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Tales of the Poet – Introduction to belief

Tales of the Poet – Introduction to belief

For this first post, I want to take a look at some of the major belief systems we will be encountering on this journey. Many religions and philosophies are similar in form, so we shouldn’t have to compare more than a handful of them in order to get a general understanding of how our beliefs affect us. I expect each post I share to draw the lines between beliefs a little differently. Sometimes, the lines are clearly religious. Sometimes, they’re philosophical. The three categories I chose below are broadly (and somewhat vaguely) religious. I have known Atheists in the first category. I know many Christians in all three. I’ll try to avoid using labels that cause a fuss. The goal is to see where we are and where fulfilment lies.

“We should follow the rules.”

I can’t begin to guess why you follow the rules. Maybe you’re trying to get into Heaven. Perhaps you’re trying to transcend the illusion of pain and mortality that we call life on Earth. Or you’re trying to improve your karma. Maybe you just think that the world would be a better place if everyone followed the rules. Every society, religion, and government has its own set of rules and list of reasons for following them. Despite these differences, we all can agree on a few things. Rules are important. They make the world a better place. We feel good about ourselves when we do the right thing. The rules separate us from animals. People who don’t follow the rules tend to make a mess of things and hurt the people around them. It is not always easy to follow the rules, but it always pays off in the end.

“But the rules were meant to be broken.”

Life is too short to follow the rules. You are a radical free-thinker, or perhaps you are just taking a break from religion. Either way, you want more out of life than any stuffy monastery can give you. Life is meant to be lived. It doesn’t mean we should break important rules. Murder is obviously bad. But religion is too. After 2000 years of fighting over which rules we should follow, don’t you think it’s time we took a break? If we all set aside our differences, the world would be a much better place.

In other news, you’ve either found your it, or you are actively looking for it. Community service, a good career, a great sex life. Whatever it is, it brings more meaning and fullness to your life than religion ever will. When will the rule-followers realize that happiness comes from the little things in life? The rules are not important. It is.

“Actually, it’s all about a relationship.”

Since the beginning, man has seen the problems with the world and felt a need to repair it, escape it, or transcend it. Every religion that we have ever encountered had demanded that we work hard in order to improve our lot in life (or transcend this world, earn our salvation, etc.). The only exception to this rule is Gospel Christianity. The Christian God provided a solution on His own. No strings attached, if you want to know God and be His friend (forever), you can. If you just want the stuff that He gives you, He’ll respect that, too (even though it will never satisfy you). When you die, you can either be in community with Him and His people forever, or you will be left by yourself forever. Your choice. The rules themselves are a result of the relationship, but they don’t have meaning on their own.

A note on religion

I know that the “religious” category was quite concise. For the sake of the introduction, I don’t mind making it one category. However, some questions will require me to draw different lines than I did here. For example, if you want to ask what the purpose of pain is, then you will have to divide it into western religions and eastern religions. Western religion focuses more on the world itself. It is real and needs to be fixed. Eastern religion teaches that the world is an illusion and needs to be transcended. The differing approaches to pain require us to chose a different dividing line. I know that unique belief systems may be glossed over from time to time. If you want to hear my thoughts on a specific philosophy, let me know in the comments.

Where to go from here:

This was the final introduction before we get into the thick of things. I promise. From here on out, I want to focus on specific application questions. How would my day-to-day life change if I really believed X? Would I become cheerful? Depressed? Generous? Resentful? Life’s greatest questions have all been answered 100 times over. Let’s see which answers are worth their salt. Thank you for joining me on this adventure. I’m trying to get a post out every week or two.

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