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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Against Theology

“Socrates thought and so do I that the wisest theory about the gods is no theory at all”- Michel de Montaigne

Like Montaigne, I’m against theology.

Like Montaigne, I am not an atheist.  I am a practicing member of an organized religion, which gives me profound meaning and satisfaction.  But this is as much as you will hear about it from me in this blog.

Here are a few assumptions and thoughts I bring to this perspective:

I don't necessarily think everything happens for a "reason", but I do think ultimately everything is connected to everything else and in some way affects and influences everything else.

2. I think we all have certain powerful subjective experiences where we understand # 1 intuitively; these are variously called flow, being in "the zone", spiritual, or religious experiences.

3. These experiences have a neuronal correlate, in that the part of our brain that defines the boundaries of our body becomes inactive, or less active, during our experience of same.

4. Some practices and behaviors can assist us in creating these experiences - yoga, prayer, chanting, great art, service to others, sex, alcohol, drugs, mindfulness -based meditation, a really good conversation, love, etc.

5. The experiences in #2 tend to increase our wellbeing, make us more compassionate, more open to new experiences, and more accepting of our own emotions and thoughts, though in some cases - (like alcohol and drugs... and sometimes love of the unrequited type)- the side effects counteract this positive effect.

6. I think religions start as an attempt to create the experiences in #2, and then recreate them via rituals and communal experience. Eventually some people assign themselves as “clergy”.  An organization soon forms which is always at risk of becoming more about perpetuating itself, the clergy, and the dogmas, to the exclusion of creating the experiences in #2, which, of course, results in less #5.

7. If practicing a religion (note I said practice, not belief) or any other of the practices in #4 results in more #2 experiences, then it’s (most of the time) a good thing.

8. I think that “theology” is largely competitive philosophical defensiveness, developed to either a) convince someone of your position or b) defend your own position, by showing its similarity to that of your attacker.

9. Metaphor is the best we can do to offer an image of our own experience to another, which we can do via speech and art, or by our own actions as example.  Metaphor is ultimately the child of our embodied experience, not our rationalism or intellect.

10. Therefore, for me, religion is about making a commitment to practicing certain actions and rituals, developing certain subjective experiences, and loyalty to a community, and not the promulgation of, or defense of, a certain dogma or creed.

Express your metaphors poetically and with passion. Exemplify those metaphors through your actions.

As they said in the 1970s; "You do your thing, I'll do my thing, and if we meet, its beautiful".

Otherwise, keep your theology to yourself.



  1. The thing that bugs me in everyday life is the tendency of the religiously observant to stand in judgment of the less observant, in spite of the fact that the religion itself promotes tolerance and assigns the responsibility of doing the judging to the Eternal One.

  2. My experience with the religiously observant is. They never seem to know when you just want to bitch or you are actually questioning things. Everyone "wants" to hear the all better stuff....but not when they are just bitching.