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Soaring out of the Spiritual Closet

February 13th, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

When I tell people that I study religion there is often one of two assumptions made – either that I am deeply religious or that I am unreservedly anti-religious.  These assumptions are inaccurate.  So, in honour of my second year of blogging under the Black Chicken moniker, I thought I’d soar out of the spiritual closet, so to speak, and clear up a few things (and undoubtedly ruffle a few feathers in the process).

I do not consider myself religious in the sense that I am a follower of any particular faith, institution or path.  I do, however, consider myself a student of all religions and paths – both the traditional and esoteric.  The closest definition I can attribute to my beliefs is agnostic.  Simply put – I don’t profess to know one way or the other.   I’ve never been particularly fond of rigid definitions, but for sake of classifying my beliefs, it’ll have to do.

I consider myself a secularist.  In this sense, I mean that I don’t believe politics and religion should mix.  It does not mean, however, that I think religion should be banished from society or that religious groups shouldn’t have a voice (just like any other group representing a segment of people within society).   I just believe that when one group is given preferential status to shape politics, this inevitably leads to alienating people within that society.  For me, it doesn’t matter how small or fringe the out-group happens to be, they are still part of the make-up of society and have just as much right to express themselves to the powers that govern.

I am a secularist, religious ‘none’, but this does not mean that I don’t find value in religion.  I hold the view that religion has inspired people to create some truly beautiful things in the world.  From artistic expression to revolutionary movements, religious motivation can be wonderfully awesome.  I am also aware that this same motivation has aroused some truly heinous things.  I don’t deny that, but I think it’s important to point out that religions are not inherently good or bad – it is people that hold these qualities.  Sure, I can prattle off images of violence in sacred texts and historical examples of religiously-motivated atrocities.  In the same breath I can identify calls for peace and love in scriptures and point out divinely-inspired movements that have had great benefit to mankind.  It’s not as black and white as far too many people claim.

I believe in tolerance and respect.  I seek to achieve these in my own life by removing myself from my context and trying to understand and even appreciate the worldviews of my fellow human beings.   No, I don’t always agree with everyone or everything I come across.  That’s not the point.  I don’t have to agree, but I do believe that I have a duty to earn respect by giving respect.  It is far too often that I see extreme groups both religious and irreligious condemning the other for so called atrocities.  Let’s get real on this subject.  It is fine to align anywhere along the spectrum of belief.  That’s your choice, but to infringe on the rights of others to do so is horribly hypocritical – especially when one of your base arguments is that the ‘other’ forces their beliefs on people.  Kettle meet pot.   Far too often I see online groups that supposedly represent a rational worldview calling for an end to religion because it indoctrinates and dictates.  I hope they see the irony in these arguments.  On the other side, I see groups claiming a moral ambiguity and an erosion of ethics due to a lack of religious values.  Again, I think we need to get real.  Religion does not make people evil or righteous.  It is people who can be considered good, bad, or somewhere along the spectrum.  Yes, religion may inspire or motivate them.  So too can art, literature, politics, experiences, illness, and a host of other variables.  Again, it’s not as black and white as some claim.

Further, I’m not saying that you can’t critique, satirize or poke fun at beliefs.  Sure you can.  In my opinion, it should never be to hurt, mock or incite violence and hatred.  If you’re going to do it, be respectful and open to dialogue.  I realize this is a very fine line (one that I too have been guilty of crossing), but that’s how freedom of expression works.  The problem is when we express in a manner that is disparaging.   If the intent is malicious, then it really serves no good purpose such as engaging in critical thinking or laughing with someone instead of at someone.

We will never find peace in the world or within ourselves until we stop the madness of forcing other people to adopt our worldviews whether they are religious or otherwise.  We also cannot say that we are truly secure in our own beliefs if we are belittling and bullying others for theirs.  On this, the second anniversary of my online squawking and feather-ruffling, I extend a wish that you all find your inner peace and security.  Live and let live.

M. xo

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  1. Gregg
    March 1st, 2013 at 19:08 | #1

    So is this conversation about linguistic semantics or the random labeling of self identified religiosity/spirituality or lack thereof… is there even a difference?

    A friend once told me that, “the word God exists, therefore God exists”. My friend is not a religious man, he is an English major. As an ideology, he is absolutely right. The idea of God exists because we labelled the idea. Does it make the idea any less valid in the minds of those who need it? No.

