The Concept of Religion and God

A “concept” is, in my mind, an organized “knowing” of something, anything. The concept of “beauty”. (Someone might say, “Her beauty is only skin deep.” That slur says something about the speaker having a concept of the beautiful lady’s personality.) About “meaning of life”. About “race”. About “politics”. “Religion”. “Good food.” “Nutrition”. “Health”. “Love”. And so on. “Love”, for instance, is more of a concept of attraction, and then prolonged attraction, attraction as a desire to make it continue like an addiction, tied to one person’s presence, a love addiction, a very significant attraction, long-lasting accompanied with a strong desire to prolong the attraction for a very long period of time, an attraction that you conclude without any trouble has staying power, which stands for what people call “love”.

Is “religion” an absolute necessity for everyone? Everyone will surely have a concept about religion whether or not they profess to “have” religion. If one professes to have no religion, any explanation will probably have an anti-thesis derived from religion. Why? Because religion is a very prominent activity in the culture, in the nation, in the world. You cannot escape its presence. And its presence is also global, everywhere at all times.

So, being so “universally prominent”, as a phenomenon, everyone on earth should at some time in life be expected to have a “concept” of the main feature of any religion, a superordinate power, usually called “God”, or “the gods”, the Almighty, a deity, or a higher power. “God” is usually capitalized to show significance as a proper name in Christianity, a being of the highest order of beings. God is always assumed to be a presence, whether present or not. The God is endowed with all sorts of powers, sees all, knows all, controls all, forever and always everywhere at once. The way people act, God loves praise and complements to the extreme point of flattery. I have difficulty imagining such a super-power as being a glutton for adulation and even the debasement of proskynesis.

The concept of “worship” depends on an appraisal of the materials and deeds in the worship ceremony stemming from the belief system. What about appreciation? Appreciation is an appraisal made after examination and the result of the appraisal being made known to the object being appraised. Now appraisals have to be very discriminating by specialists who know the criteria by which to make the fair and honest consideration of the thing being appraised. That is the content of the concept of “worship”, and a chief “appraiser” in charge, which cannot be blind, but must be founded on the belief as a systematic belief of one denomination.

I believe that it is certain that there will be a variety of “attitudes” toward the “concept” of the main feature of religion, the deity(-ies). An “attitude” is a “characteristic response” of the individual, each individual being separate in ego and identity, meaning there can be so many billions of attitudes, given the recent figures on the population of Earth. Remember the Puritan preacher and his famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, the “Hell Fire and Damnation” School of preaching that constituted, and probably still does, as one style marking Protestant sincerity of evangelism even to this day. I was a Baptist and saw a bit of that myself.

Think of the variety of concepts, attitudes, that believers will hold. They then sort themselves into like-minded groups and find each other and recognize each other as having somewhat similar properties of belief, so much so that they want to congregate and form a body of fellowship around the concept they hold in common. Or it may happen that a charismatic preacher will be able to bend an auditorium full of followrs to his or her stylistic slant on belief in God and, perhaps, define a new religion (organized belief) just a bit different from the main stream. That would have to be in the Protestant view, where there is more freedom for “styling”. In fact, the delivery style may create a slightly new belief and emphasis. In that fellowship, the individual nuances are left hanging outside the group as the groups solidify in commonalities, and build their own church. Any lack of independent thinking just must lead to “orthodoxy”, outside of which is another kind of “sin”. Groupies, too. Gangs, too, as religions.

That becomes the God of the Catholics, the God of the Protestants, and so on to the great number of identifiable congregations. The auto de fé comes at the end of the line for some extreme thinkers, and could lead to torture or burning at the stake in the public square. For thinking. And speaking.

But all that presumes that each individual is an independent thinker. No. Not so. Individuals are probably blank slates, “tabula rasa”, when it comes to a concept of God. That blank slate is the state of being very young, in age, in the ways of the world, in the vagaries of belief that has crept into an attitude, modeled in the fellowship having a prepotent effect on groupy behavior.

The ways of the world fall to the interpretations of the particular view plastered on the very young, and that means the particular concept held by the smallest congregation to start with, the family, the family concept of God. Inherited. Any independent thinking about the concept beyond the orthodoxy is unlikely, and probably squelched in a hurry. The blank slate is etched with orthodoxy, and that will never be worn out by any sandpaper of heterodoxy.

What is the point?

It hardly seems fair and appropriate that the concept of God should be foisted off on the unknowing young, as the concept of the elders in the smallest congregation, before the youth have opportunities to develop their own concept without inheriting it. How many have the intelligence and courage to think for themselves and declare themselves above the prevailing dogma in the house? Not in ones so young.

I know that religion and God have great powers and many worths. In such as charities, among others. It is one force that contributes to rendering people “governable”, giving them governability”, which all society needs. But it is the rigid orthodoxies that inculcate stuff in the very young, as if to hang on to them for life. To the detriment of the youngster? Probably not, if the child can grow into a character of his or her own making, climbing out of prejudgment and gaining the thought process of making an individual re-judgment of the eternal verities, the realities of his or her own truths. Through reasoning, the balancing of the alternatives and choosing the best alternative according to her or his individual choice.

I have not been vilified for my views. But then, I do not usually show them prominently in any way, but I am now. And I live in a society allowing and enforcing freedom. Which is not universal. Yet. Perhaps that is the way the world is tending?

In my recent experience with death, I have thought a lot about it. I became something of a person without belief in a foxhole. Wanting some superordinate intervention to deliver me from my loss. Yeah. A miracle. But I know better. Laws of nature and the Universe and all that. But in that all too human situation, you tend to–oh–slip a bit, and wish for such an intervention. Weak. Sad. Someone to “HELP!” nah. She is worth every tear.

Why do I find that “religion” does not have, for me, that “prolonged staying power” that I attributed to the meaning of “love”? Hypocrisy. People betray their wedding vows too easily. That is a model example of the difficulty of religion. Impracticable rules lead to hypocrisy, professing for, and acting against. Promising “forsaking all others”. but then abandonment, breaking a trust.

Everybody should be a saint. Everybody cannot be a saint. So you must go to hell. The Baptist religion I knew preached against smoking, going to the movies, wearing lipstick. Such a religion was a shelter against the worldly. Also, there are the beliefs in outmoded concepts that should have gained from the intelligence gathered since those famous Biblical dicta were written. Outmoded beliefs, off-putting. Much can be learned from an education in literature and philosophy and ethics in communication and history and politics, what fundamentalists would call the much maligned “humanism”, the ideology of being human and plucked from ideology to become humanistic studies.

But things are loosening up, I see, and in a century religion will have been “made-over”. There are such rules as the Golden Rule and Kant’s humanistic categorical imperative, as I read it, acting as you would legislate for all humankind. Now that is an imperative: a command, a commandment, a duty, an obligation, a responsibility, a vow.

But first, an individual will have to give evidence of being “governable”, of knowing and swearing fidelity to the rules and laws of society. And then achieve a record of having lived in accordance with the vows and rules and laws of humanity in everyday operation. The “governable” individual needs to be that in society and have a system of principles governing morality and acceptable conduct as an ethic. A work ethic. A marriage ethic. A frolic ethic. A family ethic. A study or student ethic. A love ethic. A financial ethic. A mothering ethic. A fathering ethic. A family ethic. A son ethic. A daughter ethic. A guest ethic. A driver ethic. A witness ethic. Governability in all of those categories. In any one of those, not everything goes. Self-control in all of those is posting yourself as governable. As honorable. As faithful. As dependable. As loveable. The ethic of governability is what makes society possible, the essence of loyalty.

(3-12-13)

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