Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Toward the Divine Event Horizon

Toward the Divine Event Horizon (or, “Another argument against organized religion”)

Part One: Seeking the Divine Event Horizon 

A brief introduction, just to confuse you…… What is an ‘Event Horizon’?

            According to scientists, rocket scientists and people smarter than myself, an event horizon is that part of a black hole where anything sucked in is irretrievable, invisible, gone forever. It’s like when you watch someone drive out to the horizon, and *pif* they’re gone – but in a black hole’s event horizon, they’re REALLY gone – and so is anything and everything else that gets too close.
            According to general parlance, an event horizon is that point in the far distance where you cannot distinguish one thing from another – or, that point at which individual items or concepts are ultimately unrecognizable as individual, or have no discernible differences.
            According to one author – namely me, the event horizon is that point at which one realizes that
            (a)items or concepts, when under close enough scrutiny, have so many more similarities than differences that differentiation becomes irrelevant; or
            (b) if you take two dissimilar concepts on a single topic, and follow them to their logical conclusion, you will find that they reach the same results.

Did that make sense? I hope so.

            To take my definition of the event horizon to an even sillier plateau, let’s add spirituality to the mix. There are dozens of religions, with dozens of ways to worship/understand/honor/devote oneself to/follow, various forms of god/goddess/divinity/divine mystery/ultimate truth. It has been observed, I forget by whom, that the different religions are like different paths through the forest, all leading to god. (It has also been observed that, and I really like this line, ‘when scientists peer into their microscopes and finally crack the ultimate mystery of life, they will find that god has been looking back at them the whole time.”  I forget the author, and I’m probably horribly misquoting it, but anyway.)

            So you’ve got Christianity, Judaism, Islam; paganism in all its myriad forms, Hinduism, Buddhism, Humanism and a whole slew of isms, Heathenry, Native American, so on and so on. Followers of this faith worship this god, followers of that faith worship those gods, followers of this philosophy believe that (x=y), and so on.
            You could spend hours, years, millennia, debating the minutae of each religion, its practices and dogma, its pros and cons, and arguing for the validity of this religious perspective over that religious perspective.
            Or you could look for commonalities in different religious perspectives. (Here’s a tip: Every religion exists because someone thought it would be a good idea to try it that way.)

            I found a website that helps – the Big Religion Chart  has a listing of 43 belief systems, and includes origins, human situation/life’s purpose, afterlife, and more. It’s worth a look!
            You’ll find, if you scroll through the chart, that a lot of religions deal with human issues, understanding or coming closer to understanding god, knowing right from wrong. For example, let’s look at Baha’i Faith: The soul is eternal and essentially good. Purpose of life is to develop spiritually and draw closer to God”, Cao Dai: Goal is peace and harmony in each person and in the world. Salvation by "cultivating self and finding God in self," and Taoism: “Purpose is inner harmony, peace, and longevity. Achieved by living in accordance with the Tao”.
            Sure, there are a few faiths that don’t fit this altruistic model; the human situation of the Greek religions (presuming they mean Ancient Greece) is: Human life is subject to the whim of the gods and to Fate; these can be controlled through sacrifice and divination”, and Islam is listed as “Humans must submit (islam) to the will of God to gain Paradise after death”. But even there, the ultimate goal of the faith is to develop a benevolent relationship with the divine.

