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10 May 2004 @ 03:47 pm
Armchair Theology  

One of the things I liked when I was studying about the Mormon Church was how it chose to interpret intuition as the Holy Ghost communicating (pardon "interpret", as a non-believer this is my biased way of expressing the Mormon belief that those intuitive feelings we get are the Holy Ghost).

What religions embrace intuition and what religions shun intuition?

Is a religion or a believer healthier for having the individual autonomy of interpreting one's own intuitive feelings?

When a believer leaves their church and/or religion behind, are they less crippled when coming from a religion which embraces intuition?

If intuition is shunned, what guidance is offered in its stead? I'd argue that with many religions, literal rules are the alternative.

Related anecdote: while traveling in Europe, I noted some social differences between the average English and Americans vs. the average contintental Europeans. Most continental Europeans are sensitive to social faux pas, like not lighting up a joint in a public restaurant in Amsterdam. Most Brits and Americans seemed to behave in a way that suggested "there's no rule against it, so nothing is stopping us".

If one depends on literal rules to guide them and then shuns the instituition which generated those rules, are they less likely to be moral/ethical because they consider these things to be external rather than internal due to indoctrination?

x-posted to SeaGoth:Religion
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
VAXhackervaxhacker on May 11th, 2004 12:33 am (UTC)
I think, perhaps, that's one of the easiest misunderstandings people inside and outside a faith can run into--how to interpret the intangible. To continue with your example, I've several times heard Mormons criticized about just "following vague feelings" and yet in my own studying, I've found that the majority of actual teachings of Mormonism have emphasized over and over that you need to distinguish between your own intuition and a prompting from the Holy Ghost, or to put it another way, telling the difference between when God's moving you toward something in his subtle way, or if your own emotions and wishful thinking are getting in the way.

The fact that they emphasize this repeatedly tells me that too many of the rank and file of the believers are just taking the easy route and getting blown around on the winds of their own feelings instead of really engaging their brain, studying their options (and their beliefs) and reasoning things out, and then investing time in contemplation, meditation, prayer and all that, which is a lot more work.

Having been raised in an actively religious environment, and later leaving it all behind me, and much later deciding to restore that aspect of my life, I'd say that in both cases (in and out of religious activity) literal rules and following someone else unthinkingly never struck me as a viable option, but being completely devoid of any structure but my own whim didn't serve well either. I think I work best with the freedom to think for myself, to have to struggle a bit with God to figure out the answers I need, yet still have some moral or theological axioms and framework to work within.

Fortunately I've never belonged to a group which expects anything different than that, although I've met some individuals who seemed to not want to put personal effort, thought or responsibility into their faith.

VAXhackervaxhacker on May 11th, 2004 12:42 am (UTC)
In re-reading my comment, I'm not sure I was really very coherent :) I think the main point was that, rather than interpreting intuition as the Holy Ghost, or shunning intuition altogether, that I think it's best to embrace both intuition and inspiration, and to be cognizant of the difference (and even how each can enhance/support the other).

How's that?

Kburgunder on May 11th, 2004 01:08 am (UTC)
I think all of this was very well-said and you did an impressive job representing yourself. ;)
Instagatrix of the Cute-fuanzu on May 11th, 2004 12:53 am (UTC)
One of the major, er, difficulties that I have with organized 'religion' (and I'm speaking as a vastly removed outsider), is that it seems like the 'church' tries very hard to remove people from having a direct connection with 'god' which seems rather contrary to it's original design. It seems mighty strange to me that people of early monotheism had a direct connection to their faith in a very personal way, and these days faith can be questioned if you do not have a dedicated financial feed to the church.

Asking 'why' or disagreeing with the church is considered heretical (latin roots free will), and seeking a more direct line is treated as insanity (or rather a 'threat'). It seems to me that knowing the 'why' behind understanding one's faith should be more important than the church telling people what they *should* believe as a matter of control. Faith and belief, in whatever you believe, is a deeply intimate and personal matter, and should have an intutive alignment, rather than blind faith.

Some people want to be told what to do, or what to believe, without question. Ok, but it is our intuition or internal ethical structure that tells us what is right or not. Someone who questions their beliefs can learn more about how to integrate their faith and intuition to deepen their beliefs. I'm not sure why this has been so separated. It seems to me that if questioning things and listinging to one internal voice were more embraced by religion, people would not be so conflicted around having faith. Shouldn't faith be executed without reservation?
Vulture: posedvulture23 on May 11th, 2004 05:28 am (UTC)
As an interesting note, Judaism (at least the Reform variety) is far more accepting of (and even encouraging towards) questioning than just about any brand of Christianity. Rabbis are considered to be wise and learned men (and women), but they are not considered to have a direct line from God, and it's at least somewhat acceptable to disagree with them about some theological points -- especially if you can back up your version from Scripture. Indeed, there's a long tradition of rabbinical conversations (read "arguments") about a wide variety of theological issues, and it's (mostly) understood that current practices are an interpretation, rather than the Absolute One Way That G-d Intended™.

From my outside perspective, this does seem to make (Reform) Judaism a much more healthy, vibrant, and appealing religion than the typical branches of Christianity.

