Tuesday, February 06, 2007

No god but God, Part II—Am I religious?

Series: Part I, Part II (below), Part III, Part IV

I learned a new word—orthopraxy.

Religions become institutions when the myths and rituals that once shaped their sacred histories are transformed into authoritative models of orthodoxy (the correct interpretation of myths) and orthopraxy (the correct interpretation of rituals), though one is often emphasized over the other. Christianity may be the supreme example of an "orthodoxic" religion; it is principally one's beliefs—expressed through creed—that make one a faithful Christian. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Judaism, a quintessentially "orthopraxic" religion, where it is principally one's actions—expressed through the Law—that make one an observant Jew. It is not that beliefs are irrelevant in Judaism, or actions unimportant in Christianity. Rather, it is that of the two religions, Judaism places far greater emphasis on orthopraxic behavior than does Christianity. Like Judaism, Islam is primarily an orthopraxic religion …

From No god but God, Reza Aslan

This gave me a whole new perspective on the differences between religions. Somehow I always thought everyone would agree that the point of religion is to engender a spiritual understanding of the Divine. But if most religions fall into one of the two categories—orthdoxic or orthopraxic—there's a lot of religious behavior going on that is unrelated to deepening anyone's spiritual understanding. It would seem that for many, it's fidelity to a creed or a ritual that makes them religious. And to not adhere to a pre-determined creed or follow a set pattern of rituals would make you appear to be non-religious.

You might be saying, Well, d'uh, Laura! This is news to you? And I guess I have to say that yes, it is! Because I actually consider myself religious, even though I don't subscribe to any creed or perform any rituals. The teaching I follow, Christian Science, doesn't really have either one. When the religion itself doesn't include ritual or creed, maybe you can be religious without either orthodoxy or orthopraxy.

My "religion," if you'll allow me that, is new to me every day. I'm discovering it new each time I study it, each time I practice it. My religion includes daily commitment to learning more about and growing closer to the Divine. My religion includes companioning with a community of fellow travelers who are also committed to this exploration of the Divine.

In that sense, I am religious. Perhaps I don't appear that way to others. Yet I think that dedicating yourself to following what a religious leader has revealed can be "the basis of true religion."

The epoch approaches when the understanding of the truth of being will be the basis of true religion. --Science and Health

Part I appeared yesterday.

Your ideas and inspiration are welcome! Please comment below or Contact Laura.
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At 2/07/2007 08:03:00 AM, Anonymous Dennis R. said...

This reminds me of a book I have by an Orthodox Jewish rabbi entitled "Do Unto Others". This rabbi was a psychiatrist who treated drug addiction. He believes that by getting drug addicts to get involved in helping others that they recover more often and quicker.

It is a different approach then the traditional Christian approach of getting healed or delivered through an act of faith.

I think we need both.


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