Monday, October 01, 2012

Spiritual But Not Religious

Why on earth would anybody want to be 'spiritual but not religious'--whatever that comes to? Religion provides the machinery to produce religious experience. Why bother with meditation or whatever SBNR people do to get that experience when religion produces it more reliably, with greater intensity and with much less effort?

I poke around on blogs to get an idea of what motivates the spiritual-but-not-religious. One theme seems to be "I don't need religion." How true: we don't need anything beyond the food, clothing and shelter requisite for bare, boring survival. But we want more. We don't need religion--any more than we, as my mother said, need recreational drugs: according to her we can enjoy ourselves without them, and anyone who uses them is sick and weak.

But recreational drugs are great! If you can get high more easily, more reliably and more intensely on drugs, than drugs are a good thing and you should enjoy them--even though you don't need them. I am, therefore, in favor of recreational drugs and of religion--rightly characterized as the opium of the people. We don't need them--but we want them because we enjoy them.

Other SBNR people congratulate themselves on their critical acumen and intellectual independence. They do not, the are proud to say, uncritically buy into dogmatic packages promulgated by religious authorities. Ho-hum: neither do we religious people. We look to religion to provide the machinery to produce religious/aesthetic experience--the buildings and ceremonies--not for some doctrinal package. We can, and do, believe whatever we please. Unlike most religious believers, I enjoy doctrine because I do metaphysics. But I do not see it as a package of doxastic obligations. Christian doctrine is a conceptual playground, where I can monkey around on the metaphysical monkey bars, so to speak. Nothing hangs on getting it right--if indeed there is a right. It's just a lot of logic puzzles to play with.

I suppose in the end it comes to what one wants out of spirituality/religion. What I want is art and elaborate rituals which will, at their best, lead to aesthetic/religious experience--a sort of intellectual/aesthetic orgasm. Of course the SBNR will immediately jump on this, assuming that intellectual/aesthetic orgasms can only be a substitute for the more conventional variety. But not so. The issue isn't other but more: religion isn't a substitute for sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll but more good stuff, more pleasure.

Naturally, for most churches official doctrine impose restrictions or prohibitions on these other pleasures. But who pays attention to this bullshit? They couldn't enforce their silly rules and prohibitions even if they wanted to. And most are all to happy to get our butts on their pews, no questions asked.

So, what does one want out of spirituality/religion? A slam-bang aesthetic/mystical experience. That's what I'm in the game for because religion has nothing else to offer. And because nothing but religion can provide that aesthetic/mystical experience as reliably or intensely, with the least possible effort on our behalf. So if religion dies out, if those buildings aren't maintained, if those ceremonies aren't performed, we will be deprived of that experience--just as we will be deprived of valuable experiences if recreational drugs aren't available.

So I evangelize. Not because I have the slightest interest in "saving souls" or making other people's lives better in any way, but because I want to promote the interests of the institutional church so that it can maintain those buildings and keep the fancy rituals going for my entertainment and for the pleasure of others who, like me, enjoy religiousity.