Do you study religion in order to remain irreligious?
When growing up maybe your experience of religious training was a snore at best or an offense at worst. Perhaps you had your fill of droning Sunday School teachers, lime Kool-Aid, and pat answers. (I love lime Kool-Aid…). Or maybe one of the nuns managed to smack you around occasionally (assuming you didn’t have it coming). And it’s also possible you had great teachers but you were happy to block that out as you got older. You and I both know it’s always someone else’s fault when we’re not receptive. And so you were vaccinated with low-dose indifference toward religion that developed into a nearly militant disregard, and have ever since pursued a study of religion with the implicit or stated goal of remaining irreligious. Seriously?
I live to locate the trouble outside of myself. And speaking of training, I’ve also learned this from others (not that I needed help). And I love that in this regard religion is such an easy target. Broader than a barn door. I can fire away, cook down some episodes from history, point out a few scoundrels, and assemble a fine little accusational stew that serves up well at parties. I can highlight abuses, spin a few wars, and play the witch-hunt game with reasonable facility, until someone begins to peel my own onion, and I am faced with the reality that history also includes me and my broken story of hidden vice. But that’s getting too close.
I see a lever — a toggle. And often my energies snap the lever in one direction only, that of self-protection. Does this have more to do with inclination than information? More to do with exposure than argument? Might something be and remain True whether any man believes it, or if men associated with that Truth are themselves willful and blemished, as I know myself to be? Is it then the fault of the Truth or of the man? And if there be a transcendent Truth, might there be a transcendent opposition to it that is playing out before our eyes and even within us? And is that opposition possibly represented in my toggle position? Will I take the risk of turning the lever back on myself and go inside to see what I have left unattended and unexamined? Or will I stiff-arm my way into a posture of perspective that excludes me from the society which the sociologist studies? A physician who will not allow himself to be doctored? A chef who never eats? A mortician who doesn’t plan for his own death?
But, you say, you’re spiritual but not religious, having depersonalized God into “The Universe,” and having assigned to that Universe powers and limitations of your own choosing. This close but not too close. How convenient. But didn’t you tell me you were counter-cultural?