Thursday, November 12, 2009

"Quid pro quo" Religion

Yesterday, while on a road trip with Good Witch, we passed a church with a typical sign outside. It read something like "Follow God, and God will Take Care of You." It made me cringe. It's the wrong message, at least for me. Although I'm a Christian, I don't believe that God is obligated to any quid pro quo deal. But if we can't expect any special treatment in this world, what is the purpose of religion?

For me, the purpose of religion is simply to give God the recognition God deserves. My every thought and breath are gifts from God, and this miracle of existence and consciousness is precious to me. The miracle underlies every moment and every experience of my life. Whether the moment is one of pleasure or pain, it is a unique moment that God has allowed to be. Consequently, God has already "taken care of me". My only response must be to say "Thank you", constantly, without expectation of any additional benefits from my action. Not one day more, not any fewer difficulties, not one penny more of wealth. So, where is the payback?

For the moment, let's forget about the life after death and think about the now. If I believe every moment of my life is valuable, then I've got to believe that every moment in everyone else's life is also valuable. The "Golden Rule" then becomes real and of the first priority. It affects the way I treat every person and how I view the community that is humanity. It makes me want to see the world as God sees it, however limited I may be in this endeavor. And, strange as this may seem, this attitude brings me far more benefits than deficits. I have a positive, non-protective attitude, and people respond to me with a smile. I am content.

The alternative is to see my life as being in competition with everyone else. I am protective, I am reserved, I am calculating. Every person who interacts with me will find out, one way or the other, that they had better watch out for me because my interests always come first. Smiles and hugs are less genuine and less frequent. But, I end up with more stuff. I trade stuff for smiles. That's not a good trade for me. I may be a "Type A" personality, but a smile is worth more than stuff to me.

In my view, God allowed our world to occur and gave us freedom to see what would become of it. Would we get our act together as a species, understand the opportunity that God has given, or would we self-destruct? Each one of us has a role to play in this drama. From time to time, God has intervened to give us some guidance -"Jesus" being one of several of these interventions - but God generally stays absent from the fray. It's our deal to win or lose, individually and as a species.

So, I don't expect God to take care of me. God has already taken care of me by giving me life and enough consciousness to perceive the divine. Whatever happens, happens. But while I'm here, I say "Thank you!" The benefits of that viewpoint make my days worthwhile, and when my days are over I'm willing (and obviously, obligated) to accept whatever God has in store for what's left of what was once "me". That sign on the church has meaning for me only in that respect.


thimscool said...

Do you pray?

Do you ask God to help you or others?

Lifehiker said...

Most prayers leave me cold, just like the sign. They ask God to do the work that we're too lazy to do.

"Heal Aunt Sally who is dying of cancer!", is typical.

Another is "Be with those who are starving."

How about, "Help me find a job!"

My prayers would be "May I be with Aunt Sally as she dies", "May I provide food for the starving", and "May I find strength to look hard for a new job".

I feel that God seldom intervenes in the world; it runs on natural laws established by God. However, God expects action on my part, on God's behalf. So, some of my prayers are more like meditations where I "listen" to God as I consider problems, and then I decide to do what I perceive to be God's intent.

Yet, as I said in the post, most of my prayers are simple prayers of thanks for the wonders of my life.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that if you're praying *for* something, then it isn't really a prayer- you're proposing a business arrangement.

"Thank you" and "I love You" are probably the only things worth praying.

Lifehiker said...

Amen to that, Thomas.