January 21st, 2005

Tarot - 4 of cups

What Does My Religion Do for Me?

Right after my meltdown, kukla_tko42 was talking to me on the phone and trying to give me hope. Good Catholic that she is at heart, she tried to say something soothing in the context of my own faith such as she understands it, but drew up short and had to ask, "What exactly does your religion do for you, anyway?" The question came back to my mind, because ononion is working on a beautiful detournement of a Jack Chick anti-Catholic comic book tract. Sample page with link:

I think that on most levels, the object of this exercise is to try to come up with something that'll be as offensive to the kinds of Christians who hand out these tracts as these tracts are to us. But be that as it may, I actually don't have a problem almost any of the theology in this little gem.

But anyway, when Kukla asked me what my religion "did for me," I had to backpedal and stutter for a while, because the question is so alien to the way I've always addressed spiritual matters. To quote Diderot again, I've never "played the usurer with God," I've never expected my religion to do anything for me. I don't worship the Gods because I expect to get something out of doing so. When I was a fundamentalist Christian before, I didn't worship Jesus because I expected to getting something out of him. When I worshipped scientific materialist logic before that, I didn't do so because I thought that I would gain something by doing so. I've changed my mind off and on over the years, but I've never done so in order to get a better deal. That anybody would do so seems baffling to me. Yes, the picture my default icon is based on shows me wearing a hand-made button that says, "Not all Gods are alike! Shope and compare!" But I never meant that in the sense of, "see if you can get a better bargain." For me, at least, what I mean is, "See if you can find something that fits you well and suits you the best."

The closest thing that I had for an answer for Kukla at the time, and I haven't come up with a better answer yet, was this. My religion explains the world to me. It tells me my place in it. It answers hard questions about the world, ones that exoteric history can't answer. It prescribes a code of ethics, and a standard by which I judge the world (for all that low self confidence and standards of politeness keep me from judging people by my religion's standards to their faces). It tells me how men and women ought best live, by explaining what ways of life encourage the blessed gods to bestow favors on a city and which ways of life put a miasma of uncleansed evil over a city through which no god will bother to intervene, which will cause the gods to leave us alone to fail. In short, I guess if there is a benefit that I get out of my religion, it is only this: it makes me feel like I'm right, like I have more of the pieces of the puzzle that is life.