Lately I've been surprising myself. My churchless psyche isn't nearly as down on religion as it was a few years ago, when I was closer to my saying "goodbye" to an organized spiritual, mystical, and metaphysical belief system.
This is natural.
Right after I got divorced from my first wife some twenty-one years ago, I thought about her much more, and considerably differently, than I do now. We've each moved on to other relationships. Emotions and attachments, whether positive or negative, almost always fade with time.
It still bothers me when fundamentalists expect other people to accept their view of reality on faith, rather than on the basis of demonstrable evidence. If you want me to believe that abortion should be illegal, or intelligent design taught in schools, you'd better bring better reasons than "the Bible tells me so."
However, I'm coming to realize that if religiosity is seen as akin to an art form, a means of creative expression and a way of conveying human dreams/desires, then expressions of faith aren't nearly as objectionable.
Indeed, they can even be admirable.
Many atheists and agnostics enjoy the atmosphere in religious services. They like the often-astounding architecture of places of worship. Devotional music can be profoundly moving to unbelievers. (When I hear the "Hallelujah Chorus," I feel a chill.)
I understand the appeal of worshiping a divine being who loves, guides, and protects. I grasp why people are so attracted to the prospect of immortality and an eternity spent in a pleasant heaven. I resonate with a desire to experience the mysteries of higher domains of reality and/or consciousness.
I've had these feelings myself for most of my life. Indeed, I still have them to some extent. They've just changed form -- in the direction of the above-mentioned artistry, and away from realism.
I still talk to God.
Along with alien beings, ascended masters, departed souls, divine gurus, and any other being who might be listening in on my consciousness when I meditate every morning. Now, though, I don't expect a response, an answer, a two-way conversation.
When I feel like expressing myself religiously, spiritually, or mystically, I do. Occasionally I even drop to my knees before I go to bed (never when my wife is in the room; that would be too embarrassing) and repeat the Lord's Prayer just as I did in the days of my Catholic youth.
I'm curious to see how it feels to do that now. I want to experience how different the prayer's words sound at the age of 61 rather than eight. I'm interested in walking in a Christian's shoes for a minute, even if it is just pretending.
There's the key to religious artistry, as I see it: knowing the difference between personal expression, and universal reality.
We can admire all sorts of art -- paintings, music, sculptures, books, poetry, weavings, photography, whatever -- without believing that the artist's vision is anything more than a manifestation of his or her subjective view of life and the world.
The same can be true of religious devotion, ritual, and worship. It's what people do, when they feel drawn in that creative direction. We're all artists in our own way, religious believers included.