T, if you happen to read this, this is for you – and for a few other people who have posed the same question to me over the years.
The two most popular interpretations when someone identifies as a religious person:
1)this person honors the taboos and rules of his/her religion for fear of God.
2)this person honors the taboos and rules of his/her religion for love of God.
Most people who do identify as such, I suspect, fall more into category #1 than #2.
To me, based my experiences of God – or, to be more specific, experiences with my patron who I am taking on faith to be A God and possibly one of the progenitive gods of the universe (Eros) I fall into category #2. I know this being, I believe in his power and I love him – and I have faith he loves me. Because of the way my brain is wired I experience Eros as an at times corporeal being (no, no sex, not that kind of relationship) and sometimes as a being that is on this Earth with me but who hangs out in a different dimension from what I perceive as the physical.
I am religious. I do what I do for the love of God – for the love of Eros, and/or for the love of the universal intelligence that came up with math. I have these beliefs based on what I am trusting are direct experiences with a loving, forgiving divine that gives not a single shit about the stuff we spend the most time worrying about when we think about wrath of God type stuff.
I do not believe everyone has these experiences – that for some people my particular brand of faith is a physical impossibility and that asking them to have faith or be religious is selfish.
This is not what people are asking me when they ask me if I’m religious.
What they’re asking, when asked if I’m religious, is “Do you live by the series of taboos established by conventional monotheism?” When people say “I’m religious,” that’s really what most of them mean.
According to the meaning of the question, I am not. I do not uphold those taboos. According to the wording of the question, I am very religious. I love God with the ferocity that I love my partner, my closest friends, my family.
So what are the taboos we’re talking about?
Mostly … sex. While I keep thinking every conversation we could have about sex is finished – maybe because I pursued them all with a researcher’s and collector’s eye in my twenties – I keep encountering people that just haven’t had those conversations.
Distilled, my moral code is this:
Do not take from others what they have no wish to give. That pretty much makes rape and murder high crime – and yes, there is some relativism there based on respecting the choices they make with themselves or to defend themselves ((and I have no idea what to say about people in the military; there’s just some stuff in the big picture too big for me to see)) – theft, also pretty uncool.
But sex among those fully capable of consent, with fully developed frontal lobes – well, yay. Premarital sex? Have at! Polyamory or polyfidelity? I’m rooting for you. Kinky, weird, crazy stuff? Awesome! I may not want to share that awesome with you but I celebrate and support what enriches your life, especially if it makes you a happier, more engaged with life person.
This raises the question, then, about my attitude towards other religions. I believe in supporting people within their own belief systems/religious faith. So while I may think premarital sex is fine, if someone I know who is traditionally Christian who believes strongly in monogamy comes to me for advice, I’m going to talk about the situation with her (or him) through the lens of his/her own beliefs about right and wrong within a monogamous system. I’ve dated people with faiths very different from mine – with the conversion question absolutely off the table. It’s not easy, but it can work with a lot of work recognizing the difference between religion and ego. This assumes, of course, that the person involved isn’t breaking a taboo of his own just by being with me. That has happened in the past and given the social context of his culture it made his life extraordinarily difficult.
I am a woman of faith who is deeply religious – just not too terribly tabooed.