Religion is a really interesting subject, but I didn’t realize how interesting until I went back to school for a degree in religious studies. I only ended up with a minor, fair warning, because it turns out that religious studies only studied Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and “Eastern religions” (one class)…disappointing. But it turns out that anthropology covers a lot of the other material, so I ended up taking Anthropology of Religion while I was at Purdue. Thankfully, the very first week of that class we tackled the question what is religion.
What is it, though? It isn’t a belief structure. It is, but you can have a belief structure based off of your training in Boy Scouts. Likewise, you have a moral system, which can come from clubs and organizations as easily as from a church. Is it a set of rules? No, we have that in elementary school. That’s not a religion. And if we refer to it as a spiritual experience, how do we actually apply that intra culturally?
As a Priestess, I found this conversation to be incredibly intimate. It was something I really needed to understand for myself. I have studied religious systems, I have studied regional variants, and it informed the vocabulary of my religion. I was able to explain my own practices and beliefs better to those who didn’t understand them, and to see them better for myself. But the definition of religion really comes down to a person by person experience. You can go through the motions that your grandmother did, you can go to church every Sunday the way your father did and read all the same verses, but your actual religion is going to vary widely from theirs – and it’s supposed to! You will never see through another’s eyes, not daily, not really – why would your perception of the divine and the daily experience of it be the same?
We act like we are a bad Buddhist if we don’t meditate daily. We act like we are a bad pagan if we don’t pay attention to the full moons. In practice, though, we each celebrate the religion that is ours. We can’t celebrate anyone else’s! And realistically, we can’t celebrate any other way than the way that we…do. Life is just too much nowadays. We have so much less rest than most of our ancestors. And yet part of our religion is supposed to be taking times of rest and contemplation…? It isn’t feasible!
I would love for you, the reader, to do two things for me. One. Forgive yourself. Take it easy, and devote some rest time today to doing nothing, with God’s blessing. Spend some time with whatever you consider Divine, while you are not doing the other things in life. But secondly, I’d like you to really contemplate what your daily practice of your religion is. Let your mind look without guilt at what you believe and how you embody it. Whether you share it here or simply understand it in your own mind, let yourself understand it.