    Does telling someone that black is white and white is black, change there mental perception of what colour it is? No. Why, because it’s just a label for something that we perceive in our minds.

    Are all who identify themselves as being religious or spiritual also reality challenged? Are all who identify themselves as atheists, morally bankrupt? No. Nothing is that black and white.

  2. Jensen
    March 1st, 2013 at 09:10 | #2

    I appologize, I chose spirit as a starting point because you used the word SPIRITUAL in the title of this blog.

    But I see the errors in my way now. I want to thank you Mae. It’s been a real personal breakthrough. We are truly through the looking glass now.

    You see, I was under the impression that words had meaning. How embarrassing! The problem now is that I don’t even *know* the last 5 sentences in this post can be deciphered by myself or anyone reading them. I’m agnostic about the comment so far. I mean, how can we know? As I read back at what I wrote, every word is oscillating between positve and negative values of rigidity.


    What’s worse, is now I don’t *believe* it’s even me typing on a computer right now. This is a computer?! It’s transforming into a watermelon. YOU DON”T KNOW that’s not true. I believe it might be my spirituality typing now.

    Maybe you’re correct, let’s stop trying to communicate. We might make things worse. I suggest that you finish up your research on what the experts have to say (nevermind your personal thoughts for now) and transmit the information via your watermelon.

    It’s a good time to stop now anyway. I’m hearing the sound of one hand clapping, which is my alert to start “my path” into the forest where a tree fell but no one was around to hear it.

    The only thing I’m gnostic about for the moment, is I’m OK you’re OK, Que Sera Sera, live and let live, Mi casa es su casa, kumbaya and so on.

  3. mae
    March 1st, 2013 at 06:46 | #3

    Again, you are asking something of which I cannot provide an answer. Tell you what, once I’ve completed the research I’m conducting into how religion and spirituality are being defined in the social sciences, I’ll do a synopsis here. I think you’ll find it interesting and maybe unexpected. If anything it will shed some light on my perspective on definitions 😉

  4. Jensen
    February 28th, 2013 at 20:46 | #4

    Let’s go with “spirit”.
    Now you define spirit.

  5. mae
    February 28th, 2013 at 19:45 | #5

    Yes, that’s it exactly. It is rather “groovy”. I’m touched that you wish to explore this further, but you ask another question that I cannot answer definitively. Since we’re asking questions, what do you mean by gods?

  6. Jensen
    February 28th, 2013 at 18:13 | #6

    You don’t know what you believe? Groovy.

    I’d like to explore this more. Are there any gods you don’t believe in?

  7. mae
    February 28th, 2013 at 16:33 | #7

    Hi Jensen,

    As always, it’s a pleasure to see you pecking around my blog. You always have some interesting and unique perspectives to offer. :)

    To your first question: Do I *believe* in god/gods? I don’t know (hope that helps clear up the knowledge/belief confusion) 😉

    To your second question: Am I shying away from the descriptor “atheist”. Not at all. I don’t consider myself atheist because I don’t know whether god exists or not.

    It IS totally “flighty” to answer that way. One of my favourite self-disparaging remarks is: I’m agnostic because I’m flakey, but I like flighty much better, so I’ll be using that from now on (thank you) 😀

    M. xo

  8. Jensen
    February 28th, 2013 at 13:26 | #8

    Hi Mae,

    Just catching up on your site. Thought I’d take a bite on this one for old times sake.

    You wrote, “The closest definition I can attribute to my beliefs is agnostic.”

    And I’d respond: Agnostic covers *knowledge* about something, not belief. Do you *believe* in a god/gods? Yes? Then you’re a theist. No? Congratulations! You’re an atheist.

    I wouldn’t take exception to agnostic atheist. You’re not shying away from the descriptor “atheist” are you? Perhaps you do not want to “ruffle feathers” after all. Or is it just your lack of fondness for “ridged definitions”? Maybe you don’t want to get lumped in with the Stalin/Mao camp (those anti-religious folks)… 😉

    I think it’s pretensions, or maybe “flighty” to answer that way.

    If I’m asked whether or not I believe the sun will appear to rise tomorrow morning, I would not answer “Well hey man, I don’t profess to know. I’m agnostic about a huge earth shattering asteroid hitting the Earth in the middle of the night. I’m OK you’re OK, dude.”

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m agnostic too. For instance, I’m particularly agnostic about Russell’s teapot.

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