Faith Seeking Understanding (graded)
This past week several members of class mentioned how their study of the world’s religions has caused them to reflect upon the uniqueness of their faith and the understandings (beliefs) on which it is built and they have been taught. After all, our journey through the world religions has confronted us with profound similarities in origins, rituals, ethics, communities, scriptures, and belief systems. These similarities challenge the exclusivity often found in a religious tradition, and passed down from generation to generation without critical examination. For those of the Christian Faith, this week provides an opportunity to examine Christianity, and integrate knowledge received during this course into your faith.
“Cognitive dissonance” happens when our existing beliefs do not align with our current knowledge. This dissonance motivates us to change. Think of your belief system as a beautiful symphony you enjoy and appreciate. Suddenly, during the symphony, you hear a chord that is not in harmony. It is not in its place. It has never been there before. Its presence is disturbing. It must be resolved.
You have several options:
1) Ignore the chord. Although you know it is there, the rest of the symphony is still beautiful. Ignoring the chord allows you to continue to enjoy your symphony.
2) Find a new symphony. You can search and find another symphony with harmony. As a new symphony, you will not know if any of the chords are out of harmony, at least not for a while.
3) Change your symphony. This involves seeking the source of the errant chord, understanding it, and creating a new chord to replace it.
Applying this analogy to religion is done at our own peril. It is very simplistic, but it can be heuristic and guide us to new understandings.
Our study of the world’s religions has shown us that dynamic religious experience is the fountain head of new religions. They come into existence as beautiful symphonies answering the eternal questions asked by humankind, teaching the way of salvation, and facilitating an encounter with the divine. However, overtime, the religious experiences of the founders are forgotten or reinterpreted. Orthodoxy arises which seeks to teach religious truth which was once experienced. Cultures change and new questions arise that are difficult if not impossible for the religious tradition to answer. The once beautiful symphony of belief now has disharmonious chords that create cognitive dissonance in the faithful.
The faithful have 3 options:
1) They can ignore the lack of harmony and continue in their faith. It is familiar and change is difficult.
2) They can find a new symphony. The faithful can change denominations, religions, create new religions, or abandon religion altogether.
3) They can change their belief system. New knowledge is incorporated into the faith without changing its substance. They embrace the reality of their faith and seek new understandings.
The third option is what happened during Vatican Council II. In 1962 Pope John XXIII convened the council to “update” the church’s faith, to give it a new expression in the modern world. After 3 years of deliberations the Catholic Church had a “new face”. There was a dramatic shift from condemning other religions, to an understanding that all religions shared a common belief in God (Pope, 2012, para. 13).
Throughout this week, I hope everyone reaffirms their faith while seeking understanding. I will be posting several times on “Faith Seeking Understanding”. I look forward to our discussion!
Pope,John. 2012. Vatican II changed the Catholic Church and the world. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/11/vatican-ii-catholic-church-changes_n_1956641.html