“Actually practicing” a religion

What does it mean to “actually practice” a religion?

Well, we can first make a distinction between simply identifying with a faith and being involved in one or more of its rituals/behaviors. There are obviously many people who identify as religious but do not practice regularly, in fact I’d go as far as to say this is the majority attitude in Western developed nations. The reason why is probably largely down to the difference in living standards and basic cultural ideas about what it is to be successful and a good member of the herd and so on. In developed nations, the background rate of abject suffering is significantly lower than in, say, the Middle East or in India, it is more hidden from view in places like asylums, hospitals and rehabilitation facilities; and so most people are in some minor way in a similar position to the Buddha in his early life, cut off from direct experience of extreme suffering. People are less likely to reflect on the existential concerns of life if those concerns are out of the public eye, and even more so if those who are suffering are seen by the culture as unsuccessful or in some way lacking in the “right stuff”.

Then there’s also the standard of living, which allows people temporary material pleasures at a more constant rate than ever before. In the modern West it’s trivial to purchase almost any of the objects of our desire, we can even get them shipped to us at our home address, free of hassle.

This easy access to pleasure and the associated displacement of pain and suffering creates a situation of mindless consumption and avoidance of reflection. The human person becomes a necessary component of a vast machine, turning the wheels of production and keeping such lofty abstractions as “the economy” afloat. In this lifestyle, there is little space for the metaphysical, the spiritual, the religious; it simply is not needed for the vast majority of people because they believe they have found some lasting pleasure or happiness in the constant exchange of money, symbols for wealth, for products, wealth itself and yet funnily also symbols for wealth.

This is quite apparently a zero sum game for two reasons, one, because the human nervous system quickly habituates itself to any new stimulus and becomes disinterested in it, and two, because what we are hoping the products will do cannot come from objects, it can only come from subjects.

Perhaps then we can say that this form of behaviour is a ritual act, performed under the superstition that the act and associated thought process will bring salvation from suffering, a religion. Modern capitalism, the consumerist society, is a dangerous religious cult that trucks only in abstraction, the suggestion of what material can do for you as an ego as opposed to enjoyment in the material for it’s own sake. Their gods are money, success and status, the “free market”, “the economy” and so on.

So perhaps one could say that the vast majority of people in the modern day practice a religion, just not one we automatically see as one. And perhaps this can explain the movement away from more traditional religious practice, perhaps people, as they did with the faiths of old, genuinely believe they will find release from suffering through the consumption of abstraction

 

p.s: Timer published post. Have a wonderful weekend.  I’ll reply to your comments on weekend.

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3 thoughts on ““Actually practicing” a religion

  1. Third world like us we crawl towards religion out of desperation rather than choice. So many things here are out of control e.g: Poor people don’t have access to hospital in case of emergency, even hardworking student knows even if he studies hard , the cutoff is 99 percentile so there is no guarantee. We become helpless of our circumstance on other hand we see people having good time with their lives. We feel like being betrayed. We start asking almighty why us ? What did we do ? Hope takes us into Temple, Church , Darga . We pray that some how God save us whatever this. We somehow believe that suffering is happening because of some kind of diving reason. We have to believe in that to make little sense of the situation we are in. I don’t think that is the case in western countries. You don’t need God when you can control your life the way you want.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Religion holds strength in a changing world, but for me the act of going to a place and kneeling before an alter is not a practical reality for the reason I am not of that nature
    Although I have the material comforts I lack the sense of security and positivity about my future, therefore the idea of my fate being defined by higher powers is what helps sustain my will to exist
    Though it has to be said that I do not believe in the great lord god handing me success in gaining security and emotional happiness without hard work on my part, or that I can abandon the drive to be a good person in the eyes of others

    I prefer to therefore just believe in higher powers, and that if I do good things whilst striving to improve I will earn all I desire but as far as ‘practicing’ religion is concerned, I prefer to consider levels of faith and character as a better measurement of belief in eternal rewards and ‘god’ as is the most commonly considered higher power within religious ideals

    “Give to charity, be a good person and avoid the major sins
    And god will keep the devil off my back
    The rest is up to me”
    My deal with god!

    Liked by 1 person

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