A fire and brimstone preacher, I ain't. I tend to be a religious humanist. I have a high view of human potential and capability (however seldom we may seem to fulfill our potential). I don't believe in eternal damnation or that anyone has to hold any certain opinion to win divine favor. So, a credal Christian, I ain't.
Why bother with religion (some ask)?
I like it. When it is done well, when it lifts the human spirit and heals the psychic wounds and brings people together in life-giving community...what's not to love? When the ritual and celebration fills your heart with energy and hope and joy...who wouldn't dig some of that?
But invariably, when I'm going on about the all-inclusive love of "god" (whatever "god" is - I doubt if any two of us REALLY have the same concept, but the word "god" seems to work for whatever we find to be of ultimate significance), someone will defiantly remind me of some harsh, horrible, grossly immoral act recorded in the bible, attributed to "god." This is usually their way of disagreeing with my assessment that all people have sacred value and that god isn't out to get any of us.
I wonder why its important for some people to believe that god is nasty, petty, vile, tribal, petty, prejudiced, harsh, angry, vindictive, punishing, and otherwise icky? It mostly concerns me because I agree with Emerson who said that we are becoming what we worship. To worship meanness...well, let's just say that nothing good can come from it.
I guess that brings me to the point of tonight's rant. What must one believe? My guess? Nothing! Oh, we will believe something, but there is nothing we must believe. We are free to believe one thing or another, and to change our minds. What we believe isn't very important (though it can be interesting and fun). What we become...that's a very different matter, isn't it?
What to believe isn't the purpose of religion. What to be, is. And that takes us back to our image of "god." We are free to choose absolutely any image, but if we are made in the image of our god, and if we are becoming more and more like the god we worship, surely we'll want to choose a god that is decent, kind, generous, loving, helpful. We'll want a god that calls us into joy and abundance and peace. If the god we got ain't doing that, I say get a new one, a better one. That is, get a new and better image of god, the kind of god who empowers us to be the kind of person we want and deserve to be.