Varied Surroundings

There is more to being human than travelling around the world sampling its many delights, and recent reading has taken me deeper into subjects like philosophy. Though I am a scientist by training, the humanities continue to appeal to me, and various life events have led me to explore them more than otherwise might have been the case. That is now the main thrust of what you find here, along with other things that have a use in navigating life’s journey.

An Awkward Subject

For various reasons, the mention of religion and spirituality can be a conservation killer. Nevertheless, many of us do persist with practising such things in various ways and a look in any bookshop, especially an online one, will demonstrate that there is a market for books on the subjects. After all, there is an extensive literature out there, with much of that being published within the last few decades.

Whatever about a non-universality of interest, there is also a potential lack of confidence on the part of many practitioners. While many religions stress the need for proclamation of their take on things, that is not enough for many to speak about those. Firstly, it often is a matter of faith or trust in beliefs, teachings, doctrines or dogmas. If these remain mere notions, they can be hard to defend in a world that demands proof of such things.

Unlike science, where there are some concrete facts, religious belief feels more subjective and less certain. One way around this is to talk about one's experiences, yet these either sound mundane compared to the astonishing stories featured in sacred texts or may even come across as wish fulfilment. An added air of intangibility hardly helps either.

Then, there is the added difficulty of personal unworthiness compared to the expectations more easily arrived at using our minds than in our actions. While this point should make faiths more easily to express when there is a merciful divinity involved, there often can be an air of retributive justice about the subject of morality when restorative justice is the real message in Christianity.

Disagreements among religious practitioners hardly help either. Outsiders may perceive such divisions as being the cause of strife rather than peace. However, given that all of us have our own life experiences, is it not astonishing that there are not more religions than they are? Maybe we are more tolerant of each other's experiences than we might expect, yet we could do better.

One area of disagreement surrounds the question of interpreting sacred text. These often are works produced using the human faculty of the imagination, which helps when attempting to relate an ineffable experience or describe what is beyond human comprehension. That is not to say that we make up everything that is in these, since divine inspiration can come through our imaginations as with other workings of minds. Given that, we can say that these wisdom texts have divine authorship, even if they should not to be taken literally in the case of the Bible. Using these in contemplative prayer pays many dividends.

Describing things thus can make them very inaccessible to an outsider, so it is easy to easy how catechesis can degenerate to offering a few doctrines to believe, a few prayers to say and a few rituals to practice. They may get someone started, but there is more to a faith journey than those.

With all the effort that such an undertaking involves, there also is the matter of arousing interest in another person. If they are seeking anyway, that makes things easier, but there is the risk of embarrassment if there is a poor response, which is yet another fear that obstructs openness.

To close off these musings, a summary is needed. The discussion of a faith journey with others can founder on lack of confidence or fears of misunderstanding or of a poor response. Some preachers may bemoan the lack of witness to a religious faith, but a better answer might be to pray for more courage and good discussion.