On Religion

It is with some effrontery that I need to make some comments about faith and organized religion from a very personal view. I’m certainly not a scholar on the subject of any of the many systems of faith on the planet, but I grew up in a protestant faith that was excruciatingly specific on what or whom should be worshiped and in what manner.

As a teenager I became more aware that there were myriad systems of religious thought and practice, all of which had some merit in influencing the behavior of the most savage beast on the planet (man) and his inclination to treat his fellow creatures rather badly in the wider picture. I very actively and devoutly practiced a protestant faith for many years until I was almost sixty and moved from Indiana to Colorado, where I was in a remote location away from churches. Any religious fervor I then experienced came from nature through my views of the mountains, other creatures, along with sunrises, sunsets that seemed to bolster a sentiment that there must be a “creator” to have produced such splendor and beauty. I know it wasn’t exactly scientific.

Religious rites were no longer part of my communion with nature and whatever I imagined was a creator that might care about a species that was supposed to adore Him through formal rites in certain places on Sunday mornings and in prayers anywhere else too. It was a singular but effective religious experience I had “alone.” There were not rites or requirements. Ritual came from my craving to be in nature with my own thought about what it all might mean.

In terms of religious practice, I became something of a spiritual hermit whose relationship with creation itself became unforced and completely personal. I did miss the sharing of such deep emotion with other supplicants that I had enjoyed most of my life, but I found that my personality and inclination was fashioned for some other way to seek what might be eternal, if there was such a thing.

Of all the rules I ever encountered regarding religious practice, “Love thy neighbor as thyself” was the one that rang true with no sour note. I’m not a hermit, and I have good friends with whom I share many inspiring experiences socially and in nature. The control that formal religion has exerted for the past two thousand years has gradually changed its aura for me, and my deep feeling about faith is that, finally, it is very personal and can be shared if one wishes to share or receive it. The rules, if there are any from a creator, are very broad and compassionate, and I fancy that I have found my niche in that vast conglomerate of religious laws and demands that give structure but not always inspiration to us humans. Fear has no place there. I suppose some would label me an agnostic for my very nebulous views, but then humans like charts and diagrams to rein in their doubts with what they need to see as clear data and “facts.”

Our relationship to the planet and its inhabitants is everything. Knowing right from wrong doesn’t depend upon formal religion. If it does, its record is quite sad. Formal religion is not always a control for the good. It’s often just a “control” used too often for the benefit of judging people unfairly by standards that no longer matter in the broader scheme of things, leaving behind the sad remnants of human relationships and lives. In the end I believe that kindness, generosity, and compassion are not just the province of formal religion, but we have a very long way to go in order to find our way.  I know that I certainly do.  JB

About John

About John John Bolinger was born and raised in Northwest Indiana, where he attended Ball State University and Purdue University, receiving his BS and MA from those schools. Then he taught English and French for thirty-five years at Morton High School in Hammond, Indiana before moving to Colorado, where he resided for ten years before moving to Florida. Besides COME SEPTEMBER, Journey of a High School Teacher, John's other books are ALL MY LAZY RIVERS, an Indiana Childhood, and COME ON, FLUFFY, THIS AIN'T NO BALLET, a Novel on Coming of Age, all available on Amazon.com as paperbacks and Kindle books. Alternately funny and touching, COME SEPTEMBER, conveys the story of every high school teacher’s struggle to enlighten both himself and his pupils, encountering along the way, battles with colleagues, administrators, and parents through a parade of characters that include a freshman boy for whom the faculty code name is “Spawn of Satan,” to a senior girl whose water breaks during a pop-quiz over THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS. Through social change and the relentless march of technology, the human element remains constant in the book’s personal, entertaining, and sympathetic portraits of faculty, students, parents, and others. The audience for this book will certainly include school teachers everywhere, teenagers, parents of teens, as well as anyone who appreciates that blend of humor and pathos with which the world of public education is drenched. The drive of the story is the narrator's struggle to become the best teacher he can be. The book is filled with advice for young teachers based upon experience of the writer, advice that will never be found in college methods classes. Another of John's recent books is Mum's the Word: Secrets of a Family. It is the story of his alcoholic father and the family's efforts to deal with or hide the fact. Though a serious treatment of the horrors of alcoholism, the book also entertains in its descriptions of the father during his best times and the humor of the family's attempts to create a façade for the outside world. All John's books are available as paperbacks and Kindle readers on Amazon, and also as paperbacks at Barnes & Noble. John's sixth book is, Growing Old in America: Notes from a Codger was released on June 15, 2014. John’s most recent book is a novel titled Resisting Gravity, A Ghost Story, published the summer of 2018 View all posts by John →
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