Friday, June 26, 2009

Going Jeffersonian

Go check out Maira Kalman's Pursuit of Happiness blog today, and read about another generalist, our third president, Thomas Jefferson. I was never a big fan of him (I'm more of an Adams lady, myself, and before the mini-series, thank you very much), until I heard about how he used to cut out the passages of the Bible that didn't agree with him, which resulted in The Jefferson Bible.

He felt that the deification of Jesus by the writers of the New Testament polluted his understanding of the faith. Of his undertaking, he stated, "There will be found remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man. I have performed this operation for my own use, by cutting verse by verse out of the printed book, and arranging the matter which is evidently his, and which is as easily distinguishable as diamonds in a dunghill."

(The question needs to be asked: did he use two hard copies of the Bible when clipping? Because what if there was something worth keeping on the backside of a piece that had to go?)

Although I recognize that faith of any kind involves one person's acceptance of something she cannot see with her own eyes but chooses to believe as true, I don't think faith means we should accept things unquestioningly. That which we put our faith in should ring true to our inner spiritual bell. To stop listening for our inner spiritual bell is, in my opinion, to forfeit our agency in this world, making us a burden someone else must carry. And when people have to carry around a lot of dead weight, they get cranky and resentful, and then, well you know all the unpleasant stuff that happens after that.

For me, my problems with Christianity as a belief system begin and end with Jesus and the way in which most denominations (the most notable exception being Unitarians) worship the man for his message. I say serve the message, recognize the source, be grateful, be humble, and go forward and practice the teachings to the best of your ability.

To take a cue from another great faith, in Sanskrit, "buddha" means awakened one, even though in popular culture it most often refers to one buddha in particular, Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism. Even in language alone, Buddhism invites us to believe that with steps down the right path, the inner life of the Buddha is available to anyone of us. That elicits a ring-a-ling-ling inside of me, and gives me faith in myself and my fellow man.

No religion or belief system is better than another or none at all: each day the challenge for us is to stay honest with ourselves and be responsible for our actions, whether they are rooted in faith or not.


Peggy D. said...

You summed it up so perfectly. How come it took me 65 years and so much searching? Searching may be the problem. Different from discovering. The latter recognizes that what you're looking for is here already, just waiting to be seen.

sevprez said...

Well, I had the benefit of starting out with a clean slate, which helps, so thank you for that!