Monday, April 28, 2008

[Buddhism|Hinduism|Catholicism|*ism] is the new black

Cosmo: "Choosing a religion is like choosing a MySpace wallpaper"


In what sense can religion meaningfully be chosen? Ideally, everyone discovers what they believe when they look at the world around them and come to an incontrovertible conclusion. Of course this is not going to happen. Conclusions change, and it's impossible to be 100% sure of anything, given the fallibility of human minds. And for a lot of people it's going to be too much work to really figure out what they think, rather than just hopping onto the nearest appealing ready-made philosophy.

[...Ok, I'll bite. I am a hard agnostic: I believe that the nature of deity is both unknown and unknowable. (I used to be a soft agnostic -- wasn't sure whether nature of deity was knowable or unknowable). I believe in questioning but remembering the limits of our understanding, and retaining a sense of wonder.]

I'm honestly not sure what to think of this article (other than the obvious "oh, look, more dreck from Cosmo").

I loathe the aspect that promotes religiosity for appearances' sake. If you're going to take "a shot of Catholicism, a sprinkle of Buddhism, a pinch of Hindu teachings — or whatever else you're in the mood for that day", why even bother? All you're doing is quote-mining to justify what you already (want to) believe. Practicing confirmation bias. Enough of that: just believe what you believe, and stop gilding it.

I'm all for the aspect that promotes having your own worldview, instead of blindly accepting whatever some robed old guys with books say, or whatever your parents said. Anything that promotes seeking and questioning is a good idea.

In the same vein, I'm all for anything that diminishes the absolute blind fanaticism with which a lot of people follow their religions. Even if you simply accept a pre-made worldview, there's nothing that says you need to accept it to the extent that you need to go kill people or spread malicious lies and hatred because of it. But I hate to like the Cosmo article simply for this reason. There is something wrong with the world if Cosmo's viewpoint is the lesser of two evils.


  1. Hey, you have a blog!

    Anyway, I think it's a good thing that people don't strictly follow one religion. You have to follow what reverberates in you, and if it so happens that you feel x about Catholicism is right and y in Buddhism is right, I say go for it and create your own spirituality. I doubt anyone has all the right answers, so why not believe in what you feel to be true?

    That said, I'm a weak Atheist (I don't believe in God/gods but let it remain open as a possibility). One might call me slightly spiritual, and I have a sort of pantheist view of the world even though I don't count this as God.

    Er, right.

  2. Been thinking about this one quite a lot this year, since I stopped going to church. I think it's clear that you can't force yourself into having a certain belief, certainly not "Hm, I think I feel like a bit of belief in God today. Oh yes, and Jesus today" and presto fecit, one Christian to order. You can't really do that. It's another reason why I hate the way I always feel as though so many sections of Mass were aimed at making the faithful be buoyed up in their faith and aimed at making the atheists/agnostics/etc feel guilty. Probably more a reflection of my own thinking rather than their intent, but I think lots of people within religious bodies, as much as people "choosing" their religion, as you mention, don't really have a clear and wide view of what faith can be and can mean.
    I mean, I know for sure *I* don't understand it. But I've got a strong hunch lots and lots of people have the rites and religion as more of a central point to their beliefs than the beliefs themselves. That it's a case of social identification rather than relating to any relationship with god/other. Having it like that and not realising it or accepting it is to me almost as flippant as the pick 'n' mixing you describe.