Friday, September 24, 2010

Choosing Faith: Wrestling with Religion

Politically, the natural enemy of a Powerful Woman is organized religion.

Not God. Not faith. Not monotheism.

Every 70 years, fundamentalism raises its sleepy head, notices how progressive the church has become, and swings a sword to decapitate the new growth.  As sure as the sun will rise, any new attitude of the church toward women will be stifled and suppressed as soon as there is a trumpet call to return to the days when the church was dominant, powerful, and patriarchal.

So, naturally, a Powerful Woman's first face-lift is removing the baggage of religion.  But, in doing so, too many aggressive women miss out on the salve of faith.

Faith: the sister of intuition, the parent of hope, the child of submission. 

Submitting to the idea of a higher power is much like the idea of submitting to another.  Full power is retained by the purposeful and voluntary relinquishment of the exclusive control of our own being.  We recognize that there are forces we cannot manipulate, ideas that we cannot reconcile, and a standard of perfection that forever remains out of our reach.  Faith is the gentle ointment that fills in the raw wounds, connects our consciousness to a higher sense of order, and calms the nagging voice that reminds us of how far we must go to meet our own expectations.  Faith is within us, a mental process that parallels logic, as prolific as our daily self-talk and present in all of our decision-making.  And yet, for so many, it is unrecognized, underutilized, or mismanaged. 

Every day you are either intentionally or unintentionally relying on faith.  Whether you believe in the higher order of capitalism, the consistency of science, the beauty of the human spirit, the complexity of the human mind, or monotheistic divinity, you are acting in reliance on a set of underlying, foundational principles that govern your life--principles that you can't prove exist but have provided you with enough discrete examples that give you the confidence to predict future transactions.  No matter how much you would like to believe otherwise, you are submitting to something.

The greatest gift that organized religion has given us is the structure to develop our spiritual dimension, to introduce us to the powerful capacity of the mind to believe, hope, and find pleasure and the joy within ourselves that relies on no external stimulus, no ideal set of circumstances, or degree of perfection. Much like years of school that trained us to develop our rational selves, religion presented us with the discipline to develop our capacity for faith.

Unfortunately, this structure also has a crippling effect.  Over time, if an individual relies on this structure, in the absence of independent thought, it has no more developed the capacity for faith than its absence has for those who have never encountered it. 

So, were we right?  Should we just abandon it altogether?  No, we are social creatures and collective beings.  However, we must be aware of the conflicting forces that grant and take our greatest asset and source of power - our independent thought.  Find your source of faith, invest in learning to intentionally apply it to develop your whole being, use external sources like the church to refresh and reenergize your faith, and align your core to these set of beliefs. 

Organized religion is a love-hate relationship.  I will be forever annoyed by its abuse of faith to achieve political means or to perpetuate a collective morality.  However, I am eternally grateful for its lessons in intraspection, discipline, and submission. 

My guiding principle is faith.  Not religion.

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