A Wealth of Understanding

When it comes to religion, there’s certain rhetoric that dominates newspapers, public press, political statements, and the like. I don’t mean that of tolerance, which is universally applied (often in several coats) to all topics; I mean that of separation.

Religion is often referred to in a list of personal attributes, and I’ve seen it listed alongside qualities of race, or even physical disabilities. But we are not religious in the same way that we are “red and yellow, black and white,” and indeed, this mindset spills over into practice. For religion is not only described this way, but treated as such—an attribute that, while it may result in reactionary effects that acknowledge its presence, is not the source of anything in and of itself. People of similar skin colour may have their many preferences, but this is not because of their skin colour. It is merely facilitated by their skin colour.

The aforementioned rhetoric refers to religion as something we “do” in our private lives, as if it were a taste in fashion, flavours of yogurt, or genres of music. We may say that someone “has a fulfilled spiritual life,” but this means absolutely nothing. It relegates it to that category of practices, which ultimately gives us personal satisfaction, but in the realm of our daily lives and public existence, is entirely inconsequential.

The above isn’t that dangerous. We see it mostly used for politeness and political correctness. We cannot, however, ignore where this logically leads: the prevalent idea that religion can truly be separated from conclusions in philosophy, science, and all such fields that already contain a secular perspective.

This simply isn’t true.

People from all walks of life have bought into this idea to some extent, because it reduces conflict an absolute minimum. But it’s wrong to pretend that religion does not compete for some of the same ground staked out by, for instance, philosophy. Yet we will use the words separately so long as we’re able. So long as we aren’t a student of philosophy… and perhaps even then.

For many Christians, this separation can only last so long. At some point, it may become the end of their faith. For they believed all this time that they could sit in a church, forming conclusions about the world, never thinking that they may run up against the conclusions of others. Why would we assume that, being religious, we are fulfilling a need that does not exist—in any way, shape or form—in others? All people live and breathe. They want answers to the same questions that you do.

* * *

Now, you may say that religious people are already drawing quite enough connections—that they draw too many connections between, say, church and state.

This is not meant to advocate the American culture war. I didn’t mean to suggest a lack of connections between faith and practice, only a lack of connection between faith, and everything else that lives inside!

For just a moment, let’s call all that stuff the “Body of Knowledge.”

In Fig. 1, practice is being informed by two sets of completely disjoint, but very real, parts of the person. When they disagree, only one can take precedence. If faith wins out, the faith is blind. If not, the faith is impotent, for it has done nothing to inform practice that the secular world could not have done.

Christians living in Fig. 1 often fear the dichotomy, because the sources feeding the Body of Knowledge are well-researched, and have no equal in religious experience. They attempt to stay in Fig. 1 by increasing the strength of the Religious Faith bubble. They create Christian music, Christian Science, and as many things as you can put Christian in front of. But in many cases, it simply cannot outmatch the work poured into the seemingly evil secular perspective.

If, however, a Christian moves towards Fig. 2, something great happens. By creating a feedback loop between the Body of Knowledge and their Faith, where faith informs intellectual conclusions and external knowledge informs faith, there is a single paradigm affecting how real life is lived.

When it comes to church and state, we may find ways of agreeing on practice based on differing conclusions, but we should not agree on conclusions just to ensure common practice.

So we don’t have to throw away all the good work that’s been done in the soft and hard sciences, the arts, and so on. We just have to learn to read it for ourselves.

If you walk into a church on Sunday morning, the message you’ll hear will be unlike anything you hear during the rest of the week. It will be quite separate, and quite spiritual. When all that’s said and done, the congregation is responsible for integration. A religious person who waits for the moment where the conclusions of faith and their “normal” life clash in practice, they may discover that this religion has not been an integral part of who they are, but merely a hobby.


One Response to “A Wealth of Understanding”

  1. Interesting post. Nice figures.

    People have a tendency to keep their religion in their pocket, and only bring it out when it’s convenient. Pray when times are hard so that times will be good. Thank God when you win at the awards ceremony. That kind of thing.

    If you keep that faith compartmentalized, only taken out and shown off at your convenience, your faith will fail – or be revealed for the “hobby” that it is – because it always has to shift (you will have to change what you believe) so to not conflict. Conflict is inevitable between faith and our “normal” (“human nature”) lives. Either our faith will change us, and our behaviour, or we will dismiss our faith as ‘irrelevant’ or at the very least, useless. I think to some extent it boils down to whether we serve our God or if we try to make our God serve us.

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