I don’t have religious beliefs any more, but I still have religious sentiments. I still find religious expression moving – gospel music for example. Maybe it’s habit, or maybe it speaks to something deep and visceral that is fundamental to being human – “singing the joy of living”.
Religion is not about truth, to me; I have science for that; religion is about meaning. I evaluate religious ideas not on the basis of whether I think they’re true – I can never know if they are true, although I can certainly be convinced they are not true in some cases – but rather, on the basis of how helpful they are, how meaningful they are to me, whether they express something that resonates with my experience of life as a human, and whether they encourage me to live a “good” life – all entirely subjective. I use religious or philosophical ideas as paradigms or languages to articulate my sense of meaning. I can do that without having to believe in them as “truth”. Of course this means that my paradigms are completely open to being updated or even discarded if experience renders them less meaningful.
I’m undecided whether this is pure genius, or just an elaborate form of hypocrisy. 😀
I guess it’s not that different from how we use language in general. I can say, “the sun’s gone behind a cloud” (not uncommon here in Scotland 🙂 ) even though I know that’s not what literally happened. It would be weird or overly pedantic to say “a cloud has come in between the sun and me”. Our expressions arise from the immediacy of experience: the light and warmth is experienced to fade; where did it go? Oh – behind a cloud. They express something of the human experience rather than the mechanical truth. And that is how I see religion.
The Unitarian community I have recently become a part of represents a diverse range of beliefs, and I am seemingly at the more Humanist end of the spectrum. I don’t know if I will be a lifelong Unitarian, but it is liberal and non-dogmatic so mostly painless, and I enjoy the services as a time for reflection as well as being part of a community. I also think it has helped me avoid becoming too anti-religion as I left beliefs behind. Perhaps my interest in religion is a mere hobby, a habit I’ve developed while wrestling my way out of the dogmatic maze, and perhaps eventually I will have had enough of it… who knows.