Fairly frequently people question, Why this Church of the Churchless blog? I've got an email in my "to reply" file that asks just this.
Why be critical of religion? Why discuss the believability of theological tenets, including those of the group to which I belonged for thirty years, Radha Soami Satsang Beas? Why place articles of faith under the looking glass of reality?
Because truth is worthy of veneration.
Now, some people consider that there is no such thing as objective truth, that reality is whatever we consider it to be. There's, well, some truth to this.
But you see – I've just made my point. Even the statement "there's no objective truth" has some truth content, or why say it?
For me it comes down to where my allegiance lies. I'm a semi-serious sports fan, paying special attention to the Oregon Ducks and Oregon State Beavers, two colleges within fifty miles of my home.
Depending on how well a U. of O. or OSU team is doing, I'll identify with it for a while. When the team wins, I feel good, because I've won also in some crazy sense. Losing, not so pleasant, for the same reason.
However, my genuine commitment is to the game, not teams. I enjoy the physical and psychological drama of sports, the ebb and flow of an event, how games are won and lost in such entertaining and interesting ways.
Other people are attached much more to a particular team, just as a religion attracts adherents for whom certain dogmas are the be-all and end-all of spirituality.
They aren't committed to the game of finding truth, but to identifying with a group that claims without justification to be the winner.
I say "without justification" because there's no proof that any religion or spiritual path is more in tune with a metaphysical reality than its competitors.
That's why four years ago I said on my other blog, "Heresy is heretical."
Usually we think of heretics in the realm of religion, not of science. Someone who disagrees with a well-accepted scientific "truth" (using this word advisably, since all scientific truth is open to refutation) usually is considered to be wrong, not heretical. And if a truth, or law of nature, isn't well-accepted because it hasn't been scientifically proven, then heresy is unthinkable; when there is no orthodoxy, there can be no heresy.
I've been enjoying the comment discussion on my "Playing fair with words" post. Some has dealt with the issue of believers feeling superior to non-believers, because they've been chosen for God's team.
In the case of Radha Soami Satsang Beas, people attending a gathering were classed as either "seekers" or "satsangis," depending on whether they'd been initiated into the fold or not. The obvious implication was that once you became a satsangi, you'd found.
Problem is, there was precious little evidence that anything uniquely godly, spiritual, or mystical had indeed been found by the chosen initiates – who supposedly were destined to join the Radha Soami Satsang Beas organization because eons ago they'd been "marked" by God in some mysterious fashion.
I don't believe in that proposition anymore, even though I'm supposed to be one of the blessed chosen souls. But I've got faith. Faith in truth.
Faith that somewhere, somehow, someday – and that "where," "how," and "day" is here and now, as well as there and then – humankind will come closer to the truth about ultimate reality.
How do we get there? By questioning, being skeptical about hypothesized truths until there's reason to embrace them
I quoted this passage from A.H. Armstrong, a classics scholar, in my earlier post. It resonates with me as much now as it did then.
When claims to possess an exclusive revelation of God or to speak his word are made by human beings (and it is always human beings who make them), they must be examined particularly fiercely and hypercritically for the honor of God, to avoid the blasphemy and sacrilege of deifying a human opinion. Or, to put it less ferociously, the Hellenic (and, as it seems to me, still proper) answer to "Thus saith the Lord" is "Does he?," asked in a distinctly skeptical tone, followed by a courteous but drastic "testing to destruction" of the claims and credentials of the person or persons making this enormous statement.
Nicely said. Deifying a human opinion indeed is blasphemy, if God exists. Blessed are the skeptics, for they shall inherit genuine truth.