When something has gotten worn out and doesn't work well for you anymore, it's natural to lean toward discarding it. But often it's possible to find another use for the item.
For example, in my closet I've got a place where I keep my work-in-the-yard clothes -- old pants and t-shirts that I put on when I'm going to get dirty or sweaty. I didn't buy them for that purpose. They've just been repurposed from their original use.
Likewise, it makes sense to do this with outmoded religious beliefs. You've moved on from the dogmas that you used to embrace. Probably there's something about them you still enjoy, though. So adapt them to your new atheist, agnostic, or whatever frame of mind.
I thought of this yesterday when I was doing chores in our yard, trying to get as much of the grass mowed as possible before it started raining heavily.
For 35 years I belonged to a guru-led religious organization, Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB), that had its headquarters in India. Thus many of the central tenets of RSSB were expressed in Indian words.
Like, seva. Which means selfless service.
Obviously this can be done by anyone, anytime, anywhere. We're seeing seva expressed wonderfully during the coronavirus crisis. Medical personnel, grocery clerks, cleaners, delivery truck drivers, and so many others are doing their jobs with steadfast dedication.
So it's ridiculous to view seva as something that one does for a religious leader or organization. However, that's how it was generally viewed by RSSB. People would travel to India or to RSSB centers in their country so they could perform selfless service. Which is totally unnecessary, of course, since there are plenty of opportunities for seva close to home.
Or, right at home.
After I finished mowing, which took longer than usual because the light rain that had been falling, combined with tall lush grass, caused the discharge chute of my large walk-behind DR Field Mower (with lawnmower attachment) to keep clogging with wet clippings, I was ready to go inside and relax.
But then I realized that the lawn hadn't been edged for several weeks. And that the mower had left some pieces of mud and grass clumps in the carport as I was pushing it into the garage.
So I got out my battery-powered edger. Followed by my Stihl backpack blower.
I knew that my wife, Laurel, enjoys seeing the edges of the lawn neat and clean. Probably more than I do, because Laurel does a lot of weed pulling, and that's more difficult when you can't see what's sprouting in the bark mulch that surrounds our lawn. And I also knew that if I left the clumps of dirt and grass in the carport, Laurel would get a broom and clean them up herself.
Doing those additional jobs, edging and blowing, felt good, even though I was tired and hungry. In fact, it felt exactly like the feeling I'd have when I was setting up chairs for the weekly meeting of our local RSSB group here in Salem, Oregon.
I'd put extra effort into lining up the chairs just so, because I was imbued with the notion of seva, selfless service. That was a fine thing to do. What largely escaped me at the time, though, was something that now strikes me as obvious: as noted above, service to others can be done by anybody, anywhere, anytime.
During my religious believing years, though, I made the mistake of viewing seva on behalf of RSSB and the guru as somehow being more important than seva to my family, community, and others.
Having seen the error of my ways, I've repurposed that word, seva, to encompass any and all forms of selfless service. Plus, I've pretty much discarded the "selfless" part. I really have no idea if my edging the grass and blowing off the carport was selfless or not. Since I got pleasure from imagining my wife feeling good about what I'd done, arguably I wasn't really selfless.
But who is?
If Mother Teresa felt pleasure from serving the poor, does this take away from her "selfless service"? I don't think so. It would be crazy to think that we have to be miserable while serving others. If that makes us feel good, so much the better, because then we'll want to do more selfless service, more seva.
Anyway, I could give more examples of how I'm repurposing outmoded concepts from my previous religious life. Another time, perhaps.