Monday, March 2, 2015

The purpose of religion - advice for seekers

At the airport last week, I heard quite a bit of concern about seekers looking for information about religion, and not always knowing how to sort out the good from the bad.

Honestly, I've had that concern myself, which is one reason why I listed many of the links from my series as "what I found on Google" rather than a specific recommendation from me.

One book that I found that had good advice, was this old edition of "Chop Wood, Carry Water." I believe I first read it from the St. Louis County public library. While it might at first glance seem "New Agey," there are several insets about avoiding cults, finding a good teacher, and staying grounded in one's search for meaning.

From a more existentialist perspective, I also recommend Victor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning," as it discusses many of the hard questions of life that came out of his experience in a concentration camp.

Some of my friends in Houston were retired Air Force. One of the couple was working on his M.S. in Studies of the Future when I met him. After 9/11, he connected the issues of terrorism to his studies at the University of Houston - Clear Lake, and in fact he was the reason I took two Futures Studies courses as part of my own M.A. program.

He talked about how the future is multiple. There isn't one singular future for everyone, because there isn't one singular present for everyone. We have juxtapositions of destitution and despair, sometimes right next door to the newest, highest technology that exists.

We talked about the issues of poverty, of access to food, of opportunities for jobs... many of these problems resulting from Globalization... and how all of these factors can combine to lead to hopelessness, despair... and violence. While terrorism was not a particular focus of my own studies, globalization and the impacts of colonialism (contributing factors to the problem) were.

We also discussed gender, both in the ways that micro-lending, women's education and women's financial security contribute to building and maintaining communities, and I believe he was the first person who pointed out to me that most, nearly all, terrorists have been men. That pattern has also held true for U.S. gun violence.

From the encounters I have had with Women's Studies, there seems to be a good amount of scholarship looking at history for "Where did we go wrong?" When did things change? Because, in fact, it was not always like this.

This coming week, I'll try to highlight a few of the historical eras that shifted the balance, starting with World War II.