Faith is a Private Conversation

A study at Vanderbilt just confirmed what I think others have reported—which is that if a person goes to a house of worship once a week, she tends to live longer than someone who doesn’t. This pattern persists across religious traditions. My father can vouch for this; when we lived in Indiana, he helped take care of the local nuns—and most of them were old as dirt.

We can draw at least two things from the Vanderbilt study: 1) It is literally good for the soul to talk with the universe. 2) The universal benefits of churchgoing show that divinity’s acceptance goes way beyond what some of us dogmatic types would like to believe. We have to get over the idea that, as x religious group, we are Creation’s only children. It is selfish, high-handed, and maybe outright hostile to disapprove of how most anybody else* goes about their dialogue with their maker. Certain people will point to scripture as a means of refuting my point, and I can get into chapter and verse if need be—but the shorthand is that they’re interpreting those scriptures in the most meager sense possible. And furthermore, it is a sense that puts divinity at apparent odds with the graciousness of reality.

Look: my sister talks with my mother about different things than I do, but we both love our mother to bits. Unless something strange happens, the details of how Mom and Ali get on with their parent-childing is none of my business. In fact, the confidentiality of some of their conversations is probably part of their closeness. I speak to my parent, and I get a reply. My sibling says something different to our parent, and she gets a different reply. And you know what this reveals? 1) That my sister and I are both equally individual and equally significant. 2) That everybody in the conversation is paying very close attention.

*I put an asterisk here, because I think the one exception to my stance is human sacrifice. When Canaanites burned their children for Baal, that was an abomination. When Romans burned blind people to Ceres, that was an abomination. When inquisitors burned witches, that was an abomination. When terrorists drive trucks into Londoners, that’s an abomination. And when religious conservatives drive “sexual deviants” to either suicide or botched abortions, that’s an abominable sacrifice too.

(Originally posted June 4, 2017)

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