Wednesday, March 24, 2010

“Did you pray with full intent?”

“Did you pray with full intent? Did you actually want an answer? Did you go down on your knees to pray? I'd try doing these things before saying that you didn't feel anything since I know if you do then you will feel that it is true.”

It’s curious how loaded words like “full intent” and “actually” can be used in the context of your comment to imply that the other person is not sincere enough. I could just as ineffectively make the equivalent comment:

“Did you *actually* want the truth, or did you just want an answer? Did you apply your complete awareness with *full intent*? I’d try doing these things before saying you didn’t understand anything since I know that if you do you will see that it is true.”

(For the record, I never said “I didn’t feel anything.” I would actually claim the opposite. There is much to be felt in any religion. But these feelings are not exclusive to any one religion, and it is astounding to claim that they are exclusive to religion at all.)

It is not some sort of insincere or selfish desire to believe what we want that leads many of us past religion. It is, in fact, the opposite. What we discover is often unexpected and/or upsetting, but at the same time, more plausible. When religion prevents outmoded understandings from being replaced with more plausible and more functional understandings, we are placed in a difficult dilemma: (1) Risk the potentially painful consequences (psychological or otherwise) of questioning our religion or (2) find a way to put our questions back on the self (suspend our incredulity).

Susceptibility to religious affect does not make one mindless or somehow less human. I could iterate a thousand times that I know what it feels like to believe in this church and how, from within that belief structure, it does not feel like manipulation. When you believe in it, it feels as though it would have to be some kind of perfect fraud in order to not be true. I just happened to unwittingly contemplate two key questions to their ultimate (and dare I say, unexpectedly euphoric) extent: (1) If this church isn’t what it claims--if it is the perfect fraud, would I want to know and (2) how would I be able to know?

But to answer your questions: yes, yes, and yes.

If this church is the perfect fraud, would you want to know? Would the tools and environment offered by this church allow you to know?