April 20, 2015 by Rua Lupa
“What good is religion anyway” is a question that was posited to us writers here at Patheos, more specifically inquiring whether our traditions have provided some good to the world. For this question to be answered it ultimately depends on the mental frame it is hung in. Is this a question about faith – which I have none, in that I simply say “I don’t know” or “I don’t think so” instead of filling in the blank with what cultural pressures tell me to believe. Or is it about our actions in the world, where we take a serious look at our physical impacts on those around us? If it is the later then we are on the same page, and I would say that the tradition I follow would be very good in that regard. But wouldn’t anyone say that about their own practices? I think here is the real important question underneath it all – Have we genuinely analysed our practices and were vigilant about ensuring that they are actually good? I can honestly say that I have, because I routinely find flaws and respond accordingly to fix them, and that has meant realizing that some practices were not for me and leaving them all together because they were fundamentally unfixable. The foundation was itself harmful and found that I didn’t want to be part of that as I truly wanted to cause good in this world.
The names of these past practices I was involved with are of no consequence, its their impact that actually matters. I don’t care who you are or what your practice is, if it is not concerned with improving the quality of life of those in this time and place, its bound to do harm. Lets be honest, as there is no empirical evidence for an afterlife, then we shouldn’t put so much stock on it existing as the only means to justify our practices. I’ve found that the best way to measure worthiness of a religious practice is to see the physical results of it in lieu of supernatural elements. From there you will quickly find whether or not it is genuinely good or harmful.
There are religious practices that are certainly not harmful, but most I’d say aren’t doing a whole lot of good either by this form of measurement. There remains some that do a lot of good from their founding into today. One such example are Quakers, whose history is that of non-violence and as steadfast advocates for human rights. It would be hard to argue that this religious practice isn’t doing any good. This is just to show that supernatural elements are not required to find whether or not a religious practice is good, and yet still be considered good while having the supernatural as a core element.
In my journey I had moved further and further away from believing that ghosts, demons, angels, God, other deities, and spirits in general exist. That was directly due to having, not just seriously questioned, but actually seeking out answers through practice. As a result, I found that there is no evidence for such things and decided to then live accordingly. Which leaves little by way of camaraderie, and the closest I could get to the reflection of my worldviews was in Paganism, because Paganism included earth-based practices and is the most open to individualized practices. Through my individualized practice unexpectedly arose a tradition that was inclusive to diversity (any belief system can incorporate the philosophy, including Christian, Buddhist, Druid, Hindu, Muslim etc.) with the foundation of living harmoniously within Nature. It was called Ehoah (meaning “complete harmony within Nature”) with practitioners called Saegoahs (Saeg as the root word for ‘seek’, meaning “Seeker of complete harmony within Nature”), and all it is, is agreeing that the Saegoah’s Three Basic Tenets are true and living with respect to that:
When approaching the world with this view you would inevitably alter your way of life so that all your interconnections ensure a healthy ecosystem, and encourage healthy interconnections within your community. The fact that diversity is a core value makes it even better because it enables resilience, avoids stagnation, and promotes the cultivation of solutions – we accept that one solution doesn’t fit all and thus end up respecting our differences instead of quashing them. Such quashing of opposing views is a major problem in a great many religions and is undoubtedly harmful.
In walking this path a great many ideas and methods of approach are shared to aid one another in our quest for Ehoah. So the expressions of Saegoahs can diverse wildly, but all of them are a reflection of our ecosystem, and that is where we find commonality and camaraderie.
This philosophy is also considered a religion by some because of some of the forms of expressions that have arisen (rituals & ceremonies). Either way you take it, the form of approach remains a non-exclusive, simple, straightforward concept that encourages good in the world. And so it can be said that this is what good religion is.