On big religious days like Easter, the faithful get to hang out with other believers and enjoy a pleasing group validation of shared beliefs.
Today our local newspaper had a story about how 70 Christians turned out for a sunrise service in the Oregon rain and cold. A woman was quoted:
This is a good way to start Easter – with other believers.
Sure, why not?
If I could find 70 other people who agreed with whatever the heck it is I believe in – an amorphous faithless faith that changes frequently – I'd love to hear them tell me, "Brian, you're so absolutely right!"
Ah, music to my ears. But the reality is that I have to sing my own tune to myself if I want to enjoy a hymn that trumpets the power and glory of Brian'ism.
This can be a dilemma for the churchless.
Humans are social beings. We like to associate with people who validate us. Religions offer a time and place for the faithful to come together and tell each other, "We've got the truth that other deluded souls lack."
Problem is, on the next block there's another religious gathering taking place where the same thing is being said. And the truths contradict each other.
So I've concluded that spiritual truth isn't what we should be looking for. Rather, it is spiritual like. (In an earlier post I talked about the difference between "I'm right" and "I like.")
I like raspberries.
For breakfast today I had a bowl of oatmeal with some Oregon raspberries on top. I didn't need anyone else to tell me that I liked what I ate. And no one could have talked me out of my sensation of Yum, good.
Conversely, sometimes my wife – who believes I should be eating more different types of vegetables – will ask me, "Why don't you like brussels sprouts?" (or turnips, or cooked cabbage, or…)
I never know what to say, other than "Because I don't like them."
I like what I like because I like it. I don't like what I don't like. Sure, I like it when others like what I like. But if someone else doesn't like what I like, I still like it.
Yesterday a woman told me about an Easter service where mesh was put over a cross and members of the church brought flowers to stick into the display. "Sounds lovely," I said. "It was," she agreed.
Terrific. I've got no problem with people liking religion. There's a lot to like about the music, the atmosphere, the feeling of community, the volunteerism, the uplifting messages.
When it comes to like, no reasons are required. Everyone should feel free to like what they believe and to believe what they like, just as we all should like what we eat and eat what we like.
In "The Tao is Silent" (which I like a lot), Raymond Smullyan quotes some poems.
The fiddler plays.
Though no one listens,
The fiddler plays.
Although not consciously trying to guard
the rice field from intruders,
The scarecrow is not after all
standing to no purpose.
Most people hate egotists.
They remind them of themselves.
I love egotists.
They remind me of me.
You ask me why I live in
these blue hills.
I smile, but do not answer.
Admirable is he, who when he
sees lightning, does not say
"Life goes by like a flash."
Life, and religion, and relationships, and philosophy – everything becomes much simpler when we realize that I like what I like, and so do you.
Once we try to go beyond, into whys and wherefores, we enter complex territory. Stumbles abound. Stammering predominates. Explain yourself! bounces off a brick wall of What can I say?
I'm a defender of truth. But not of like, which doesn't need defending.
I consider that there's a shared reality, the province of science, where good reasons need to be given. Once religion crosses the border into "I know…" rather than "I like…" it needs to be prepared to justify its truth claims.
So if you enjoyed the love of Jesus yesterday, bless you. If you didn't, bless you. More importantly, bless yourself, whatever your religious inclination (or lack thereof) may be.
If the only thing we like is to like what others like, will we ever like anything for longer than the time it takes to move from one other to another other?
A better approach is to like what we like just to like it. Especially when it comes to religion and spirituality, because there aren't any reasons to be found here – just likes disguised as "because's."