Monday, November 10, 2014

Taking a moment to explain… Religion?

I was recently asked in a personal conversation what my religion was. The answer to that is actually simple, it is Hellenismos, but answering that question to the satisfaction of people who do not know what it is can be tricky because often people have a gut reaction to things that are not like they think they should be.

The simple answer to what is Hellenismos is that it is the polytheistic, pre-Christian religion of the Hellenic people, the Greeks.

The answer to what is MY religion, however, is a bit different than just saying "Hellenismos" because I am my own person, and I am more of a psiritual person than a religious person as I do not follow any creed, or a particular philosophy, of which the Greeks had many.

But what is the difference? What is Spiritual versus Religious? That answer requires my own interpretation of those words and that interpretation may be different for different people. So, here it is!

Religion/Religious is a system or paradigm of belief and practice. Catholics are Catholics because they believe in the teachings of the Church, including its sacraments, its social agendas, its theological theories, etc. A Jew is Jewish (here using the word as a descriptor of the religion only) because they believe in the teachings and philosophies of the Jews as they have been passed down for centuries, including sacred feasts, ritual, prayer styles, etc.

Spirituality, though the name seems to imply it, has nothing to really do with the belief in spirit, or soul, or the afterlife, but rather in establishing a personal connection to the divine not guided by any particular philosophy or creed but by a personal sense that the divine is real.

People who follow a particular religion/philosophy often do not have to explore what divinity is, their church or religious tradition has already done that thinking for them, and they have faith that that explanation is the correct one.

People who are spiritual often spend their entire lives exploring what divinity is, what it is not, and how it affects them in their daily lives.

I am a spiritual person, and I subscribe to a paradigm, but I am not bound by it in such a way as to stop me from exploring, changing my mind, and making new discoveries about myself and the divine.

The paradigm I subscribe to is what some people call "Soft Polytheism", which means I do believe that there are more than on deity, and that they affect, or manifest, to different people in different ways, but that there is not an infinite number of them, therefore, though I adore my religious beliefs and feelings, I do not proselytize because people must find, IMO, their own divine reality.

I may disagree with the way different people interpret the divine, but I adore people whose faith is sincere in their own hearts as much as I dislike intensely people who feel they must force their own beliefs on other people. This applies to people who believe in the divine and people who do not. If your ideas are sincere, I can accept that you have them.

I do not, however, have any respect for people who choose to believe in things manifest in our every day reality that are proven to be patently false. Gravity is real, it doesn't matter if you believe in it or not, it is a provable quality of our universe. The Earth is not just six thousand years old, it can be proven to you, and your denial of that proof is only a stubborn unwillingness to see reality, and in my opinion, a sign of a profound stupidity.

I also have zero respect for people who claim to adhere to a theological philosophy, a religious tenet, yet pick and choose which parts of it to adhere to based on their own convenience and as a means to reinforce their own bigotries and intolerance.

Do I do that? There are some who say I must, but that is why I do not adhere to any one particular philosophy. I don't adhere to Platonism, or Stoicism, or Pythagorianism, or any of the myriad schools of thought that the Greeks created from their ceaseless explorations into thought and the world around them.

So, yeah, Hellenismos. That means Zeus and Hera and Athena and all that, but to me that is one of the many forms the divine, the Gods, take in the world, but I chose a long time ago that this form, this paradigm, was the one that worked for me, and I have stuck with it and the many roads to a better me it has offered me.

Life is a journey, and mine has been a roller coaster of pain, of abuse, of depression, of suicidal tendencies, and part of what saved me was this exploration of the Gods through the lens of Hellenic thought and religion.

I owe them my life, and am forever grateful.

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