My Indisputable Churchless Truths have been holding up pretty well, judging from the comments on them so far. So I've been pondering their implications for how I, and others, react to peoples' descriptions of what they find meaningful in life.
One of the truths is:
Religions consider otherwise, of course. A true believer finds the meaning of life in the Bible, Koran, Vedas, Guru Granth Sahib, or the words of some revered spiritual teacher.
Yet this still is a choice -- to accept a set of religious beliefs. So we can't get away from the need for individuals, whether churched or churchless, to determine what makes life meaningful for them.
This blog is dedicated to supporting non-religious searching for meaning. As I've mentioned before, when I started the Church of the Churchless in 2004, it didn't take me long to come up with a pithy "tag line" to put at the top of the page.
(I'm not nearly as fond of the term "spiritual" now, but it still is useful shorthand for a non-religious pursuit of what life is all about -- more appealing to most people than "philosophical independence," for sure.)
I wanted to bring this up because I find that some commenters on this blog, including me from time to time, fail to make a distinction between (1) a statement of collective religious belief and (2) a description of what an individual finds spiritually or philosophically meaningful.
There isn't a hard and fast distinction between (1) and (2), but they clearly are different.
Example: someone leaves a comment on a post that says Christianity, Islam, Sant Mat, Hinduism, or another religion is true, and I'm an idiot for not recognizing this. I'll respond along the lines of Oh, yeah, who says? Show me the evidence.
However, if someone comments, "I really enjoy meditating in the morning as [fill in a spiritual practice] teaches," what goes through my mind is That's great. I'm glad this person has found something that is so meaningful to him or her.
Likewise, it doesn't bother me to hear, "I don't know if my religion is true, but I get a lot of satisfaction from believing in it." This is humble, non-dogmatic, personal.
Whatever people want to believe, that's their right. They just shouldn't demand that anyone else accept beliefs that have no demonstrable convincing evidence behind them.
(However, I also have quite a bit of sympathy for The Wandering Taoist's position in his "Nothing Personal" post, which argues that individual religious beliefs can have significant collective consequences that affect many other people.)
Where I think some commenters on this blog go awry -- and I'll admit that occasionally I've been guilty of this -- is treating someone's personal statement about what is meaningful to him or her as if this was You Must Believe! religious dogma.
I'm fine with attacks on collective religious authoritarism. But not with questioning someone's individual philosophy of life.
Especially when that someone is me.
Not so much because I'm so important to me (though naturally I am), but because the questioning of what is meaningful to me made me realize that it's unfair to do this to anybody.
Understand: I'm cool with criticism, debate, or disagreement of something I write. I've been an avid writer for most of my life. I'm used to people approving or disapproving of what flows from my mind and onto paper (or now, screen).
However, recently I got quite a bit of grief from some commenters when I talked about how much I enjoyed philosophical Taoism -- which is about as far from religion as a "spiritual" (broadly speaking) philosophy can be.
This made me realize that sometimes this blog can get off track, since its goal is to support an individual's non-religious search for meaning. Such is going to be essentially non-debatable, since meaning is much more of an I like, not an I'm right.
I like strawberries (particularly the Oregon variety). Who can disagree wth my liking?
I like philosophical Taoism. Who can disagree with my liking?
When I express my adoration for strawberries or Taoism, I'm not saying that you should like them also. I'm simply describing what I find appealing about these things. I'd enjoy it if you tried them and found them likable also, but I've got no expectation of that.
Anyway, I wanted to throw these thoughts out in a hope that people who participate in comment conversations on this blog will ponder the difference between dogmatic religiosity and individual meaning.
We should challenge the former and support (or at least tolerate) expressions of the latter.