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Should not intelligent, reasonable men of good will be able to agree on all things that matter?

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  one who is striking at the root."
- Henry David Thoreau
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When people stop believing in something, the danger is not that they will
believe in nothing, but rather that they will believe in anything.
- Chesterton

Spirituality in America
Updated: 12/06/2020

America is generally thought to be among the most religious nations in the Western world. We Americans are often portrayed as people who believe in God, pray often, and teach our children to do the same. All true, PARADE'S national poll on spirituality confirms.
    But our faith is also far more complex than these stereotypes. PARADE'S survey reveals a nation looking heavenward–but with its feet firmly planted on the ground of modern life. Spiritually speaking, Americans are a very practical people, moderate and tolerant in ways that would have astonished our grandparents.
    Our nation was built on a foundation of strong faith, and in some respects, that hasn't changed. In fact, 69% of Americans believe in God, 77% pray outside of religious services, and 75% believe it's a parent's responsibility to give children a religious upbringing. But even though 45% of respondents called themselves religious, 50% said they rarely or never attend worship services.
    More than a quarter (27%) of respondents said they don't practice any kind of religion. As books with titles like God is Not Great and The God Delusion have climbed the best-seller lists in recent years, sociologists have speculated about a new atheism in the U.S. No such thing, according to PARADE'S survey–only 5% of respondents didn't believe in God, 7% weren't sure about the existence of God, and 12% didn't believe in an afterlife.
    What Americans are doing today is separating spirituality from religion, with many people disavowing organized practice altogether while privately maintaining some form of worship. The old terms–"atheist" and "agnostic"–are no longer catch-alls for everyone outside traditional belief. In fact, 24% of respondents put themselves into a whole new category: "spiritual but not religious."
    That phrase means different things to different people. Some may be members of traditional religions but want to signal that they aren't legalistic or rigid. At the other end of the spectrum, "spiritual but not religious" can apply to someone who has combined diverse beliefs and practices into a personal faith that fits no standard definition. - How Spiritual Are We?, Wicker, Christine, Parade, 2009, Oct 04

The above passage helps set part of the tone of this www.ifiseeu.com site in two distinct ways: 1) there is good reason to dissever oneself from organized religion and the traditional Judeo-Christian-Islamic paradigm of God–the European contingent of Western culture generally has been ahead of the American in this decoupling from organized religion and church-going, and 2) the relevant context of these trends is also that there is a widespread acceptance that truth is either relative–you have yours and I have mine–or that truth is unattainable and therefore one cannot reasonably undertake a vigorous campaign to arrive at it. To do so, one is automatically labeled as being presumptuous, arrogant, unbalanced, a fanatic or nut case.

In paragraph 4, one should add the book: Harris, Sam, The End of Faith, W.W. Norton & Company, New York & London, 2004, and it should be added that about 42% in the USA have wound up in a different religious environment than that in which they were born.

Terminology blurred

While reading the percentages in paragraph 3 above, one wonders to whom the other 8% pray. Some indefinable agency or mystical force unrelated to anything we would call God? This is further evidence of the miasma of mushy thinking and blurred terminology usage, namely:

  • The term "god" is used interchangeably with "creator". Yet, a creator has design and production capability and CAN be a God but doesn't have to be, whereas the term God implies perfect goodness for the human race.

  • The term "atheist" has been pushed beyond its original meaning, which originally meant "without theism". People are surprised when I show them based on original meanings that you can believe in a deity or creator while being an "atheist". The technically correct term for not believing in a deity would be "a-deism" or "a-deist".

  • The term "worship" has been confused with the trappings–rites, ceremonies, rituals, and religious services–rather than the giving of credit for the sustenance and enhancement of life.

  • The term "faith" is used to signify a general set of held dogmas and doctrines even though in the Koine Greek there is just one root translated to both "faith" and "belief", and it implies sincere choice and not just doctrinal conditioning. Nowadays, faith usually just means a leap taken in the dark and belief means little more than a holding onto an opinion, knowledge, or one's programming. The word "faith" has been pushed out of it's original meaning.

  • The term "legalism" now refers to being just overly concerned with the law rather than referring to the whole idea of God giving us codified laws that we are expected to at least acknowledge as justifiable or at least to try to obey (while we are nevertheless doomed to failure).

  • The term "religious" has essentially replaced  the term "religiose" and is often effectively deemed to be a pejorative, even though the original meaning of "religion" meant "a binding together again with logic".

  • The term "spiritual", as evidenced by the above article passage, has DEVOLVED into meaning at best being concerned with non-mundane matters, and at worst: concerned with mystical matters. SHOULDN'T it relate more to being intellectually responsible and philosophically circumspect?.

  • The term "prayer" has all but devolved into "begging" instead of just talking to God, and by this understanding the poker players in a tournament are "praying" when they plead "One time, baby, just one time!" for a favorable card to be dealt.

  • The term "love" has taken on so many diverse meanings and usages–feeling, attraction, desire, need, pleasure, sex, obsession, moral obligation–, that almost no one even uses it for its basic and legitimate meaning: fulfilling valid needs and desires.

  • The term "soul" has long ago been confused with the general person, and at the same time is used to point to a mystical incorporeal entity, instead of being restricted to refer to the psyche or persona of the individual and the concomitant pattern of their life. Its Greek counterpart, psyche, primarily referred to the makeup and content of a persons life.

There are so many diverse religions, theologies, paradigms, dogmas and doctrines, and the terminology is so indistinct and diffuse in what it signifies that meaningful dialogue with the goal of clarifying truth is all but currently impossible. Again, those that try are generally "shouted" down in various ways. They are accused of being religiose, off balance and out of touch if they persist.

Of course, all this takes place in an oppressive atmosphere replete with denial, pretension, hypocrisy, the blatant arrogance of ignorance, insecurity, and false religious programming and conditioning, so that most people generally "know" better than to even talk about what should be most important to us. Defensiveness and latent anger so often quickly come to the forefront in these conversations. When I ask, "Wouldn't it be more spiritually mature of us to challenge our beliefs/belief system, rather than impulsively and emotionally defend them?", most people agree. But just try to mount a reasoned challenge, and see what happens!

Whatever else one can say about spirituality in America, one can't say that it is delivering peace, fulfillment and contentment or helping us face reality better. At the very least a whopping 12% (the percentage has increased  by 50% since 2000) of Americans are alcoholics, and we now have an opioid epidemic as well. Not to mention the rising use of marijuana for surcease of angst and/or "recreation". The vast majority of Americans rely on a diet of drugs, alcohol, TV, overindulgence, pornography, etc., for their their escape mechanisms. And our spiritual leaders decry all of this yet blame the people for being weak, corrupt and faithless, never once considering that it is the failure of their religions and the emptiness of their doctrines that may be more to blame than anything else.

Finally, given that hypocrisy at its most fundamental level means being a puppet or actor, with personal judgment relinquished to a script or some other person's strings–lack of personal critical thinking–most "spiritual" people are little different than being merely mystical hypocrites. No wonder most people are convinced of the futility of sorting it all out. And thus, still no one believes that "the truth will set you free!"

Do we need a fresh theology?

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