“Which is more important: religion or philosophy?”
Why must they be at odds? I would argue that the union of philosophical thinking and religion would lead to a positive transformation. I don’t mean reconciliation in the manner that Plato and Aristotle were reconciled with the Catholic church (forcing the former to conform to the latter to justify the religion). Rather, I believe philosophical thinking should be an active part of religious development by promoting the pursuit of authentic belief through the act of reasoning.
Philosophy is a persistent quest for truth knowing that you may not find all of the answers you seek, but you will undoubtedly grow within the pursuit.
Religion is defined as a set of unquestionable beliefs or dogma that answers these questions for you. However, I have seen religious individuals who actively pursue philosophical thinking, and they are often the wisest among their religious peers.
Jesus was quite philosophical. He taught using parables and questions, urging his disciples to think critically and come to their own conclusions. He frequently tested Jewish dogma and the behaviors of its religious leaders.
Buddhism plants its roots in philosophical thinking. In fact, it’s Dharma is a philosophy, and it is often adopted – in whole or in part – by individuals who do not subscribe to the religion itself.
In my opinion, spirituality and philosophy are a fated couple. They feed and nourish each other, but only if they communicate authentically.
“Would you ever subscribe to a religion again?”
I can only speak for the person I am today, but she responds with a firm and confident “no.” I embrace the freedom of being able to think for myself without religious dogma telling me what I can and cannot believe, how I can and cannot behave, and what I can and cannot question.
But that doesn’t mean I cannot learn from various religions.
There is a Zen Buddhism term called “shoshin,” which translates to “beginner’s mind.” It refers to having an open, curious, and eager mind uninhibited by the walls of preconceptions. I believe that we’re more apt to find truth when we approach things with a beginner’s mind.
I can learn from the teachings of Jesus and Buddha. I can also learn from the person standing in front of me at the checkout counter. When I choose to walk my own path and carve my own set of beliefs based on my experiences, my own line of thinking, and what I can learn from the world at large, it becomes an authentic spirituality.
I’m not willing to give up that freedom by subscribing to dogma defined by someone else. It puts walls around something that I don’t believe was ever meant to be confined.
“Do you believe in God?”
That depends entirely on what we’re referring to when we say “believe in god.” Mankind has introduced many deities into the world, and many lenses through which they’re seen. However, I believe these deities are joined by a common thread of curiosity over what we’ve come to call the human soul.
It would be an oversimplification to say that gods were created to satisfy our yearning for answers regarding the unknown. There are so many sociopolitical, cultural, and historical factors that play into them as well. But I believe that they endure within the hearts of individuals because these narratives help them wrap their mind around that which is beyond our comprehension.
Do I believe in an unseen force (or forces) beyond our mortal existence? Yes.
Do I believe that mankind and the universe was created through some form of intelligent design? Yes.
Do I believe in the Judeo-Christian god (or any other god) in particular? I believe all deities and religions are a lens through which people try to perceive something that does exist, but it is not a clear lens. They’re personifications and interpretations. For me to judge one to be more accurate or “real” than another would be to falsely assume that I hold knowledge that the rest of the world doesn’t.
I will not deny the existence of the Judeo-Christian god any more than I would deny the existence of Wakan Tanka or Plato’s Form of Good. I believe they are cut from the same cloth.
In the words of Shakespeare, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
We as humans possess an innate yearning for something beyond ourselves. Something whole and pure and peaceful. In my experience, that – by whatever name its sought – is a truth worth pursuing.