Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"Religious Views"

Facebook has a category under in its profile information area titled “religious views.” Like all of these informational categories (such as age, political views, relationship status, etc.), it is entirely optional whether one wishes to provide that information and/or make it public. These are standard questions asked on any number of profile surveys (both official and not) and I have always struggled with these seemingly very simple questions. Race or ethnicity is always one that makes me think of my heritage before finally answering (if required) white or Caucasian. But my heritage, like perhaps most Americans, is more diverse than could ever be captured in a single term or categorization. But that’s not what this is about. I did provide an answer to my “religious views” on Facebook and that answer, though it is only a single word, says much about me and perhaps humanity in general.

First a qualification: I have absolutely no religious (in the formal sense) upbringing, whatsoever. Church of any kind was not a regular or irregular part of my childhood; it was completely absent. Although there are likely both advantages and disadvantages to this lack of indoctrination, it is what it is and for reasons that are not important here I am satisfied that I did not miss out on much. However, it would cast some doubt on whether or not I am qualified to answer a question like what my religious views are. Other than answering “none” or just leaving it blank, what could I possibly say that was not born of ignorance? And though it is true that in the West and in our current era the definition of the word “religion” has expanded well beyond what it typically used to mean, that definition still carries certain de facto components - church, ritual, sacred texts, etc. – and there is a wide range of interpretation within each disciple.

So in the context of Facebook, I felt qualified to provide a single word that best describes my “religious views” using a decidedly broad definition. I am a “seeker.” As it turns out, that term also has roots in a particular denomination of Christianity, but I did not know it at the time. And it does not mean that I am in search of an established religion to call my own or even to define a new one that works for me. It simply means that I am always in search of answers to the unanswerable. It is arguably a common thread that runs throughout the history of humanity, consciously or not. It is always in the background and although many believers and nonbelievers alike think they know (oversimplified, either physical reality was “created” or it is just a natural phenomenon), no one can know for sure. Science and theology, to a certain extent, are trying to answer different aspects of the same question: the former asks how we got here and the latter asks why are we here?

And I suppose, as a seeker, I ask both. In theory, we can discover as much as we are capable of in the physical universe. All “things” consist of matter and/or energy – we know this. We are limited in discovery only by our means and as much as we have learnt over just the recent past, what we know pales in comparison with what we don’t. Within the lifetimes of every person alive today, this will not change. As a practical matter, those answers to the questions that lie outside our lifetime are unanswerable. Yet we seek these answers anyway. Why? On the other side of the coin, we have the unprovable - the infinite and eternal - and many seek those answers, too. The methods are decidedly different, but I would argue that the motives are the same. We all want to know and it matters little if that knowledge comes in our own lifetime.

Believer or not, we are all seeking answers. And those answers are, for reasons either by design or practicality, unanswerable. Yet we seek them anyway.

4 comments:

Kim Williams said...

ahhhh. caught in the unknown secret language of an secret Christian movement... :)

agreed. i have a problem with religious boxes.

Lynne B said...

Utterly evangelical! Thanks for setting another stage for thought.

Belizegial said...

"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed.

It was the experience of mystery -- even if mixed with fear -- that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds: it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity. In this sense, and only this sense, I am a deeply religious man... I am satisfied with the mystery of life's eternity and with a knowledge, a sense, of the marvelous structure of existence -- as well as the humble attempt to understand even a tiny portion of the Reason that manifests itself in nature."

Albert Einstein (signature)

CyberKitten said...

If I had a Facebook account [grin] I'd definitely be a Seeker too - especially taking in to account my Blog name!

I may be an atheist but I'm still seeking the truth of things.....