the usefulness of religion and belief
"Compass" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward
I love compasses. I own one. I treasure and value it. But I only use it when I'm lost or trying to get somewhere.
What I sought my whole life was peace of mind. My theological angst nearly killed me. My devotion to Christianity, its theology, and its church was undying. I used it faithfully.
Then, one day, peace of mind came. And it has remained. I'm grateful for the¬†compass.
I do not dismiss my compass. I do not ridicule or reject it. That would not only be disrespectful to myself and my journey, but disrespectful to others and theirs.
I do try to humbly, fairly but accurately critique what I think are broken compasses, false compasses, deceptive and misleading compasses that misdirect people in unhealthy or harmful directions.
This reminds me of the Buddha's teaching:
"A man is trapped on one side of a fast-flowing river. Where he stands, there is great danger and uncertainty - but on the far side of the river, there is safety. But there is no bridge or ferry for crossing. So the man gathers logs, leaves, twigs, and vines and is able to fashion a raft, sturdy enough to carry him to the other shore. By lying on the raft and using his arms to paddle, he crosses the river to safety.
The Buddha then asks the listeners a question: ‚ÄúWhat would you think if the man, having crossed over the river, then said to himself, ‚ÄòOh, this raft has served me so well, I should strap it on to my back and carry it over land now?'‚Äù The monks replied that it would not be very sensible to cling to the raft in such a way.
The Buddha continues: ‚ÄúWhat if he lay the raft down gratefully, thinking that this raft has served him well, but is no longer of use and can thus be laid down upon the shore?‚Äù
The monks replied that this would be the proper attitude.
The Buddha concluded by saying, ‚ÄúSo it is with my teachings, which are like a raft, and are for crossing over with ‚Äî not for seizing hold of.‚Äù"
I love my compass. I'm grateful for it. Its inherent value is priceless. But I don't need it when I'm there.