Monday, October 17, 2005

Religion - the purpose of a shared story

As I was reading the final chapter in Twitchell's "Branded Nation", there was an interesting statement, "humans congregate to share stories." From this perspective shared history, commonly understood images and attitudes are what enables communication and hence society.

My last few posts seemed to have been dealing with the purpose of traditional religion. Perhaps our strongly individualized society has lost sight of the benefits of shared stories. Indeed, the book of mormon seems to stress how important unification was. Unification, in their case based on religion, seems to mirror their level of righteousness, and ultimately their survival.

Perhaps it is an overly selfish idea to believe that we can discover tall the mysteries of godliness through an individual based exploration. Perhaps traditional religious tendencies are important because of the need for strongly uniting stories. Something is needed that enables disparate groups to share a common language (or story) thus enabling communication.

Now I don't think brand spin is what is sought for this unifying story. It seems like one purpose of religion is to force us to admit that what I can do will only take me so far. Why? Well one could argue that limiting ourselves to one's own experience will only actualize things that already exist rather than reveal things that are new.

Personally, I find this explanation rather weak. Instead it seems more logical to believe that limiting ourselves to our own capabilities may result in a plodding progression that distances ourselves from those who are at the forefront of creation. Using more religious terminology, one would say that relying upon ourselves as a light distances us from Christ and the way in which he reveals the Father.

Now if there is a point destination for god, one really has a hard time arguing than slow steady progression will never lead us to exaltation. Even if relying on ourselves results in an incredibly slow progression, with infinite time, all that matters is the direction, not the degree of the slope. Because of this one usually interjects that some hurdles must be passed that allow continued progression. ie, you must have the gift of the holy ghost or else you can only go so far, you must have a temple marriage or you can only go so far, you must be baptized or you can only go so far, etc. However one could take a different approach and say with a continually increasing God, the only way to stay in communion with him is to progress at a sufficiently quick pace. Abraham 3:19 seems a possible hint at this, although there are certainly many other explanations.

With the idea of eternal increase though, one certainly runs into a problem of divergence. Even with the idea of co-eternalness with God, the vast difference between our capabilities and those of Christ or God quickly become unbridgeable. So how does the chasm get crossed? The only way I know of is through Christ. Somehow he has the key to staying in contact with the Father. However, this idea is problematic. It assumes that as God increases he is somehow unable to stay in contact with those who do not progress. This seems rather improbable. Perhaps though, the way that real two way communication can occur is limited to certain channels.

In essence while things like face to face communication may be feasible, they are rather unworkable. After all if God is in time and subject to natural constraints, having a one on one talk with a sequence of trillions of people could be rather time consuming. Instead it seems like there would have to be a venue by which two way communication could occur. So I wonder if this may not be one of the roles that religion plays. Certainly one could say that religion facilitates us hearing what God has to say, in the way that he has chosen to say it. Yet if one way communication is all that God does, then Biblical fundamentalism or some such strategy is reasonable. I am hesitant to accede this. My take on the scriptures is that there is an equal amount of becoming as there is of listening. When phrased in denominational appropriate terms, I am sure that many people would agree. However it seems like religion is doing more than forcing us into a certain mode of listening, it is also forcing us into a certain mode of communicating. Perhaps this is just to create a shared story in which we can all participate, helping out others. Perhaps though there is more to it than that.

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