In some ways, I think that many pagans go a bit too far in the other direction -- they focus very much on personal intuition, to the point where it's often as much a matter of whim as true conviction. To my eyes, many (though certainly not all) pagans are so busy trying to establish themselves as something different than Christianity that they fail to create a really convincing base for their faith. (This is especially true among those pagans who belabor the point about how "we pagans" have been oppressed by Christianity for two millenia, playing up the victim role, etc... despite the fact that their religion has only passing resemblance to the actual practices of those ancient peoples.)
Instagatrix of the Cute-fuanzu on May 11th, 2004 06:28 pm (UTC)
Although I don't know much about Judaism either, I respect that it has not severed itself completely from having a religious experience. There is still mysticism, and still the allowed study and striving for something deeper. I don't see that mode of thinking invoking the 'church' as the wall between you and something greater than you, the bounds of which are dictated by said church.
It seems to have a much more organic and thoughtful intended experience than simply shut-up-and-believe. I can respect that, espescially given that a requirement of their devotion is not based on telling me I'm wrong or that I must be converted through fear of hell. I much prefer discussion over lecture as it allows for education and understanding, even if people choose to believe their own thing. Seeking guidance is never a bad thing, IMHO, and one can never suffer from having too much information.

Of course, I'm also speaking from my own direct experience. I've had conversations with relatively sane christians as well, but it has been extremely rare overall. Telling someone they're fundamentally wrong on principal, and then threatening with eternal burning doesn't seem the most effective way to woo someone over.

As far as pagans go, you have to remember that most pagans came from christian parents. There is definitely a hint (ok, blatant clue-by-twenty) of rebelling as far to the other side as possible. It's like they decided that christianity sucks, so they must become anti-christian as possible and make as big and obnioxious affront to where they came from (and they must convert, and argue, and belittle as much as possible). It's kind of sad really that the whole reason for leaving is lost in bitterness and hate.
Instagatrix of the Cute-fuanzu on May 11th, 2004 06:30 pm (UTC)
(continued from above...)

I think it is more important to seek answers that are right, rather than spend so much energy vocalizing what is wrong with something don't want to be a part of anyway.

Now I'm not saying all pagans are like this, but I think they can get a wee bit righteous in clinging to their idea of how things 'were'. This seems mighty strange to me, as most of the 'old ways' started when people wrote books in the 70's. I'm all about getting in touch with nature and learning to both listen internally and calm from within, etc... But my goodness, taking one book as dogma is pretty similar the exact place they were trying to get away from (but with a *different* book(s)). Being a self-righteous twit from the other direction does not stipulate ones validity.

People should give thought to what they believe, it should be right for them. And above all, a person should know what they believe and why it is the *right* belief for them. Regardless of what teachings someone adheres to, they should still behave like a rational, sane, and ethical person (which supersedes the litteral docterine of any belief). It is a fallacy to dump one flag and wrap oneself in another without giving much thought to how either flag provides internal sustenance. The concept of going to the extreme in either direction without really knowing why (or understanding that when you strip away the language of a belief, we all essentially *have* a belief in *something*) is completely perplexing to me.
yvetteserpentmoon on May 11th, 2004 02:26 am (UTC)
"What religions embrace intuition and what religions shun intuition?

I would say most pagan religions embrace intuition. But they generally see the God thing differently, so it isn't the same as it would be in other religions.

"Is a religion or a believer healthier for having the individual autonomy of interpreting one's own intuitive feelings?"

Generally speaking, I would say yes. But taking it to an individual level, some people are simply crazy and their "intuitions" might not be very healthy for them.

"If intuition is shunned, what guidance is offered in its stead? I'd argue that with many religions, literal rules are the alternative."

I agree. Rules are good in the absence of not knowing right from wrong. People still have trouble with that.

"If one depends on literal rules to guide them and then shuns the instituition which generated those rules, are they less likely to be moral/ethical because they consider these things to be external rather than internal due to indoctrination?"

I was just thinking about this today. I was thinking how morals and ethics keep us contained and how without them many of us would be rather barbaric. People will do whatever is socially acceptable. Most people, who are more conscientious, will seek signals from others but others will do whatever they want to do as long as no one stops them. The signals for them must be interruption of their activity in order to get the message and even then, some of them will still think they're in the right. But the latter could be anyone depending on the activity or geography.

yvetteserpentmoon on May 12th, 2004 02:29 am (UTC)
"Is a religion or a believer healthier for having the individual autonomy of interpreting one's own intuitive feelings?"

I have to add something. I forgot that a lot of people need the kind of guidance that religion offers them and would not be healthier without that guidance as they would not likely trust their intuition. They are looking outward for answers. And if a dogmatic religion opened up and encouraged listening to one's intuition, its authority would be undermined which would lead to the demise of that religion and to its believers. They can only accept the truth from one source. One authority. It is kind of like your need to have things scientifically validated. Science is your religion and your source of truth. Except you'll be fine without science validating everything.

But religion is more than a source for answers, it is also a source of comfort that fills many voids.