Religious, irreligious, whatever

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I suppose I am what we call irreligious, or perhaps a humanist, maybe even an atheist.

I bring this up now to stress that I do not know whether my beliefs can be categorized, and also to make a point: it is easy to get lost in the semantics of religious debate, but we need to realize that by doing so we are avoiding the bigger questions. So, let us dispense with semantics and divorce this article from nitpicking and categorization and look at my beliefs for what they are.

There are no gods, nor god, nor God. There are no beings that are capable of defining our way of living. Faith unnecessarily obstructs the lives of the faithful, and believers are reliant on a predefined way of living, one developed separately from their own experience. Thus, they live incomplete, unfulfilled lives, deprived of experiences because they were denied by faith.

For me, life is about the totality of experience, and I see religious teachings as an obstruction to this goal. Experience should dictate the principles that bind you; you should discover what is right and wrong on your own. You will suffer. You might act immorally. But you will acquire a nuanced and more complete understanding of what makes these principles right and worthy of adherence. Observing the doctrine of faith might permit an agreeable life, one perceived as prosaically moral, but ultimately this morality exists only within the context of that faith.

And thus is my belief summarized. At least, it was my belief. I believed strongly this way for a while, but have recently found myself to be hypocritical. Unravelling my own doctrine, I find myself in the same boat as the conventionally religious.

A truly pious individual will have faith in their principles, but sometimes struggle to respect them.

There are certain things that I do not need to experience in order to understand their moral content. I do not need to kill to know that killing is bad, nor do I need to be killed. To find a reason more basic than simply, “because life and experience have an inherent value,” is impossible, and ends in a circular logic. This makes me no different than the religious. For them, a god is worthy of devotion because they are god, just as I find life worthy of experiencing simply because it is life.

My opposition to adhering to religious principles, because they are unnecessarily limiting, is also narrow-minded. To have structure and predetermined responses where you do not have experience allows for an opportunity for internal conflict. To be faced with a choice where an external force, your god, has defined the supposed correct action, and to disagree with this action, allows for a striking dialogue to occur within you.

I made the mistake of believing that the faithful do not struggle enough. But I believe that a truly pious individual will have faith in their principles, but sometimes struggle to respect them. These struggles permit an internal dialogue that allows for an even greater understanding of themselves and their faith. In short, religion provides a moral awareness and gives rules that you are meant to struggle against in order to eventually understand their roots.

To sum up my thoughts, I realize now that those practicing religion seek the same totality of understanding that I seek, but with perhaps more structure. I do not find my way of living any worse than an individual of faith, nor do I find it any better. It is simply a different method of adopting a moral and virtuous way of living; ultimately, everyone is trying to understand life, and perhaps only differences of culture and birth define the way we go about it.

Be kind and humble to other faiths, and be accepting of those without an institutionalized faith.