Friday, March 8, 2013

Implications and Uncertainty

   Lately, I've been thinking about theology. I've considered the question: If I don't feel the need to hammer out every single detail of my religion, forming a complex, literally-interpreted story frame, then what is the value of pondering theology for a pagan like me? Theology can be a way of analyzing and critiquing our theological beliefs, finding the ones that aren't logically consistent with the others and rooting them out, evolving our beliefs into a more sensible whole. But another definition I encountered recently seems particularly helpful to me. That is, theology involves exploring the implications of our beliefs. This makes sense from a pagan perspective because no matter how we feel about belief, it's clear that what we believe will impact how we live and how we think about life.

   Different beliefs cause different results in our lives. If we believe, for example, that divinity is within everyone, we are more likely to treat others well than if we believe that only the self is sacred and others are of no import. There are many different, even contradictory, beliefs that have positive implications in the lives of those who hold them. It is useful to ask ourselves, which of our beliefs(both religious and non-religious) have positive implications for us and the world around us, and which have negative implications?

  In the 1600's, Pascal came up with his famous Wager, the philosophical argument that it is most sensible to live as though (the Christian) God exists, whether He does or not. If He doesn't and we live as though he does, the logic goes, we lose only some material pleasures. But if He does and we live as though He does not, we lose your soul in the end. Pascal clearly cared about the implication of belief, rather than simply its accuracy or inaccuracy. As a former Christian, I always found this silly. If God did not exist, I'd say, I'd rather live my life in reality, rather than believing in some fantasy. I still feel this way, but what I was not taking into account in the past was that there is no way of definitively knowing whether we are right or wrong in this lifetime. In light of this, can we be comfortable with a way of looking at the universe around us, knowing that it is ultimately uncertain? Can we be content knowing that this persepective is having a positive effect on our lives in the present?

   Some may believe in an inner knowing, beyond physical experience and mental logic and this may lead to a more comfortable place between phases of greater uncertainty. Right now, I am not in a place where I hold many beliefs close to me. I use some of them as lenses occasionally, peering through them to see what tint the world takes on. For those of us who are in this place right now, let's sit with the uncertainty and appreciate the loving arms of the Universe, whether felt through the trees hovering over us as we walk in the woods, or goddesses walking by our side, whispering wisdom, or molecules of hydrogen and oxygen lapping at our legs as we wade into the ocean. Belief, after all, may be as liquid as those molecules that form, reform, and form again.

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