Thom Dunn's Reviews > The Joy of Sects: A Spirited Guide to the World's Religious Traditions

The Joy of Sects by Peter Occhiogrosso
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Apr 23, 11

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Read from March 17 to April 23, 2011

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message 1: by Valerie (new)

Valerie I'd like to see the old documentary The Long Search again, or find a printed version of the text. I recall being very impressed by much of it, and some parts have struck with me over the years.

One such part was the comment that, to Buddhists, the gods are like a friend in City Hall--useful for planning permission and suchlike, but not much use otherwise. The gods, the commentator said, can't show you the way to heaven, because the gods don't know the way to heaven.

I know that there's a tendency to resist simplifications of complex theological points--but sometimes, it helps to clarify matters, at least as a jumping-off point.


message 2: by Thom (new) - added it

Thom Dunn Valerie wrote: "I'd like to see the old documentary The Long Search again, or find a printed version of the text. I recall being very impressed by much of it, and some parts have struck with me over the years.

..."


I have several rationalist friends who will have no truck with religion at all, being put off by American protestant enthusiasm. Something of an unreconstructed Jungian, I find all religious enthusiasm instructive.


message 3: by Valerie (new)

Valerie I don't tend to value enthusiasm at all--but I appreciate the reasons people might seek religious understanding of the (too often troublous) things they encounter in life.

I can't say I agree with the solution proposed in James White's book The Genocidal Healer (suffering as part of the birth pangs of an infant god). I'm not sure he believed it himself. But as one character says, 'there is always doubt'.

My main problem is with monotheistic, autnoritarian, patrriarchal, proselytizing religions. If free questioning is not allowed, religion becomes an oppressive rather than a liberating or consolatory phenomenon.

I think of something I once heard a Canadian witch say, in explanation of why she became a witch: "The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this great white man in the sky wasn't anybody you could talk to. You couldn't argue with him, you couldn't ask him for anything. You just had to take what you got, and be grateful for it. So I hung with Mary."


message 4: by Thom (new) - added it

Thom Dunn Valerie wrote: "I don't tend to value enthusiasm at all--but I appreciate the reasons people might seek religious understanding of the (too often troublous) things they encounter in life.

I can't say I agree ..."


I am the Scion of a Rhode Island Protestant family. Interesting that religious do-your-own-thing is still highly valued there, at least among Rhode Island Peckhams. No holy pictures. No "Jesus" talk. My mother told me when she lost her childhood picture of God as a man in a flowing robe with a long white beard sitting on a cloud, that she found she had nothing come to replace it. She continued all her life to attend Methodist services. Married a Roman Catholic who had quietly slipped out the back door of the RC faith. We did Christmas and Easter eggs and said Let's-try-to-be-good and all that stuff without dogma or doctrine.
I've often wondered if the gotta-get-to-heaven churches don't increase that very fear of death they claim to allay. What think you ?
Always interested in your many penetrating ideas.


message 5: by Valerie (new)

Valerie It's quite likely. I remember an interview with Tammy Fay right before her death, in which she was asked why, if she was sure she was going to heaven, she feared death. She basically responded that she feared dying, not death. The comparison that came to my mind was that even if a baby understands what life will be like, it would be reasonable to fear birth, which is nobody's idea of a good time.

My immediate family's religious life was complicated by the fact that my father is a non-doctrinaire atheist, and my mother has had a longstanding quarrel with God because of the death of her beloved father when she was 18.

Too many of my brothers have become doctrinaire fundamentalist Christians. I have serious problems with the abject attitudes they adopt, abasing themselves in prayer (a form of ingrown self-hatred), combined with authoritarian attitudes toward others. They aren't all the same--but the ones who believed that 'might makes right' before their 'conversion' haven't since abandoned that belief.

I once saw Miep Gies speak in person, and when she was asked "How can we do as you did, and help people, rather than as others did, who just stood by and let terrible things happen, or worse, helped the evils happen?", she replied "You must never believe that anybody deserves what happens to them. If once you start believing that, you won't intervene to help."

I've been whittling out a response to societal beliefs in earned suffering, 'justice' as institutionalized blood feud and 'redemptive bullying', and the belief that anybody has a RIGHT (much less an obligation) to obey orders. I've concluded that it's necessary to follow Gies' advice, and to take the time to think things through. Most importantly, to question the Puritan concept, shortly stated as "You suffer and die because you sin. If you never sinned, you would never suffer or die. Of course, everybody suffers and dies--but that's because we're all recalcitrant sinners."

There's too much pressure to hurry, hurry, hurry--make a decision before the 'deadline'. Too many people tend to forget the origin of the term 'deadline' This was a line inside the walls of Andersonville. If prisoners, for whatever reason, crossed that line, they were shot without negotiation or appeal. Is this really the model we want to adopt for our society? If we continue at our breakneck pace, it follows as day follows night that necks will go on being broken.


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