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Is Religion the Missing Answer to Everything ? Vol 63

January 22, 2015

If your wife has ever given you a round tuit, you must be a Boomer !

Today, religion is a dying motivation. The Pope, Muslim clerics, and all the other modern day moral communicators lament the loss of religious thinking in our growing secular world. Are they right ?

Being a Boomer, I have been exposed to religion, in all its forms and evolutions, for a lifetime. I have seen older people grapple with the meaning of life, and lean on religion as an answer, even when they do not know the questions. I have seen the church as a money making machine, an organization with bad marketing trying to keep their real estate holdings intact with dwindling parishioners to fund their expenses. I have seen the church accused of wide spread sexual molestation, doing their best to hide the facts and downplay the human damage. I have read about the way the Church dealt with various native communities, using residential schools to destroy the native way of life. Canada just had a Reconciliation committee that tried to heal the past injustices, and the stories of the Father’s brutality brings one to tears. We have all seen genocide in the name of religion, a blasphemy we are all guilty of.

All in all, I have spurned religion, thinking of it as a failed business shamefully using morality as the drawing card, a path to salvation story reminiscent of the man behind the curtain that Dorothy unveiled. Fine, screw the organization, I can still be a moral person, right ?

Morality however, is hard to define. Do I believe in a higher power, an intelligent designer, or rely on science to explain things that seem impossible, like eyesight ? How do I treat my fellow man, and to what standard ? Turning the other cheek, what are the rules for this, and are they universal ? Do I believe in reincarnation as somehow giving me a reason to help the next generation, to be good for goodness sake ?

These questions can get complicated, but they are the right questions to be asking. Personally, how you answer them is an individual story, and if I base some of my answers on faith and you get yours out of an old book, then fine. As long as we arrive at close to the right answer, how you got there should be irrelevant to me.

I look at Muslims fighting each other, and realize that most religions have gone through the same reconciliation struggle – remember the Orange and the Greens ?. We can not help their process, although we would like to find a way to stop or limit the conflict. By the way, I do not include ISIL in this category. Their leadership are gangsters, killing and kidnapping everyone, irregardless of religious affiliation. Seeing Sunni and Shi’ite alike gang up on them is actually one of the few positive signs now coming out of that part of the world today.

So, I spurn religion for morality. I am proud to say that I am a moral person, and I raised my kids with these morals, while allowing them some leeway to question my beliefs. For example, I am for capital punishment in some cases, and against gay marriage, while my kids believe in the opposite positions. Ok, maybe I am a social dinosaur, but I am comfortable with my beliefs.

Along then comes an article by Yuval Levin, called Taking the Long Way ( Disciplines of the soul are the basis of a Liberal society ). His argument, and I probably will not do it justice, is that our society today takes the short view of what is needed to improve itself. We get caught up in short term thinking, which usually gets translated into discussions about liberal versus conservative dogma, fighting over the use of government as the basic tool to improve our ourselves. For example, Liberals want more government so we can be free of restrictions, and thus they use regulations to restrict individual choice for the betterment of society as a whole. Environmental laws are a great example of this. Conservatives want freedom as well, but believe that less regulation un-encumbers individuals. Thus we have the short term political ebb and flow we are all used to today.

Levin’s point is that we are missing the point. Society should be looking at the soul, and how we love and feed our wellbeing in the long term. Sure, we need some government, but we seem focused on short-term issues, like helping unwed mothers, rather than the long view of why they would up in that position ( my example, not Levin’s ). His point is that it is the lack of religion, specifically the lack of a soul-forming institution, that is really missing today. This soul forming has always occurred in the best institution for its emancipation, that being religious institutions.

Yes, we can agree that religion had its uses down through the ages, and I can believe that Levin only has the best aspects of religion at heart when he makes this argument. So, to compromise, lets agree that we both want our morality, our soul, to be a work in progress. To quote him, ” this is no easy task, as not everyone has the good fortune to of a flourishing family, or the opportunity of rewarding work, or a liberal education, or a humbling faith, let along all of these at once”. To put most of these within reach of the people should be the reason for government.

An interesting argument, clouded with religious overtones I am very uncomfortable with. Perhaps other religions see life this way, and consider our short term capitalistic society as lost, or misguided. A good subject for another time.

For now, I think Levin would agree that we need less partisanship, we need to be more civil with each other, holding our leaders to account when they try to demonize people. Lets build a society where everyone, rich or poor, immigrant or native, black or white, all have equal opportunity to the things that are soul enriching.

Next on Boomers – WTF ! , how to invest in this day and age ?

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