (yes, not her :-/).

This line of existence is of course appealing as it takes the fundamental basis of our lives and puts it in someone else’s hands, and absolves us of responsibility on the most fundamental of levels. When times are tough, you don’t have to look in the mirror and take the responsibility for yourself, but rather sigh and believe that it is all for a reason – a divine/ordained reason.

This is not to say that religious people do not have responsibility or are not responsible people. They are responsible on a day to day basis as the tenets of most religious orders espouse responsible actions. But again, on a fundamental level, they are being responsible because someone (or something) else ‘says’ so, or rewards them for such, not because they take it solely from themselves.

I try to be good because I think it is the right thing to do, not because I will be punished if I am not – i.e. go to hell, etc. Action by fear is not voluntary or wholly honorable. Living yourself for someone else or per their wishes is virtual slavery. Living for a cause or a belief system is one thing, but living for someone else or to do their wishes is a tough one – especially for a society that values the individual first and foremost.

Anyway, there is an appeal there, it gives 'answers' to previously 'unanswerable' questions, it absolves the self of some responsibility, and provides momentary happiness. And this last one is a key. If I believe that I am the only one responsible then life is going to be tough on me, there is no scapegoat, no one to blame, only me. With someone else to 'blame' and someone else directing my life I can take those weights off of my shoulders – there is an easy way out. That is the biggest thing I walked away from a recent religiously engorged long weekend with. If I want my life to be easy – then I can take the easy path and just give it all over to God, let ‘him’ handle the big things, and I’ll just deal with day to day maintenance. Its like the difference between being the CEO of a multinational 'you', and being a localized assembly line working 'you'. A person with less ‘worries’ within their daily existence.

This may sound like a tough way to put it, but it is in fact an admirable position to be in. Less worries, simpler lives – I mean life is so much easier when you have someone else working for/with you. The problem for humanity is that absolving your self of this responsibility for you and your greater picture does not help present society in a quest for a better now. You can work for yourself, towards your own self salvation, but what of how your actions (or inactions) affect others? What are you/we doing for others? What of the system that everyone else must live in? If we all give ourselves to god, then who will truly and independently work for others, who will take the initiative to ‘make’ a better place for us and for future generations after a person has 'gone to heaven’?

Life is about motivations and rewards, if our lives are about giving away responsibility and focusing on ourselves then were do we as a society go? No long term goals, no present day initiative or responsibility, and most importantly very little hope of making life better here on earth.

Good people that do good things, or help others, because it just seems like the right thing to do are much more admirable than people that do good deeds because they will be rewarded if they do them, or punished if they don't. Break free...

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