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December 9, 2012 / compassioninpolitics

What religion is the best? How can I determine which religion is best for me?

The following is from a post on a Q & A site called Quora:

Religion which is guided by Truth is a fundamental & bare minimum. The primary focus should not be happiness at least as expressed in hedonism. Perhaps happiness as described in Aristotle (aka Eudemia)–but thats still its byproduct. Its not the primary way to understand Truth or faith.

Moreover, I would think a religion that had core principles which were consistent with character, virtue, and courage would also be a key component of a faith-choice. A faith-system which doesn’t involve courage–to act when immediate happiness isn’t available–doesn’t seem to make sense. It only becomes self-worship or do as you please. That philosophy didn’t work in the Gulags or Rwanda, or much of any place. Sacrifice, courage and virtue are the groundwork for living beyond the self (aka egoism)–with more concern for the other.

Based on my exploration, it makes intuitive sense for a religion to have notions of forgiveness and grace. Without forgiveness and grace, the issue of guilt seems to creep in too much.

So I would suggest those criteria at a bare minimum. They shape the foundation of what it means to be a genuine faith….a faith worth following…..a faith worth spending your life for. Anything else seems to be window dancing or decoration or re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic (given the gravity of the choice–given the life and death questions involved).

This line of questioning seems to be an exercise in missing the point of faith and spirituality. The answers are overwhelmingly shaped by Western secularism, which puts humans at the center of the universe (it turns the world upside down in terms of what the universe it). As such, they seem to miss the whole point of religion and faith–of getting beyond the self (i.e. other over self).

That idea is like saying, I’ll pick the science that makes me feel the best. That’s not a very good version of science. Happiness isn’t the goal, the goal is to follow the religion that’s True. Admittedly, determining which one is true or which coheres to Truth the best is difficult.

The idea that the best religion is the one that’s best for me seems a bit absurd. Its like a hedonistic version of religion or at the very least a hyper-utilitarian based one. This sentiment or feeling is perhaps most noted in this quote:

“Honestly, it seems a little disingenuous for any religion to ask anything of the people who follow it. Religion should have to make me happy, not the other way around.”

Or in some respects this one:

“…the one you feel most comfortable with and doesn’t hurt anyone physically or emotionally.”

Religion is supposed to make your comfortable? Religion is supposed to make you happy? Really? Says who? Spirituality can bring you happiness in the Aristotealan perspective (this is what science says anyway)–but at the end of the day some hedonistic version of religion turns into consumerism and addictions. I’m not saying the idea of harmony or joy aren’t important. They just seem to be 2nd and 3rd level priorities when it comes matters of faith and spirituality. Those are byproducts not end goals of faith–otherwise you put the cart before the horse.

It may be that if you add up a number of the more helpful criteria on this discussion thread on Quora, you may come up with something that reasonably approaches. But, without an approach which considers moving toward the Truth or The Truth, spirituality and religion don’t seem to be particularly helpful.

Spirituality is both individual and social–and if the point is finding fundamental truth and harmony with the Universe, you don’t do that by making up your own rules at a whim–much less hedonistically or egotistically. The whole point seems to be transcending the I….getting beyond your ego….to see a bigger picture to experience a greater reality.

Greater Good at Berkeley (link)
Aristotle at Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (link)

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