It has been a long time since I last posted here. I have since moved to Europe, alone, new job, and my church and sacramental life has sharply deteriorated over here. My religious memory has recently been jolted by certain happenings (It's not like I forgot about God or prayer though, I have just really struggled to go to church regularly) and I remembered this site.
Mine is just a question stemming from an article I read last year about the biological foundations of religion being Karma. Apparently, we humans have an embedded need for justice, the need to know that good will happen to the good or that ultimately good will prevail....some sort of embedded hope in the ultimate goodness of things. Religion, the article said, reduced to its fundamental quality, is basically the conviction that there must be a mechanism for ensuring that this goodness happens, that the right things happen to the right people. However else it may be elaborated, all religion answers that fundamental need to in us to know that ultimately, goodness triumphs.
I have ruminated over this many times and found that for me at least, this indeed does describe my most basic spiritual need, and is the difference between genuine happiness in the present moment, or misery. It is the reason I am religious and not atheist. The faith world-view says yes, there is such a mechanism ensuring that the right things happen. In my particular religious world view, this mechanism is a someone, or the will of that someone. Goodness is a person. But I have found that this is not the only world-view operative in me. No, their is another world-view that cones down to: there is nothing to make sure that the right things happen. All is randomness and chaos. I would never have thought that this was my world view before, but now it seems to be clearly so. The truth is that I shift between the two. Fear is my natural state in the latter view, for good reason, the world is a unsalvably unsafe and cruel and me, being so petiteasy and weak am in real trouble just being here! This has helped me because I now know that whenever I am in fear, it is because I have shifted between world-views and I am now looking at life through the lense of thev"atheistic" world view I generally do not consciously associate with myself. Once I did that and so tried to shift back to the other world-view, where I can say to myself genuinely, it is all OK. Goodness is guaranteed. The right thing WILL happen to the right person. Because goodness, and yes he is a person, is invincible. It helped me a few times. Other times, simply realising that I am in the atheistic paradigm is not enough by itself to shift my mind from that to the other world-view.
Hence my question, assuming you also occasionally or frequently are caught in the grip of fear...for yourself, your loved ones or others....what are your concrete strategies for shifting your mind back into the healthy, faith-filled paradigm, in which happiness is possible in the present moment? This thinking has also convinced me even more that to be a true atheist is to submit to genuine misery and that there us no such thing as a happy atheist. Either they have a spiritual outlook they do not consciously acknowledge or the person is miserable.
Great post, St. Rubia.
I'm on the road with little time to respond, but will get back to you soon. I hope someone replies in the meantime.
Hi St. Rubia. I'm not familiar with this biological need for justice and its relation to religion that you describe. Kohlberg and others have indicated a stage of moral development emphasizing fairness, and that seems to be innate, so maybe what you're describing is sort of like that?
Religion is about much more than insuring eternal justice, however; it provides traditions of wisdom and worship, sources of meaning, communities of support and transformation, and invitation to living relationship with one's Creator. It awakens a new identity and encourages one to become a representative of God wherever one happens to be. I hear you saying some of this, but, truly, for Christians, at least, the whole question of who goes to heaven or hell is not the burning issue. We leave that to God, trusting in his goodness and mercy, as revealed in Christ.
The best way to remind oneself about all this is through regular spiritual practice: prayer, study, worship, membership in community, service, Sacraments, etc. As you note, there really is a kind of "default alternative" out there -- what scripture calls "the world," and without spiritual practice, one slowly becomes absorbed into its ways and values. We have to decide, then, who we really belong to, and what kind of life we wish to live. To not decide is to give oneself over to the world.
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