Monday, August 08, 2005


For example, I am familiar, by this point in my life, with too much of Hinduism and Buddhism to believe that the tenets of those traditions have not taken root in my own faith. Maybe it's my own idiosyncrasy--I can't read most things dispassionately; I can't not try to imagine what it would be like to be enlightened; I have to try to imagine an enlightened (in the Buddhist sense) Christian. (I don't claim any expertise here, not enough expertise anyway to suppose that my imaginings are worth anything.) I know, for example, that my understanding of eternal life is grossly heterodox--in the credo, I'm with it completely except (and exactly so) for the words "We look for the resurrection of the dead." I'm quite sure that when I die, the creature Cameron will be annihilated, and that's probably the best thing for Cameron; there is a reward that doesn't really include "Cameron lives forever" as such. The difficulty lies in the fact that this "one" aberration extends more or less naturally into almost everything about my faith--sin, hell, reward, sainthood, and so forth. (If you're curious about what I'm talking about, I'm happy to share, but it probably shouldn't be posted on a blog, at least not now.) For now, I'm sharing this as an illustration of how small perturbations can change the whole nature of a belief system.

From the perspective of protecting the true doctrines of faith, syncretism is terribly dangerous, even in the most miniscule doses. If you've wondered how to get from the Beatitudes to horrors like the auto de fe without invoking cynicism and realpolitik among religious leaders, I think this is your answer. It is possible to believe that a minor alteration of the truth is as completely wrong as anything else, and believing that, it is a small step to rooting out heresy at any cost--no need for cynicism. Most of those reading this post are not religious people, so I imagine that this little discussion hasn't been terribly interesting. It's a useful exercise, even so, to examine what you believe, especially the things you believe based on some source, canonized or not, and determine what parts of that belief don't really come from that source. Well, it's useful for me.

Okay, Imma stop now.