The Unfaithful Faithful
Faith of our Fathers, Not our Sons
Faith for Our Times
In recent Pew Research and Gallup polls, the subject of the decline of religion in the US indicated that Americans are less religion oriented than in past generations. These polls showed that Latinos maintain their Catholic faith and Jews and Muslims are still ardent, practicing faithful.
What of the rest of the world? Oddly, a search of today's media spotlights a return to fundamentalist faiths that, to average Americans, seems to border on rigid extremism.
What really is faith in our times? Is it faith in self? Faith in a higher power? Faith in familiarity and routine? When the current Catholic Pope, Francis, began to be as vocal as Popes of the early 1900s, many Catholics were unsure of their feelings. Some Catholics were of the opinion that their church suffered serious damage to credibility for a variety of reasons. These included:
. Imposition of Church laws toward women
. Priestly scandals concerning pedophiles
. Intermarriage between persons of differing faiths
. Lack of resonance with Catholic dogma
Of all of these, the last, lack of resonance with Catholic dogma may be the real reason for most Catholics to have lost their ardent reverence and loyalty. Yet in essence, the decline in the practice of religion has another cause. The biggest and most difficult of these is the ability to balance Biblical teachings with modern living.
The Science of Religion
It was inevitable that the world's most educated minds would soon rationalize the Bible and religious dogma. Today, no religion is without scrutiny. It's a myth that aetheists do not practice some form of religion. If they practice any religion, it is religion of self. They are not alone. Self is the new religion du jour.
It's easier to dismiss all of the trappings of Biblical claims and choose self above all. The fault lies with religious teachers, as much as with religious practitioners. The science of religion is a premise based on "no science," as was proven in its earliest phases by the Church's attitude toward Galileo. Is the true science of religion based on the nature of adherence to the past and refusal to live in the present?
The future in Biblical terms is visionary, at best. Visions of St. Paul wandering about alone in a desert are acceptable. Visions of scientific advancements are not. Herein lies the biggest problems with all religions today: Inability to reconcile ancient beliefs with proven, modern day advancements.
Religion and the Bible are rife with reinterpretations to suit. This is done so often that it no longer impresses or impacts society. It simply is not possible to rely on ancient religious interpretations as fact.
Most religious teachers make assumptions of knowledge of ancient societies as they existed in the most acceptable and most rigorous religious regimens. They assume they know the daily lives of the faithful. However, the reality is these are only unreliable assumptions.
History plays an inexhorable role in defying religious tenets. For every virtuous act of religious substantiation, documentations in history contradict. Holy wars of the Crusaders were honored in faith. Those outside Christianity were reviled.
Faith of our Fathers, Not our Sons
It is a true fact of life that the faith of previous generations is not the faith we practice today. Where strict attention to tenets of faith were deeply embedded, today's practicing religious question, all too frequently, the substance of religious teachings to the discomfort of Biblical scholars and Dogmatic Experts. Thus, begins the trail leading to a new style of religion that fits into the knowledge, experience and understanding of humans today.
Tests of Faith
One certainty is the tests of faith today's most faithful and observant are experiencing. Certainly, there are religions that live in the modern world with ancient religious practices, quite comfortably. The problem for them is that in order to maintain such ancient religious practices in a modern world, isolationism is required and lack of transparency is a key element for continuance of ancient religious practices.
"Tradition" as the character, Tevye, in the movie, "Fiddler on the Roof" learned was a fleeting state of mind, rather than an effort of human preservation. The moment religions lose transparency, tenets, beliefs and fundamental faith is opened to judgment, followed by criticism.
Some religious practices, it can be noted, are based less on religion than on human creation of traditions.
Flexibility in religion is rarely acceptable. Where lack of flexibility exists, religion becomes a monolithic pecking order, from whence all religious interpretation comes. The analogy of this is similar to the Biblical tale of "the fishes and the loaves," which creates more questions in the modern mind than it answers. Using this particular Biblical example, the faithful are bidden to accept that a half dozen fishes and a single loaf of bread fed hundreds of hungry people. One caveat to this story is that this can only be accepted through blind faith and a kind of "magic" that could divide one loaf of bread into hundreds of crumbs that fed the many.
Symbols and Faith
The first book of the Bible is Genesis, a recounting of the formation of earth and universe. It also recounts the creation of man. For generations, most of the faithful were expected to digest the idea that the Garden of Eden was replete with animals with human-like voices, such as the serpent who tempted Eve and by, association, Adam. As Genesis advanced in chapters, the concept of twelve tribes and a more identifiable association with the way humans actually lived was documented.
As humans grew more educated, talking serpents, burning bushes and nubile daughters of ancient Egyptian royalty became less credible. Religion teachers and Biblical hierarchical experts were hard put to continue to support these accounts. Instead, they began teaching that Adam and Eve were Biblical symbols of mankind and the talking serpent was a mental aberration in Eve's mind that inspired her to evil. Reinterpretation in the light of reality.
Pushing Faith to the Limits
Modern mankind finds tolerance for tenets of faith pushed to the limits of credibility. While it's possible to "have faith" and think positively, it is positively not possible to have the kind of faith that flies in the face of reality.
We can choose to believe in the goodness and extraordinarily gifted individual whose very life force blesses others in numerous ways. We can hold up to the light of sainthood, the most sanctified souls who personify the very essence of human kindness and generosity. We know certain humans have unusual skills and talents most of us don't possess.
We simply fail to have blind faith that ascends or assumes a human body to heaven and creates non-existence. We question the very existence of heaven and hell and life and death on a daily basis. What then keeps humans forging on in search of their purpose in human living?
Faith Back, Faith Forward
The ancient religions included many unexplained mysteries, preoccupations with the unknowable and other world deities. In the massive drive to know that which is, as yet, the unexplored realms, we find faith back in ancient times was borne of fear and a desperate need to prove purpose for existence. Consider the grave extremities of existence at the dawn of time. Fear would naturally be a reason to look toward a higher divinity. Should early man discover a mode of inner peace, others in these early tribes followed in cult-like fashion, that continues to the present day. Faith forward may mean a rearrangement of human fear factors to a more realistic level and a firm commitment to resolving the purpose for being.
Waves of religions will continually evolve. Faith today is acceptance of a courageous battle to exist in an ever changing world. Some may choose to touch the hem of the Divine in practice. Others will simply continue to practice the faith of self.