religion isn’t about the god, it’s about the faith
faith in a god (irrational and unprovable as any deity is) translates to faith in oneself
that is to say, one’s faith in a god is not faith in itself/himself/herself/theirself being true. one’s faith in a god is faith in one’s belief the god is true.
faith becomes both the affirmation and the evidence of truth in the absence of truth
faith is a spiritual circular reference, if you will
pascal’s wager is a 50/50 chance, the spiritual equivalent of the come/don’t come bet on a craps table (the simplest bet you can make in a casino without knowing any rules, fwiw). you can’t prove gods true, but at the same time you can’t disprove them. so, the wager goes, why not believe?
perhaps this makes religion a coping mechanism in the face of a chaotic callous world, but, hey, we require mucho cope-o in this shitto world
religions offer believers order, purpose, and a sense of place. but all dogmatic belief systems are one-way streets, where morality and structure rain from above. often, even the most blithe dogmatic stance is an expression of conformity, for better or worse. after all, one “belongs” to a church, synagogue, mosque, sect, order, etc.
adherence to religious practice can enhance the best parts of some, but also suppress the best parts of others.
it’s possible, however, to be spiritual but not religious. i mean, i am that way, so this must be true. when pressed to check a box, i check jewish, b/c that’s what i was born, and it has informed my spiritual identity.
i don’t practice judaism with any credibility or regularity, though. on top of it all, i went to a benedictine catholic school for 6 years, junior high through high school. all boys. in a monastery. i was the sole jewish student for most of my time there.
being “the other” in that world taught me more of faith than any academic or religious lesson. i had the luxury of detached observation. for priests and flock there, faith was the commitment to, not the belief in, catholicism.
there was a darkness there, too, of course. some bad things happened to other kids that never descended on me, thankfully. for sure, filling in those gaps tempers my sentimentality and desaturates my memories. day-in day-out, however, i saw 99% of folks working to be a better person, to define what it meant to be a community.
i don’t believe in nothing. I have faith in something larger than people; i just can’t quantify it. i call it love
i’m spiritual through the practices of music, writing, walking Luna, even playing tennis. i do these things in repetition, with the aim of growth, enlightenment, and connection. i make my own religion up as i go, i guess.
religion is where you find it, like kurt vonnegut told playboy magazine in 1973:
Playboy: Is there any religion you consider superior to any other?
Vonnegut: Alcoholics Anonymous. Alcoholics Anonymous gives you an extended family that’s very close to a blood brotherhood, because everybody has endured the same catastrophe. And one of the enchanting aspects of Alcoholics Anonymous is that many people join who aren’t drunks, who pretend to be drunks because the social and spiritual benefits are so large. But they talk about real troubles, which aren’t spoken about in church, as a rule.
billions of other people, though, are spiritual through religious practice. so, if you get rid of religion, you better figure out how to offer a teeming mass of folks a sense of purpose and place. something to believe in, every single day
faith is in the practice, not the belief.
faith precedes belief.
faith supersedes belief.
lose faith, and you lose the ability to trust and believe, not only in the systems and institutions around you, but in your self.
new york city has eroded my faith in it in the last few years. i no longer believe in its capacity to care for, let alone heal, itself. solving the city’s problems is also now beyond the capacity of its most worthy citizens, no matter how organized or determined.
the degradation of my faith in my home-city of 30 years is reflected in the photos accompanying this piece, most of which i shot within a 6-block radius of my house. These folks are abandoned. With each passing budget cycle, their dignity is horse traded into lower and lower priority, all while billions of dollars are allocated to unaccountable programs. No shock that the numbers of unhoused and unhinged have exploded in the last 10 years.
fwiw, this 6-block radius includes former mayor de blasio’s brownstone. this year, he gut-renovated the house with a $600K mortgage and rezoned it from a 2-family to a 1-family home. lol he ultra-gentrified his own lot, and reduced the city’s available housing stock with a straight face.
my faith’s not all gone, though. sometimes faith is all you have left.
in the end, as much as people think politics or commerce invest life with meaning, art is the only spiritual thing that can displace religion
that’s why, through all of human history, art is reined in, controlled, underwritten, and laced with capricious seductive profits by an alternating collusion of religious, statist, and corporate interests
imagination, the arguable foundation of art, is an enemy of structure, and thus incompatible with all but the most anarchic spiritual, political, and financial systems
lol that line in Genesis about how man was made “in God’s image.” never assume “image” connotes a noun, i.e. a facsimile – like a photocopy or a photograph
what if “image” was intended as a verb?
what if “God’s image” was just that, a thought in Their head, a conjuring of Their imagination, such that the phrase was intended as:
God created man in his image (of the perfect man).
God imagined man, not as a copy of Himself, but rather as Edison imagined a light bulb.Maybe gods imagined humans as a tool to make this world a better place.
In this way, we’re not degraded xeroxes of a god. We’re just something they thought about, and jotted down on a napkin.
That makes us God’s art
- in his image
- in image of his
- In image
I’ve written many songs I either don’t want to anymore, or forgot how to play. Scaled up, humans very well could be a song God is just tired of singing…
a thought he’s tired of thinking…
an image he’s tired of imagining…
we didn’t become the image of us God had in their head. so God, disappointed and a bit ashamed, also having lost the gift receipt, is now putting us back in their toy bin.