Friday, August 12, 2011

Too much or too little thinking in religion?

Theology of the Cross ThreeImage by Transguyjay via FlickrHave you ever felt that there was too little thinking among religious people? Did you know there are some who think there is too much?

It really depends on what we mean by "thinking" and how it is applied.

Naturally those who have run across religious people who are narrow-minded, intolerant and whose words and actions broadcast that faith is the antithesis of reason will be tempted to conclude that if these people would only think more, and do so critically, they would either be a more enlightened religious person or abandon religion altogether.  The outcome depends on which of those is closest to the critics own preferred self-image.

Then there are those who think that the liberating message of religion is being held hostage by the elites, which include those with more access to education and with more time to wax philosophically about the meaning of it all. They conclude that any genuine spirituality should be accessible to any sincere seeker with any level of formal education. Others feel that thinking too much on one level of analysis about religious ideas or practices can be a problem because it closes off avenues to other forms of experience.

Those who think there is too much thinking in religion and that there is too little are both right and both wrong.

 They are each right for pointing out problems with how we think about religion and are each wrong in as much as they ignore the value of what sounds like the opposite opinion.

Yes, closing off your mind to reason or limiting reason only to what fits with a pre-established conclusion based on unchallenged hearsay is damaging to beneficial religious belief and practice. But so is assuming that strictly rational and naturalistic thinking is the only basis for engaging with or appreciating religious insights. Neither logic alone, nor feelings alone, nor (fill-in-the-blank-here) alone can provide a healthy and accurate interaction with religion.

That isn't to say that some people won't be more predisposed toward one avenue or another. In India this is even expected and formalized into religious life. Yet it does mean that too many people are caught up in a particular way of thinking (or not thinking) about religion that limits them and diminishes the value and access to what religion has to offer.

Open up. Try something new. Give yourself the challenge to relate to your spiritual path or sacred tradition in a new way. Get away from your familiar ways of thinking about it for a while and see what fresh new insights and inspiration arise.

What have you got to loose except that blind spot that's been holding you back?

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