            So if you examine the religions of the world and look for shared interests, you’ll find that they all have the goal of enlightenment and understanding.
            But all of that is only half the journey to the divine event horizon; the inherent differences between religions are still there. Despite the commonalities of purpose, we still have a long way to go. People will argue that Islamic terrorists believe that all infidels must be killed; or that Christianity denies enlightenment without absolute devotion; maybe, but those are extremist viewpoints. If you can still see the road you’re walking on, you aren’t there yet. Keep going.
            Let’s take a moment to define what we mean when we’re talking about religion. There are two commonly accepted definitions of religion; I’ll address those and then go off on a tangent, and then we can continue toward the event horizon.
            Religion is defined as (a) re·li·gion noun 1.a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs; or (b) a particular system of faith and worship .
            Myself, I’ve always defined religion in one of two ways: either the practices and rites used in the veneration or worship of the divine; or the mere awareness, the searching for, divinity and the answers it may hold. I once heard that religion, by definition, is nothing more than the system of worship itself. That’s fine for theosophical scholars, but I wasn’t content with that. Religion, for me, means not only the practice of worship, but also the quest itself, the seeking answers.
            That’s the one I want to examine, and that’s where the road to the divine event horizon is taking us. As we travel this road closer to the event horizon, we’re also going, you may notice, backwards in time.
            People who argue that religion is this, or that, or worse, argue that religion is NOT this or that, have lost their way toward the event horizon. Don’t worry about dogma, moral codes, which hand to raise first in an invocation. That’s window dressing. Keep going. Don’t be scared.
            Don’t look at the WHAT of religion, don’t look at the HOW of religion. Ultimately, they don’t matter. Yes, we’re getting closer. See that bright spot ahead? There’s a question in your head, I can see it. We’re heading toward the WHY of religion. That’s where the different paths become irrelevant. Like I said, trappings like dogma and politics don’t matter. Leave them behind.
            Religion, in the end (or the beginning) is the yearning. It’s the hunger in the mind, the question in the soul. The fire in the cave.
            In seeking the divine event horizon, you have to be brave enough to be scared. Religion is where the soul goes when it wants to understand.
            “Dear G_d, please help me see what I am.”
            “Please help me see what you are.”
            “Help me to understand – or let me know that you understand, even if I don’t.”
That’s where every religion takes us, if we follow them to the event horizon. “Help me to understand.” That’s the commonality across cultures, across centuries, across boundaries.
            (Along the way, people have revealed some wonderful truths – benevolence is more useful than selfishness; the divine smiles upon those who help others, and so on. “Lead a good life, and the divine will reward you.”
            Or to simplify it further:
            “God smiles upon those who do good.”
            Or even further:
            “Don’t be an asshole.”
There, that was easy. The search for the Divine Event Horizon leads us to the collective conclusion that:
(1)   It’s okay not to know everything, and
(2)   We should not be assholes.

Part Two: In which we find that Organized Religion weakens the Soul.

            In the course of writing the first part of this blog, I kept hitting walls, arguments kept cropping up in my head. “But what about this aspect of that faith?” I asked myself, “What about this law or that decree?” “Wait, this religion conflicts with that one – how can they both be loving and benevolent when they are in opposition?”
            That, sadly, is where I find an argument against ‘Organized Religion’.
(Quick, time for another definition. What is ‘Organized Religion’ as opposed to, say, Disorganized Religion?
Organized Religion is just that – “a system of rites, rituals and beliefs used in the veneration or worship of the divine”.  A system, a set plan. Organized religion has a structure of practice and belief, a hierarchical system, and it (whichever version of ‘it’ you’re looking at) has drawn its own conclusions about what the Ultimate Truth is.
            In following an organized religion, you are doing just that – following. Someone else has already decidwhat the questions are, what the answers are, and how to find them. In any organized religion, someone else has already written all the rules. Someone else. Not you. (Granted, if you’re happy with knowing only as much as they are willing to tell you, if you accept that their interpretation of the divine is good enough for you, then all is well.)
            But for many of us, faith is a much more personal question. What does god look like to you? Is it the same image that your neighbor sees? Is it the same image that your partner sees? Is it the same image that you saw when you were ten?
            The problem with organized religion is that it has structure. Boundaries. Laws. (And with laws come.... politics. Remember the separation of church and state? Let's start with the separation of 'the quest to understand god' and 'someone else's rules'.)  It’s finite. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. You aren’t allowed to seek the divine event horizon, because doing so might make you ask more questions than they are willing to answer. (How’s that apple taste, by the way?)  fnord   
             So being part of an organized religion, embracing the ideals, concepts, god-image, etc, that someone else has created, means that all you're really doing is following someone else's spiritual path. Where'd yours go?

(Disorganized Religion, by the way, isn’t disorganized so much as just non-regimented. You are an individual and your quest for divinity is a personal journey – you don’t need someone else’s rules, unless you just need handrails to help you on your walk.)
            If I were me, and I am, I would say that each and every one of us has the right to seek our own definition of divinity – to walk our own path to understanding.